Mother finds grace in every track of her son’s size 14s during her first trip to the hunting woods.
By Christy Truitt
“Follow in my footsteps, Mom.”
This was one of the umpteen gazillion instructions I received from my 14-year-old son, Billy Horne, during my hunting inauguration, along with don’t sneeze, breathe, sniff, cough or basically exist for the next four hours. But he’d asked me to go, and the opportunity to spend time alone with him dwindles as he approaches manhood, so I nodded and promised to hold my breath the rest of the day.
Billy didn’t have to know I snapped pictures of him with my cell phone. All arms, legs and torso. And those feet. Size 14 in a tennis shoe. Wouldn’t be hard to follow in his footsteps. Nudging 6 feet tall, easy to figure he hadn’t stopped growing when I placed my size 6 Justins into his footprint.
Is it weird that all I wanted to do was kiss the nape of his neck? The curve of his shoulder where I’d bury my nose when he was a baby? Thankful for every fiber of him, even while he whispered screams at me to be quiet as we sat in the trunk-sized deer stand, in complete disbelief when I wiped my nose.
“Sorry,” I’d offer, and he’d roll his eyes.
Knee to knee, I faced west as he looked east. About an hour later, I could feel his body tense before I heard the words. “There’s a buck. Do. Not. Move.”
I think even my blood stilled. He was patient, controlled his breathing, and waited for the shot. He then pulled the trigger at the appropriate time. “That’s a dead deer,” he gushed through a camouflaged mask, pumping his fist, his breath now quick and small. “That’s a dead deer, Mom.”
I couldn’t help but share his enthusiasm. “Let’s go get him.”
We waited then found him less than 100 yards away. A clean harvest and merciful sacrifice. I averted my eyes from the half-dollar exit wound and found beauty in the iridescent bloodless eyes.
“I’ll help you drag him.”
“No, Mom. It’s my deer. My responsibility. The real work begins when you pull the trigger.”
He drug the deer on pure adrenaline through briars and vines, up a hill and onto a straight path, thankful for the leaves which provided an almost moving sidewalk. I followed behind him like I did when we entered the woods.
As I secured the gate, I heard his deep voice in front of me.
“Thank you, Lord, for providing this sacrifice for our family. Thank you for the animals you give us to keep us healthy and strong. Thank you to the deer for its life so that we may enjoy your bounty. Amen.”
I stood motionless, hand on the lock, allowing the words to resonate in my spirit. This wasn’t a kill to him. He saw the harvest as a circle of life, a holy experience in which God deserved all the glory. A day in the woods with a 14-year-old boy had taught me as much about life as any sermon from the pulpit.
“Follow in my footsteps, Mom.”
Absolutely, son. I’d follow you anywhere.
Editor’s note: Christy Truitt is an award-winning fiction writer from Auburn, Ala. To learn more about Christy’s books, visit www.christytruitt.com, or follow her on Facebook at Christy K. Truitt The Write Purpose.