Chapter 6 – Nature
It was a quiet fall morning. Idyllic. The calm of the day was disturbed only by the sound of the Evinrude. For some reason, the noise irritated me. I wasn't tired, but I was on edge. I attributed it to the dope, but perhaps it was an inkling of the trouble to come.
I made it near the clearing under the power lines, and then doubled back a quarter mile or so to tie up the boat. I was so happy to turn off the engine, I sat for a bit and had a sandwich. Then I took a leak in the river. You can't just piss all over the woods, the deer will smell it. It was a mistake many hunters made, either through inexperience, or just drunken carelessness.
I sat and thought for a while. My mind was still racing, but I no longer had visions when I closed my eyes, which suited me just fine. In fact, my head seemed clear. When I could just relax and listen, it was almost as if I wasn't there at all. It felt very zen. I think that's the word. Zen is a tricky concept.
That brought to mind Emerson again. “I become a transparent eyeball” fit my situtation perfectly. I've always considered that one of the greatest lines ever written.
The first mistake I made was parking upwind. It turned out to be inconsequential, and it was far from my only mistake, much less my biggest one.
So I got out of the boat and headed upriver, which was downwind, on that day. Had I been smarter, I would have moved the boat, too. Deer are pretty easily spooked, and wary. I bet they can smell gas from miles away.
The only thing I carried was my crossbow. I wish I had brought my phone, too. The footage would have been impressive. I studied the tracks along the riverbank, and considered the situation.
Old Buck drank there, most definitely. There were a few other sets, smaller, and the mostly headed upriver. Like Tommy said, deer aren't going to venture out into the open during the day. But the tracks heading north were in an overgrown area that might provide enough cover for one thirsty enough. By the same logic, the warmer the day got, the better my chance might be.
But the bank was too steep near the lines. I followed the trail a bit, and found the perfect spot. In another sense, it was the worst possible spot on the planet.
It was a little pipeline platform with several pipes that came up out of the water. Natural gas, I assumed. Daddy was a pipe welder, so I knew a thing or two about that sort of stuff. In fact, it drove Shannon crazy that I didn't work in the plants. I could weld like it was nobody's business. Had to. I learned how when I was twelve or so. He said I could walk into any plant in the country and make a hundred and fifty thousand a year, doing very little.
Instead, I was getting a Master's Degree in business management, having gotten my engineering degree. I wanted a construction company. Renee Hollander of Zen Construction was my idol. Plus, daddy said he'd put his foot up my ass if I ever went down the same path as him, so there's that. God rest his soul.
Several sets of tracks led down to the water, so conditions were ideal. I checked the existing path in from the woods, and positioned myself accordingly, getting as far away as I could and still reasonably expect to make the shot.
I guess my intuition was good. I had planned to stay there until two or three o'clock, long enough for it to get good and warm. As it turns out, one came along before noon.
It snuck up on me. One minute there was nothing, the next, a five-pointer was on the bank. It stood there for a moment, head raised, and I finally reacted. I raised my bow and aimed, intending to strike the neck.
Right as I was squeezing the trigger, it bent down to drink. I missed, and the arrow struck the pipeline about a yard behind it. I think the insulation must have muffled the sound. It raised it's head up, alert, but then just went back to drinking.
Gas, what looked like yellow smoke, started to come out of the pipe, settling along the ground.
I was going to reload and make the kill, when the damnedest thing happened. I saw a shape swim toward the watering spot. Alligator.
Now, alligators are not like crocodiles. I've never known one to attack a person. And I've definitely never heard of one attacking a deer, for that matter. But I've watched my share of nature shows in my day, and it felt like one of those moments. So I just watched.
Right about the time the gator was close enough to strike, if that's what it was going to do, that buck got a whiff of the gas.
It reached out over the water...and plucked the alligator's eye out.
I couldn't believe it, of course. Never in a million years would I have expected that to happen. The gator rolled and thrashed in the water, and then went under. I bet it didn't see that coming either. No pun intended.
Then the deer raised its head and bellowed. It was genuinely frightening, very guttural and primal. I don't think that was normal, either. It turned and ran into the woods like it had somewhere to go.
I immediately began to question what I saw, and whether or not it had actually happened. Either way, I was scared. I needed to see Doug.
It was the beginning of the end.