Photography by John "Lefty" Wilson
"You better be ready to go when we get to your place Thursday morning," Owlface said. "Every time we go on a bowhunting trip, we always have to wait in your driveway while you check and double-check and triple-check all your gear. You always pack 10 times more stuff than you'll ever need.
"Well, this year Bear Breath said if you ain't ready when we get there, you ain't going. Unless you want to argue with Bear Breath, you best be ready to go when we get to your house. You remember the last time you and Bear Breath had an argument, don't you? Did you learn anything at all from that?"
"I learned that he was still mad at me after I let it slip to you guys that I'd seen Bear Breath and his wife, Laser Lips, at the Sauerkraut Festival the Saturday before our trip, and he had already told you guys that he couldn't shoot at the club that day because he had to work overtime.
"Say, did I ever mention to you guys that they had sauerkraut-flavored ice cream at that festival? My wife, Three, said I should try it since I really like ice cream. Since I occasionally do what Three tells me to do, I got some of that ice cream. Man, if you ever want to go on a diet and give up ice cream forever, just try to eat some sauerkraut-flavored ice cream.
"Besides, the reason I'm never ready when it's time to leave is that I always have to do things like taking Three to that dumb Sauerkraut Festival so she'll let me have the money I need to go bowhunting. Last week she told me she didn't see any reason why I should pay a lot of money for a nonresident license and deer tag because I'd never get to use them anyway.
"Then she said if she had just half the money I've wasted on all those other hunting licenses and big game tags I've never used she could buy new drapes and carpet for the whole house.
"How about doing me a little favor, Owlface? I need to borrow enough money from you to buy my nonresident license and deer tag and to eat on next week. I'll pay you back after I make the first payment on the new drapes and carpet Three said she's going to get for our house while I'm gone."
"I'll lend you whatever money you need to hunt on next week, Maggie, if you make me a promise," Owlface said.
"That's a deal," I said. "I promise to pay you back within a year or two."
"That's not the promise I want you to make," Owlface said. "I want you to promise me that if you ever see me at the Sauerkraut Festival or any kind of craft show with my wife, Turbo Tongue, you won't mention one word about it to any of the guys in The Dumb Bunch."
Thursday morning, when the guys picked me up, I had all my gear in the driveway and was triple-checking everything on my checklist when they pulled in. Bear Breath started throwing some of my stuff in the back of his pickup. Then he threw some of my backup stuff off to the side of my driveway.
Before I could say anything, Bear Breath said, "If you want to go on this trip, don't you say one word. You're not going to need any of that stuff I threw over there. We don't have room to haul every single thing you own to West Virginia. So you better not give me any trouble unless you want me to throw you over there with all that stuff that ain't going."
When we arrived in West Virginia, we stopped at Mom and Pop's General Store to get our nonresident licenses and deer tags and our food for the next week. Mom and Pop have been running their friendly little country store for about 40 years. We started buying our supplies and licenses from them the very first year we hunted in West Virginia.
While we were filling out our license applications, Pop said, "Hey, Maggie, you remember last year when you told me you shot at an eight-point buck with a broken brow tine on his left antler? You said you missed because he was the spookiest buck you ever saw and he jumped the string when you shot. Then you told me your arrow grazed some of the hair off his back."
"Yeah, I remember that buck, Pop," I said. "That was the spookiest buck I ever saw. When I shot at him he ducked that arrow by a foot before it ever got there. I never saw him again. After that close call I gave him, I'll bet that buck dies of old age before any other bowhunter ever gets another shot at him."
"Well, three days after you guys left last year a man and his 14-year-old son came in here to check-in the boy's buck," Pop said. "That buck had a broken brow tine on his left antler and a shaved-off place on his back. I'm pretty sure that was the same buck you missed, Maggie. I told that boy he was sure lucky to kill that buck, because according to what you told me, that deer was the spookiest buck you ever saw."
"Then the boy's dad said, 'Whoever told you this buck was spooky obviously doesn't know anything about deer. This is the first deer my son has ever killed with his bow. He missed this buck two times in two days while the buck was feeding on acorns under his stand. Then, after the buck came back the third morning, my son finally made a good shot and got him. For some reason this buck wasn't spooky at all. My son said the buck acted like he didn't have a care in the world.'
"Then I happened to notice something," Pop said. "That boy was just about your size, Maggie, and darned if he wasn't wearing the exact same kind of hunting clothes you always wear. I figure the reason that buck didn't think he had anything to worry about was because he thought it was you in that treestand, Maggie."
After we got all our supplies we headed out to where we always camp. After we set up all our tents and unpacked our gear, Bear Breath said, "I have to go to town. I forgot to pack my release. I'll have to go to town to buy one so I can hunt. I'll be back as soon as possible."
"Hold up, Bear Breath," I said. "I always pack a backup release and an extra backup for the backup release in case I have a problem with my primary release and my backup release. You can use my first backup release to hunt with. I know it's here in my bow case because there's a triple checkmark next to it on my checklist. It's a good thing you didn't throw it out in my driveway like you did some of my other backup gear.
"All I ask from you in return for using my backup release is that you make me one small promise."
"Thanks, I appreciate that, Maggie," Bear Breath said. "Okay, I promise not to ever again give you a hard time about bringing all that backup stuff you bring, and I won't throw some of your stuff out ever again."
"That's not what I want you to promise," I said.
"Then what is it?" Bear Breath asked.
"I want you to promise me you'll take my wife, Three, with you and Laser Lips to the Sauerkraut Festival next year so I won't have to go," I said. "I can't handle any more of that sauerkraut-flavored ice cream."