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5/21/2020
Publisher’s Note: As referenced in the May-June 2020 print issue of On Wisconsin Outdoors, the Ellis column Memorial Day-Trading it all… directs the reader to this website for stories of Americans in battle during World War II and Vietnam.  Posted in the April 30 Ellis Blogs on this website Tanks in a Mine Field is the eye witness story of 709th Tank Battalion gunner John “Mike” Kunnen during the bloody battle of t...
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Fencerows: “Crazy Time”

John Luthens

The eight-point buck charged from the darkened field. I shot a quick glance up at the digital clock. It blinked 4:52 a.m. The temperature readout next to the overhead clock said 34 degrees, and when I looked back down I was close enough to see frost tingeing the field grass and envision steam rolling from the brute’s nostrils. Its head was down and it was moving with a singular purpose. My heart skipped more than a beat. It skipped about twenty.

The deer never wavered from its purpose, unperturbed that the headlights of my truck were bearing down upon it. Luckily, I’ve rolled through Wisconsin’s deer country all my life. I’ve learned when to keep one eye on the roadside and one foot poised above the brake pedal. I skidded to a stop as the buck made the safety of the far embankment and disappeared on his fanatical quest. It was November 6. Burnt tires and love wove together through the frosty air. It was crazy time.

 “Are we there yet?” My son rolled restlessly from his slumber in the passenger seat. He was back to sawing logs before I could catch my breath enough to squeak out a reply. He is 15 years old and can keep up with the heartiest of night owls. But in the self-respecting hours of predawn, he’d sleep through a nuclear explosion.

I shook my and kept driving. My heart gained a steadier rhythm as it got lighter. My roving eyes didn’t have to work so hard jumping from ditch to ditch. The road wound endlessly north, and I had ample time to reflect on the crazy and wanton mission set before us. My thought patterns were scattered as my target shooting. They went something like this:

We were headed to Rice Lake, Wisconsin. It was the height of the late-fall fishing season and there were some fine bass lakes up there. The grouse count was up and I knew some promising thickets that strung through the Blue Hill wilderness on down the outskirts of the city. And it was obvious the big bucks were on prowl.

Ah, but it was not to be. No outdoor paradise this weekend. I would be sitting inside a mall for two days signing books, which one could argue was strictly my fault for writing the damn thing in the first place. A labor of love, one might argue, and they would be absolutely correct. It was a labor of love.

But this weekend’s labor of love was squarely on my son’s shoulders, because he had met a young Rice Lake girl some months previous and he was bound and determined to see her again. I was a party to the crime because I had hauled him up here the first time on a book signing tour, and he had gotten so bored that he went and found himself a girlfriend.

Crazy time; I could have easily sent some signed books to the mall, spent the weekend in some wide open spaces, and hoped for the best. The whole thing seemed so convoluted that I began to wonder if I should have just hit the darn buck in the road, called the cops and claimed the venison, and spent the weekend at an auto repair shop eating freshly-ground hot sticks.

 “I’m a little nervous about meeting her mom.” The sun was fully up now, and so was my son. “She’ll probably think it’s weird that I’m driving all the way up here to see her.” He fiddled with the radio, scanning through the stations. “Why are there so many relationship songs on the radio?” It went on like that.  It was a father-son moment waiting to happen. I shook the dust out my infinite bag of wisdom and tried to explain.

 “When I was about your age, I met a girl from Rice Lake, too.” I said. “I lived in Barron, which was about 13 miles away. One day, I got a crazy idea in my head that I just had to see her. I talked my own dad into driving me there.”

 “You had it easy,” said my son. “I live in Grafton. That’s about 200 miles away.”

 “It might seem so on the surface, but the deal was, my dad had to go to work and couldn’t drive me home. Her mother was at the house, but I was too embarrassed to ask her for a ride home. So I ended up running the 13 miles back to my house.”

 “That’s crazy. Was it worth it?”

 “Crazy and worth it,” I answered. I got a hug goodbye and a kiss on the cheek. I danced all the way home in a daze.  I would have barreled across a road through oncoming traffic and not even heard the honking of the horns.”

My son nodded. He was only 15, but I think he understood. We didn’t have any better sense than the buck we’d almost hit earlier in the morning. In fact, we might have been worse off. The deer got to run free outside for the weekend.

We pulled into the Rice Lake mall. My son’s girlfriend was waiting, and so was her mother. He asked me one final question before we disembarked to begin our weekend adventure. “Do you think her mom will like me?”

I dug one final time into my bag of fatherly wisdom. “Did you ever approach a mother bear minding her cubs?”

 “No”

 “Then don’t worry about it. She’s going to love you.”

John Luthens is a freelance writer from Grafton, Wisconsin. His first novel, Taconite Creek, is available on Amazon or at www.cablepublishing.com  or by contacting the author at Luthens@hotmail.com