MERIDIAN — Editor's Note: Next week's Meridian Star Outdoors Page will be included in the Thursday, November 22 issue.
Perhaps because of my abundant blessings, I half seriously picture God using a shovel and virtually shoveling these good things down onto me like one would shovel corn or gravel.
One November day, another large shovelful came raining down. The gun season had been open for two days and I hadn't so much as seen a shooter deer. So on Sunday night, I laid out my squirrel hunting gear. There would be time enough for collecting venison when cooler weather moved in. After Saturday's rain, the leaves would be soaked and quiet where last week they crunched like potato chips beneath my boots.
Before the alarm clock sounded its noisy clatter on Monday morning, I lay awake listening to what sounded like rain on the roof. I was to learn that it was fog, so heavy that it was dripping off trees. I like hunting in morning fog. It provides an environment of mystery in the woods. I slipped four magnum buckshot shells into my pocket in case a deer ambled past as two had done a few days before while I watched the treetops for the cunning grays.
It was still dark when I walked the half mile through the pine plantation and stepped into the hardwoods. Just as I settled in to wait for daylight, a deer snorted a hundred yards to the east. Shortly, a buck grunted only 50 yards away, his grunt was followed by a loud thrashing of leaves. I slipped the two squirrel shot shells from the double and replaced them with the big boomers.
In another minute the buck grunted again and the thrashing followed. Then I heard a clicking of either antlers on antlers or antlers on dry limbs. This was followed by another grunt and more of the same noise that sounded like a branch being swiped across the leaves.
Because the leaves on the ground were wet, I suspected the leaf sounds to be originating from a leaf covered sapling. I would have paid admission to witness visually what I was hearing.
After 30 minutes of waiting with my thumb on the gun's safety, I figured the buck had departed and I slipped through the quiet leaves toward the site of the commotion. I found a live sapling that a buck had rubbed and then broken over to the ground. The sapling was broken where it was larger in diameter than Governor Scwarzenegger's thumb! The downed top still had leaves on it. However the break looked several weeks old, so I looked further. In another spot lay a green limb about 8 feet long and with several long branches covered with healthy leaves. It was freshly torn with its white wood gleaming and a foot-long strip of bark dangling.
Searching with the intensity of Sherlock Holmes, I could not find the stump or tree from which this limb had been ripped. Had the buck yanked the limb off some distance away and shaken it loose there on the wet leaves where it lay? Had his attempts to shake it from his antlers made the "leafy" sounds I had heard? I don't know. It remains another one of those wonderful mysteries that I can entertain myself trying to explain.
As I tiptoed reverently back through the oaks to resume my squirrel hunt, with the fog collecting on limbs and then dripping to the leaves below in silver droplets, the sound of the steady shower reminded me of the deluge of blessings falling from somewhere above. I felt a rush of gratefulness.
Sometime back in history, a man or woman sat beside a fire in a cave, or waited for dawn beside a game trail, or contemplated the moon and stars from a bed beneath an animal skin. That individual felt something we now call gratitude. Symbolically expressing Man's dependence on a higher power, the person's head bowed earthward, and in that place, at that moment in time, a human being conceived something called thanksgiving.