The DOORWAY Buck
Author: CM Sackett

Chapter 8
An Unexpected OFFER...

Like everyone else who has ever discovered this Passion of roaming the woods and wilds with such a “simple” tool of the Hunt, my mind had imagined a thousand times, in a hundred different scenarios, the taking of a “Buck of a lifetime.”  In every instance, this moment was filled with backslapping, hoopin’-n-hollerin’ and the grand feeling of a “conquering hero”.  But as I walked silently toward this majestic example of Nature's Pride and Prowess, the only thing overflowing the moment… was wonder (Mr. Tuck told me later it was that way with many ‘milestones’ in Life, from combat to the birth of a child…  I found he was right, as usual.  But, those are other stories, for another time). 

     His understanding of such things~~ I guess ~~ is why he gave me room and time to absorb the events of the last hour or so my own way.  He was always good at that, never making me feel pressured or small as I sorted new things out for myself.  And, I got the feeling that he had his own, deeper memories to spend time with.  As I stood there near the buck, Mr. Tuck was slowly walking the field of battle.  Here and there he would touch a track… look at the blood sign.  He wound up at the cedars; looking into the tangle LogHorn had followed the future into.  A low, pure chuckle and a soft "I'll be damned" from him brought me out of myself and back into the bright, clear present.  I glanced over in time to see Tuck shaking his head and brushing snow off of his leggings. 

     “Well son, we’ve got some glorious work ahead of us, and it wouldn’t hurt to make the most of the daylight we got left.  So, if you don’t mind staying with your buck a while, my place isn’t quite a mile from here.  I’ll just trek over and get the mule.  Then we can haul ol’ App out in fine fashion.  That sound alright?”

     I grinned and nodded.  And then, as the old man made for the trail out, I said, “Mr. Tuck.  What did you mean a while ago, when you said ‘he’s still alive’?”

     He turned and gave me one of them possum grins.  “You just spend time soaking up and chewing on your own story right now son.  Mine’ll keep till this evening.”

     And that's just what I did.

 

It took Mr. Tuck the better part of an hour and a half to get back with the mule.  And in that time I tried to pick some part of the old monarch up off the ground (figured him for big, and didn’t want to embarrass myself when the old man got back)… didn’t get anything very far from the snow.  He was a MONSTER!  But as the wonder made room for admiration I did have time to look him all over real good.  That’s when I noticed an odd bit of dark hair, right in the armpit of his left front leg.  The curious thing about it was, it was shaped like a 3-bladed windmill, or a BROADHEAD!

     I was going to ask Tuck about it as soon as he got back, but the immediate problem of getting this ol’ boy off the ground drove everything else out of tongue’s reach when I did see him astride that mule.  Should have known… that old man had a plan.

     He climbed out of the packsaddle and handed me some type of thin rope he’d pulled out of a saddlebag.  He could tell I was unfamiliar with it.  “Parachute cord, son; it’s come in handy many a time.”

     Now where did he get that?

     “You cinch one end of that around his back legs; we’ll drag him over to that little outcrop at the southwest edge of the meadow trail.”

     Didn’t take any time a’ tall to get the buck positioned on the lip of the rock.  Then Tuck simply led the mule underneath her waiting cargo, and we slid ol’ App across the saddle and cinched him down, just slick as you please.

     As we headed out across the powder, leading the mule and our bounty, I wondered if this warm, wild, wonder-filled feeling coursing through me right then was anything akin to what kept the blood fired up in those old mountain men who had chosen to traipse across country like this for their livelihoods.

 

We made our way through the white-limbed canopy that crowded the trail, and I couldn’t help but look back past the lead line I was holding from time to time, just to make sure he was still there… just to make sure that everything that was swimming in my memory had really happened.  He looked like a giant mound of snow flowing over the back of that pack mule!

     “You did fine up there, boy… real fine.”

     I looked back up the trail to find Tuck standing there, smiling at me.

     “Mr. Tuck?”

     “Yessir.”

     “Tuck, why didn’t you shoot ol’ App?”

     He just grinned bigger and started moving again.

     “Mr. Tuck?”

     “Yes, son…”

     “Did you send an arrow through App some time back?”

     He just chuckled, and then said over his shoulder, “For a boy that’s at the age where most have all the answers, you sure are full of questions.  If'n you can wait till we get to the house, there’ll be plenty of time for the tellin'.”

     The HOUSE?  Well, I’ll be damned!  Sure enough, we weren’t on the trail we came in on. The old man was right…  I needed to work on my “observant-cy”!

 

When we rounded the last bench and cleared the trees, the sun was still holding court above the mountains, but evenin’ was coming.  The ground opened up ahead to reveal ancient, but well groomed orchards of plum and peach and apple trees, surrounded by an equally time-touched stone fence.  As we skirted the western edge of it, the slope of the mountain gave way to a flat, about fifteen acres in size.  There, in ordered, spacious rows were over a hundred giant pecans, standing like sentinels at attention.  And through their naked boughs I could see a wide, tin-roofed house, sitting now on an elevated cloud of white. Tucked into the folds of mountain around it were various outbuildings, including a huge old barn, looking like Noah’s ark… turned upside down.


The old man spoke.  “We’ll get this old beauty in the barn, get him hung up, then we’ll make our way to the house… and some supper. In this cold, he’ll keep just fine till we get to him.”


“Mr. Tuck…”


“Yessir.”


“Why didn’t we part him out like we did that little buck, yesterday?”


“Son, this is your buck, and you definitely do what you decide with him.  But, I thought you might want more to remember this day by than a full belly and a set of horns.”


“Sir?”


“What I mean is, we can mount everything but the fire in his eyes, do what they call a ‘shoulder mount’.  And I can show you how to prep the rest of his unique old hide for other things.  That sound alright?”


“Well, yes sir…  Yessir, it sure does. Only thing is, Mr. Tuck,  I ain’t got that kind of money!”


He shook his head and sighed, “You got two hands and a quick mind, don’t you Travis?”


“Yes sir.  But other than working part time loading ice cream trucks at Yarnell’s,  I don’t have any kind of job that would pay for all that.”


“Well then, you can pay it off this summer, working with me.  That is, if you can find that tolerable.”


“Yes sir, Mr. Tuck…”  I heard myself saying (in a more mature voice and tone than I was familiar with), “I believe I could find that most tolerable.”

That made him grin.


I had absolutely no clue what I’d just given my word to. But if it had to do with being around this strange, wonderful old man…  I was up to it!

 

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