Michael Selhost Anne Beckenstein WRIT_101W_3 21 June 2011 Early Birds At first, being suspended high in a tree was amusing. After all, it was my first hunt of the season as well as my first time hunting from a tree stand. Despite my enthusiasm, however, a feeling of boredom managed to creep in with surprising speed. Only two hours had passed since I climbed up the pine and settled into my stand, though to me it felt as if I had been there as long as the forest around me. But fortunately, the hunt would soon become much more memorable than I had thought. I woke at a quarter before six that morning, collected my gear and rifle, and headed out an hour before sunrise for what I hoped would be a successful hunt. My destination was a thick of woods near a narrow river, which was only a fifteen-minute hike from my house. Once I arrived, I selected a tree, prepared my tree stand, and shimmied up about forty feet or so. The task was a bit difficult thanks to Montana’s dark, almost black autumn nights. But after passing a few finicky branches on my way up, and wishing I had brought a brighter flashlight, I was soon perched high with the needles of evergreens, ready, as ever, to wait. A forest looks different at night than it does during the day. As one might imagine, there is a lack of color: the green, red, brown, and gold colors of the timber are all replaced with blues and blacks. The main difference, however, is the simple silence of a forest at night. The still trees, absent wind, and muted sounds all bring a new character to the place often pictured to be radiant and full of life. After my eyes had adjusted to the dark, I noticed this tranquility. It was so quiet, so peaceful. Even the river, only fifty yards away, resonated no sound. It seemed as if the entire forest was asleep, which, in a way, made me the noisy kid trying his best to tiptoe. Unfortunately, my fascination with the night soon passed. After an hour of silence and watching an inactive forest, I found myself disappointed in my attention span. My feet began to twitch and my mind began to haze. I tried timing the twitching of my feet to my favorite songs as entertainment, but that did not help. I then tried to amuse myself by thinking of things that I often pondered, though after a few cognitive investigations there were no thoughts left in my mind. I had become bored, and in the truest sense of the word. After a bit more silence, I finally saw movement. A bird had woken in a nearby tree, bounced out onto his branch, ruffled his feathers, and flown off into the morning. “The early bird catches the worm,” I thought. Then I wondered, “But what happens when the worm doesn’t show up? Where does that leave the bird?” Then, from behind, I heard the sound of a twig snap. Remaining still, I waited to see what had made the sound. I hoped it would be a whitetail deer, or maybe even an elk, if lucky. A few moments later, I saw movement out of the right corner of my eye. Fifty yards away, on an island in the middle of the river, stood a long-bodied, goldencolored, adult mountain lion. The first lion I had ever seen in person, it took a moment to realize it was not a deer or large dog because I had always thought cats hated water. As the cat leaned forward and began to drink from the river, I remembered the rifle in my hands and began to take aim. I pulled the butt of the gun tight to my chest and placed a firm grip on its stock, but as soon as I had raised it to eye-level, I came to my senses and remembered: I hadn’t yet purchased a mountain lion tag for that season. Standing there, paused and upright in
my stand, I enacted the definition of a word rarely used, “dumbfounded.” In my sights was a trophy animal, known to be one of the most skilled hunters in the wilderness and a highly sought-after prize, and I could not take the shot. I could do nothing. Lowering my weapon, I let out a deep breath to slow my heart rate. I sat into my seat and watched as the lion continued to drink from the slow, silent river. “Smooth, Mike. Real smooth,” I thought. I felt a little disappointed, but more so satisfied with the exciting experience. Being suspended in the tree had allowed me to become invisible to the sly predator and had also given me the chance to see the start of its day. Relaxing into my seat, placing the rifle on my lap, and beginning to wait once again, this time happily patient to see what could come next, I released a silent chuckle and thought, “Maybe I should get out here earlier next time.”
A short narrative essay written for my English 101 class at FVCC.