Tales From a Hunting Widow.
By Shawnee Johnson Reese
Mar 15, 2007 – 6:31:51 AM
|Chriss, Dakota and Lewis share the booty while author does some doodling of her own.
Or How to cope with being a Desperate Hunter’s Wife
“Lord forgive me, I know it’s your birthday and all” I said, “but I am thanking your Daddy this night that it’s over with for another year.” With the passing of the Christmas holiday season, I hoped would also pass my husband’s most obsessive hunting season yet in our married record.
Oh how wrong could I be.
Being a hunting widow is something I’ve had to adapt to over the years. Perhaps ‘adapt’ is too nice of word. I think ‘forced to endure’ is more accurate, because it’s not as if I have any choice in the matter whatsoever short of divorce. Then it doesn’t help that the general public around here seems to think my husband is a walking-talking-wildlife-encyclopedia (which he pretty much is), so, like any person who is very good at what they do, he feels obligated to share his wealth of knowledge?.and what better way to teach than by doing?
Seriously, he really doesn’t want to get up each day before dawn to meet his new best buddy Lewis in the woods to tutor him in the fine art of hunting wild hogs, foxes, bobcats, beavers and coyotes, but out of kindness and pity, he goes anyway. And when a hog isn’t taken that morning (or a fox, or a bobcat, or a coyote, or a beaver) my ever-thoughtful husband willingly goes again that afternoon. And the next morning. And the next afternoon. When those trips don’t pan out, he goes back on his own to scout and lay out corn to bait the pigs in so Lewis might have a better chance tomorrow. Ten days later Lewis killed a pig.
Now – let’s help him kill a really big pig! So the cycle continues.
Bless his heart, it’s not just Lewis, either. When Chriss’s brother called saying he couldn’t find a good place to hunt pigs, well, you can bet my charitable husband was the very first to volunteer to take Leroy out to this particular spot and show him around for a day. A lesser man would have just given Leroy directions over the telephone, not my Chriss! Of course they have to run the traps lines while they’re there, because the deal is they only get to hunt the pigs if they trap out the varmints while they’re there. Then of course there is the chance meeting with other hunters where they have to pull up a stump and exchange notes and stories for at least another hour.
Every day he brings home beavers and coyotes and foxes and bobcats; possums, crows, minks, muskrats?.so his next few hours are spent skinning. And then it’s time for lunch, and after lunch it’s time to meet out in the woods again to try another hand at the pigs as they come out for the evening. Lord help us if they kill a pig – then the night and the next day are used up skinning, quartering, packaging the pig, and running the trap line, and skinning his fur bearers. I might finally see the guy around eleven o’clock that night if I’m lucky. Oh, and please don’t say anything like, “Wild pig is no good to eat.” or, “Them boars ain’t good eating.” or he’ll feel overcome with compassion and spend a day cooking up a bunch to feed this poor misinformed person.
“Did you forget the meat?” I asked.
“Oh no!” He runs to his smoker to look.
Hours later?We were getting ready for a Cub Scout meeting. Brian goes out to feed the rabbit but comes running back in screaming, “FIRE!”
“Where?” I shout.
“In the back yard!” He shouts back.
I plunk the baby on the floor and dash outside. A large blaze is engulfing the smoker, a five foot circle of grass around it and to make things interesting, Chriss’s small propane torch he was using to start his fire sat in the middle of the blaze.
“Stand back!” I yell at the boy as I turn the water hose on the flames, expecting the bottle to explode. Finally, the fire extinguished from the propane torch, I open the door to the smoker. An inferno of flames leap out at me.
“Aaaahh!” I scream and turn the hose in to the smoker, drenching the meat and the coals, extinguishing the fire completely.
Chriss gets out of the shower and we tell him about our excitement. Then we go to the Scout meeting, get home late, go to bed and the next day he says, “Oh man, I forgot about the meat again!” He restarts his fire.
For lunch the next day I pull the pan of meat he’d brought in from the refrigerator, pick up a rack of ribs and it fell apart, POOF, in my hands, burnt literally to dust all the way through the bone.
That Chriss’ favorite pass time has turned in to something like a heroin addiction this year concerns me. Like any addict, he doesn’t notice any ill-effects of his usage. To him it’s normal, and we all know the definition of normal: What is regular for you regardless of whether or not it’s regular for another. In short, our normals collide.
My normal is pretty much, “I need a pot of coffee in the morning.” His normal is closer to, “I have to go hunt something before my day can start right.”
My normal is like “Hey, take a week off for Christmas if you want to. You earned it.” His normal is to lock the shop doors for three months of the winter, thus my normal becomes chewing my nails off with financial anxiety.
“Um Honey, I really don’t want to be the big meanie here?” I ventured one morning. “?.but you know the property tax is due?and the car insurance, utilities?.” He just grinned at me. In his mind it’ll take the county a few months to get mad enough to actually threaten us with a Sheriff’s sale so he’s still got time to hunt before he has to scrounge up the tax money. After all, he trapped his first red fox this morning so that just threw fuel on his fire to go harder and faster. I continued to sit on the floor changing the baby’s cloths as the phone rang and someone apparently asked him what he charged to mount a bobcat.
“Did you tell them you don’t do that anymore?” I said. He laughed. So I cautioned slightly further, “You know I don’t mind the trapping but one or the other, you gotta do one of them full time to bring some money in to this house and so far? trapping isn’t paying any of these bills so that just leaves the taxidermy.” There’s a long silence. “Chriss? Did you quit taxidermy?” He gives me that ludicrous grin again. A while later he went to run his traps, and while he was gone Lewis showed up to get our canoe. “Chriss wants this out there to use running his trap lines.” He tells me. Great. Now he’s added canoeing to his wonderful, playful daily routine, what more could a man ask for except a welfare check to finance all this fun? And a hot young babe at home with dinner cooked waiting, eager to rub his poor aching feet when he gets home.
For Christmas this year, he bought us a set of 2-way radios. “This way you can reach me if you need to (when I’m out in the woods).” He said. The thoughtfulness of the gesture wasn’t lost on me, but my heart sunk a little further knowing the unspoken message was he intends to be out in the woods more often?.leaving me here to hold down the fort with my bare hands.
“I’ll take Everett with me.” He offers, and of course Everett loves to go hunt and trap with Daddy, but two facts remain: First, if Everett is along, Chriss isn’t hunting – heck, the kid is only 3 years old and not quiet enough to hunt yet. The second fact is: that while they are out hunting and trapping (read: Goofing Off In The Woods), I’m still stuck at home working. He gets a three month vacation? Why don’t I?
He gets his annual special three-day hunt to McCalester; he gets his annual three-day hunt to southern Arkansas. He gets to go hunt all he wants any day he wants from right here at home! Just lock his shop door and go! But me? Um, no.
Laundry doesn’t do itself anymore than dishes or the taxidermy mounts do, and obviously while it doesn’t do itself, my husband doesn’t do it either! And even if they guys do spend the majority of their time away from home, they still have to come home to eat, which means another mess for me, and change cloths, which means more laundry – way more laundry because they generally wear two or three layers of clothing to stay warm. Plus, for being only three, Everett is a pretty good baby sitter, keeping little Garrison occupied so I can actually do some of that other stuff with out a kid screaming on my leg wanting picked up, so when Everett goes with Daddy, I lose what little bit of help I did have.
“OK, so how do they work?” I asked.
“You press a button and talk.” He answered.
“What does this button do?”
“I don’t know.”
“What does this Pr symbol stand for?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where is the book that came with them?”
“I don’t know.”
“You didn’t keep the instructional manual?”
“I DON’T KNOW! It’s a walkie talkie, you press a button and talk!” He snaps.
“Well what does bP stand for? There’s a bP in this little window. Where did you put the book?”
“I don’t know!”
“Did we throw it away with the wrapping paper?”
“I don’t know! Who knew we needed a college PhD to use a stupid walkie talkie?”
“I bet it’s in the trash. I’ll have to go dig through the dumpster to find it.” I sat hoping those words would sink in and he would go dig through the dumpster but the drizzle was increasing to rain so I gave up and put on a coat, taking the step ladder out to the can to dig through the trash. Soon he was out there with me, gift wrapping and boxes mingled with the party trash and beer bottles from the previous day on the ground around our feet and neighbors thinking we’d done been hitting the juice too hard that morning.
We held what we hope to be our first annual Christmas party this year – inviting friends and family from far and wide to eat wild hog, deer, turkey and all the trimmings. I spent Thursday cooking while he hunted.
Friday was the party and I worked hard at being the Hostess With The Mostess for our wide assortment of guests.
Saturday, the back yard was trashed – the remnants of a very successful get together. I carried Garrison around putting away all the lawn chairs, the cookers, the stray paper plates the wind was tossing around, the dishes left out over night. My husband, well, he was out setting his traps instead.
Later I had to clean the house – again, picking up all the remnants, washing the dishes, putting away the extra chairs, sweeping the floors, taking out the trash (that I’d be digging through tomorrow to find the walkie-talkie manual), and my husband, he was out hog hunting with Lewis.
A week later it’s New Year’s Eve. I spend the day getting the house cleaned for company again that night. By five o’clock I have all the veggies chopped for shish kabobs. Three hours later Chriss finally brings them in from the grill, mostly burned. We stayed up with our friends till the wee hours of the night celebrating, and the next morning Chriss was gone hunting, with Lewis. He came home around noon and fell asleep on the couch while I went around again picking up all the party trash and cleaning the house. At three o’clock Lewis shows up again, wakes Chriss up because they’re supposed to go hunting again.
“I left the dishes for you.” I say as he leaves.
I spend the rest of the afternoon here with the kids, get their baths, make their supper. Finally my husband returns again after dark. I venture onto that thin ice again, “I enjoy having company but I’m getting a little tired of all the mess. Seems to me if we’re both going to dance we should both chip in to pay the band.”
He looked around the room, the room I’d already cleaned, “What is there to do?”
“Wash the dishes.” I said. “It’s not fair you get to go goof off while I have to do all the cleaning up.”
He blushed but said I had a point. He didn’t jump right in there to do them. In fact that was three hours ago and he’s playing a computer (Hunting, of course) game upstairs while last night’s dishes stagnate in the sink, but maybe he’ll get them done. Then again, maybe he won’t.
I’ve never been a widow, and my heart sincerely goes out to those poor women who are, but part of me thinks on days like this that being a genuine widow might be easier than being a hunting widow for three months of every winter when the kids are mostly stuck in the house going bonkers, so I’m stuck in the house going bonkers with them while my husband takes off work to play non-stop with his little friends out in the woods with nary a care in the world.
It’s 10 o’clock ?do you know where your hunting-husband is?
March 6, 2007. I’m happy to announce we are finalizing plans to close the taxidermy shop and move to sunny Florida! Chriss is taking up a new occupation as a professional nuisance trapper – maybe that’ll squelch some of his hunting lust with a daily over dose. Let’s hope I get to bow fish for that croc or shark this year! We’ll continue our attachment to taxidermy through Everything-Taxidermy.com, a super-center of taxidermy related information.
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