The Deer Hunter!
It was the first day of deer hunting season as I drove along the mountain road slowly making my way up the steep, winding road. My destination was the top of Twin Sister's Mountain, a rugged area where only four wheel drive vehicles can go. The road was seven miles long and I passed many signs of deer tracks. I saw areas of lush green grass, and pools of water along the way. The big bucks had all they needed up here.
They didn't need to go to the meadows far below to feed and drink. I had passed no other hunter’s vehicles and felt happy that I had a chance to bag a decent sized black tailed deer today. Suddenly, to my surprise I saw a hunter on foot just ahead of me dressed in camouflage and an orange vest. I wasn't disappointed nor jealous, just surprised.
I stopped beside him, rolling down my window and asked if he had seen any deer this morning. He shook his head, and said, "Just one my friend, just one." There was a hesitation in his eyes and I asked him if everything was alright. He replied, "Yeah, it's all good, just can't seem to find my truck." I laughed and told him not to feel bad.
I told him that I too had lost my bearings more than once and had to look for my truck too and we both laughed. I told him to hop in and we'd go find his truck and he climbed in and sat his cap down on the seat. As I drove on, he looked intently at the hillside to my left not saying much. As we approached a spectacular waterfall, I jumped, when he shouted, "Stop here!"
Then he bolted out the door and headed toward the waterfall. I figured he had seen his "Trophy Buck" and was on the hunt. I stayed in my truck and waited because he was older than me and I felt he deserved get his deer without another hunter competing. The sun was high and bright as he scanned the hillside terrain.
As I reached for my thermos of coffee I noticed that he had forgotten his orange hunter's cap. I opened my door, and called out quietly to him, "Hey, you forgot your cap friend, do you need it?" As he turned towards me I saw a look of sadness in his eyes as he vanished. That expression in his eyes still haunts me to this day. I stood there, hanging onto my door looking down at the cap in my hand and then to where he had last stood.
Who would ever believe me if I told them what I had just encountered, a ghost hunter? As I got back in my seat and shut the door, I looked at the inside of the cap and read the name, "Jake Demmit." I turned the engine off and sat there as questions raced through my mind. Jake must have died while hunting, but why is he still here? I’d bet my last dollar that he had been climbing up the side of the mountain by that waterfall, slipped, fell and died.
That's why he can't find his truck, it was towed away. It brought me to the realization of why hunters should never hunt alone just in case they got hurt. But I didn't have a hunting buddy so I was by myself like so many other hunters. It must be so lonely for Jake to be walking this mountain road over and over. He must be looking for his truck the poor fella.
Then I did something that surprised me. I got out and started looking around. I felt it was a long shot that Jake had died nearby. So I started my search for clues near the waterfall. Something that might tell me he had been here. Maybe this wasn't even the spot. Maybe he had just seen a deer?
Carefully my eyes searched the wet mossy rocks leading up the hill side. As careful as I was, I found nothing.
I was almost ready to go back to my truck when the sunlight reflected off of something metal. I knelt down, wincing at the pain from the sharp rocks on my knee as I looked for what caught my curiosity. At first I saw nothing, then suddenly I saw them a pair of gold rimmed glasses with the lenses broken. Yes! I knew it. He had been here. He had slipped and fallen. But if he had died here someone would have found his body.
Then it occurred to me. "What if he was injured but didn't die here?" What if he limped or crawled away and died somewhere else? I rubbed the rim of the glasses with my fingers and whispered, "Help me Jake. Do you need my help Jake or is this how it must be? Forever lost on a mountain road searching for the deer that got away.” I walked over to the cliff side of the old logging road and began looking for signs that someone had slipped down the side.
I saw plenty of deer tracks, some raccoon, plus coyote tracks and even the tracks of a small black bear, but nothing else. I had walked quite a ways and was about to give up when I saw deep boot prints at the of the loose dirt hillside. My eyes followed the foot prints that ended at the brush. Suddenly I saw a bit of orange material and knew that this was where Jake had died.
He was trying to make it back to his truck and had slipped, falling over the side of the mountain. He had tried to make it back up to the road, lost his balance and landed in the brush all but hidden from anyone’s eyes. The county had just towed his truck away, perhaps thinking it had been abandoned. I had almost reached my truck when I heard Jake's voice behind me and I turned around.
He was beside the waterfall on one knee as if he was tired and taking a rest. He looked deeply into my eyes and said in the most reassuring voice, "Don't feel so sad my friend for you found what all the others couldn’t. I’m so glad you cared enough to search for my body because now I can finally be at peace." he said. Tears were flowing down my cheeks as he said something else to me.
"I never believed someone would care about a stranger. I‘ve wandered down this road for years so alone." In unison, we saw each other wipe our eyes and he stood up smiling. "Before I go can I know your name friend?" Jake asked. I told him it was Raymond. Then Jake gave me a piece of advice I always knew but never had followed. "Never hunt alone Raymond. You never know when you might get hurt. Take a friend with you." he said. He waved his hand goodbye to me and I watched him disappear.
©2002 Raymond Cook (All rights reserved)