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"First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"...Marriage - Crunchin? Acorns
Angie Ledbetter is a freelance writer and editor, author, and columnist. Information on her co-authored book Seeds of Faith ~ An Inspirational Almanac can be found at: http://seedsoffaithalmanac.com/ When not working with her special education elementary class or herding her own three teens, Ledbetter works on a fiction novel, a nonfiction inspirational book, a poetry chap book, a new column for "Pair O' Dice" hosted by MomsVoice.com: http://momsvoice.com/pages/ask_twins7.html and various other writing projects. Ledbetter is a Regional Representative for the National Association of Women Writers http://naww.org/ , and is a proud Rose & Thorn staffer http://www.theroseandthorneBook.com/ .
I love the way my feet crunch the acorns scattered about on my morning walks. They carpet the ground in brittle lumps. Hearing the small, brown nuts pop and crackle as their orange guts squish out onto the pavement is almost as satisfying as eating an entire bag of greasy potato chips, or popping a role of bubble-wrap material.
My mind always associates the season of autumn with acorn smashing and the annoyance of huge hickory nuts falling from colorful branches far above my house to noisily plink down the roofline. They unfailingly disturb my rare naps as they ricochet off the bedroom A/C window unit, just as the littering of acorns ruins the serenity of my solitary prayer walks. My aggravation with these nuts is also more deeply rooted. These same pods feed the enemy - squirrels, deer, wild boar, and all those other critters that make up the sought after game of Louisiana's main season – hunting season.
I used to have a ratty camouflage T-shirt that said, “We Temporarily Interrupt This Marriage to Bring You Hunting Season!” That slogan pretty much stated how I felt about the sport. With many of the men I know, hunting is more than a mere sport or hobby, it is a way of life; the be-all of existence, the raison d'etre, a birthright, a pursuit hallowed as much as the seeking of the holy grail, the event around which all other events revolve.
More than a few men choose their jobs and work schedules according to the time frames of hunting season, often “dragging up” from their jobs when that golden opening day of the hunt rolls around. Normal, rational, productive men seem to lose all perspective each year, and it’s not uncommon to hear of marriages breaking up because husbands have chosen the thrill of the woods over the comforts of home and hearth.
A popular joke reads like a classified ad: “Single man seeks wife who cooks, loves dogs, has hunting lease, and bass boat. Send photo of lease and boat.” An often-seen door sign and bumper sticker reads, “A bad day in the woods is better than a good day at home.” The abundance of these jokes speaks to the common problems that this “sport” often breeds. I’m sure that these nuts (acorn and hickory, not hunters), innocent pods of God’s bounty, get unfair associations from me because they happen to feed the sportsman’s game. But when I add up the hours, days, weekends, and holidays that hunting seasons take from my family life, I can’t help but be provoked. And it’s not like I haven’t tried to fix this situation. Believe me, valiant attempts to impart guilt upon the head of the hunter will not deter him from his wooded sanctuary.
It’s not the premise of the activity to which I object. My husband and relatives are excellent gamesmen and women. They obey the laws and rules, take care with safety responsibilities, and make sure all the hunters-to-be (young sons and daughters) get proper training and safety courses through the Wildlife and Fisheries Agency. They do not hunt for sport alone. They clean what they kill and proudly fill freezers with their booty.
I’m not jealous of the male bonding they get for days on end, or annoyed that Thanksgiving holiday meals are interrupted, or have to be served cold or piecemeal. The part I find hard to justify is all the time I spend alone with the kids while Dad is at the hunting camp, especially considering that he's away often for work also.
It took years of self behavior modification training and prayer power to squelch the urge to scream like a banshee whenever I heard the first rumblings of hunters gearing up for their seasonal hiatus. The three-wheelers, four-wheelers, target practice, banging, and sawing on hunting stands and blinds, and other assaults on the ear were all just gigantic acorns under my skin!
Before I make myself sound terribly uncharitable, let me explain that hunting season does not just cover a few random weekends each fall. There are the preseason mandatory work weekends wherein the hunters must get the camp and deer stands ready, the meetings pertaining to rules and membership, and the occasional gatherings that really have no purpose other than talking about the coming excitements. One year I put red X’s on the calendar for nights spent at the deer camp or on a hunting trip of any kind and there were 56 in one “season.” No, I don’t begrudge the extensive time my husband spends in his wooded wonderland; I’m just envious and in need of a little respite and R&R time myself. I am also sad to be without him when the kids and I attend church or do family things together.
There are, however, some things that help me make it through nut stomping season without going off my nut altogether. Daily prayer helps tremendously. Trying to understand that my mate needs time away from a stressful job also gets me through about the first three weekends fairly intact. Immersing myself in activities with our kids, attending weekly writing/critique group meetings, spending time with girlfriends, or doing fulfilling ministry and community work also eases the stress of being a “hunting widow.”
I also remind myself that like all seasons, this one will eventually end at some point, and life will return to a more normal pattern. I know, too, that as the kids get older they will accompany Dad on these forays. It helps to see the bigger picture if I can dislodge myself from in-the-moment hissy fit tendencies. I know that’s easier said than done, but is possible with a lot of practice.
One of my favorite remedies for the symptoms of H.S.O. (Hunting Season Overdose) is planning and executing quarterly “girl” getaways, retreats, or a few days at a nearby B&B. Hanging onto my humor helps.
In fact, giving myself one of those try-to-see-the-bright-side-and-at-least-he’s-not-out-in-the-bars-carousing pep talks one day, I relaxed the hold on my clenched jaws long enough to make a profound discovery. An epiphany, if you will, ushered in on the wings of humor and grace.
How many people know that the venison obtained during a single deer hunting season ends up costing only $978.50 per pound? Add in license fees, equipment, food, club dues, building supplies, gas, ammo, clothing, special doo-lollies, and all the trappings (pun intended) that go along with the sport, and that’s a pretty fair figure on a 100-pound doe.
Nothing helps erase the aggravation buildup, though, as much as a change of scenery. Come to think of it, when I am enjoying one of these rare escapes and am feeling kindly, I ask the Lord to smash any lingering anger still in my heart concerning my husband's hunting just exactly as I'm squashing the indigenous ground nuts into smithereens if it happens to be fall. I picture the hunter orange acorn innards blowing away peacefully in the wind as I walk on down the path.
Routine cycles and seasons change. I’m getting more free time as the kids grow up. All three like to accompany Dad on his weekends, sometimes leaving me alone (yes!) at home to do as I please. It also makes me proud to see our children acquire self-sufficient outdoor skills. I’m especially glad that my teenage daughter is one of the better 4-wheel drivers at the camp. And I must confess, I enjoy the venison that my husband prepares for our family. After all, how many other wives get such expensive meals served at home?