TRIBUTE TO A HUNTER - (Raymond Rasmussen)
By Raymond's Son: Norm Rasmussen
Some of my fondest memories were hunting with my father, Ray Rasmussen, growing up in Eastern Oregon in the Grant County (Bates-Austin) area. My Father was a lumberjack, and to feed his family of six children, deer and elk were our main source of meat, as was most everyone who lived in the little logging community of Bates (that no longer exists, though a State Park is now located there.).
The following story is a tribute to my father,
whom I am so thankful to God for giving me, the older I get. Many boys grow
up, never having an opportunity to experience the memories between father and
son that I was privileged to experience. For YOU ... I
write some of my precious memories in hopes you will give a young boy or girl
memories of THEIR own ... because NONE of us know just home much we can
influence the life of another ... because of a few precious memories for them
to hold onto when times get real rough.
SETTING: Old lumber mill town of Bates, Oregon. The year was 1957. Dad was age 49. I was age 11.
The clock alarm sprang to life, vibrating the wooden night stand supporting it. My father reached over with a sluggish arm, silencing the annoying mechanical timepiece.
"You awake?" asked a deep, drowsy voice.
"Yep!" I answered quickly, putting extra enthusiasm in my answer just in case he had any second thoughts about passing the day up and going back to sleep. This was the day for which I had waited for a long time.
"We'd better roll out then, son, if we're gonna’ get ourselves a deer."
I was relieved. I flung the heavy, patched quilts off my body and had my feet touching the cold wooden floor before he had time to raise his head from his pillow. I didn't want to waste a precious second.
Minutes later hot oatmeal boiled noisily in the pot like bubbling lava as my father stood over it, giving it an occasional stir. His back was turned, and I recall thinking how lucky I was to be up with him at that hour, being old enough to take part in the activities he enjoyed. I felt warm and alive, aglow with admiration and respect for him. I was proud to be his offspring, and I was tickled pink to think he now had enough faith to let me tag along behind him. I was not yet eleven years old, but at that exact moment I felt the stirrings of an adult.
Breakfast lay sizzling on a hot, nervous stomach as I pulled on my new leather boots dad had bought specially for this occasion. I had finally grown out of my tennis‑shoe days and had progressed to real leather boots just like those he wore. They were genuine, honest‑to‑goodness hunting boots. Naturally, wearing them automatically made me a hunter too.
I dutifully carried the lunches and extra clothes out to the old pickup truck as he had asked, and with that completed, I raced back into the house and popped the question I had asked so many times before, but had always been refused.
"Can I get your gun and shells out of the gun cabinet for you?"
He looked down at me solemnly, apparently realizing how much it meant to me to have the privilege of touching his rifle. He stared deep into my gleaming eyes, trying to read what was going through my mind. He must have read right.
"Go ahead, but be careful and don't bang it."
Wow! He was going to let me. I did a crisp about‑face and headed directly for the gun cabinet, unlatching the lock with the key he had entrusted to me. With the door open, I reached in ever so carefully and lifted the rifle out of its place as a jewelry thief would reach into a safe, uncertain whether his hand was going to trip an alarm. Free from its prison, I held the well‑oiled .300 bolt action Savage proudly in my hands, careful not to loosen my grip, lest it slip from my grasp. Moments later I handed it to him, proud as punch for not tripping and falling.
"You forgot the shells," he reminded me.
"I'll be right back!" I had needed both hands to hold the rifle, and I didn't want to chance taking both items in one trip.
Moments later the lights went out in the house, and we left my mother, brothers, and sisters to sleep the remainder of the morning while the two of us stole away to do man things.
Outside, we climbed into the old truck, and I waited anxiously for him to put life into the rickety old '39 Jimmy pickup. Like clockwork the engine sprang to life, and the rebuilt engine coughed and sputtered as the man behind the wheel adjusted the choke to give it the right amount of air. Seconds later it settled to a rhythmic purr, and first gear was found. With life in the axles, the wheels rolled forward over the rocky, potholed road, and the two of us bounced around unconcerned, each in our own worlds.
"I thought I was going to have to work today. Dick (Greer) thought they might have trouble getting some bearing back in place. Guess they decided to wait until Monday. "
"Did you want to work today?" I asked, afraid maybe he might back out at the last moment.
He lit a cigarette, a habit he seldom indulged in. I found out later he smoked mainly during hunting season, and then only rarely.
"We could have used the money, " he answered matter-of-factly.
"Oh," I answered, glad his foreman had held off until Monday. I turned and stared out the broken windshield, taking note of the few houses with lights on ‑ knowing other men in Bates were up for the same occasion we were -- to tag a deer so there would be meat on the table.
Minutes later we left the sawmill town behind us, with all its identical houses and dusty roads, and started to climb a sudden incline that would take us up above the town and back into deer country. Everyone in town called it the Reservoir Hill. Daybreak soon would be upon us, and there was little time to dally.
The washboard road led us steadily into wooded terrain, and as we made a 90-degree turn on one of the many switchbacks, two pairs of eyes suddenly popped into view in front of our headlights. I was plenty old enough to know what kind of eyes they were.
"A buck and a doe!" my Dad quickly informed me. "Looks like a fork horn!"
They darted off into the darkness of the forest at breakneck speed, leaving tiny puffs of dust in the road from their sudden flight.
"You gonna’ try to get him?" I asked eagerly.
"No. We'll go on up to where I planned on hunting. There's bucks up there."
A few minutes later we ambled off on an obscure side road and shifted down to low gear to negotiate the narrow, rock‑studded road. Stumps and boulders sidelined it, requiring careful manipulation of the steering wheel so we didn't caress them. I kept my eyes peeled in front, looking for more deers' eyes, hoping I would spot them before he did. I wanted him to know I was trying hard.
Some fifteen minutes passed and then Dad parked the truck. The headlights went out, and the only light remaining was the glow from the cigarette he held between his calloused fingers. I pulled my new cotton gloves from the sack and separated the right from the left. It had been thoughtful of him to remember to buy me protection for my hands.
"It'll start breaking day shortly. Time enough for a cup of coffee."
I quickly reached to my left and found the Thermos bottle lying on the course, holey seat beside me. "I'll pour it for you, okay?"
"Uh, okay, if you want." I had never offered to pour his coffee, and it caught him off guard.
"You wanna’ try a cup, too?" he asked.
Mother had strictly forbidden me to drink coffee at home, and the sudden generosity caught me off guard. I thought quickly, then decided I would. Mother wouldn't have to know. Chances were he would never say anything, and I certainly wouldn't either. Besides, coffee was something all hunters drank.
"Yea, sure! We only have the one cup, though."
"You'll have to drink from mine I guess, if you want some."
"That's okay. That's fine!" His cup probably made the coffee taste better anyway.
We shared the coffee, sipping it noisily, waiting for the sun to shed some light on the darkness surrounding us. I rolled down my window as he did, listening to the sounds about us. Off in the distance I heard a truck coming, another hunter out to fill his tag I guessed. I hoped he wouldn't disturb our hunting.
"Many guys hunt up here?" I asked, making small talk.
"Depends. Been quite a few deer spotted up here during the summer so there might be this year. That's okay, though; it'll keep 'em moving."
As long as it didn't bother him, it didn't bother me. I wasn't quite sure what he was getting at though. "How do you mean, keep them moving?"
He sucked deep on his Lucky Strike and let the warm smoke out slowly. "The deer -- they lay down early when it's warm weather like this, and it's hard to get a shot at them. With lots of hunters around, they can't stay put very long."
"I see," I answered. I was genuinely interested in learning everything there was to learn about deer hunting, and I wanted him to know it.
A couple of minutes later headlights came into view through the thick trees and I watched the vehicle approach. As it passed slowly by us, we could tell only one man was in it. Dad recognized him instantly.
"Earl Clark. He hunts up here now and then."
“Where you figure he's gonna hunt?" I asked, not sure whether that was a worthwhile question to ask or not.
"Hard to say. He walks a lot. We'll probably see him before the day is over. Must not be taking Gunther (his son) with him yet."
Gunther Clark was a good friend of mine. A year younger than I, but every bit as enthusiastic as I was about learning everything there was to learn about the sport our fathers so dearly loved. I guessed Gunther wasn't as fortunate as I was. "Probably next year, when he gets my age."
Soon the sky turned pale gray, and through the dense growth of timber about us, the stars slowly lost their glittering intensity, fading into galaxies beyond as the sunlight swallowed them eagerly for breakfast.
"We'd better get started," he said, crushing the cigarette stub on the floorboard. "I want to be on the edge of that clearing just at daybreak. It'll take about fifteen minutes to get there."
I already had my jacket zipped up tight and my new gloves on. I stood impatiently outside the truck, waiting anxiously to get started. My heartbeat accelerated, knowing this was the moment . . . the moment I had waited for so long, or so it seemed. My first deer hunt with my dad.
Seconds later I heard metal striking metal, and I knew he was loading his rifle. Pushing the bullets into the rifle was a sound I had grown to recognize easily from watching him fire the rifle while he sighted it in before season. It was a beautiful sound . . . magnificent in every respect. It was a sound of unharnessed power, and my dad controlled it all. The rifle was symbolic of supreme authority, the ultimate means of chasing away fears young boys had at my age. I knew . . . I positively knew that if I could just hold that loaded rifle in my hands out here in the pale light of dawn, nothing . . . absolutely nothing -- and that included all monsters and goblins -- could scare or harm me. I wondered at that moment if my dad ever worried about monsters and things like that.
"Okay, you stay behind me. I want you walking as quietly as you can. The ground is dry, and limbs are going to break easily."
"I will," I promised.
He started forward and I followed eagerly. I didn't walk much more than ten yards before I stumbled over something, causing a noise to ring out in the ravine we were starting down. Quickly he turned to see what had happened, and found me recovering from an awkward position.
"Take it easy," he whispered. "Watch where you're going."
"I will," I replied, mad at myself.
We continued on down the ravine and made it to the bottom and part way up the other side before I blew it a second time. This time I tripped over a big rock, and a loud "clunk" sounded through the forest again.
He quickly turned and scolded me once more. "I told you to watch where you're walking! Now pick your feet up." He turned and faced the front before I had a chance to see the expression on his face, but I knew it had made him unhappy. I was trying hard to be quiet, but it was difficult for me to see the obstacles on the ground and watch for deer at the same time. I was amazed how quietly he was able to walk and still watch ahead.
We started climbing up a steep embankment lined with numerous dry twigs, and this was where I really made the racket. Each step I took sounded like an elephant walking on bubble wrap.
"Don't walk on that stuff! Walk around it!" he said forcefully.
Even though I tried to pick the most likely spots to make the least amount of noise, it seemed it didn't make any difference. "Crunch, crunch," came the racket with every step I took. I simply couldn't win. The ground was dry as sun baked Corn Flakes.
At the top of the embankment we stopped. I was sure I would catch the third degree. "Let's wait here a few minutes. Let it get a little lighter. We made a lot of noise coming up that ravine, so let's let things settle a bit."
I shook my head rather than speaking, for I didn't want to make one more sound than was necessary. We stood there in silence for quite some time, listening to the quiet of the morning dawning. I could hear my heart beating deep inside my chest -- something I had never paid any attention to before. I hoped dad couldn't hear it. I couldn't do much about quieting it.
He started forward, and I fell in behind him. The excitement was beginning to mount. I hoped he would find a big one. I hoped the gunshot wouldn't be too loud. I hoped when he fired he wouldn't miss. I hoped it would get lighter faster. I hoped coyotes wouldn't get us. I hoped . . . CRASH! . . . came the loud report from my breaking a big dry limb, sending out a warning to all the deer miles around.
"Son, can't you watch where you're walking? You're gonna’ scare everything out of the country! Now pay attention or you'll set right here until I come back and get you!"
Man was he mad. I didn't blame him, I guess. I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts I had failed to concentrate on walking quietly. There had been plenty of room to step over the limb. Why had I stepped directly on top of it? How could I have been so clumsy?
Three steps forward and another mini‑shot rang out from being so concerned with hating myself instead of paying attention where each foot was being placed. Dad's neck nearly snapped as he spun around once more.
"Are you blind?! Walk around that stuff! Pick those feet up, will you?!"
I had never heard his tone of voice as angry as this. I cowered at his heels, and for the next several yards I literally began to tip‑toe across the baked ground. I could think of no other way to move without causing more noise. I was trying my level best, which wasn't working out too well.
We slowly continued to climb, and as we did so the timber suddenly began to thin. Up ahead, I could see an open meadow, and I guessed this to be the clearing he had planned on watching. I hoped it was, for it would give us a chance to stop and rest. My ankles and legs were beginning to tremble from all the strain on them. Tip‑toeing was no easy means of walking.
Suddenly I thought I saw some movement up ahead, and as I placed all concentration on the spot where the movement appeared to catch my eye, I toppled sideways off a rock. Nearly losing my balance completely, I threw out a hand to break my fall, and when I did that my fingers smashed a pile of twigs, making even more noise!
"That does it! You stay put right here until I motion for you to come! If there's any deer feeding in that meadow they're gonna’ hear you long before we ever see them. Just stay here until I motion." He was fuming.
He walked forward silently, and I marveled once more at how he could walk so quietly when I couldn't. What was the matter with me? Was I destined to be a moron? Apparently, because I couldn't walk quietly if my life depended on it, and from the way it appeared, my life did depend on it if he was ever going to allow me to go hunting with him again. As he continued to move ahead, a terribly defeating feeling came over me. If I was to have to go through with this every time I went hunting, it wasn't worth it. I didn't like to make him mad, and if I couldn't walk quietly, then there was no reason for me to be out here with him. Next time I just wouldn't come. He'd have more fun if I stayed at home. Maybe when I was bigger I could walk more quietly.
Finally he motioned for me. I moved forward quickly, then nearly stopped. Easy now, I told myself, take your time. Watch the ground instead of looking at him. I listened to myself for a short ways, then couldn't resist looking up to see what lay beyond. CLUNK, came a report, as I smashed my leather toe against a wart of a rock, vibrating the air around me. I quickly looked down so I couldn't see the annoying look my father had on his face. I kept moving forward as best I could.
When I joined up with him he informed me. "We'll stay put right here. Stand still and be quiet. Let's see what happens."
I could tell by the tone of his voice he was greatly annoyed, and I hoped he would find it in himself to forgive me. I was trying hard, darn it. I hoped he knew that. Oh well, now we would be still for a while, and I could be at ease. As long as I didn't have to walk, everything would be okay.
A few seconds passed, and a funny feeling rushed to the tip of my nose. It was a familiar feeling. "A‑A‑A‑A‑CHOO!" I sneezed, blowing germs and spray through the clean morning mountain air. A second one quickly followed.
"Cover your mouth!"
He started to say something else, but held his tongue. He shook his head instead. I couldn't win if I had been paid to be quiet.
After the sneezing episode, negative fate seemed to let up for a bit, and no other surprises caught me or HIM off guard. Maybe it was the sudden shots being fired around us that took my mind off the subject of noise I was making. I looked up at my Dad at one instant and observed his eyes darting back and forth from one side of the clearing to the other. He obviously was now totally concerned with spotting a deer.
A minute or so later his keen eyesight spotted what he was looking for. "Up ahead there! Three does. See them coming out of the woods on the right!? "
I looked out across the meadow, and sure enough, there they were! I couldn't see horns either, so I knew he was right about their gender. The does continued to meander out into the center of the meadow, slowly working their way unconcerned‑like across the open ground. A shot sounded in back of them, and that brought their heads off the ground, spinning in the direction the shot had come from. The does froze in position, waiting for something else to happen, and a second later dad uttered a quick whisper.
"Stand dead still! Here comes more out of the woods."
I did as I was commanded, and I saw the deer come out just like he had predicted. A small one . . . another small one . . . a couple of bigger ones . . . another one . . . WHOA! It had horns! I almost blew it by shouting out to him it was a buck, but fortunately I held my tongue. Simultaneously he raised his rifle and steadied it on the side of the tree he was resting against. He followed the moving buck with the end of the barrel, and as it moved out into the clearing, another shot rang out from where the last one had come moments earlier. The buck, along with the rest of the does, froze in place, all looking in the opposite direction of where we stood. That was my father's cue to squeeze the trigger.
The orangish‑yellow blast erupted in front of the gun barrel, rattling my brain. I blinked my eyes and shuddered lightly. Uncontrollably, I asked, "You hit 'em?"
"He's hit," he answered in a monotone, as he extracted the empty cartridge and rammed in another live one. The rifle was back in position and I watched him sight a second time. He followed the buck running full out across the clearing, and a second blast broke the stillness of the morning. A puff of dust boiled up in front of the buck and we both knew he had led it too much. The buck was in with the does by then, and they formed a tight group, as they cleared the few remaining yards to the far edge of the clearing. Dad let the buck run into the protective cover without firing a third shot.
"Got in with those does. Didn't dare shoot again. That's okay; he's hit I think. Let's go after him."
He started forward, and I did too, but I spotted one of the empty cases he had just fired. Quickly I reached down and picked it up and shoved it in my pocket. I wanted to keep it as a souvenir. I walked briskly behind him, and we headed out across the meadow.
The excitement continued to grow, and the expectation of possibly finding a buck caused my breathing to become quicker and more erratic. We closed the distance quickly from where he had shot to where the buck had been standing, some two hundred yards, and when we were finally there he was quick to find telltale signs of a hit.
"See the blood there? He's hit good."
I saw it all right. I wanted to clap my hands, I was so happy for him, and for myself as well, for being fortunate in witnessing it all. Soon we started following the blood trail, as it led into the woods. There was little difficulty staying on it, for the animal had lost a lot of blood.
Seventy‑five yards inside the cover we found him, lying next to a log, his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth, his eyes glazed over. A patch of red was painted on his chest, the spot where the bullet had entered.
"Wow! You made a good shot, Dad!" I bragged. I was really elated.
"Thanks, son. He's a nice one. He'll be good eating." It was a fork-horn buck.
We spent the remainder of the morning dressing the buck and dragging it back to the pickup. I wasn't much help dragging, but Dad did let me hold the rifle most of the time while he did the tugging. I grinned all the way back to the truck, and all the way back into town. I had helped my Dad get his buck.
Deer season passed, and the Christmas holiday season rolled around. I received a Daisy Ryder B‑B Gun that Christmas -- the most appreciated gift I'd received up until then. We had opened our presents the night before Christmas morning. For hours after getting my B-B gun, I shot ice cycles hanging form our roof by the one woodshed light that was on. It was well into the early morning hours of Christmas Day before I slipped into my bed ... with my B-B gun snuggled up alongside me for safe keeping. We remained the closest friends for many years after that.
Come spring, I was out in the woods, stalking birds, chipmunks, flies, rocks, pinecones . . . you name it. All the while I was out there, I learned to walk the way dad had wanted me to walk the previous fall. My life's goal was to never again disappoint him by noisy walking -- game stalking.
At age 12 I hunted with him on a couple of occasions, but he never fired any shots on those trips. I still wasn't walking as quietly as he was, and he did speak to me on a few occasions to step down with my toes instead of heel first. However, I became convinced my movement wasn't nearly as noisy as it had been the first time out.
It was that Christmas my older brother, Floyd, (two years older than I) was given his first .22 rifle. It was a Stevens single-shot rifle. On a few occasions that winter, and following spring and summer, he let me shoot it, and even let me use it to go off hunting squirrels by myself. Often times the two of us would go squirrel hunting together, or snowshoe rabbit hunting, taking turns firing the rifle.
By the time I was 13 years old I had progressed to a much more trustworthy, skilled sportsman, and my father knew it. Both my brother and I were ready for the real thing -- our own deer rifles to hunt deer instead of squirrels and other small game. The only problem was that dad had six mouths to feed, and his meager paycheck (Dad made less than $20,000 every year he ever worked, [$18,000 was the most he ever made in one year] and he was a very hard worker) didn't spread far enough to buy two new deer rifles, let alone even one.
However, that didn’t stop him from giving his sons a chance to deer and elk hunt. He asked friends to loan him two rifles for us to use, and my brother ended up with a .30 Remington pump action (loaned from Norman Johnson) while I sported a hefty .35 Marlin lever action (loaned I believe from Cy Pierce, though I'm not positive). Of the two rifles, I had the better of the two, mainly I think because my brother knew I had a greater interest in hunting than he did. Certainly the rifle he used was lethal enough. The only problem was you could stick a loaded bullet in the end of the barrel and rattle it around a little. The bore was worn out.
Knowing full well that a rifle cannot be accurate with the bore worn down that much, my brother had a lot of second thoughts about letting me have the Marlin. I say this, because at the firing range where we sighted the rifles in and practiced, at one hundred yards his target groups would be anywhere from six inches to a foot! Many of the holes in the paper were not round either, but oblong; telltale signs the bullet was tumbling through space, striking the target on its side. Nevertheless, he failed to complain . . . that year anyway.
We hunted primarily the same locality (the Reservoir Hill) dad and I had hunted the first year I had been with him at age 11. My brother and I had scouted the territory thoroughly before season, spotting bucks on numerous occasions, so we knew they were there. Once season was underway though, it was a dry run the first day of season. Lots of does, but no bucks. The second morning proved more favorable, and Dad connected with a dandy six‑pointer.
The remainder of the season we hunted hard, but never were quite able to be at the right place at the right time. A few shots were fired at running bucks, but never any connections. It also happened to be the same year, one night after school, a friend, Tip Frazier and I were hunting together. He did not have a rifle, so he was tagging along behind me. Dad had dropped him and me off, and we ambled off on our own while he hunted in a different direction. Just before dark, my friend and I walked upon a grazing buck sporting a rack of enormous proportions. With its posterior end towards me, I lay down on the rocky ground and touched off four quick rounds that could very well have been fired at the rising moon. I was so shook (buck fever!) I couldn't have hit the broadside of a barn had I been standing inside it! Obviously – the buck lived.
At age 13 I was determined to prove to my father that I was now old enough to score on a buck. I had to prove it to him, primarily because I was now using his rifle – the .300 Savage bolt action. He had finally broken down and bought himself a new rifle, a .358 Winchester lever action, a new gun on the market at the time. My poor, unfortunate older brother Floyd was still using that borrowed, worn out .30 Remington, a real tragedy because I was supposed to use it and he was supposed to get the Savage, but I had thrown such a temper tantrum about it that he finally threw up his hands out of frustration and gave me his blessing to use it.
The first morning of season had me a bundle of nerves . . . as daybreak slowly came upon that side of the earth in eastern Oregon. Only those that have gone through it really know how hyper a boy can be the evening before opening day -- how restless and emotionally hyped he is during the night -- unable to sleep because of all the expectation and excitement he knows will come at daybreak. As I look back on it now, I realize that was a period more precious to my father than any other. Although he didn't outwardly show it, I now realize he enjoyed every second of our youthful impatience. It excited him to know we were excited. It thrilled him to know we were thrilled. It pleased him to know we were pleased to participate in the recreation he so dearly loved. Now we were no longer thorns in his side -- noise to contend with, students in his class. Instead, we were partners – teammates - perhaps not as polished as he would have liked, but adept enough to let us go on our own and have confidence in our abilities to handle and cope with virtually any situation that might arise once we were in the woods with a loaded weapon in our hands. He had worked hard training and teaching us. Now it was up to us to use the knowledge and wisdom he had passed along.
The sun came up (I would have bet money it wasn't going to!), and we had the sunrays at our back, as the three of us walked slowly along the curved crest of a high mountaintop. We were hunting up above Vincent Creek, south of Bates. Occasional patches of trees grew there, intermingled with open clearings void of most of the grass that had provided nourishment for the deer earlier in the year. After we had been hunting about an hour and a half, Dad positioned us. My brother was on my left, Dad was on my right, and I was walking the crest of the canyon. I was walking across barren ground when suddenly I heard noise coming out of the woods on my right where Dad was.
The instant I heard the noise I looked in that direction, spotting the buck at the same time. Dad had spooked him, and he was running heaven-bent to get away. The .300 came up and I swung with his bouncing body. Just as I started to squeeze the trigger he stopped dead in his tracks in plain open sight not more than 75 yards away. The dumb little fork horn buck turned the opposite way and looked back down into the woods where Dad was, and I almost let him have it at the angle he stood. Knowing the bullet would strike him in the rear, I forced myself not to shoot -‑ something extremely difficult to do at the moment.
A few seconds passed, and then he suddenly became aware of my presence. I was not in cover so he had to have been totally distracted, but eventually he spotted me. Standing broadside, looking directly at me, I placed the four‑power Weaver scope on his neck and clamped down on the trigger. I figured I had him.
The rifle bucked like it was supposed to, but the deer darted off like he hadn't been touched. I couldn't believe he wasn't down, so naturally I assumed I had missed. Knowing I hadn't totally blown it, I slapped in another round and calculated where I had to put the crosshairs on his bobbing-darting body as he bounded across the open expanse in front of me.
The second shot was in front of him, and the third one hit paydirt . . . really it hit him in the stomach . . . yuck! That didn't put him down immediately either, and he nearly struggled to the woods before his feet wilted underneath him. On the ground he was still struggling to get away, and I popped off a head shot that fortunately missed.
I began to reload while I hurriedly walked in his direction. By that time my brother was out of the woods and so was Dad.
"Don't shoot anymore!" my father yelled, realizing the buck wasn't going anywhere now.
Moments later I learned a valuable lesson. Had I only trusted myself with that first shot I would not have had the stomach‑shot buck I now had. My first shot had penetrated his neck squarely, only I had failed to hit bone. He would have died in a few minutes had I let him be.
At any rate, shot up or not, I had my first buck! Dad was just as pleased as I was.
The remainder of the season the three of us hunted as a team. My brother and I learned a lot about driving, the art of pushing out deer to someone up ahead. Naturally it was more fun to sit up ahead and let someone drive the deer past you, so my father did not always receive 100 percent cooperation, as he would have liked. Nevertheless, his patience held steadfast, and by the end of season all the deer tags were filled.
At my ripe age of 14, it was 1961, we hunted mostly the high sagebrush flats to the southwest of town, near the small community called Unity, some seventy miles from the Idaho border. The sagebrush country added a new dimension to hunting, requiring different tactics and a lot of stamina. What was usually involved was covering a lot of miles on foot before a buck was ever found. Invariably it was hot, and the bucks held tight unless you walked right on top of them much of the time. It was a different way to hunt, but a lot more fun once a buck flushed and headed out across the open sagebrush terrain. Hitting it might require several shots, and on a few occasions none of these hit its mark.
Deer season was productive, but it certainly
wasn't the high point of hunting that year. It was after deer season, the
night before elk season, that my nerves were on edge from the excitement of
what was to come.
Elk. . . the king of all kings in that Eastern Oregon country . . . the ultimate of game animals. I had waited a long time to have the opportunity to be out with my Father stalking those mighty beasts.
A favorite spot of Dad's was the country southeast of Ukiah, a remote little town buzzing with elk in all four directions in those days, and for many people even to this day, one of the more favorite areas to hunt. It was through this town, and beyond that we fought chunks of falling snow that blocked our vision as we slid side to side up the road, battling the winter storm pounding against our windshield. The snow was heavy and accumulated quickly, and I remember Dad wondering if we would be able to make our destination that night. Dad was driving a 1955 Nash Rambler that was good in the snow, but didn’t have the necessary clearance a truck had for the muddy, rutty roads we had to negotiate. Fred and Tom McGinnis had hunted with us the year before, two good friends and excellent hunters from Bates, and we weren't sure whether they would be able to hunt with us that next day or not. (It turned out they weren't able to).
It was around midnight when we pulled into a snowy winter wonderland and let the car lights shine on our camping sight while we proceeded to erect our tent. Well over an hour later, with all of us sopping wet from the wet snowflakes, Dad struck a match and lit the kerosene lantern, illuminating the inside of the tent. Another hour passed, and our supplies were tucked snugly inside it, and the hay bales were spread out to make temporary mattresses to pad the undersides of our sleeping bags.
At long last we wearily climbed into the warm bags, and the light flickered into oblivion. Dad's final words were food for the soul.
"Well boys . . . this is it. This is what I've trained you for. Everything you have learned about hunting will be tested tomorrow morning. Get a little sleep."
I can't speak for my brother, but it took nearly an hour for me to finally fall asleep. The roar of the snow outside blowing on the old World War II canvas Army tent, and the howling wind twisting the branches of the trees ‑ plus the natural excitement of the hunt ‑ was far too much excitement. When I did finally fall asleep, it seemed like only minutes had passed before Dad was up stoking the potbelly stove with firewood, attempting to melt the frost inside the tent.
A hasty breakfast was prepared and warm clothing was put on. (You can read another story I wrote about my growing up and hunting with Dad, titled: Real Hunters Love Burned Bacon).
Outside, the storm had passed and the snow lay a solid six inches on the ground, ideal for tracking and trailing, and quiet walking.
It was just starting daybreak when we walked to our designated stands. The plan was to let the elk move on their own, hopefully moving past one of our positions that morning. Half an hour after we were positioned on our stands, shooting started all around us. The elk would be running for cover, that was for sure.
My stand was on a partially open ridge south of our camp. I was in a stand of Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir trees near the middle of the opening. From that position, I had good visibility to see in several different directions, yet not get spotted by any elk crossing the small ridge.
About half an hour later after daybreak, three elk ran out of a ravine up onto the ridge about 90 yards away, but there was a stand of trees that were obscuring my getting a clean shot at a spike bull in with the two cows. I almost took a risky shot as the bull passed between two trees, but I knew it was not a good shot, and I decided I would wait to see if they would stop momentarily before running into the ravine they were headed towards.
Fortunately, a close-by shot from the direction they were headed by another hunter halted them, causing them to be reluctant and then not sure which way to run for cover now. The spike kept milling around, and it was difficult to keep the cross hairs on him for an accurate shot.
Knowing they were not going to stay out in the open much
longer, I took a high risk shoot and somehow managed to strangely hit the bull
elk in the front leg. It knocked him down, breaking his leg, and he was
kicking and thrashing around, trying to get back up, but was having a
difficult time doing so. That enabled me to chamber a second round into
the .300 Salvage and put a lethal shot into his chest cavity. At age 14,
I had harvested my first bull elk.
The following year, at the same camp, we moved out to our stands like the year before.
My brother Floyd, age 17 that year, had moved back from his blind to do his morning duty, and had barely had time to raise his trousers when the spike bull ambled past him. To this very day I'm not sure what state his trousers were in ‑ buttoned completely or still down around his ankles ‑ because I'm not sure he knew. Wherever they were, he reached over and grabbed the. 300 Savage from the tree it was leaning against, and neatly placed a bullet high in the bull's rib cage.
The bull elk went down like it had it's breath kicked out of it -- laid on its side, and kicked its legs frantically, trying to rise to a standing position. Certain it had been a lethal shot, Floyd did not feel it was necessary to put in a second round, as he proudly walked toward his dying bull. The bull knew it had to either die or split, and somehow it miraculously did the latter. Finding its feet, it rose and was off like a racehorse jabbed in the flank with a prod.
My brother let fly a second round, striking the bull in the front shoulder, but high, bypassing any lungs or vitals. The bullet didn't exit, but instead lodged up inside the neck. This didn't slow the bull down though, so my brother politely popped off a third shot at the disappearing elk, as it quickly vanished into the heavy lodge‑pole pine forest. Stunned momentarily, Floyd couldn't believe his elk had left the scene.
From where I was I could hear the three shots plainly, but I was just far enough away not to be positive who it was doing the shooting. Wondering who it had been, I listened for more telltale signs. Perhaps an elk would come past me shortly. Soon I heard some loud shouting, and finally recognized the voice of that of my Father's. The yelling continued, and for the life of me I couldn't understand why he might be doing that much yelling. It wasn't natural.
I grabbed my rifle and headed the 300‑some yards to where my brother had been sitting, and once I arrived at his blind, I found he had gone. Walking a little further in the direction of the yelling, I saw the telltale signs of blood and tracks in the snow. Examining the situation more closely, I saw where the elk had gotten up and taken off running, and I saw my brother's footsteps along side it. The yelling was coming from deep inside the woods, so I figured Dad had caught on to what had happened, but still I couldn't make any sense out of why all the yelling was necessary.
Not wanting to be left behind, I shifted into high gear, and started off at a dead run down the blood trail.
The woods was devastating, with all the windfalls and downed debris discretely hidden by the new snow pack, and time after time I hit the deck from losing my footing. But after several minutes of quick pursuit, I came upon my Father, sitting on a log, gasping for breath as hard as I was. The yelling stopped momentarily.
Through broken words he said to me. "Your brother hit a bull and he's trying to run it down! He's chasing that thing right out of the country"
About that time my brother yelled back to us, and with all the wind he had, Dad answered him. "Stay put where you are and don't move 'til we get there!"
Together we moved forward on the blood trail and we quickly closed the distance between him and us. We came upon him a few minutes later, breathing every bit as hard as we were, only his eyes were a little bigger and his chest was two sizes larger.
"It's going to get away, Dad!" he exclaimed. "I don't want it to get away!"
After considerable coaxing from my Father, my brother was convinced we had to trail the wounded bull intelligently, rather than have the three of us strung out, one behind the other, trying to catch up to one another. With one on the blood trail, and one on either side, we started out slowly, hoping we would come upon the bull if we kept our eyes open, and get a killing shot into it before it jumped up and might never lay down again.
Half a mile later, and after counting a dozen times the bull had laid down to stop the bleeding and rest, my brother had his chin lowered further than what it already was. Another hunter had intercepted the blood trail, and knew exactly what he had. A wounded elk with no footprints trailing it. It was meat in the freezer for him.
The three of us began to high‑step it, and we covered territory much quicker. A mile passed . . . a mile and a half . . . and finally Dad began to slow down. A man in his late fifties could not stay up forever with two strapping boys in their prime. Dad called us together and gave us the word.
"Go on ahead, boys. I'll catch up with you later. Don't let him get your elk, Floyd."
My brother and I shifted to third gear, and all our athletic training now came to trial. The hours of practicing running in track and the hours of learning to coordinate muscles to act in emergency situations were now being put to the test. On a hard run in deep snow, we forged ahead.
With nearly three miles behind us, a shot rang out ahead of us, sounding not more than half a mile away. We were in deep woods, far away from other hunters, and the one, solitary shot brought hurt to our ears.
With heaving lungs and rubbery muscles we launched forward again, running full out. No one was going to walk away with my brother's elk. Some fifteen minutes later we ran smack‑dab upon the one responsible for firing earlier. It was a grown man hunched up over the spike bull, clearing the entrails out of the body cavity.
My brother bravely stepped forward and raised his rifle barrel, not pointing directly at him, but raised enough for the man to realize he meant business. Gasping for air, he warned, "That's my elk, mister!"
The man seemed to remain calm, and in fact very gentlemanly-like looked up from his chore and replied, "Young man, if this is your elk you'd better get down here and finish gutting the rest of it out."
That brought sighs of relief from both of us, for we were certain we were going to have to tangle with the sport for our right of possession. On the contrary, he was polite about it, and had a real sportsman's attitude.
"Maybe someday the table will be turned. You might come across a wounded elk, and have to give it up," he said.
Once we caught our breath we stood the rifles up and reached for our hunting knives. The guy was right ‑ if we were going to claim it we would have to clean it.
"Tell you boys what, if you don't mind, if you'll just give me a hand holding these legs apart, I'll finish pulling the lungs out of him. That's all there's left to get out of him, outside of the windpipe. Would you do that?"
We did, and were glad to oblige. Neither of us had cleaned an elk before, and we were glad he was as helpful as he was. Minutes later Dad arrived. He was huffing and puffing as much as we had been when we had arrived at the location, and his eyes looked shiny and soft as he wobbled back and forth where he stood.
"You must be the Father of these two young scamps here," the fellow said.
"Uh huh," he answered reluctantly, still not certain of the situation.
"A couple of real hunters, these two are. Got a smell for elk, I can see."
That broke the ice, and he and Dad talked for sometime, while Floyd and I put the finishing touches to the cleaning. After that, plans were made to find our way out of the woods to the nearest road. Before the man left, Dad insisted he have a quarter of the elk for helping, but the man politely refused. Claimed he'd have his elk before season was over. None of us had any doubts about that.
It wasn't until after the gentleman left that Dad let loose and had a man-to-man talk with us. First he conveyed his congratulations to my brother, then he quickly instructed both of us never to spook an elk when it was still alive.
"If an elk ever gets up, you may never see him again once he is spooked like this one was. We're lucky we got him."
The remainder of the season proved unfruitful, although I learned some invaluable experiences along the way. The most important lesson I learned concerned my Father's sound judgment when it came to ferreting out elk.
The following year, when I was sixteen, we were back in the same area the opening morning of elk season. We had passed through a productive deer season, so an elk was actually surplus meat if we connected.
Opening morning I stood alone on a partially open ridge top, waiting again for elk to cross my stand. Fate was on my side that morning, for early in the morning I had a spike bull down, proud beyond all description. I doubt winning a million‑dollar lottery could have brought a bigger smile to my Dad’s face once he found out about how I had scored with the spike bull elk.
"So you finally connected . . ." His words rang out, sort of lingering like they were meant to stay there forever.
Yes, I had connected, and it was in years to come that a story would be told concerning another elk killed close to this very same spot, only under much different circumstances.
A few years later my Father experienced what all Fathers must live through at some time in their life . . . a growing away from the parent/child relationship. Dad certainly was no exception, and in the years to follow he slowly adjusted to no longer having his sons around to hunt with. On the few occasions we were able to get together, probably the most memorable of them all was the year I was twenty three.
We were back hunting elk on opening morning in our favorite hunting spot, the area southeast of Ukiah. My older brother wasn't along, but Dale Rasmussen, my younger brother was. He was sixteen, out on his first elk hunt.
The country had not changed much since the last time I had been there, but Dad had. He was in his late sixties, and the noticeable slowing down process had taken its toll. I noticed how he moved about slower, with less spring in his walk. He ate less, and even laughed less. Older age was catching up with him.
Even with that against him, here he was, with the last of his children, doing what he loved doing best: being in the outdoors with his loved ones, hunting.
Opening morning was a little different this time. I held a 7- MM Magnum with a 3 x 9 Redfield Variable scope attached, and I had my own ideas about where the elk could be found. So did my brother. What did Dad have to say about it... ?"
"Well boys. . . you go ahead and hunt where you want. I'm just going down over the hill and set inside that thick stuff. I'll see you around lunch.”
I watched him hobble off down the slope with a cushion in one hand and his rifle in the other. The way I had it figured he didn't want to get too far away from camp. How he had changed!
Of course, my brother and I knew the further we got away from camp the better our odds would be of connecting with a bull, so you can guess what we did once we struck out from camp. Nothing less than a half mile away was good enough for us.
Dale positioned himself on one side on the shallow canyon, up above me, while I stood on the other side. Dad was near the head of the canyon, deep in the lodge-pole pine cover, quite the opposite of where I was. The more I could see with my scope, the better. I had a cannon in my hands and a scope that would let me shoot a mile (or I presupposed).
Late that morning Dale and I joined up and headed back toward camp. We both had stories to swap about the cow elk we had seen, but nothing to say about bulls, simply because we hadn't seen any. Swinging on up towards where Dad was, we fully expected to find him back at camp. Surprised that he wasn't, we walked closer to him.
"Any luck?" he asked.
"Naw, you?" I replied, out of politeness.
"Yea, I got one. Just can't find 'em," he answered nonchalantly.
"You got one!" we exclaimed, "Where is it!? "
"I don't know," he answered. "I hit it hard ‑ I know I did, but the blood just stopped and I'll be darned if I can pick up its track. I've gone over this thing a good hour now, and its got me buffaloed."
We walked down to the spot, some 25 to 30 yards where the spike bull had come by him, and sure enough there were bloodstains in the snow.
"Stayed in tight with a bunch of cows and I couldn't get another shot into it. Never saw quite where it went."
I had what I felt was quite a bit of hunting experience under my belt by then, and everything I knew about hunting told me the bull was not hit nearly as hard as he thought. There was not enough blood; just a few drops, and the blood stopped completely less than fifty yards from where the bull was hit. Naturally, there were so many elk tracks it was impossible to tell which direction the bull might have ran.
"You say you hit him solid?" I asked a third time. I was still quite sure he hadn't hit him as solid as he swore he did.
"YES! I hit him right in the front shoulders. He couldn't have gone far, hit there."
I couldn't be more convinced, but after two hours of combing the area a good half‑mile in diameter, my brother and I were thoroughly convinced the wound had been only slight. In my own mind I was sure he had probably only grazed the bull.
We walked back to him and my brother was the first to speak. "This is a waste of time. If no one minds, I'm going back to camp and get something to eat. I want to get in some more hunting this afternoon."
He started walking up the hill, and although I was tempted to say and do the very same thing, I knew Dad was still convinced in his own mind it wasn't right to give up so easily.
"All right, go ahead! I'm staying here though until I find that bull! It's just going to rot if I don't!"
He was angry, and I knew he knew we all had but called him a liar, the way we were reacting to the situation, and the hurt was showing. Out of pity and obligation, I decided to stay on just a little longer, maybe finding some way I could talk him into coming back to camp with us and have some lunch.
I began walking the same general territory the bull had run, the umpteenth time I had done so. Our own tracks obliterated most of the elk tracks, we had done so much stomping around. Once more though … one last time, I would zigzag along the side of the canyon, just to show him I meant well. Dale had gotten a quick bite to eat at camp, and had come back to help us continue to search, though it felt convinced it was a waste of time, as I too did.
Instead of walking around a big pile of slashings covered with a couple of freshly downed tamaracks, their needles a golden brown from dying, I decided to walk over it this time instead of going around the numerous times I had done so previously.
Suddenly I opened my eyes wide, not believing what I saw! A spike bull lay partially obscured under the limbs, blending in perfectly with the color of the tamarack needles. The elk lay lifeless, and I knew he was finished.
"Hey! Come on over here, guys! I found him!"
Dale turned and started walking back down the slope. Dad came hobbling over to where I was, favoring the foot he had broken a few years back. I had never seen a face so lit up with excitement and expectation as his was.
"Where? Where is it!?" he wanted to know.
"Right down here," I pointed, standing above the prize. "You weren't lying Dad; you hit it right in the front shoulders!" The elk had not run more than one hundred yards from where it had been hit, and then it went for cover, something I had never seen an elk do.
"See ‑ you boys wouldn't listen to me ‑ I tried to tell you."
He certainly did, and we should have listened. Needless to say we both felt as foolish as two wine tasters caught drinking beer on the job.
Years passed, and marriage, a family of my own, a career -- all these things stood in the way of linking us in another hunt. Meanwhile, in his late sixties, a strange disease crept into Dad's otherwise healthy body. First he slowly lost feeling in his left hand, and then it spread up his arm, causing extreme pain and a loss of mobility. The paralysis persisted and continued to spread, and several visits to the family doctor resulted in zero findings. Another local doctor was consulted, but no exact name could be given to the unidentifiable disease. They thought it might be Multiple Sclerosis, but couldn’t be sure, but saying it had many characteristics of MS.
While his condition continued to deteriorate, it became almost impossible for him to get up out of bed and even walk. Finally his local doctor referred him to a specialist in Portland, Oregon. There he went through extensive tests and examinations, only to be told that even they could not determine what was causing the nervous system to go haywire, nor the deterioration of the muscles. Worse yet, they could do nothing for him outside of giving sedation to ease the pain.
At age 71, unable to hardly use his left hand and arm, and barely able to use his right, and most of the rest of his body in stabbing pain, he knew his hunting days were over. The disease appeared to be terminal, although the doctors could not give him a fixed date when it would totally immobilize him. Alone in the office, the doctor told him the inevitable.
"There's nothing else we can do. Go on home and do what you enjoy doing best. You time is very limited."
The tired, hurting old man looked at the doctor, solemnly soaking up the advice. He didn't like the fate the doctor had mapped out for him.
For the longest time he stared the doctor in the eyes, and suddenly twinges of electricity-like impulses shot up his aged spine. He knew this was the moment ‑ the time of his life when he would have to accept what the doctor had told him, and make the best of it, or . . . or else . . .
Or else what?
He thought about it. He thought harder. There was his wife, Edna at home, still healthy, but who certainly would be lonely when he left her. Then there were his children: the girls - Yvonne, Lenora, Flora; the boys - Floyd, Norman, Dale … he would miss them dearly. Besides, there was still much to see . . . much to do. The doctors hadn't helped -- he had hoped they could help. Not that his condition was their fault, but yet they hadn't helped . . . just expressing their frustration and sorrow that they couldn't help.
It was time to give up . . . or was it?
He had talked to the doctor about his hunting escapades before, and the doctor had listened enthusiastically -- he himself was a hunter when time allowed. He loved eating elk meat. What my father was about to say to him was the equivalent of a four‑year‑old infant declaring that he was going off to fight in a war.
They continued to stare at each other . . . the doctor becoming uneasy with the glaring eyes and silence. Finally, the silence was broken.
"I'm going elk hunting next season, and I'm going to have a package of fresh elk steaks in my hands for you the next time I come to see you."
The doctor squinted his eyes and strained his ears, not really sure what he had just heard. Had the old man gone off his rocker? He wasn't in any shape to walk down the clinic corridor, let alone go hunting.
"You're gonna do what? "
"You heard me, Doc, " he repeated a second time, with more determination than before. "I'm going elk hunting this fall ... if it kills me."
Few men would have gambled a dime that he would stick to his word, simply because of his quickly spreading, debilitating disease, but the truck lunged forward in third gear, bogging down because it was lacking in RPM's. He knew he should shift to a lower gear, but with only one hand to steer with, he didn't dare take it off the wheel. He was driving into the Ukiah back-country, the territory he loved most to hunt Elk.
Unable to down shift, he did the only thing he could do … keep the accelerator to the floor and hope the truck lasted to the top of the grade without bogging down and dying. The engine missed, hitting on all six cylinders only on rare occasions. The rear end fishtailed, losing traction as it slid back and forth up the snowy, muddy grade. The engine eventually found the load too burdensome, and the truck gave several quick jerks as it sputtered to death. The motor had done all it could. The truck stopped three‑quarters of the way up the incline, and the driver knew he had failed in his desperate attempt.
Moments later he stepped down from the old truck and proceeded to take note of his predicament. Not encouraged in the least with what he was confronted with, he reached into the back of the truck and searched for the tire chains. He had no other choice.
A man with a strong back and two strong hands has all he can do to fasten tire chains around tires when his rig is bogged down on a rutted snowy incline, but a man with one hand paralyzed, and the other one on its way, knows the hardship he will soon endure if he tries to accomplish this task.
A man is entitled to his dignity, and it serves no purpose to go into great detail why it took this crippled man hours to chain up his vehicle. But Dad stuck with it, and he accomplished what he knew he must do, rather than give up. He had promised himself … and more so the doctor … he would be out there opening morning. He had only a few hours left to keep that vow.
The strain and the cold took its toll on his aged muscles, and the warmth of the heater in his truck offered little comfort to his tired, aching body. Only a cup of something hot and a bed would offer relief.
That night, alone in the back of his truck, he pulled the sleeping bag up over his chest and breathed deeply. It was lonely. When he was younger, a companion was not missed as much, but now, in his older years, companionship was something he missed dearly. If only the boys could be with him. If only Fred McGinnis could have made this hunt. Even Flora & Jerry and Jimmy & Maria Cheadle, who hunted with him when they could . . . but no -- even they couldn’t make it.
It was a painful, lonely night.
The following morning he drew all the strength he could muster to rise out of bed and talk himself into stepping out into the chill of the morning. The blasted cold . . . it made him ache from head to toe, giving him even less use of his already useless limbs. If only it were warmer . . . if only he were younger . . . if only he had someone to help him out. If only . . . .
There was no help. No sympathy. No one telling him he could do it, if he only tried just a little harder. It was up to him to do it all. He prayed and asked the Lord for help.
He stepped out into the cold of the morning and pried the kinks out as best he could. Where there was feeling the arms ached. The shoulders and back throbbed, as did his legs, when he moved them. Nevertheless, he blocked out the reality of his infirmities, and turned his face toward his elk stand. He would endure what he had to, or die trying.
There was no rush to reach his stand like there had been opening morning years ago. Now he had the rest of his life to reach the spot where his son had killed his first bull elk. How long that would take he cared not to think about. Put one foot forward, and be glad it responds. If it doesn't, force it to. Demand it to operate.
Sometime later that morning he reached the spot. Arriving there was a major accomplishment in itself. Once there, he knew the worst was over. Now all he had to do was survive the cold.
Hours passed. Hours . . . what were they? A measurement of time, something only young people seemed never to have enough of. Hours to him meant only that he had passed one more day without being with his loved ones.
Perhaps God guided the spike bull elk out of the woods and onto the open spaces. All of a sudden there it was, out in open sight, exposing itself to the old cold, lonely man hunkered under the branches of the protective pine.
His eyes grew big and he couldn't quite believe what they were seeing. He blinked them again. . . yes, by golly, it was an elk! A spike bull!
Instinctively he lifted his left arm to bring the rifle up, but much to his dismay it wouldn't raise. He tried harder, hoping to find some reserved strength tucked away somewhere, saved up for this moment. But none came. The rifle wouldn't raise.
The bull wouldn't stay in the open forever, and he knew he had to figure out some way to get the rifle up to sight down the barrel. The next tactic he tried was to place the rifle in the V of his left arm and attempt raising it up high enough that way. Surprisingly, it did, only he had to raise it a little higher ....
There! His index finger shot into the trigger guard, and it hung up on cold metal. A sudden reminder told him his index finger on his right hand was mostly paralyzed, as was his middle finger. Use the next one down then!
Awkwardly, he placed his two smallest fingers on the trigger and pulled back on it. The sudden kick from the rifle broke the ice coating around his shivering body, and it also nearly knocked him off balance. Checking to see if it had connected, his heart leaped for joy. The bull was down!
Placing the rifle in his lap, he pulled for all his worth to extract the empty cartridge and chamber another one. In so doing, the bull stood up and started milling around in a circle, unsure what direction it should escape to. The bullet finally came out, and a second one was chambered.
Again he shot. The bull was less than sixty yards away. The bullet missed. He could see it hit low. He could also see the front leg dangling. One of the front legs had been disabled with the first shot. That wasn't lethal by any means.
Clumsily -- a third round was chambered, and in the haste of it all, it too was fired. So was a fourth, a fifth, and a sixth. Fortunately one of the shots found meat and bone, and it dismembered a hind leg. Another bad shot, but now two of the four legs were useless to the elk. At least he wasn't going anywhere.
As best he could, he found a new supply of ammunition and reloaded as time and patience would allow. With a live round in the chamber, he approached the bull more closely, trying to find a moment when the animal would lay still long enough for him to finish it off. Three more shots were fired before the elk lay still. At long last, the deed was done. He had proved the doctor wrong.
If putting tire chains on cold tires seemed a difficult on a steep, muddy and snowy incline – and it surely had been -- field dressing an elk would be an almost insurmountable task. Nevertheless, even if it took him two days to clean his prize elk, he was determined to accomplish the task.
Time after time the knife slipped dangerously from his weak grip, falling to the cold, snow‑covered ground. Between the cold and the nerve disease causing his paralysis, A sigh of exasperation rang out each time. The situation tried his patience and endurance a little bit more. If only he had some help. If only one of the boys . . . no . . . they couldn't be here.
By late afternoon he leaned back against a tree and wiped his knife clean of the blood stains. It might not be the neatest job of cleaning an elk, but nevertheless, it was cleaned, he thought to himself as he arched his aching back. He rested for several minutes before he started back to camp, but once he was up and on the go, his legs seemed to find a little spring in them. The thought of something hot back at camp was incentive enough to hurry and get back there.
Sometime later that day he drove the truck off the main road and pioneered a path across the rocky, pimple‑rough ground, skirting the stand of timber where the elk lay waiting to be attended to. Fortunately the ground was frozen beneath the snow, so traction was good.
For the most part a hand winch was used to move the elk across the snow. Although this was not the quickest way to transport the elk to the bed of the truck, it was the easiest way.
It was long after dark before the elk was hung in camp, and running well after midnight before the hide was skinned from the carcass. With all the hard work behind him, he collapsed into bed and fell into a deep slumber, lasting long into the next day.
Six months later he was back in the doctor's office with a package of frozen elk steaks. Facing him proudly, my Father handed the meat to the doctor with his left hand – the hand that was essentially 99% paralyzed from the previous checkup with the doctor. The doctor stood with his jaw hanging to the floor. He could not believe the sight he was witnessing.
An hour later the doctor shook his head one final time. "For the life of me I don't know how you did it, but from every indication, you look to be almost normal. If you continue to shrug this stuff off, whatever it is, I'd say by this fall you might just be out there after another elk, only with two good hands this time.
The older man sat straight in his chair, a gleam in his eye … glad the doctor was finally going to ask about the details of the hunt.
"Well, Doc … it all started . . . "
My father shot a few more elk in the years that followed. Cataracts on his eyes kept him from any serious hunting through much of his late 80’s. During his 90’s, knee problems kept him from walking very far, as a walker was needed for him to get around. He chose not to hunt having to use a walker.
Whatever the disease officially was that tried to take him to his grave, it never succeeded. Family and friends celebrated his 100th Birthday, September 19, 2004 in John Day, Oregon. People he had not seen in over 50 years, from all over the country, showed up for the celebration.
Undoubtedly there are countless thousands of other men (and women) just as dedicated to the outdoors as Dad was, and just as worthy to have their stories told as his was, but I know of no man who has overcome an infirmity as serious as that of my father, purely for the love and excitement hunting gave him.
To this man, my father, I tip my hat, for it is men like him who set favorable examples for the younger generations to follow. It is men like him who deserve to have their stories go down in history, and it is men like him that will never be forgotten, especially when there are sons around like me to tell their stories. Once again, Dad, congratulations. My admiration and respect goes out to you.
And thank you … heavenly Father … for letting me be the offspring of Raymond Edward Rasmussen, who is now 101 as of September 19, 2005. He spends very lonely days in Canyon Creek Nursing Home out of John Day, waiting patiently to be released to go home to his heavenly Father … and be with friends and family who have gone on long before him. It can happen any moment, obviously. If you’re ever in the area, feel free to drop in on him and swap elk hunting stories with him. He would love it!
Dad was never outspoken about his relationship with Jesus Christ … but he would never go silent on you when asked if he believed that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for his sins. In that … he’s never wavered that I’ve ever known. That gives me great hope that we’ll get to make more precious memories together throughout eternity … though it might not be hunting deer and elk, or catching tasty native trout that Slide Lake (Dad's favorite fishing spot, up above Prairie City, Oregon) and Strawberry Lake used to provide back when I was a kid growing up.
Then again … who knows for sure what God is going to allow us to do for those 1000 years down here on earth while Jesus Christ rules and reigns? Maybe Jesus will go hunting and fishing with us!
PLEASE HELP SHARE THE BEST NEWS GOD HAS FOR EVERY PERSON!
To help us share the Best News every person needs to hear on this planet, randomly click FOR JESUS on just three (3) of the JESUS DID IT! links below. It will take just a few moments of your time. Please - that’s all you are asked to do. God will reward you! (Of course, be highly encouraged to forward one or more of these video clips to those who may have never heard what Jesus did for them on the cross ... especially young people). Thank you so much!
JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT!
(Please paste one of the above links onto your Facebook page - website - blog - video; etc.)
Note: Dad passed peacefully on June 28, 2008. He was 103 years old, 9 months, 9 days. Now someone else will have to pack out the elk.
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A Special Message: http://www.precious-testimonies.com/Exhortations/f-j/HelpingShareTheMessageOfTheCross.htm
Dear Reader - are you at peace with God? If not, you can be. Do you know what awaits you when you die? You can have the assurance from God that heaven will be your home, if you would like to be certain. Either Jesus Christ died for your sins, or He didn't (He did!). Are you prepared to stand before God on the Judgment Day and tell Him that you didn't need the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross to have your sins forgiven and get in right-standing with God? We plead with you ... please don't make such a tragic mistake.
To get to know God; to be at peace with God; to have your sins forgiven; to make certain heaven will be your home for eternity; to make certain that you are in right-standing with God right now ... please click here to help understand the importance of being reconciled to God. What you do about being reconciled to God will determine where you will spend eternity, precious one. Your decision to be reconciled to God is the most important decision you'll ever make in this life.