Deerly Beloved

When I pulled a curtain aside and peered out of the living room window, I saw steel-gray clouds blanketing the sky above the mobile home court. Dropping the curtain back into place, I stepped to a chair-side table and turned on a lamp. The stereo I’d given Arnie last Christmas was tuned to local radio station. I heard Lee Marvin endearingly, though tunelessly, singing, “I was born…under a wand’rin star.”

The mobile home Arnie and I bought when we married earlier in the year was small. Just half a dozen steps took me from the living room window to the kitchen. I sat down and pulled two magazines from the center of the table towards me. Mom had given them to me the last time I visited her. I flipped one open, but felt distracted. The loudly ticking clock on the wall showed only noon. Arnie wouldn’t return from hunting for several hours yet.

With elbows on the table, I rested my chin on my hands. The baby inside me wiggled and kicked. I smiled and leaned back, thinking about how in only another two months little he or she would be born. Then I began to think about how only twelve months ago, Arnie and I had become engaged.

Arnie had taken me to a fancy restaurant on Halloween. Before getting out of the car, Arnie very formally asked me to be his wife. Within two weeks we scheduled our wedding. Since it was November of 1969, the hall we wanted only had two open dates for 1970: April 18th and sometime several months later. I wanted sooner rather than later. So did Arnie. For the first time, I wondered if the second date would have disrupted deer hunting!

Had I known how important deer hunting was to Arnie before I married him? I couldn’t remember if he even went hunting last year while we were dating. His brothers were all big hunters. Having venison for the dinner table was helpful in feeding a large family like theirs! My own brother loved to deer hunt. For as long as I could remember, no matter what sort of weather we were having, Casper would go out to sit for hours waiting for a deer to saunter within range of his bullet.

Shaking my head, I remembered with amusement Arnie’s excitement this week and this morning. In my mind, his anticipation, preparations and glee could only be compared to a child at Christmas time.

Arnie and his brothers had avidly discussed where they all were going to stand, how early before the dawn they would walk into the woods and where to register a deer. He’d cleaned his gun, sighted it in and attached his hunting tag to the back of his coat. Then we went grocery shopping for the things he insisted he had to have in his lunch box in the woods: a big thermos of steaming-hot black coffee, two large summer sausage and cheese sandwiches and several Snickers candy bars.

About the time I expected Arnie home from his day of hunting, the phone rang. He was calling to excitedly tell me he’d shot a buck and that I should come to his folk’s farm to see it.

An hour later I found myself standing in a cold farm shed, looking at a dead deer hanging from a rafter and listening to Arnie’s long, animated, moment-to-moment description of each move he and the deer made during the hunt. He told of each gust of wind and how it made cold branches squeak as they rubbed together, about each turn of the buck’s head and how he’d dropped to his knees after pulling the trigger.

I was happy for my husband, but rather amused by the drama that surrounded the deer hunting season. I reflected on how it was a very good thing our wedding hadn’t been scheduled for the end of November. I wouldn’t have wanted to mess up his fun with hunting. I tried to imagine a combined wedding and hunt. I pictured the priest saying, “Deerly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness Arnie’s successful hunt and marriage to Kathy.”

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