This blog-post is dedicated to memories of friends from old times….
I looked up early this evening to see Orion the Hunter rising above the eastern horizon. It gave me pause as I thought about some friends from long ago. My hands-down favorite constellation, Orion has blessed me with a hunting life fabulously rich in experiences. But now, I suppose age has tempered the passion I once had for making that last trip to the woods before the end of the hunting season. There’s plenty of venison in the freezer, and the little lady would have a hissyfit if I went out and caught some old wall-hanger standing flat-footed, thinking the season had ended.
It seems a long time till spring. Maybe we’ll go back up to the Rockies again this year. Neither of us could make the mountain hikes we once made, but it would be nice to gaze up at the Tetons again, take some
photos of the antelope and maybe catch an old griz willing to pose without gnawing my head off. And maybe like that morning many years back when I was with two of my closest friends and our wives standing on the bank of the Snake River at Oxbow Bend, I will once again hear the wolves of the Pacifica Pack howling a greeting to the morning sun. The crisp morning air will bring a mist off the river as otters cruise by, and I’m sure the elk will be whistling in the surrounding hills.
Looking out over the Willow Flats at Jackson Lake, we can watch the Elk herds, and later we can drive up to Hayden Valley and watch Bison big as Volkswagen buses. The Jackson Hole Valley, the Tetons, Yellowstone, and traveling north up the Bear Tooth Highway, through Missoula and up to Glacier—it is all a memory I wish I could share with my children and grandchildren, but they will hopefully have their own opportunity someday, because I am saving this memory for others.
I’ve seen thousand-pound bull elk crashing into one another, the sound of their clashing antlers echoing against the mountainsides.
I’ve seen a mother grizzly flipping boulders in the air with the flick of a claw—boulders big as basket balls and all but buried in rock-hard clay. The muscles beneath her thick fur rippled in the morning sun, as she stepped back to let her cubs feed on the unearthed grubs.
And the question I am certain that comes to mind is that those weren’t hunting experiences, but yes, they were. I always hunt, but quite often it is with a camera. I’ve photographed caribou, moose, wolves and griz in Denali. I’ve walked with my camera amongst a group of Whitetail bucks in Mississippi, fighting so hard they didn’t know I was there until I had taken several photos. I’ve photographed hummingbirds, butterflies and just about anything that would pose in front of my lens.
Now, it’s no longer so easy. Once I could crawl on my belly to the base of a giant Cypress beside a bayou and film a duck, a deer or a heron. That was “once.” If the passion strikes now—which is seldom—I must stand up right and do my best not to stumble over the cypress knees as I stalk my prey. And by now, if you should begin to believe this is some pathetic whine about getting old, it’s not. It is a celebration for getting here—for living a full life—the mortgage on which was paid in full by others. They are the ones with whom I want to share these memories.
They are those young soldiers who never lived long enough to experience it. They died on some remote battlefield in some foreign country well before their time. No, this memory is not a complaint, but a celebration of a lifetime of memories which I hope someday to take with me to the other side and share with those that made the ultimate sacrifice. This lifetime of memories is for all those young Americans who gave their lives so that I might live mine. I stand in humble honor of my brothers in arms who never came home, because they made these memories possible.
The photos here are mine. I made them, which means they’re copyrighted, but if you want them, take them. Just remember what other vets did for you.