10/18/2005

Entry Seven: Sitting in the Stand

[A story in many parts]

I am the disappointing child. Not so much in a general sense because I believe both my parents are proud of me as a son, dad and husband. But in the more specific world of shotgun shells and lures, I am a disappointment; I am not a hunter. I am a first-born child of a first-born child and that mantle carries with it a lot of responsibility, especially when it comes to traditions and “things we do.” My father did his best to make me a hunter in the long, glorious genealogy of Colle men, but without success. No, it was uglier than that. The genealogical experiment was a spectacular, weepy failure. I imagine that The Colle Hunting Man tradition goes back to our families early days in the boggy backwaters of Louisiana when we were known as The Kuhl Hunting Men, fresh off the boat from Germany. I can imagine great, great, great, great relative Wilhelm Kuhl spotting his first nutria on the muddy shore of a bayou and, balancing himself in his peyroux, he loaded up his musket and took aim at his first American kill. Over time, the game got bigger and the guns got better, but everything sights-in on one thing--Colle men were hunters. As a child, I looked that tradition squarely in the face and walked away. But not without a fight. I can recall the many mornings that my dad rustled me out of bed to drive several hours to sit in a freezing, wet, duck blind that was placed on the edge of some levee-rimmed rice field in Central Texas. We had to arrive and be in place before sun-up because that was when we, by law, could start shooting. I remember sitting in the blind, frozen and afraid to move for fear of scaring away the ducks, and wishing that it was light enough to read a book. That was not the example of the hard-edged mentality that a hunter must possess.

Dad was careful not to let on, but I am sure that he was disappointed his oldest son did not embrace the hunting life. There were early signs that I was not destined for the woods and rice fields–for instance the first time dad let me shoot his shotgun. It was supposed to be a defining moment, a passing of the torch. All I remember was the gun was so heavy that I couldn’t hold it on my shoulder so it kept sliding down my arm and, when I finally pulled the trigger, it "kicked" me so hard that I dropped the gun on the ground and cried. The crowning moment was the morning my dad looked over to my corner of the duck blind and saw me cradling a freshly killed greenhead mallard duck in my arms--and crying. Since most of my memories of hunting involved crying, my dad began to figure out that my time as a hunter was over before it ever really started. Many years later, I was given another chance to embrace the hunting life. I had accepted an invitation from my dad to accompany him on his annual deer-hunting trip with his buddies. I was 39 years old and 27 years had elapsed since my last attempt. I was giving it one more shot. (to be continued...)

All words and images ©2005/J. Colle

3 comments:

the little one said...

What a squirrl....

Jaysephus said...

Dear Little One: I was always the pretty one. You were always the smart one. I'd rather be smart than pretty...

the little one said...

yes..but looks can be deceiving...