Tag Archives: outdoors

Fighting for My Rites

21 May

Every family has a thing.

You know, as in that family that drinks vegan shakes three meals a day, the family obsessed with dogs, cars, saving people, hunting things, or the family business.

My family, as you may know from previous posts, has been greatly influenced by the outdoorsman that is my father. This affects things that would otherwise be more normal. Our living room walls, for example, are a zoo, but the dead kind. Our vacations revolve around my dad being able to catch a fish at some point. And my sisters and I have to shoot a deer and catch a Steelhead before we are allowed to move out, or as Dad has since put it, before he will consider his three daughters adults.

I got my hunting license at twelve, and therefore dropped my first deer that year as well. Half-way done.

But the Steelhead? Not so much.

On my way to my first Steelhead trip when I was fifteen or sixteen, Dad warned me about their catch difficulty, saying, “the Steelhead is the fish of a thousand casts.” So eloquent. It was like the opening line of a poem. I lifted my head and silently accepted the challenge just before Dad continued, “So count.”

Oh, you’re serious.

I got up to eighty-five that day. No bites.

The next time I think I raised it to one hundred thirty. Maybe a couple hundred fifty next time? Who knows.

My counting only grew less enthusiastic and/or accurate. And of course, the Steelhead continued to swim around me like they could smell my naivete. She’s only at four hundred seventy-nine, I heard them gurgle to each other once. What a child. Hold back, Jim, let her sweat a little.

The best part was that at this point in my life, I wouldn’t have called myself the world’s most talented fisherman – not for lack of practice, mind you – so with every new person we had along on our endless stream of fishing trips, I had a new tutor who thought they were going to turn my sad, unskilled form into some sort of angling wizard who can call fish like a mystical freshwater siren.

If you have not been raised the way I have been, let me explain you a thing: I have been fishing (and just fine, thank you very much) since I was two years old. Two years old. So when any fishing guide who had never met me, looked at the way I held a rod, he would deduce that I didn’t even know what a fish was, and it got more than a little frustrating. No amount of authoritative “Uh-huh”s, “Yep”s, or “Mhm, Got it, thanks!”s will get you anywhere in this position.

It was a thought process that infected most guides I’d fished with by this time; it happened again a little while back, on the day I finally ensnared the elusive Steelhead.

We started the day off in a boat with two hours of rain, followed by two more hours of radio silence, briefly interrupted so my dad could reel in a Steelhead. (Factor these in if you’re doing the math on my mood)

When my fish hit, it took several minutes to reel the angry thing in, amidst the constant coaching of our guide, who seemed to be under the impression that at any moment I might give up and toss my rod to the retreating fish. But when it was near enough, he grabbed the net, dipped it in the Nestucca River, and pulled out the Steelhead I’d been waiting for.

My dad was nearly as excited as I was. I had done it. I was on my way to adulthood.

As Dad went for his camera, the guide posed next to me, cradling my catch. I motioned for the guide to give the slimy symbol of maturity to me. This fish, right here, this is my crowning achievement! The fish of a freaking thousand casts. My fish. Let me hold my dang fish.

He gave me a skeptical look and conceded a small part of its belly for me to hold on to for the picture.

“Should I -” I began, still motioning. I want to hold my fish.

“It’s pretty strong.” He said with a touch of finality, holding tighter to the fish’s tail.

I am a very short girl and I detest confrontation, so I am not often intimidating. But the eyes are the windows to the soul, so, even non-verbally, I must have said something vile to that boy.

Therefore, I can only assume that fish was fighting his poor wrist something terrible (without actually moving) and the young man had far too much chivalry to allow me to suffer as he did. With my fish. My fish. Those two words echoed in my head. You know how you don’t care about something until it’s threatened? The rapport I formed with this fish in the eleven seconds the guide and I jointly held it for pictures grew as strong as that which I share with my dearest possessions.

So when he said, “Okay,” hefted it from my empty hands, and turned to the side of the boat to let it swim free, I went full-scale three-year-old on him.

My fists balled up. My jaw dropped. My eyebrows furrowed so hard I believe I grew a unibrow. It’s a bit of a blur now, but I think I may have stamped my foot.

The guide’s back was turned and, unfortunately, I couldn’t bring myself to say a word.

But my performance only needed one audience member. My darling daddy, formerly occupied watching the fish just nearly escape, glanced up at my face and his eyes widened. In that moment, he didn’t need to see a fast-maturing seventeen-year-old. He needed to see his youngest daughter wearing an expression he recognized from years and years of the cruel world mistreating her.

“Hey, oh, can she let it go?”

“Oh, sure.”

So I, and I alone, let go of my lady fish’s tail to set her free.

Steelhead caught. Rite of passage finished.

And that’s how I threw a tantrum in an effort to convince my father that I was an adult.

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The Hunt (Or: That One Time I Got my Dad to Make a Geeky Reference)

3 Sep

I’ve just gotten back from my first bowhunting trip.

In related news, I will now only be responding to the name Katniss.

No, actually, that is definitely not true. But I did go bowhunting for the first time ever. So of course, it must be story time.

This story starts last Friday, when Mum, Dad, and my compound bow and I got in a car and drove south for longer than I’ve ever wanted to.

Five hours after we set out, we arrived in southern Oregon, and we visited the couple whose property we were hunting on. We kicked around outside the house, waiting for our hosts. My dad noticed some oddly featured wooden heads poking out of the couple’s garden. Recognizing a chance to amuse himself, he called Sam, one of our travelling buddies who came in another vehicle, over to his side and asked, “What do you think about these?” Sam obliged my dad with a few lines about the possibility of the heads being full bodies buried very deeply.

Then he continued, “you know, cos we’re probably Orcs to them. We come with fire, we come with axes,” he slipped into a British accent, “Gnawing, biting, breaking, hacking, burning…”

My parents, though not really geeks, definitely know a geeky reference when they hear one. I grinned and gave dad a knowing look.

See, on the drive over, we had been discussing our travelling partners: Rod, my dad’s New Zealand hunting buddy, and Sam, my dad’s producer, and, as we found out not long after we met him, a Lord of the Rings fanboy.

(And no. I would not let that fact go to waste.)

Five hours in a car provides you with more than enough time to explore the strange inner workings of the human mind, so it’s perfectly normal that I gave dad some odd advice for our upcoming adventure. I told him I had a buzzword for him to say when Sam was around. “If you say this, he will love you forever. Well, he may already love you, but this will help.”

“Okay, okay,” Dad humored me. “What was it again?”

“Mash ‘em, boil ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew.”

“Mash ‘em, boil ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew,” he repeated.

“Yes! And it would be best if you could say this when potatoes are nearby or something. Taters. Call them taters, and then say your line.”

“Okay.”

My dad’s a good guy.

His challenge accepted, I spent the rest of the trip trying to give dad meaningful looks whenever I thought he could say his line. Things got in the way pretty quick, though.

On this adventure, we stayed in a warm little house with no shortage of cozy blankets, DVDs, or Ritz crackers. My bed was right by the front door, and, to my delight, a convenient distance from the TV.

One thing you could not miss about the cabin was that it was incredibly charming, a word which here means, “lacking in indoor plumbing and had mousetraps littered around in a somewhat threatening manner.”

Okay, I thought to myself as I walked in. That’s fine. I’m adaptable.

When I first marked the startling lack of running water, I asked our guide where the restroom was and crossed my fingers that it was anything but a bush on the side of the house.

I was led to the backyard and directed to an outhouse.

Good, I thought. I thanked the guide and silently reminded myself how adaptable I was.

Just for the record, it’s easy to think that you’re adaptable until you lock yourself in a bathroom with a bat whom you have just awoken. We have to learn lessons somehow.

The next morning at 7:00, we set out on my hunt.

As we were stalking around in the forest with my bow, I figured it was a good time to pretend I was Katniss. This didn’t last very long, because judging by the way I stomped down the path in my massive hiking boots, I was a bit too Peeta-like. I briefly considered Legolas, but if that were the case, my hair would have turned out much better than it had that morning.

Actually, come to think of it, as far as my hair was concerned, Merida would have been a far better comparison.

But anyway, it was hard to concentrate on make-believe between the nervousness of my first bow hunt, the prayers for an animal to show up, and the constant mental singing from the song stuck in my head (Want to get it stuck in your head too?).

It was a very long hike. Thank goodness for my lungs, Rod stopped every five minutes to haul out his binoculars and stare with intensity at nothing in particular. Sam would trot up next to him and ask, “What do your Elf eyes see?” (The reference was lost on him, but it was still not wasted)

Eventually, those Elf eyes spotted a Corsican ram, standing thirty-two yards away. I thanked the Lord, drew my bow, and, by some miracle, we were cleaning out the animal thirty minutes later.

(I didn’t shoot the animal through the eye socket, though. Katniss still has much to teach me.)

When we got back, we told my mum the news in between desperate gasps for air ( thank you, half-hour, uphill hike), and then Rod fixed us a fabulous breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns.

Hashbrowns.

You know,

My dad saw his chance. He grabbed his plate and sprang into action. “Mash ‘em…” he said. “Boil ‘em…”

Sam beamed. “Stick ‘em in a stew!”