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The most wonderful time of the year

The most wonderful time of the year

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Robin Leach Mug

Robin Garrison Leach

The calendar on our kitchen wall hangs above my husband’s coffeemaker. Since late July, John has been “x”ing out each day with a stubby pencil.

Thousands other kitchens in Missouri must have similar calendars. Like Christmas countdowns, husbands and wives all over the state have been marking time. Finally, the wait is over.

Deer hunting season (rifle season would begin) in just a few days.

Even though I don’t hunt, it is my favorite time of year. By the time the end of summer arrives, heralding deer archery season, John and I are both excited. For more than three decades, hunting has been the key to our successful marriage.

That key unlocks a suitcase of camouflage and opens a succession of long days apart.

As newlyweds, we murmured coos of angst as hunting season neared. “I’ll miss you”s and “When will you be back?”s  echoed through cuddly nights. I remember waving as John drove away and wiping a tear with wiggling fingers.

The cooler he took along was crammed with every one of his favorite foods—homemade biscuits and fried chicken and the scratch chocolate cake I worked so hard to ice “just so”. John had enough food to live in the woods for weeks, and I still worried that he would be hungry.

After several long, sigh-filled days, my husband returned with an empty cooler and full-of-himself stories. I hung on his every word, memorizing the progression of his footsteps as he stalked his prey. Whether he bagged a deer or not, he was my hero.

The years shot by. As romantic love waned and married love took its place, I was not as heartbroken when hunting season took my husband out of my sight for a few weekends.

His cooler isn’t as full now. Most of his rations are made by Little Debbie or The Colonel. I still send a few special goodies—important things. I pour a few of his blood pressure pills into a sandwich bag, toss in an extra roll of TP, and—in in an exercise in futility—add his toothbrush to the pile.

While John stuffs his backpack with deer calls, deer scent, and insect repellant, he tries to tell me when he might be home:

“…it all depends on whether I get a deer and when I make the shot and if I have to drag it very far...blahblahblah…”

I try to listen and act interested, but the thought of several days of solitude has lulled me into a warm, fuzzy place that muffles the sound. Time stretches before me without plans or meals or tedious conversation. I am more than ready to close the garage door behind him and watch his tires roll away.

Now, in our 60s, we both understand the pleasure and importance of deer hunting season. The grunts and scrapes of married life are easier to bear when we see the “x”s on the calendar above the coffeemaker. 

The “Call of the Wild” runs, in various hunting forms, through the end of the year. Good luck, husbands. And wives? Enjoy.

Robin Garrison Leach is a freelance writer and columnist from Quincy, Illinois."Robin Writes" is published in numerous Missouri and Illinois newspapers. Contact her at  robingarrisonleach@gmail.com.

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