Thursday, March 9, 2006

Huntin' and Thinkin'

Navajo Folk Art Carving

The tracks were clear, and it looked as if the small group of deer I was tracking was heading in the proper direction. After he had finished work, my brother-in-law, Renis, and I hurried out of town to hunt the last evening of the 1979 deer season. We drove southwest from Blanding, crossed Westwater Canyon and drove south a mile or so on a dirt track, stopping just off U.S. Highway 95. We parked the truck on the knuckle end of a finger-like mesa that pointed off onto a half mile wide, juniper encrusted shelf which dropped into the canyon below. I had hunted here before, and knew deer found the bench area inviting. The stunted trees and house-sized sandstone castoffs from the surrounding cliffs offered excellent cover for the animals.

Renis and I decided to split up and slowly hunt down both sides of the finger. It seemed we would have an advantage over any unsuspecting venison if, like keen and watchful birds of prey, we skillfully hunted the cliff tops. The plan was to meet at the tip and circle back if we were unsuccessful. Renis headed west, so I quietly made my way to the eastern edge of the drop-off and carefully scanned the landscape below. I immediately saw movement and recognized three gray ghosts dissolving into a cluster of junipers a quarter mile ahead of me. I was sure I had seen horns, and my heart began to beat faster as I anticipated the thrill of the hunt.

Crouching down, I backed away from the rim, turned quickly and moved south in a half circle pattern. When I figured I was in position to overlook the cluster of trees, I cautiously made my way back to the edge; ready to craftily and skillfully "bring home the bacon". My positioning was excellent; I had an aerial view of the trees and could see brief glimpses of movement. From where I stood, there was open ground on three sides and a cliff on the fourth. I had those wily trophies boxed in; all I had to do was wait them out. And wait I did; I was the picture of patience, until I suddenly realized I was running out of daylight.

There was nowhere for the deer to go. They must have known it too, because they did not move. They stayed where they were, knowing full well, I am certain, that sunset would suspend the stand off. "Dang, outsmarted again," I thought. Well if the mountain wouldn't come to Mohammed, then Mohammed would go to the mountain. As I made my way to my present position I had crossed a small draw that emptied onto the bench below. Knowing the wind would be in my favor, and that I could keep to the high ground, I decided to back track, regain the offensive and flush the deer from their hideout.

It would have been a good plan if the deer had cooperated. Instead, they waited until I was at ground level and were shielded by the trees to exit stage left. Stupid human! My only hope might be that Renis was waiting on the point in prime position to bring down a trophy. The jury was still out on the quality of hunter my new brother-in-law was, but we were about to find out. I picked up the trail of the deer and started to follow their path in hopes of driving them towards their predestined encounter with a hot skillet.

As I neared the towering tip of the mesa, I kept looking up in anticipation of seeing Renis' orange camo coat or hearing a shot. I drew abreast of another drainage off the mesa and noticed a second set of deer tracks joining the one I had been following. On top of those was a set of Renis Hylton waffle stomper prints. Foiled again. It just was not meant to be! My dinner of choice dissipated on the spot, and I began to refocus on a Reuben sandwich at the Patio Drive-in.

As I stood there in frustration, looking ahead at Renis' footprints strolling off into the distance, I caught sight of an aberration. One of the footprints had a small, delicate tail. I moved forward and stood over the track, laughing out loud at what I saw. As Renis crept along after his quarry, he had stepped on an arrowhead. To be more accurate, he had stepped on the tip of an arrowhead with the heel of his boot. The ancient artifact stood at attention as if flagging Renis' passing.

Squatting on my haunches, I admired the treasure. A fraction of an inch back and the dainty projectile would have certainly been destroyed; a little forward and it would have remained just under the surface, undisturbed for a few more centuries. Yet here it stood, as if saying, "Take a look at this, mighty hunter!" I looked around at the jumble of boulders and sparse trees and, peering into the shadows, wondered where the ancient hunter had hidden to ambush his game. Had the arrow found its mark, or, more likely, flown wide and buried itself in the earth to remain unnoticed until this moment?

As twilight dropped its dark curtain, I imagined a gaunt, bent little man, colored as the earth, hunched over a piece of flint, fashioning it into a projectile point. I wondered what must have gone through his mind as he napped the stone. Had there been hunger and worry about the well being of his family? Would he have thought about those who had gone before him, his ancestors, or even future generations?. What about ceremony and tradition, had he considered those topics? Would he have found the stone, the animals, his life and world sacred, profane or mundane? On some spiritual or quantum level, was his energy, creativity, essence contained within the arrowhead?

Standing up, I grunted out loud and rubbed my aching head. I often get migraines when contemplating things like spirituality, insanity, quantum theory and or spontaneous human combustion. It was time to eat; my rumbling stomach told me so. I headed back to the truck, thinking to myself, "Thank goodness for fast food and cartoons". Life is easier and less painful when there is prepared food and a shortage of deep questions to ponder.

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright 2006 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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