When my Droid cell phone woke me up at 4:40 this morning with flashing lights and go-go music, I didn't know where I was, at first. The days of business meetings with their attendant dreaded hotel wake-up calls are long gone, but I had a brief post-traumatic stress moment.
Buck was already up. Already up. That man, to whom early rising is a strange and unnatural custom, was at the bathroom sink, toothbrush stuck in his mouth, buttoning up a light flannel shirt.
Thanksgiving is the opening day of the regular gun deer season.
Harold arrives at 5:10, talking quietly at the front door as if he thinks that big buck he hopes to see this morning is out in the front yard and might hear him. "You cookin' up somethin' good fer us, Miss Beth?" Harold peers into the dimly lit kitchen where he can see steam rising from a pot of boiling water.
"Of course I am, Harold. I'm cooking the yellow squash for the Hopkins Boarding House casserole right now. And I've got pecan pie and pumpkin ice cream."
"Punkin ice cream! You're kiddin' me."
"No I'm not. Want some?"
Harold chuckles. "No, I don't believe I want no punkin ice cream, but I might have some of that pecan pie when I come in from the woods."
They head out, two boys on an adventure. They'll be back to the house between 8:30 and 9, full of stories of what they saw, how many does, how many yearlings or spikes were on the plot and whether a big buck, a "shooter," showed himself. "I knowed he was there, cause I saw them big tracks on the way to the hut." I don't have fingers and toes enough to count the number of times I have heard Harold say that over the years.
Earlier this year, Harold didn't think he would get another hunting season. When the doctors found that malignant kidney tumor, he figured that was it.
Buck knows that the county and the state have about come to an agreement on the master plan that will bisect these woods and bring a new urban town this way. He knows a way of life for these two Southern boys is drawing to a close.
I wave them off into the dark morning, guns on their shoulders and an Indian River navel orange in one pocket and a few pecans in another. I turn to the kitchen to snap beans, puree squash, saute onions, and get the turkey ready for the oven.
But first, I savor my own ritual: hot coffee and a slice of pecan pie so sweet it will make my teeth hurt.