Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Last Day

This is the closest thing I’ll get to the peace of riding until the spring thaw.

Today is the last day of deer season in Pennsylvania and the back roads near my father’s house are filled with hunters. Pick-up trucks and men in safety orange prowl the gravel lanes and fire roads that push deep into the backsides of local the townships and state game lands. These are the roads that I like to find on the bike.

Last night brought the kind of weather that leaves a quarter-inch of ice on the trees and a crisp white crust on the ground. The deer, now deep in the stands of hemlock waiting out the cold, will not move until later in the afternoon—if at all.

I didn’t spend a lot of time hunting when I was a kid. Something about predawn hours in the damp and bitter cold kept me in doors until the sun warmed the day. And to be truthful, the idea of killing an animal frightened me. Even today, it is something that I do not take lightly, and I occasionally argue with myself about the ramifications of my act.

But in the end the bitter beauty of a cold December morning—along with the promise of fresh venison—outweighs my reservations. On still days like this I sit and wait, watching the sunlight play on the landscape, hoping for deer, and enjoying the solitude.

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