THE HOLIDAY TREASON

by Marshall Nych

In the Nych family, the day following Christmas rivals the excitement to the day of Christmas itself. Flintlock season arrives in a red-and-black checkered, wool package. Nych hunters have the opportunity to use a flintlock muzzleloader reproduced with a pre-1800 design, to again miserably miss the deer we failed to hit with our state-of-the-art rifles during firearms season and technological advanced compound bows while afield in archery.  It’s great fun.

When I was a young man, I was carefree, worry free, and girl free.  Hunters, the ones who harvest a woman anyway, soon learn the hunt can be clouded by responsibilities and priorities on the home front. Laura, a loving and understanding wife if ever there was one, was anxious to make our house a home. I was to discover how much work such an endeavor requires. Our first summer as newlyweds, I witnessed firsthand what would be done to critters that tried to bring harm to our home.

A groundhog, who likely wanted nothing more than to be neighbors, tried to establish permanent residence three feet off our back door. I am fairly observant outdoors, but my wife is omnipotent indoors. Hence, Laura caught the woodchuck in the early stages of excavation just outside the kitchen window.  Since I was baling hay on the family farm, Laura was left to fend for herself. I’ve heard when the hunter is away, the groundhogs come out to play.

Not familiar enough with my rifle collection or, more importantly, the gun safe combination, Laura ruled out shooting the rodent. A brilliant idea bubbled into the angered, steaming Laura. My lovely wife had put a pot of water atop the stove for her famous pasta.  Just as it reached a boil, Laura spied on her enemy plotting away in the name of digging.

Laura flung open the back door and yelled, “Get outta here you little jerk!”

Never having received such a scolding before, the woodchuck emerged from the fresh hole to see who could be so upset.  Perhaps the critter could bring calm to the situation. No such treaty was reached, for when the groundhog continued at his construction, Laura reached her boiling point. To discourage further burrowing, Laura poured the entire pot of hot water down the hole. Laura watched in awe as the steaming woodchuck retreated to the woods.  The rodent must’ve learned his lesson. A few weeks later I spotted a bald groundhog scampering along the woods, carefully avoiding our home.

Hence, with housework piling up, I had to decline the annual family flintlock hunting trip to the mountain town of President. The holiday season had turned to holiday treason.  Domestic duties had accumulated greater than the white blankets sewn by that snowy December. Not to worry, a sportsman turns every adventure into a sporting one. I’ll give the play by play of the hunt and the house.  Each hunter can decide for himself which is more thrilling. I must warn, some sportsmen may run out and swap vests for aprons.

As the crew of hunters descended upon the mountains of Pennsylvania, whitetails with a flintlock were top priority to most.  Although one or two carried a shotgun in hopes for a crack at a ruffed grouse, rabbit, or other small game.  The team, having those with flintlocks strategically posted, watched on as the shotguns explored wild thickets, moving birds and bunnies.

As I prepped for my day of household chores and other labors of love, I secretly hoped to finish with time to sneak onto the family farm for a quick hunt. I was armed with a handheld, state-of-the-art vacuum cleaner. My quarry, dust bunnies, had little chance versus this glorified duster.

Oops!

I had forgotten to plug it into the charger last night. The dust bunnies lived to fight another day.

Back in the mountains, a couple of cousins felt inexplicably refreshed as they followed fresh deer tracks in the snow.  The cloven hooves pointed directly under a stand of hemlocks. Entering the coniferous canopy, the hunters inhaled and exhaled each cool, sweet breath as if they were new to this planet. The hunters, enjoying the warmth of the boughs, the freshness of the air, and the softness of the needles, soon began to nap.  None could think of a better way to pass this half an hour. The men claim to have spread far apart, but this is not well documented.

I was following some prints of my own.  Which culprit dinner guest had left muddy tracks in the dining room?  It was most likely one of the hunters hours north and east in the hills. My frustration surrendered to a similar evergreen induced high. A shot of Pine-Sol eliminated the unsightly mess immediately.  Even stronger than Pine-Sol’s cleaning properties are its fumes. Dizzy, I too was forced into slumber.

After waking recharged and rejuvenated, the team worked their way through the powdery snow of the valley. This reliable red brush holds birds, a variety of game, and countless memories. Seemingly with each step, the hunters flushed ruffed grouse.  Although none found their way to the hand, all of the hunters were having a blast. Even the awaiting deer hunters marveled at the heart stopping takeoff and skilled flight uniquely packaged into our state bird.

When I regained consciousness, I had a headache. I shook it off and worked my way to the powder room. There I too was surrounded by ample flushes. My flushes were of the commode variety. With a little toilet bowl cleaner and elbow grease, this half a man got this half a bath looking like new.

Many miles of hunting and hiking under their boots, the men gathered at a winter oasis. The Nych hunters, having seen herds of whitetail deer and flocks of wild turkey, completed the true fur, fin and feather experience.  From atop a boulder they spied a small native brook trout. Its muscular body and vivid fins flashed in the mountain stream’s cool current. Fantasizing about trading gun for rod, the men could likely trick the char with a small dry fly.

Within the comfy confines of home, I too enjoyed a fur, fin and feather experience of a different nature. The three requirements were met as I brushed hairs from the couch, removed scale deposits, and used the feather duster. Remember, I forgot to plug in the charger?  Beginning to feel like Cinderfella, how I wished to exchange feather duster for flintlock fully loaded with a lead ball. To pass time, I pretended I was on a hunt with reputable guide Mr. Clean – big, bad, bald, and ready to bag game.

Other parallels emerged. Both the hunters and I saw many hardwoods. The hunting posse may have walked beneath oaks, maples and cherries. I would argue I did too, just at later stages of the wood. The flooring I wiped down – oak.  The cabinets I reorganized – maple. And the hefty server I moved, polished, then moved again – cherry.

Hiking the return route to the truck along the elevated ridge, the Nych hunters concluded their fine trip with a picturesque view of the Allegheny River. My day was done as I cleaned the picture window.  Applying a heavy dose of Windex to a rag, thoroughly wiping in a circular motion from top to bottom, I detected movement from the corner of my bloodshot eyes. A herd of deer was sneaking just outside the picture window through my backyard.

I began a mental debate. Should I fetch my flintlock and take a crack at these deer?  Inner voices wrestled.

“Now’s your chance, Marshall. Take it!”

“But Marshall, you are still in your apron!”

In the end, the latter prevailed. After cleaning house, the last thing I felt like cleaning was a deer. And, truth be told, I preferred not being scolded or scalded prior to my next hunting trip. •

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