As the sun came up over the creek bottom the sound of Spring mating rituals began to fill the air. First one, then a second, a third, fourth, fifth .. continuing until a cacophony of Meleagris gallopavo silvestris filled the entire floodplain. The sound was everywhere and seemed to come from all directions. It was a chorus of aggression and procreative lust rolled into one. It was both exciting and a bit frightening: evocative of primal heat.
Her little hands were gripping the shotgun with the force of determination I had yet to witness. There was not a glimmer of nervousness perceived – sheer, rock-solid determination: Focus. I was a nervous wreck. She was a solid rock. What an eye-opening experience. What a thrill.
I hit the slate .. a soft one – once, twice … gentle yelps. The response, came like a dam breaking. It was deafening. No fewer than a dozen hot-on-the-horn toms replied. And the boys-they-come-a-runnin’!! Like sprinters at the Olympic 100 meter finish line, the big gobblers came crashing through the brush to display their wares. And display they did!
It was a sight I had never seen the likes of. Tails flared in every direction. An entire field-of-view of fanned tail-feathers, strutting like a Dancing With The Stars competition. I was so enthralled by it all, that it wasn’t until I heard the soft, faint click of the safety – into the ‘OFF’ position – that I realized… Brooklyn was in total control.
Rolling my eyes right – to look in her direction – like a toppled bowl of apples, rolling across a tilted table – I could plainly see the little figure of a ‘coming of age huntress’ taking form. She was in a solid, ‘gun shouldered, sighting the distant target into her bead, and exhaling the movement into a mannequin stillness’ prepping position. I almost giggled!
Brooklyn had shouldered the camouflaged Mossberg 500 Bantam, 3-inch Mag, 20-guage with such fluid motion, I could barely believe my eyes. I was totally mesmerized by her camouflage hide waltz. I had lost track of everthing but watching her in action. Everything. Including the huge tom gobbler strutting out 15 yards in front of the hide.
I was digesting and processing the scene when my little Unicorn-loving, Pretty-Pony playing, Barbie-dressing, teas-after-work-party-with-Daddy darling pulled the trigger and bagged the largest Eastern wild turkey tom I had ever seen. Dropping him, clean, in one shot, at 12 yards.
I nearly jumped out of my skin when the gun barked. Brooklyn didn’t flinch. She followed through just like I had shown her – watching through the shot – tracking her bird: now flopping in the last throws of a clean kill.
In the brief few seconds that read like a Tolstoy novel by apparent time extension, I saw my little girl morph into a full-fledged hunter, with poise and grace that just seemed to defy her demure and tiny, 12-years.
She finally looked up at me and said, in a fairy-like whisper, sprinkled with Tinkerbelle excitement, “Dad! It was just like you said. I did just like you told me. I got him clean!” Then, she released the biggest grin I think I had ever seen. It was at that point, for some odd reason, my vision went the way of a windshield in a 60-mph-blown thunderstorm downpour. I fought the flood, but to no avail.
Brooklyn, reached out and touched my arm, saying, “It’s OK dad. I know I’ll cry too when I take my own kid out for their first turkey hunt. You just go ahead and enjoy it. I’ll cry later and you can hold me then.” Then she wrapped her gentle little arms around me and I entered the most wonderful sense of being. I could never have imagined such a feeling was even possible on this earth. This must’a’ been what they were referring to when describing, ‘an angels’ touch’.
That was now almost 30 years ago, but it seems like just yesterday. Each year, during the Spring season, I get this feeling all over again. I relive each moment, like it happened. I never want to forget it.
Brooklyn and I hunted for turkey every year after that; Spring and Fall; until she went off the college. Then we hunted every couple of years. When she got married, we hunted as often as we could. When she had her first child, a boy, we set a date for his first turkey season, after his 12th birthday, to reconvene our traditional annual hunt. I could NOT wait!
Well, today’s the day, and I’m just about 30 minutes from their place. I’ve been practicing my ‘hug’ for about a month. I have never been so nervous in all my life. I can’t wait. I know I’ll just have to get in a few ‘practice efforts’ before it’s really needed. I just hope and pray it is!!
Jake – yes, it was no surprise in that boy’s name – will be every bit the cool-customer his mommy was at his age, now. She has trained him well.
I have got to be the luckiest dad alive.
Brooky’s First Tom‘, is an eLITHOGRAPH, 14.2″ x 10.7″, print out as a watercolor.
The story, Brooky’s First Tom is just that, a story. But, I have no doubt, this scenario has been enjoyed and marked, more than a few times already this season. And for several families, it is a regular, annual occurrence.
Let’s all do our part, to insure the Tradition of our precious Outdoor Heritage Hunting Activity, is passed on to future generations. Let’s equally -attentively work- to insure the continued, future health, and well-being, of our Natural Resource… is never taken for granted.
If we lose sight of our personal responsibility to insure that the natural flow of life on earth continues on our watch, we will surely lose, indeed.