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A Tall Hunting Tale

by Kevin Boekhoff

I am 54 years old, married 32 years to the same wonderful lady. We have just become empty nesters, as well. I have done many things in my life from auto body repairman to Baptist pastor. I have always loved writing, but haven't had the time until Parkinson's Disease came along. I currently write a column "Wanderings through my Ponderings" at the PASD newsletter (parkinsonsd.org). The Motor Market Magazine published "My First Car" in their December issue (themotormarket.com). I have compiled my best ventriloquist skit into book form, but it is not quite done yet.

Although, I’ve never been much of a hunter, the forested beauty of the Flathead Valley in Northwestern Montana beckoned me to an adventure. After hearing of the fantastic hunting I succumbed to the lure and I decided to try my luck at hunting the elusive and exotic game touted in the brochures. Please understand that I came from the part of the plains where the closest thing to game are meadowlarks, livestock, occasional pop can and lots of wind. So, when I heard that a man could bag his very own tall hunting tale I went right down to the local sportsmans’ store to purchase the necessary equipment.  Shortly after I entered the store a very jovial and overly cheerful salesman helped me.  He explained that he needed to know what kind of game I intended to hunt in order for him to help me get the right equipment. 

Man, he knew his stuff!  For some odd reason, he laughed a lot.  It must have been a character flaw or personality issue, a nervous habit perhaps.  At any rate, he set me up with a high quality 30-06 with a scope.  He explained the validity of a scope since tall hunting tales can be difficult to spot due to the fact that they can surprise you when you distracted. He sold me on lots of other nifty things:  backpack, cookstove, tent, table and chairs, kitchen sink, portable campfire, complete with packhorses and tack to carry my newly acquired paraphernalia.

The guide he recommended proved to be very helpful and knowledgeable.  He encouraged me by relating how tall hunting tales abounded throughout the region.  I hired him to show me where to find them.  To my disappointment and disgust, he took me to the local hunters’ hangout.  Argh, I wanted to go hunting.  What a torturous experience! I was forced to listen to all these highly exaggerated stories of immense beasts, brave hunters, exceptional prowess, and successful hunts.  I personally felt that we should get on with the hunt.  I mean, how am I ever going to get my money’s worth out of this guide listening to his buddies?  Well, regretfully, I decided to fire him because he just wanted to hang out at the hunters’ hangout instead of hunting.  He seemed astounded when I informed him that I didn’t want to listen to his friends, I wanted to bag my very own tall hunting tale.

My new guide, Will Rippemoff, knew all about all hunting tales, or so he said.  He related how the shorter variety of hunting tales used to abound, but were now extinct. – only the taller and embellished variety were left.  He told me that those that could relate their testimonials of tall hunting tales effectively had taken a course in creative truth enhancement, whatever that meant.

Will took the time to tactfully show me that I had purchased a plethora of wrong equipment, all I really needed was a pair of hip boots, a persuader (which looked like a billy club to me), and a large game bag. Will assured me that he knew the habits and the location of tall hunting tales and that he had developed a technique guaranteed to bag a tall hunting tale.  This method required two people; one to chase the tall hunting tales toward the second person that would wait in ambush in a strategic location.  Number two’s job consisted of  thumping them on the head with the persuader and stuffing them into the sack as they passed by him.  Personally, I thought a tall hunting tale would require a larger bag, but alas, what do I know?  I had never seen one before, besides, that’s what I hired Will Rippemoff for.

My choice in guides pleased me.  He seemed reasonably intelligent and had a very personable personality.  His joviality shone through, as he chuckled easily and often. He even volunteered to do the hard part of the hunt.  He would brave the obstacles and deal with their cunning and elusivity (his vocabulary was incredible). He also had to outwit them to move in my direction – a tough job indeed!

Imagine me strategically positioned between a rock and a hard place for sixteen hours or so it seemed. It finally dawned on me that my job proved difficult as well. One gets cold and sore sitting perfectly still, being, oh, so careful not to snore audibly or sigh too heavily, especially when it started to rain. At first a drizzle, then a light shower, then a steady soaking rain, the kind that can turn one rather prunish. I tried to reason that it really was a blessing because it would wash off any human scent that the critter might pick up, but deep down I knew it would just fill the woods with that nauseating wet-hunter-smell, yuck.

Discouragement began to set in when I heard a noise, I tried to hold my breath but the noise emitter moved too slowly and I had to exhale quietly – not an easy task when you are red-faced-turning-blue from lack of oxygen. I held my bag open and my persuader high, ready to pounce. I could hear its heart beat, or was it mine? It had breath that smelled remarkably like Lays onion flavored potato chips. It’s wariness wearied my patience.  I waited and waited until it rounded the corner and I made my move.  My persuader found its mark and rebounded into my forehead. Stars filled the night sky, the sound of birdies tweeting danced in my ears and I found myself lying in the pine needles rain forming streamlets on my face. Even in my dazed state I found the wherewithal to throw the bag over the critter and tie it off.  I had bagged my very own tall hunting tale!

As every hunter knows, the work begins with packing the critter out.  As I headed to the truck I thought about Will walking through the woods, trying to out think and out flank tall hunting tales, so instead of going for the truck I hiked for town.  As I neared civilization, more of an outpost really, I spotted a truck that looked familiar.  The sign on the side said, “Will Rippemoff better than the rest.”  I figured Will must have gotten worried about me and was getting a search party together. I stepped up my pace to let him know I had returned with only a knot on the head, and that the search party was not necessary.  Besides I succeeded in my part of the hunt.

As I bolted in the door a tremendous din assaulted me (if I didn’t know better I would have thought it sounded like hilarity). In the center of the place stood Will on a crude table, forming a search party, no doubt. What a kind and caring man! As quickly as I entered the din dropped to silence. Will’s mouth fell slack and agape as he spotted me still in my hip boots and a tall hunting tale in the bag.

Since stillness reigned and all eyes stared at me, I proceeded to open the bag…two people fainted, a girl screamed, and the color rushed from the faces in the crowd.

“What is it?” screamed a voice. The crowd cowered against the back wall of the building searching for an exit sign or even a large crack in the wall they could squeeze through if necessary. After what seemed like a short eternity, a skuzzy dirty old timer stepped forward. With ashen face and shaking hands, he cautiously approached the bag.  He slowly reached out and touched it and jumped back farther that I thought possible for a man of his failing physique. But nothing happened. His courage increased a bit, he booted it lightly with his battered logging boot. He jumped in a vertical direction, nearly to the ceiling and landed almost where he had lifted off, forcing him to dance around the bag in a desperate manner. He sat down at a table, asked for a drink of Ensure, downed it in one gulp, slammed the glass down on the table, wiped his mouth with his sleeve, redoubled his courage, very slowly opened the bag and peaked inside. No one said a word. Tension permeated the room. 

The ol’ timer looked up at me, his voice quivering and asked, “How’d ya do it boy? Ain’t no one in these here parts ever taken one alive afor!”

The people started to approach the bag with great caution, hoping for a firsthand look. Then the ol’ timer said, “Go ahead boy, let ‘er out of the bag”

Without warning it leapt from the bag.  A collective scream came from nowhere, and everywhere simultaneously. The crowd stampeded for the doors in a reckless scramble to escape…

I guess they just couldn’t handle a real, live, tall hunting tale.

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