Grandpa's Last Buck

by Peter S. Oleson

When I was growing up in Wisconsin, many years ago, my father decided that after you were confirmed in the Lutheran church, you were old enough to kill. I don't think he equated the two, I believe he used that event as a bookmark. If you were perceived by the church to be responsible for your own sins, you should be granted the opportunity to sin.

Anyway, after you were confirmed, you could go hunting with the rest of the family. That meant everyone you were, and could ever be, related to. My most memorable experiences from that time are of my grandfather. We all had to sleep in my uncle's garage when deer season was on. There were mattresses wherever there was room.

We also shared the place with my Uncle Bud's dog Moose. Moose was way past mere grandfatherhood, nearly every dog within a day's walk owed his dark hue to one or another of Moose's amorous dalliances. Old Moose looked like a big black stuffed sausage with legs. When he walked he groaned. Laying down would force all the breath from him, he sounded like a big Whoopee Cushion. When he slept, he'd snore. Not no little doggy snore, but big burbling stop and start lip-flapping snores. Most of the older guys had some help from ol' John Barleycorne and didn't stay awake long enough to truly appreciate what Moose could do to enliven the wee hours of the morning. But Mooses main claim to fame were his farts. He'd be snoring along just fine and then kind of snort or groan and then you'de hear that noise like air leaking from an inner tube. And you knew it was coming. Mooses farts could make sleeping men's eyes water.

My grandfather smoked a pipe at that time. He was quite old, he couldn't walk very far and I was very young and I had all the fears of a young man. We were all woken early in the morning to the chorus of "Daylight in the swamps" . This was the traditional greeting of my Uncle Bruce. He was huge and probably still is, although I have been away from the rest of the family up here in Alaska for 25 years and haven't seen him for a while. We all would crawl out of bed, our speed of egress depending upon the extent of our involvment in the events of the evening before. My grandfather always woke on the first call.

As soon as he woke, he would fire up his pipe. This particular year, the last year he hunted with us, he used a blend of tobacco that, once ignited, would burn the eyes out of anyone unfortunate enough to be within smelling range. I swear to this day that he mistook pipe tobacco for bird seed. The rest of us decided that he was burning sunflower seeds and even though the temperature was below zero, and the distance to our chosen hunting area was about 20 miles, all the windows in the Blazer were wide open the morning we left for his final season.

When we arrived at Sassycat Lake, everyone was eager to head out and I found myself alone at the truck with Grandpa. I walked with him down the trail about a quarter mile before I figured that he could handle that area alone. As I continued down the trail alone, I spooked a deer who ran back toward the truck.

A few seconds later, I heard a shot and decided to hoof it on back toward Grandpa. I came around a corner in the trail and saw him standing ahead of me on the trail. I hurried up to where he was and asked him who shot.

He said "Go over there and see if the sob has horns. If he does, we'll gut him out. If he doesn't, we'll get the hell out of here." It was a buck, and he'd obviously shot it on a dead run as it leaped the trail. I was amazed and helped him dress the deer out and I dragged it back to the truck for him.

A year later, I visited him in the hospital as he lay dying. I was also in the hospital myself, undergoing an operation on my spine. I visited him often but he was more often than not out of the picture. He died hard, not wanting to go. My dad spent a lot of time with him there and also later. It was a tough time for my dad, having lost his mother at an early age. I love my father and I miss Grandpa (and Moose).

Peter S. Oleson

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