Last fall, as I was getting ready to walk in to hunt, a truck pulled up beside me in the parking lot and a guy rolled down the passenger’s side window. The driver was in his early 80’s and the truck looked like it had just been driven off the lot. He squinted at me and nodded. “Yep, I know you,” he said.
I turned my head so he could see my profile. “Do the WANTED posters do me justice?” I asked.
“No,” he said, “you’re that writer. I read your articles all the time. I was just reading one in a magazine back at camp this morning.”
“Oh yeah!” I said, beaming. It always nice to be recognized in a GOOD way. “Are you hunting this evening?”
“Oh, no,” he said, “I used to hunt, but I don’t anymore. In fact, I don’t do much of anything anymore except take up space.” Maybe he saw my puzzled look. “My memory isn’t what it used to be,” he explained. “They don’t let me go out very much these days because I keep forgetting how to get back home!”
“Well, you seem fine to me,” I said. And then I added, just to make sure, “You know the way home, though, right?”
“I do,” he said, and pointed in the direction he’d come from. “Back thataway.”
He looked at me and then at the trail where I‘d planned to hike in to hunt. “This is a great area,” he said. “I used to hunt back in there a long time ago. Killed a few nice bucks, too. Sure got a lot of memories of those times!”
We chatted a little bit about those memories, and finally he wished me luck and continued on his way. As I watched him disappear around the bend, I took a moment and sat quietly on my tailgate. There was something incredibly sad about the encounter, especially in the way he said he was just taking up space. It was a thought that he’d repeated several times throughout our brief conversation.
I looked in the direction he’d gone, and it hit me. Sure, he knew the way home, but did he know where he was going?
God bless him, wherever he went. I hope he found an adventure. And then I grabbed my bow and began the long hike down the trail to make a few more memories of my own.