Prologue – the Elk Diaries

I’m on my way to hunt elk in Jackson, WY.  I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into.

I grew up on the freeway.  Not in the romantic sense of having traveled the US, wind in my hair, sights to be seen.  No, the freeway was my back yard.  Route 8 in Akron between Tallmadge and E. Glenwood Avenue to be exact. You could hear it at night but just like those who grow up next to train tracks you don’t know the difference.  That’s just what the world sounds like.  We didn’t have air conditioning either so our windows were wide open in the summer. Those windows let in the sounds of the neighborhood.  Not big city sounds like sirens and construction.  These were small city sounds.  Kids playing, cars on a brick street in front, cars on the freeway in back, dogs barking.  That is if it wasn’t too hot.  If it was too hot all you heard was the fan in the window and the silence of staying as still as possible.

I go back there whenever I’m in Akron.  My house isn’t their anymore.  It burned down.  It was a great house.  Lots a room to run around and for friends to come over and play.  The backyard was huge.  At least in my mind it was.  We had an above ground swimming pool and we could play wiffle ball in the front yard with a fence for home runs.

But it burned down and all that’s left is a small strip of land.  A lot next to the freeway filled with overgrown grass and weeds.  And when I drive by and look at it all I can think of is how did such a magnificent house and such a great yard fit on this strip of land.  Next to the freeway. 

We were holding hands and walking down the street. Nik and I had just gotten married and we moved from German Village to Clintonville.  It was our first house and it reminded me of the houses in North Hill.  It was built a long time ago by people who cared about what they were doing.  We weren’t downtown anymore but we still lived in the city.  When the windows were open you heard the sounds that informed my memory.  You heard kids, and the cars, and the heat, and the dogs.   It was a magical walk we were on.  The kind of walk where you talk about where you’ve been and where you want to go, where your past connects with your future to make the present the best time ever.  And then I almost shit my pants.

Sure I’d seen pictures and I understood in an abstract way that they existed but I’d never seen a real live raccoon in a sewer before.  And it scared the shit out of me. I could not believe that wild animals could actually live that close to human beings. And I let go of Nikki’s hand and ran home and hid under the couch like a dog in a lighting storm.

Guns were never a positive thing for me.  Thinking back on growing up I can’t remember a single kid talking about or actually going hunting.  The people I knew who had guns, or I thought might have them, tended to not be good people and the only animal that was around to shoot, besides another human being, would have been a squirrel. 

Really the only time I ever shot a gun as a kid was when we’d have bb gun fights at my friend Steve’s house in the 5th or 6th grade. The ground rules were pretty simple:  one or two pumps only and no head shots.  I think everyone would have been able to abide by those rules except when there’s a pair of brothers involved.  That’s when the policy of mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent but an absolute guarantee.  I think Steve’s brother might have got him with a couple of extra pumps so Steve pumped his gun until he couldn’t pump it anymore and then he put a bb into his brother’s ankle.  I remember Steve’s brother’s foot bleeding and his mom taking the time to beat the shit out him with a wooden spoon before taking his brother to the doctor.

The truth was in our neighborhood wooden spoons were way more dangerous than guns.  We could see and feel the damage from those things.  And they were always loaded.

But now I own a .340 Weatherby mag. It’s a bad ass gun.  And I’m planning on shooting a large mammal and then I’m going to cook it and eat it. 

It’s a long way from growing up on the freeway.

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