Monday, December 2, 2013
"I noticed he didn't smell right," my brother recalled in his 50th retelling of the tale. "He stunk. Bad."
The stink didn't go away when they prepped the deer for skinning and butchering in the woodshed. His impressive rack was a footnote to the odor coming off of him.
"I knew it was gonna be bad," my younger brother chimed in. He was there in the tiny woodshed to "help" clean the impressive beast. "That smell was ripe. It had a tangy, piss smell. As soon as they opened it up we all ran out of the shed and started f***king dry-heaving in the snow."
It is unclear what the smell was. In earlier accounts, my older brother (we mercilessly refer to him as "the huntsman" for this and other tales of bad luck with deer, one involving getting a truck stuck in the middle of a cornfield, the other referring to a sheetrock knife that didn't quite do its job...)swears he shot the thing through its bladder. In other renditions of the story, the buck already had blood poisoning from a previous hunter's bullet, and my brother may have done the poor thing a favor.
Either way, the loss of all that meat was a tragedy. We all felt it because we were all guilty of smelling the imaginary venison wafting through our homes as we prepped a pioneer Sunday dinner. My brothers felt bad for the thing.
"I can't imagine running through the woods shot through the pisser," one said. "I mean, man."
Of course, given it's impressive antlers, my older brother did take one trophy from the ill-fortuned hunt: The head. Bucky is mounted on the living room wall. He looks a little greyish and mangy. Not the bright-eyed noble stag of cabin lore. He is a monument to an effort. And the only part of that deer that wasn't laid to waste in the woods behind my brother's house.
"Not even the huskies would go near it," he said of his pack of sled dogs who are opportunists when it comes to food of any kind.
The food chain is exactly that. It is a chain, snapped snugly around our human wrists. If we pull on the chain too hard, it's gonna hurt like a bitch. If we don't pull at all, we starve in a sense. I am chained to the lives of these animals (and vegetables, let's not forget the karma of Monsanto that is spreading havoc across the world with cancer, dead honey bees, obesity and the ousting of small time farmers) and my need to know outweighs my longing for neatly packaged bacon.
We will make it through the winter, with or without Bucky. My freezer is full of meat from the farm just down the road and fish that we ourselves yanked up from the water (and I silently prayed over as their throats were being cut and their heads were tossed into the sea, chum for the birds). It's a small gratitude for a big sacrifice.