The Hunter

My grandfather, Tom Allen, was a rancher; he raised sheep on the western slope of Colorado, near the little town of Hotchkiss, Colorado. Ranching played a vital role in my family for a very long time. It was a way of life. Grandpa grew up on a ranch and began helping his father at a very young age. As a child, he knew the cycle. Ranch kids have always understood that raising stock means food on the table; that’s why this tale has always warmed my heart.

One year, grandpa went hunting with his brothers and some of his neighbors. This was just one more way to provide for the family. Plus, hunting allowed the men to get away, enjoy the company of other men, and just have some good old fashion fun.

Now, on this one particular hunting trip, the men brought along some alcohol, so they could relax around the campfire after a long day of hunting. My grandfather brought whiskey too, which was not unusual, for he often had whiskey around the house. But grandpa didn’t drink. Instead, he used whiskey for doctoring. When a person or an animal was injured or sick, he would fix them up with whiskey.

As children, if we were ill and heard grandpa was coming, we started crying. We knew we were getting his version of a hot toddy. This concoction burned out whatever ailed us. And bless his gruff little heart, his rough around the edges mannerisms softened, and our grandfather became the sweetest of all saints. In a soft voice, he would calm our fears, place a cool cloth on our foreheads, and keep the covers pulled up tight. Then this man would sit with us until we fell asleep and only leave our side if he believed we were on the mend. He treated animals with the same gentleness.

So while my grandpa was on this hunting adventure, he shot a buck. When his fellow hunters returned to camp, they discovered that my grandfather did have a buck, but his prize was resting quietly after his mishap. My favorite hunter apparently grazed the animal and brought it back to camp, so he could clean its wounds with his whiskey. The problem was he didn’t have enough to correctly tend to his patient, so he used the other’s private stash too.

Mama recalled that people still laughed at my grandpa for years after this hunting incident, for he brought his deer home. He bought a red collar with a bell, put it out to pasture, and kept it on his ranch where he knew it would be safe. That was also the last time the rancher ever went hunting.

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