Maybe If It Wasn't Dripping...

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The fall weather has the same effect on Montana as an oven does on a cookie. The air is warm, even late into the evening. The wind rocks the ever-browning grass into its winter slumber, blanketing it with baked leaves fallen from aspen trees. The sky becomes a permanent deep orange color, and the landscape rises like dough to join it. All the while the weather warms your insides until you?re gooey and soft. Then, the fall elk season arrives and makes you realize that cookies do nothing but make you fat, and elk season does nothing but make you wish, well, that it wasn't elk season.

My Dad doesn?t share my feelings, as I?m sure most of the population in Montana doesn?t either. For some reason, a lot of people think it?s fun to wake up ridiculously early, trek into the mountains, find the biggest hunk of meat, hair, and antlers they can, shoot it down, and haul it for miles out of the godforsaken place they found it. I?ve been on my fair share of these so-called ?fun adventures, and I can safely say I?ve never actually found them enjoyable.

First of all, it is absolutely imperative that you whisper. This is true if you are 100 yards away from an elk, but it is also true if you are three miles, two hundred trees, and a river gulley away from a tiny dot you can only see through a high-powered spotting glass. I can only assume those one-track minded grazers have exceptionally good ears.

Now, whispering was not generally too much of a problem for me. Listening, however, was always a challenge. This is because my mother has an abnormal fear of being cold. It?s a fear of not only being cold herself, but also of her nine-year-old daughter (me) being cold. Hence, whenever I was sent along on one of my dad?s hunting trips, I went with three shirts, two winter jackets, a hat and ear warmers, three gloves (extras in my pockets), long underwear, and heavy-duty snow pants. The rustling I made with all my outer-wear was deafening. In fact, I was often made to stand completely still, or else scare away the elk with all the noise, in which case whispering would become somewhat of a mute point. This is why most of our conversations while hunting went something like this, all in hushed whispers, of course:


Dad: ?I think they?re over there, bud.?

Me: ?You tinkled where??

Dad: ?No, no the bull, the bull is over there.?

Me: ?Mom told me not to wear wool, it?s itchy.?

Dad: ?The?milk?is?over?kill.?

Me: ?The elk is on the hill? Well, why didn?t you say so??



Once we were finally able to converse with each other enough to find a general direction of heading, I faced my next challenge: actually getting there. Geographical formations, such as hills, mountains, and rocks, as well as organic impediments, such as trees, tall grass, etc, were difficult for me. I became somewhat of a miniature T-rex, my body being inflated to three times its normal size by my outerwear, but my appendages made no more flexible. Luckily, all the clothes provided a good deal of extra padding.

Every trial of elk hunting was culminated into the final stage of the expedition. We would sit behind a rock, staring at the cow or bull we had tracked down. My dad would set up his tripod and gun, choose his target and aim with precision. Then, I would stuff my extra gloves in and around my ears and brace my body for the shot. If he didn't hit the elk just right, it would live long enough to run away. Sometimes it could hobble miles away in its death throes, which was an extreme annoyance to those of us who held the opinion that it wasn't worth the hike out to shoot the thing in the first place, much less track it down afterwards.

Once we secured the location of the elk we had shot, gutting the elk became the next big endeavor we were forced to undertake. For the most part, I tried to busy myself with blades of grass and colorful rocks during this process, in the hope that I would not be asked to help. However, I was almost invariably called upon to do one specific task during the chore; holding the heart. My father explained to me that this was a task of the utmost importance, completely necessary to the gutting process and well-being of the elk. He even hinted that the care with which I held the heart would affect the succulence of the meat. It wasn't until later that I found out my dad only did this for his sick enjoyment of watching me suffer. I still recall what I felt and thought while I stood in the middle of a vast valley tucked between the creases of the great Rocky Mountains, holding a bloodied, dripping, elk heart.

a) This is disgusting. I want to leave.

b) One should be very careful with whose hearts they hold.





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