I Am

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February 2, 2012 at 8:15 pm #236

Key Master

I am
by Pat Wray
You cannot buy me…yet I am a gift easily given. I cost nothing…yet I require the investment of a lifetime. You can ask nothing of me…I demand much of you, and yet you will be far richer for my demands. I bestow gifts at my whim, yet my whim must be earned.
You will spend your life acquiring things and yet at the end you will have nothing…save what I have given you. Your life will be rich and full of relationships with family and friends…yet when you close your eyes for the final time I will be your only companion.
Drink deeply of me now, live hard and well. If you must leave your mark, be sure your backtrail is one you can remember with pride.
I’m the crackle of frosted leaves underfoot and the snap in the autumn air. I’m a hunter’s grimace each time he attempts a silent step.
I’m the smile on the freckled face of an eight-year-old listening to one of his grandfather’s hunting stories…and his father’s wry grin as he thinks to himself how many times he has heard that story.
I’m the bent and bloodied broadhead sitting in a place of honor on the workbench, a relic of that first successful bow hunt.
I’m the arrow that won’t fly quite true, that you continue to shoot for practice anyway, because you know how it twists.
I’m the silent, whisper-winged flight of a hunting owl and the scream of a red-tailed hawk.
I’m your unbounded confidence as you leave elk camp the first day of the season…and the drag in your step as you make your way back to camp on the evening of the last day, empty-handed.
I’m the slack in the trigger pull of your deer rifle.
I’m the cuts and bruises on your backside from the talus slope you tried to cross. And the stories you will tell about it.
I’m the sizzle of trout in your cast iron skillet.
I’m the blister on your heels from new boots.
I’m the oil in your hair after three showerless days in the woods.
I’m the buzz of mosquitoes in your ear after the last lantern is extinguished.
I’m the good-hearted laughter around a campfire.
I’m the sweet taste of water from a canteen on a hot day.
I’m the hollow taste of the last drink out of that canteen, when the nearest water is too far to dream about.
I’m the shake in your guts when a big bull elk powers through the brush and into range.
I’m the devotion of your hunting dog and the love you return.
I’m the shudder in your thighs on the last steep hill of the day.
I’m the catch in your breath when you top the rise and see the lay of the country before you.
I’m the monsters you’ve made out of dark nights alone.
I’m the friendly faces and scenes you’ve created from white clouds against a blue sky.
I’m the blurred edge of panic you’ve walked along when you were lost in a storm overnight…and I’m the callused shell of confidence left in your heart because you lived through it.
I’m your inner pride when your calls and decoy set convince a flock of ducks to change direction and land in your pond.
I’m the scabs and scars and punctures on your hands and arms that are your contribution to a new hunting dog’s puppy teeth.
I’m last year’s elk jerky you’re chewing as you chase this year’s elk.
I’m the scent of venison heart roasting over your campfire.
I’m the call of the geese as they head north to nest. And I’m your whispered invocation that follows them, “Hurry back, hurry back.”
I’m the frost that your breath forms on your mustache on a cold winter morning.
I’m the first strong run of a steelhead and the water-clearing jump of a boat-sized sturgeon.
I’m the queasy feeling you had the first time you entered grizzly country and knew that you were no longer the only hunter.
I’m the slippery warmth of elk innards as you reach in to disconnect the edibles.
I’m your disappointment when the first person you’ve seen in a week comes up the trail and you can’t escape a conversation.
I’m the bloodstained old packboard and the memories that swirl through your mind every time you load it up.
I’m the young thoughts of an old man who still comes to hunting camp, even if it’s just to help cook and tell stories.
I’m the whispering sound of snake skin on rocks next to you and the thudding sound of your heart when you realize it.
I’m the whistling warning of the pikas as you invade their high, rocky homes.
I’m your helplessness when the biggest buck you’ve ever seen appears only 600 yards away but across a deep canyon it will take you a full half day’s hike to cross.
I’m your appreciation just to have seen the buck.
I’m your confidence when you pull the trigger on a rifle you know.
I’m the sick feeling you get when you know you pulled the shot and heard it hit anyway.
I’m the loss and failure and guilt on a blood trail that peters out.
I’m the pride you feel when a long, difficult blood trail finally leads you to the animal.
I’m the integrity it takes to tag the deer you wounded two days earlier, even though you know the meat is spoiled.
I’m the change in a coyote’s pace when a car on a nearby roadway suddenly slows to a stop.
I’m the need you have to head for the woods…I’m the commitment you feel for the land…I’m the strength you draw from your time in the bush…I’m the reason your wife understands.
I’m your dreams and your memories…your friends when the world falls apart. I’m the far-off well from which you must drink…you can find me in your heart.

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