Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Barkley Memories - The LOVE-seat

This little couch was on a sun porch in the house I bought when I moved to the Midwest. It overlooking a large retaining pond as well as a prolific flower garden.

It was Barkley's favorite place to see, looking out on the water, the ducks. With windows on three sides of the little room, the other side open to the living room where I would spend my evenings, it was his favorite spot.  There were also other people he could sometimes see, a little neighbor girl who would go down near the waters edge while her Mom looked on, shouting out "Aflac!" to the ducks, which always cracked me up.
There would occasionally be two boys that would fish there behind my fence, after they asked if it was OK.  I agreed, they were little boys who lived down the road, the water edge being on my property, not theirs. I don't know if they ever caught anything but they had fun, and Barkley would also go out to get his head scratched though the chain link fence.

This is also the spot from which he launched himself that night when the teens were smoking on my property and I told him "Barking good!" a story which those of you who have read the Book of Barkley will remember. Good times.

I gave this couch to a friends daughter when she got her first apartment and was I was selling my house.  It certainly had a lot of dog hair on it, but was still in good shape, but in downsizing I didn't need it.

I look at it,  in pictures now, and I look at him, and am still in wonder at a creature who looked on the entire world with a happy and incorrigible  conviction of the inherent goodness in all people.  That yard was his whole world, from which he barked equally at geese, teenagers, and squirrels.  If I close my eyes, I can still see him as I called him back in, running as fast as he could across the expanse, the vain stippling of shadows across the green grass, suddenly broken by a moving dashed line of black, running  back to me, back to his escaped shape of love.

And HIS couch.  For it ceased to be mine when I moved it home, even though I tried to keep him off of it by putting pillows or other objects on it.

Don't ask, don't tell.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Kilted to Kick Cancer

Team Hast Kilted to Kick Cancer Selfie

It's Kilted to Kick Cancer Time! Each year Home on the Range highlights one of the gun bloggers who is donning the kilt to kick cancers keestser!

As my Dad has fought this dreaded disease for several years, it's a cause I hold close to my heart. Thanks to breakthroughs in treatment helped by generous donations to organizations such as Kilted to Kick Cancer, Dad has had several years with us, he might otherwise not have had, a generation ago. Still - one in 38 men will die from Prostrate cancer.  Let's reduce those numbers.

I'm a bit late to the party with the move and the new job this month but here it is!

This year we're highlighting

Michael Hast of  -

You can visit his blog for the daily postings about the fundraiser as well as see a video of Michael petting a spider while wearing a kilt (I would have been waiting in the safety of the jeep) or another one of his beautiful wife Jennifer shooting a 50 cal in a vinyl cat suit  (thanks Michael - ,my offer to just put on a dress for dinner for my husband tonight now pales in comparison).

Take a look - there are many great teams to donate to, you can list you you like in the checkout process. Look for the drop down menu as you check out for the teams.

I'm doing it for my Dad. (Pictured here with Barkley, on his 88th birthday).  You've got until the end of the month to get in your show of support as well.
Go donate toward the cause here.

Go Team Hast!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saturday Shoot Out - A Day with Friends

It was a quiet Saturday at the Range.  Partner in Grime was building the shelf and frame for the farmhouse sink to attach to the wall in the kitchen so the counter that has the little sink will be able to be ALL counter when the new cabinets are put in come Spring.  
We took a it of a break for a little cowboy action shooting in the living room.
We found this at a local drug store last Christmas and had so much fun with it, I went out and found a couple more at a later date for friends.  Each target (fence, buzzard, etc) lights up in a random pattern and you have to aim and shoot at the light wiht the infrared gun.  Each successful "hit" increases your score and when the time is up and it yells "yee haw!" at you, you're done. It's not as easy at it looks, you have to be dead accurate to score.

Turn you sound way up for the banjo music that plays while you shoot.

As we're going to round three, I get a  message - it was Og!   He and Mrs. Og were in the city and wanted to stop and spend some time with us.

"Abby - you're going to see one of your favorite ladies!"

They're here.

Abby (otherwise known to Mrs. Og as "Princess Wondercoat")  gets pets from Og and his wife.

Abby just LOVES Mrs. O.
Right there . yes. . .THERE.
Stealth dog detects lunch pizza.  Hmmm. . do they see me? Can I snag a piece without anyone noticing..
MMM. Pizza.  The pizza place they brought the pizza from is a little unassuming looking hole in the wall you'd not likely even think of stopping at but they have great thin crust pizza and Italian beef sandwiches.

I can't honestly remember the last time I ate a "chain" pizza.
It was good to catch up, with much laughter, engineering puns and stories of family and friends.

Too soon it was time for them to head home as we resumed the household work.
"Before you go - I bought you two a little something."

We waved as they headed out chuckling as to the exchange.

Og:  "I'm going to put that in the bathroom!  I can mount it on the wall and hit it from the john".

Mrs. O. - "You are NOT going to put that in the bathroom!  We have ONE bathroom.  I'll NEVER get in there."

They were laughing, as we were, as they drove off.
Our house is small, but it seems smaller when friends have gone, only the echo of their laughter remaining.

Friday, September 25, 2015

On Being Free

Government is by the people for the people, not the elected individuals pride and ego, but the service of those that put them in office.  It's a free government of free men, until it fails to remember to let men live free, not beneath it, but beside it.

When it fails to do that, it is not free government, it is sovereignty, and that's something our nation shed it's blood to be rid of.

Remember that when you vote, remember that as you pick up your phone, sign that petition, that  letter, tools of the law abiding, to let your voice be heard.

They may be small things, but small things wielded by thousands have changed history.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Small things - Big Smiles.

In my curio cabinet there is a tiny little piano (I've played the piano since childhood). Looking at it one day, after a shooty gal friend was over, I noticed what looked to be a small vase of flowers on the piano.

If you look closely, you can see what the "vase" is, with a tiny bit of "baby's breath" inside.

.45 acp

I love my friends.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Range Remembrance and Recipe - Monkey Bars

A playground in Montana. A time long ago. I'm the little redheaded girl that looks as if she's ready to give someone a little help down the slide. We used to polish them well  with waxed paper to get even more speed out of them. (hehehe.)

Big Bro was going to go swing like a monkey from the monkey bars.  He was safe. . . for now.

Have you noticed that some the playground equipment has been seriously lawyered up since you and I were kids?

The slides are now about four feet tall and have bumpers and areas of thick soft mulch to fall in (we had rocks). Monkey bars are getting harder and harder to find, and the ones out there aren't exactly high off the ground (oh no, I might fall 3 inches!)
What happened to that merry go round that was the childhood equivalent of a G Force accelerator. If you got going fast enough with a siblings help, hanging on by one hand, you could get up to about 2 g's. Or come flying off and break a tooth as I did and get banned from the playground for a few days. Then, there was the teeter totter (lever and fulcrum = initiate launch sequence!) Yes, we had discipline, the 9th and 10th amendment were alive in our parents hearts, but Mom and Dad let us get a few bumps and bruises alone the way, so we'd learn, not only our limits, but how to take care of ourselves. Mom also made sure, when we got home, there were homemade cookies or bars to munch on.

So with that memory I did a little creating in the Range kitchen this afternoon.  I just combined elements of a a brownie and snack cake recipe using bananas  I found on line, then added a couple Range touches. When I brought the wooden spoon with a bit of the glaze to Partner, he tasted it, smiled and said "you're evil" ( and he hasn't seen me with a waxed 20 foot slide).

It turned turned out better than I expected.  The sides and bottom were chewy, like a brownie, the interior was light and moist like a snack cake and the glaze made a sweet aromatic crunch to the top.  Add in the chunks of dark chocolate and the browned butter taste, it's going to be hard to keep your hands off of them.
Monkey Bars (c) Home on the Range

3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 very ripe bananas (skin starting to turn dark brown/black) sliced into chunks and then smashed
1/4 cup milk minus 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 cup flour
1/2  tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
A generous (overflowing)1/4 tsp Penzeys Cake Spice (a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves, or use an equivalent measure of one or more of those spices)

40 grams of dark chocolate (use a thin bar, roughly the surface area of a CD), chopped
Brown Butter Glaze
1/4 cup butter (not margarine or spread, it WILL burn)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 Tablespoon plus 1/8 teaspoon milk

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease an 8 x  8pan

For the bars
If you've not worked with leftover bananas, over ripe is good.  The texture is soft and the fruit has a lot more oil in it giving it an intensity of flavor in baked goods you will NOT  get from a fresh banana.


In a coffee mug, combine milk and apple cider vinegar.  Stir well and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and cake spice.

In a medium bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the sugar and the egg, then add bananas, beating until combined (it won't be totally smooth).  Beat in the milk  mixture and vanilla on low speed, then slowly drizzle in butter while mixing on low.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients all at once and stir with a spoon until blended.  Then fold in the chocolate Spread the batter evenly into greased pan. Bake 22 to 26 minutes or until  edges are dark golden colored and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (center will  be light colored and appear soft)

Remove from heat and cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes, then make glaze.
For Glaze

In a medium saucepan, heat  the butter over medium/high heat until boiling, reduce heat to low and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the butter turns a darker golden brown color (like honey) and has a nutty aroma, moving it immediately from the heat. Depending on your stove,  that's just a couple of minutes after it comes to a boil).  Let it cool for a minute, then whisk in sugar, vanilla and milk, blending until creamy.  Spread on bars immediately, or it will start to crystallize up a bit.

Then retire to the shop with your stash to play with stuff  that's almost as fun as playground equipment.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Indy Arms Company - There's A New Range in Town

In all the years I was an Indiana native there was one thing I noticed of the area.  While there were a number of widely scattered conservation clubs and ranges to practice shooting sports, many were private, with one size fits all (and that size would be large), membership fees.  Others were outdoors (die mosquito DIE!) and of the few indoor ones, the one closest to me at the time gave me cooties every time I drove by (seriously, when you NEED to carry just to get from car to door, it's not the best neighborhood).  Others were only open to the public with limited hours, or they were not in a centrally convenient location for friends to join me to shop and shoot.

So I was very happy to hear that another indoor range had opened - this one close to where I hang out with friends.

Indy Arms Co. located in Marion County, it is not only a firearms retailer and a training center, but they have a top-notch indoor shooting range. There are an assortment of membership options, from the "I shoot just for proficiency" to "what do you mean you don't go to the range every week?"
Indoor shooting has always had some detractors. Some say - "the air quality is too bad, all the smoke and I don't want to be breathing that."  "OR  - it's not big enough and I don't want to wait an hour each time I show up."

Relax -  you won't have those concerns at Indy Arms Company.  They have a state of the art climate controlled HEPA air filtered system that removes 99,7% of the particulants from the air and lots of room with one 50 foot six land public range and another 75 foot six lane range for training and tactical classes. Each  lane features blast shields to help keep noise and muzzle blast from neighboring stalls contained.  Each lane is equipped with electronically controlled target retrieval system (no more standing around with your zombie target full of holes waiting for the range to go "cold" so you can put up another one). It also allows you to set the exact distance you wish to shoot with LED lighting that you can control for just YOUR lane.
Yes, I really do have zombie targets.

There's a seasoned Range Officer there and the check in desk has a large monitor that covers the range area so they can see if a customer needs assistance in any way.  Plus, it's surprisingly quiet, with the latest in construction options all around to muffle sound.

But one thing that stands out among other retailer/ranges I've been to that are open to the public full time - the welcoming atmosphere that is part of their business culture, not just a sign on the wall. The staff is friendly, and more than knowledgeable - with a background not only strong in both firearm knowledge and use, but in all aspects of the firearm customer service experience, from purchasing to training.
Women who are totally new to shooting, whether for self protection or for sporting activities, are welcomed as valued customers  No one is going to try and sell you a pink gun (unless you really want one) or give you the eye roll when you ask to see something in .45 and a .380 is suggested for your "little girl hand" (yes, that's happened to me more times than I care to recall).  Men and women of all ages and their families are welcome to Indy Arms.

They also have a section of carry accessories for women, with belts that are more stylish then the average holster hanger, of good quality.  There's also a collection of carry handbags including some of the finely crafted carry bags from available within the store.
For everyone -  there's all sort of unisex carry hardware, and a nice selection of holsters.  No empty shelves here folks, just good quantities of quality products.

Need Training? - Indy arms has a full line of N RA training courses from the total beginner to someone wishing to improve tactical self defense skill sets.  There are also classes geared specifically towards women if you wish to train with other like-minded women in a relaxed and respected manner.  Whether you are a first time shooter or an expert - there is training you will find fun and rewarding.

Another plus.  There is more than one of us that's been less than successful at times with repairing or field stripping a new weapon.  (don't even ask me about the first time I took apart my Ruger Mark III)
So sometimes it's nice to have someone you trust to provide gunsmithing services or properly clean a firearm that you may not have the tools to do so yourself.  Indy Arms can provide that service.

So stop in and say hello to Indy Arms Company owner Rick Cass and his staff. Whether it's a firearm purchase or training, it's the place to go if you want a welcoming, state of the art facility where customer service and technology merge to provide a first class experience.

They are located at the corner of Tacoma and 55th street - just east of Keystone.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Talk Like a Pirate Day!

It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day!  A good day to practice cutlass malfunction drills and the 4 rules of Cutlass safety

1.  Your cutlass be always sharp.
2.  Be sure of your cutlass and what be beyond it.
3.  Keep the pointy end avast distance from yourself.
and the final one, remember ladies and gentlemen -
4.  Never let your cutlass cover something you are not willing to poke.

After a little range fun you can go home for grub cooked by your favorite Craftsman Adjustable Wench!

A word of caution to those of us who have spouses or partners.  Getting your loved one to make you dinner with:

"Avast ye scurvy weasel. Get below deck and peel me some taters fer grub!"

May be LESS than effective.

Right Abby?
So what's for supper?

Something on a plank?  (no, too predictable)
Hardtack? (no,  I got that on my last airline flight)
Kraken?  (too much like calamari)
Chum?  (no, I'm out of Chum Helper)

No, I need something I can grill on the deck.

How about Barbecued Landbird?  Mmm.  Chicken with White Barbecue Sauce.

4-5 bone in chicken pieces
1/2 cup light mayo
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon plus 1 pinch Hot Hungarian Paprika
2 to 3 cloves garlic
3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1  and 1/4 teaspoons  Scoville Brothers Hot Sauce (Singing Smoke variety -Yar!)

Chop the garlic and mix with all ingredients except hot sauce.  Reserve at least 1/4 cup in a mug or small bowl.  Add the hot sauce to that, stir well and store in refrigerator until ready to grill.

Marinate the chicken in the remaining sauce for 2-3 hours in a shallow pan turning once or twice during that time.  Remove chicken, discarding marinade and grill for 8-10 minutes over hot coals, (direct heat) turning once at 5 minutes so it sears but does not burn. Move the pieces on grill so they are over indirect heat and cover and cook for 18-20 minutes or until 165 degrees F., basting with reserved sauce a couple of times and turning once more if it looks like it's getting too dark before it is done.
The flavor is subtle and smokey, and the bird is as juicy as can be.

Guests may not walk the plank for it, but they will give it a hearty "ahoy!" Serve it with oven baked beans and salad (with some Gorgonzola cheese and buttermilk dressing). or your favorite side dishes. Don't forget a proper ale.   

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Frank W. James - Memories of a Hunt

I got word yesterday that Frank James has passed away at home on Tuesday, surrounded by his family.  Frank was an accomplished and gifted writer, farmer and an extraordinary man, I will not remember him in his bed, after his stroke, but as the vision I have of him the last time I was on his farm, as he rode past me on a four wheeler, at top speed waving his hat in the air like a teenager, chasing after a combine.  He lived life to the fullest and was a friend and a mentor to so many of us.
Peter has a good write up of his life.  But for today, for Frank, just a memory of good times, only a few short years ago.
It's six am in the morning in the Midwest. Just a few miles west lie the remains of a cornfield, small predators scurrying within the maze, seeking prey.  To the east, the sun  pulls itself up to the horizon, as the stars above melt into the liquid night. Off in the Northwest land of Indiana,  a small rise of hill behind an old farm, pine trees bunched up a tilted slope, hidden and expectant.

Early mornings are nothing new to my family.  Dad loved to go fishing and would get up at 3 in the morning to get ready and make the drive to where the deer and the steelhead played.  Mom would get up with him, make him  a hot breakfast and then go back to sleep until the kids awoke.

But not every one is a "morning person". Some, even with chances to go to bed early, finding they need a pot of coffee and perhaps a taser to get them moving in the morning.  But there was a day when I happily got out of bed when morning was hours away, to walk the hundreds of acres that belonged to a friend, in pursuit of what was more than simply food on the table.
As a youngster, I'd gone bird hunting a few times, and whitetail hunting a time or two, but with adulthood came responsibilities and hindrances that made it unlikely.  As a young bride with a husband that didn't approve of hunting OR firearms for women, it wasn't to be. He'd go, but not I.  Taking care of a farm (I was really learning to dislike cows) while continuing to fly all over hither and yon, the only vacation I ever got was if I was sick. So the call of a loon was nothing more than a deep keen that would be released from my soul in sleep, the sound sometimes awakening me.

For me it was only a dream. Of a of a day alone in the woods, outlook and perception all contained within a small stand of trees, emotion and thought amplified within the narrow bench of a small tree blind. Dreaming dreams of a whitetail buck tip-toeing across fresh snow, the moon now peering out from beneath the clouds, that deer and myself in perfect isolation, flirting with each other, a dance of life and death, even as the air of our inhibition signals to the rest of the world what they can not possess.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blued.

Even as I dreamed of a brisk fall hunt,  yet another season would shift and with it would come the knowing. Lethal winter storms so white on white, as we count the days and worry of a land soon heavy with thirst. Early summer and the death gray-green skies, new life and heavy blood, the silence before the wind. That wind beyond wind, wrapping its fury around us. Full summer harvest, wheat then corn and milo and sunflower. Growth and rendering, loss and life, trickling through the hands like grain.

The years passed, my life changed and the dreams of the hunted faded in the responsibilities of school and work and elderly parents.
Then, there was a move to Indiana from a big city out East. With that move, came a re-connection with a couple of shooters I knew before I began blogging, Tam and Caleb, and through them, new friends, including Frank James. He was one of the original  Indy blog group, a flame around which we'd draw to hear his stories, and listen to advice even as he shared in our own tales of daring and woe.

Frank knew of my dream to go hunting again, and one day, there was a phone call.  "Do you want to come up and hunt on my land?" he asked. The invitation was made to a couple of the Indy bloggers who lived up by Frank, all good friends, and with that call it started.

We arrived at the James farm that first time, as eager as kids getting ready for summer vacation, learning the layout of the land, and planning the coming days. The night before, we'd have a meal and perhaps a cocktail. Most imagine the meal before the hunt as being gentlemen sipping whiskey outdoors in front of a "bed of glowing embers" on which a pan of trout gently sizzles; like something out of a Hemingway novel. I have to tell you from experience, 'bed of glowing embers" is as elusive to the average hunter as that 14 point buck.
No, for us it was running through waves of heat to fling a few burgers on the roaring conflagration that was our "gently glowing embers" from at least 10 feet, then retreating, hoping that rum cocktail that someone"whipped up" didn't spontaneous combust. The dinner was sometimes burned, it was sometimes raw in the middle, but if you could cut it without the chainsaw or poke it and not have it fight back, you figured it was good to eat. Frank would show up and share in our meal, or just sit and talk after he'd put in a full day on the harvest. It was the best part of the hunt - we had friendship and we had stories. and we told the stories that the naive and the young don't know, but hunters tell, myself simply listening, as I thumbed through the old photos of previous generations there on the James farm.

In those photos of the men from generations past, faded and dog-eared from time, the pride is clear on their face. Like Frank, they looked leaner and more of the land than photos I've seen in some fancy hunting catalogs now. Men who counted on their hunt to feed their families. They look into the camera with eyes a hundred years old, there in the glare of the camera bulb, the courage, the restless heart, too strong for the indoors. There it is, captured in that brief flash of light, then disappearing into the darkness, home with their kill.
The men in the photos were all dead and gone. But at least they weren't dead and gone while still drawing breath, trapped in thickets of suburbia, all the instincts of their fore bearers watered down to tasteless existence. Food from the store, health from a tanning bed, and dreams trickling down a drain in a house that saps all your money and energy.

As we listened to Frank talk about his home, and the land, I understood why he loved this place., which others would say "it's just flat and bare but for the corn!" It's not just the land of his family, the land in which he buried his beautiful teenage daughter after an auto accident, a loss his family still deeply grieved. There is something about being able to see so near and so far. Some people feel exposed out in the open land, I don't. I walk the fields, gun in hand, nothing more than a moving lightning rod for those things that might wish to strike me, but they don't. I feel a lot out here in the open heartland , a black lab by my side, and it is not fear, it's comfort. It follows me as I walk, the sound of my breath, the whisper of God there in the corn, the vista of open miles of ground in which I perceive the absolute truth about the past, the truths about the hurts that come from one own actions, revelations beyond the buildings and billboards of illusion.

We sat and shared our stories until fire died down, an ember jumping free of the flame and lighting on one of the old photos  I quickly jumped to brush it off, realizing too well that a 1/4 inch cinder is longer than time, and the flame it can start is larger than remembrance or grief. I've found out the hard way that burning wreckage is, unfortunately, stronger than both courage and will.
Sleep was a sleeping bag laid out carefully. Everyone else could roll their up until it was the size of a loaf of bread.  No matter what I did mine was the size of a round bale of hay. But with the trappings of our meal put away, and my friends spread out like spokes around me in their own sleeping bags, I slept, dreaming of hunters long ago, a toast to their days, peace to their ashes.

The alarm went off so very early and we were on our way out well before it got light.    I was a "probie" when it came to hunting really, it had been so many years.  But I could handle a firearm well, I was strong, and I was not afraid of much of anything except spiders, vending machine sandwiches and blind dates. I was ready. Or was I ? How would I do out alone in the cold and the dark, the elements around me reminding me again, how alone I really was.

But Adrenalin and pride pushed me out the door, eager to rush into something I'd wanted to do again for years, leaping into something I'd known would happen, that feeling that somehow lovers and suicides both grasp in that instant when it's too late. But I had an advantage here as I had friends to help me through as I quietly whispered into the wind, a beggar's prayer to the wild.

As we approached a stand of trees through the cornfields, there came a deep seated grunt, a primordial huff from inky nothing, letting us know, that not only that he was there, that he knew WE were there. Deer don't get to be enormous by not being wily. We split into 4 lone hunters, walking a couple miles, widely spaced on the 500 acres we were on. We walked through trails barely visible in moonbeam, avoiding the deer trails so not to leave scent or sound, taking back brush filled routes into out spots.
It was here I waited, alone, the others moving much further away to their own hunting spots. This was different than sitting solitary in a home. There I just felt lonely. Here, it was something else, the not quite believing, not quite awakened sense of isolation that was fully alive. The breathing spell of ancient verbiage of desire and newly found need. Hearing the celestial hush of a world hurtling through space, the small tiny rustle of a tiny creature worrying only if he is prey before daylight.

As the light spelling from the horizon, the land came alive. If you hunt or camp or farm, know what I'm talking about. When sound by sound you become aware of life around you, the chirping of birds and a chipmunk mocking the deep episcopal purple of the night. I sat, flexing my feet in their boots to keep them warm, clutching my weapon to me like a newborn babe in arms, ears picking up every little sound, eyes scanning my world for what I sought. The sounds themselves flexed, continuously rising, then falling to silence, life, then death, a sharp cry in the underbrush a small joy, or a sudden end. The woods were alive, as am I, a small figure in a big corn field, a wet seed on the hot, seeing ground, waiting for something.
My first ground blind up at the James farm.  Not subtle but it worked.

The day went so fast, yet time passed in slow motion, the woods trembling with shimmering forms that flash before my eyes, glimpsed for only a moment as they blend into green as the dawn slowly melts into view. Leaves caressed my check, as a small rain shower moved in. From where I sat , I could see if for an hour, not encroaching closely enough I needed to seek a safer spot, but flirting with a small spot of land, distant artillery flashes against a the sky slowly bleeding into brightness.

That was a day alone hunting, not boredom or despair but listening to the sound of the world as I dreamt of gods and mere men, blackpowder and black labs, men in kilts, prime rib and everything in between. I saw no deer but I was occasionally heckled by squirrels including one that was so short and fat he may have actually been a disgruntled hamster. I tried to ignore them, pulling my gun up, finger off the trigger and occasionally saying "bang" at them to see if they'd leave. They did, if only to go harass Og or Frank in the fields to my North.
I simply sat and waited, looking upward into the deep veined richness of space. Any lingering doubt I had as to my ability to be in this spot, at this time, stops, as my heart jumps at the shadow of a mature whitetail stepping out into the open.

It was mid-day when the deer came forth from sentient rows of corn. Seventy-five yards away, one movement on my part as the deer looked my way, and that deer would be long gone before I could pull up and aim. The moment was there in between a heartbeat, a sound, a sixth sense and it began to move away. I could taste the taste of earth in my mouth, as my hand drew up.

I have only this one hesitation, this moment, this one shot. As the deer moved away, quickly sensing perhaps a darkness that is final, I squeezed the trigger, a sound of profound meaning and fatal touch. The whitetail bounds up and forward, bolting with a clamor, faint and fading as the barrier of life is broken, moving on with a boom heard across heaven. With a single shot through the heart he is already dead, but not willing yet to quit the earth though in this moment his flesh has already been returned to it.

With that life, providing not sport, but meat on the table for my family for the upcoming cold winter, I stand in respectful silence for a moment over that still form.. It is a prayer of thanks but one that comes on the edge of a sharp knife, of which I'm very aware.

This morning, I lift my cup in a toast to Frank, to that life, to a life shared with generous spirit as I remember that day, the sound of the woods and the warm Autumn wind on my face.

 I recall the sun on the barrel of that rifle like it was this very day, the way the light glanced off the small defects of age and life in its form as I raised it up, tucked it into my body and sighted that deer  in. I can hear the echo of that powerful bullet off the walls of my sleep. I can still feel that heat within.

On nights when dark and isolation only seek to hone those feelings within, I seek that whitetail in the paths of my sleep. That hunt was more than food, and that labored breath as I drew up, more than a breath, but a memory of life's abiding friendships, not long forgotten. I just touch that gun and the memory  is there, behind stick and stone, within heart and bone, in every sharp intake of air.

Such days are like that brief burst of sound as the trigger is squeezed. Not long drawn out memory of days in the woods, but snippets of sound and feeling, cold and heat. A series of fleeting glances in which instantaneous and without planning or approach, there stands in our sight the portent and fear of what is in all of us. There in the form of a single loan whitetail, all that we are and can bear, heat, blood, loss; there in that instant between pull and sound.   Frank understood that in ways he expressed, both with his writing and with his own life.
This morning there is just respectful silence as the land outside gives up no living sound, the darkness simply an echo of the past,  of snorts and snuffings, the chatter of squirrels, the smell of warm breath, cooling flesh, scarred hide and strong bones within which there still lay secrets that even the darkness is reluctant to reveal.

I listen in the distance as if I will hear the sound of that four wheeler, see the hand raised jubilantly, the man upon it waving his hat in the air as he looks at me with eyes hundreds of years old, an esoteric glance, not of this wonderful world, but of one newly found.

Godspeed Frank.