This time of year I miss him more than most. Maybe it is the cool crisp air that reminds me of hunting camp, or the thought of snow fall any day now that makes me think of his tattered coveralls. There is so much that I miss about him, but the fall is the time the memories seem to flood back. I remember as a small girl following him around begging to take my pony hunting with him. I was old enough I said, I would be good I promised! The answer was still no. I helped anyway to pack the hunting gear. I loved the smell of the tack all oiled and waterproofed being loaded into the trailer. The panyards ready to be packed with all of the things that they would need to survive for a week or more in the wilderness on the edge of winter. And when they returned in the dark with the loads of moose and elk and clothes and sleeping bags that smelled of blood and campfire, I remember the excitement in their voices as they told stories of their hunts. Uncle Bud and Aunt Vi had gone one time. They took their camper and Dad his Wall tent. Jeremy had gone and Dad had helped find an elk, his first one. The talk was all about how Jeremy had frozen in place afraid or too nervous to pull the trigger. Dad had to take the shot but it was almost too late and he had wounded the animal but not fatally. They had to track it forever through the brush. Just when they were about to give up Uncle Bud took a shot and so they said it belonged to all three of them. It took them all to bring it down. That trip also came with the story of Uncle Bud stumbling across the cow moose. Apparently he was walking up a game trail and out of the brush stepped a looming frame of a cow moose. She lumbered along pausing just long enough to look him over. He thought for sure when she snorted and stomped she would charge him but he stood really still and she turned and continued on her way. He said he had never been so close to a live moose before. He also said he was wishing she was a bull because it would have made his hunt a hell of a lot easier. He almost did not get a moose that year. It was the last day of the planned hunting trip when he finally came upon the small bull he was able to shoot in a marshy meadow. Then there were the stories of the horses and how this horse stood so well to be loaded with the carcass of animals and this horse bucked all the way back to camp after they were able to tie the elk to her so they had to switch riding horses to get the animals back to camp. One of the horses snorted and stomped and would not go within 10 feet of a downed elk. Someone had the bright Idea to tie a rope to the carcass and have the horse drag it. By the time they came to camp the horse had calmed down but still would not go near the dead animal. It was stated that this horse would never make a mountain horse. I find my mind wandering to the times I went with my dad in the fall to shoe horses set for the mountains. This guy wanted heel and toe shoes and that guy wanted extra grip shoes. When I asked my dad what was better he just said everyone has a different opinion but that most horses do well in most any shoe they were just to protect the horse’s feet from the rough rocky terrain of the mountain trails. But I noticed that dad put heel and toe shoes on his horses in the fall. As we went to horse place after horse place my dad handled thousands of horses feet. Trimming and shoeing while the cool weather made everyone ache for the hunt in the mountains. Then there were the Deer hunting trips. I wanted to go so bad but because I didn’t like guns I usually was left behind. One time I was able to go only because I pointed out that I could spot the deer for to them. In any case an extra set of eyes wouldn’t hurt. SO I went on that deer hunting trip and I spotted the deer. We drove all over the sagebrush flats around the bluffs and ravines with sage brush taller than my dad’s truck and off in the distance I spotted them. We drove to where my dad thought the deer would be when we met them and sure enough there they were trotting down the ravine. Jeremy did exactly the opposite of the elk hunting trip and he just shot until his rifle was empty. When dad asked him why he shot so many times he said he had only shot two or three times. Dad chuckled and picked up the spent shells out of the powdery dirt and counted to six. As he rattled the shells in his hand Jeremy blushed and ducked his head and mumbled about the gun had a soft trigger or something. We didn’t see any more deer that day. We went home empty handed. But the only deer we did see I spotted and I made sure to make a point of that to my dad. I remember grouse hunting with my dad I think he took Jeremy and I in lieu of the dogs he didn’t have. I remember walking carefully through the tall sage brush in front of dad and Mathew and when the grouse would fly up they would shoot them and Jeremy and I would track them through the brush and find them, or try to. One time I found where the bird had fallen but all there was a mark in the dirt and a blood trail leading off into the bushes. We tracked that thing forever and never found it. Dad declared that it had wandered off to be coyote food because it would never survive wounded out there. When I was a little girl I loved my dad but I hated him too. He always told me because I was a girl I could not go or I didn’t want to when I really did. I wanted to follow him everywhere because he was my dad. HE was always working on something. He was always dreaming of a better place and improving his fences or his barn in any way he could. My dad was dirty and greasy most of his life because he worked but when it mattered he could clean up well. He always wore his snap western shirts and blue jeans, old spice and his felt hat shaped just right and later in life always with a feather tucked in the hat band. My dad was old school cowboy and looked sharp in his suspenders. My dad was the vision of a cowboy in the sense that when someone who isn’t a cowboy saw him they would say “look at that cowboy”. My dad was a cowboy and I miss him.
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