The Ghostly Deer of Spooky Ridge
Back when I was a young boy of fourteen or so, I was introduced to deer hunting by my friend Jesse Sawyer. Jesse was one of those loners, the old guys who lived out in the woods and ate whatever they could catch. Because he was a loner, he was apt to pick up some strange habits. Frequently during our camping trips he would shriek, “AH’VE GOT A MORON ON MAH TEAM!” I would look around, but see no one who could possibly be on his team. I felt sorry that he was losing his mind, possibly even becoming schizophrenic, but patiently followed his shouted instructions on how to extinguish a blazing tent.
When I turned fourteen and finally got my hunting license, I rushed straight to Jesse’s house to tell him the great news. I found him on the porch, trying to chop firewood with his hunting knife.
“Humph,” Jesse said enthusiastically when I told him the news. “Have ya seen mah axe?”
“What axe?” I asked. “Can you take me hunting this weekend?”
“The one ya used on our last campin’ trip ta chop up fahrwood. Ah’ve got ta leave on a bizniss trip this weekend.”
That caught me off guard. Jesse never went on business trips.
“Since when did you have any business to trip on?” I asked.
“Since thirty secs ago.”
“Please, please, take me hunting…you are, without a doubt, the most knowledgeable hunter in the universe, and I would be honored to be learning from you.”
I felt sort of bad about lying to Jesse like that, but it was my only chance.
“Wahl, if ya put it that way, Ah’ll see if mah bizniss can wait.”
Jesse went inside. When he returned after about two minutes, he was eating a big ham sandwich. I wondered where he had caught it. “Good news, mah bizniss pardner in Oklyhoma can ‘andle the bizniss trip.”
“Great!” I said, wondering how he knew that since he didn’t have a phone. “I’ll be here at eight o’clock on Saturday…do you have a gun I can borrow?”
Unfortunately, my surprise question didn’t work as planned.
“A gun?” Jesse asked. “Ah’ve ownly got two guns. Sorry.”
I'd forgotten that Jesse had trouble counting. “You can’t use two guns at the same time,” I replied.
“Ah’ve got two hands. ‘Sides, one gun’s fer deers an’ the other’s fer bars. Gotta keep mah pertection ‘gainst them bars.”
I once again pleaded with Jesse, mentioning his expertise in the area of bear wrestling.
“Oh, what the wreck, might as wahl give it a try. Jist don’t come whinin’ ta me if’n yer ear gits moved about.”
I wondered about that last statement until I saw the gun. “Holy moose, Jesse!” I exclaimed. “That’s your bear gun? It looks like an elephant gun!”
“Naw, this’s the deer gun. The bar gun’s in the shed.”
I was feeling a little nervous when we entered the shed. Jesse switched on the lights and handed me the biggest gun I’d ever seen.
“Naow be careful with it,” he instructed. “That thar gun was givin ta me by mah granduncle, who was a great hunter.”
“What did he hunt?” I asked, taking the gun and immediately dropping it.
I didn’t bother to argue with that, being too busy trying to carry the gun and breathe at the same time.
“See yew on Saturday,” Jesse called after me as I staggered down the hill.
When I arrived home the first thing I did was get my tongue untangled from my shoelaces. Then I decided to try out the gun. Jesse had given me some bullets approximately the size of my fist, so I took a couple of those and the gun out to our backyard. After loading the gun I aimed at my target, an empty gas can, and squeezed the trigger.
I later heard that everyone in the neighborhood ran to their cellars, under the impression that the Russians were bombing us. All the shrews in the area dropped dead from fright. As for me, when I regained my senses I found myself in the neighbor’s backyard pool, which was strange because our closest neighbor with a pool lived a quarter of a mile away.
I staggered back home, soaked to the hair follicles. A disastrous sight greeted my soggy eyes when I entered our backyard. The chicken coop I had set the gas can next to was obliterated. Even as I stood there staring in awe, a few feathers and barbecued drumsticks came floating down from the sky.
I sat on the back steps, dazed, until my parents got home. When Dad saw the carnage, he was dumbfounded. Finally he got back enough of his voice to croak a question at me.
“What are you eating?” he asked.
“Chicken,” I muttered.
“Do you know anything about this mess?”
“No, I was just doing some target practice and suddenly there was a boom and I ended up in the neighbor’s pool.”
“The closest neighbors who have a pool live a quarter of a mile away,” Dad said.
“I know. My guess is that the Russians bombed our chicken coop.”
“Why would they do that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe the chickens were German spies.”
Then Mom arrived on the scene. “What happened to your ear?” she shrieked.
I felt the side of my head where my right ear used to be. I eventually found it near the back of my head. “Uh, I guess it got moved a little.”
When Mom was done freaking out she made me take a shower, even though I had fallen in the neighbor’s pool. I guess since the neighbors had been in Florida for a month she didn’t trust the quality of the greenish pool water.
When I emerged from the shower I heard Dad yelling something about gas cans. I found him in the backyard, holding the full gas can from the shed.
“What happened to the full gas can?” Dad asked.
“You’re holding it,” I replied, wondering how he could be so absent-minded.
“No! This is the empty one!”
Suddenly it all dawned on me. I rushed to my room and counted my money, hoping I’d have enough for a plane ticket to Australia. Unfortunately I didn’t.
When Saturday came around I had to sneak out of the house at four a.m. Treading quietly so as not to awaken the guard dog outside my bedroom door, I went downstairs and retrieved the gun from the garage, where Dad hid it. Then I set out on the hike to Jesse’s house.
Staggering uphill is harder than staggering downhill. When I arrived at Jesse’s house I collapsed on his porch, gasping for air. The sun was just peeking over the mountains as I pounded unmercifully on the door. Finally Jesse answered.
“What’s the big ahdea?” he asked, blinking in the bright sunlight.
“I had to leave early. Come on, let’s get going!”
Jesse shaded his eyes as he looked at the position of the sun. “Why, it’s ownly six a.m.!” he said.
“We’ve got to go before they come after me!”
“Who’s after ya?”
I thought about that for a bit. “Uh, the Russians.”
“Why would they be after ya?”
“Beats me. I was doing some target practice the other day and they bombed our chicken coop.”
“Yeah. I packed enough food for both of us, so all you have to do is grab your hunting stuff.”
“Wahl then, Ah’ll grab mah gun and be right out. What did ya pack fer grub?”
In a couple hours we were rattling along a mountain road in Jesse’s old truck. The going was tough. We frequently had to get out and chop up a log with Jesse’s hunting knife to make a clear path for the truck. By nightfall we were exhausted. I started a fire while Jesse pitched the tent.
“AH’VE GOT A MORON ON MAH TEAM!”
It’s getting worse, I thought as I extinguished the blazing tent. Jesse has yelled that bizarre line five times today.
I was a bit apprehensive about sleeping in the tent with a madman, but he decided to sleep in the truck. As I settled down for the night, I heard some twigs snapping in the bushes. Suddenly I found myself in the truck. Madmen are safer than many things that go snap in the night.
“Whar did ya come from?” Jesse asked.
“I-I heard s-s-something in the b-bushes!” I spluttered.
“Wahl,” Jesse sighed, “Ah’ll check it out.”
He got his gun and stepped out of the truck. Just then, a huge buck that seemed to glow in the moonlight came charging out of the woods. Jesse swung his gun to his shoulder and fired like a madman, all the while enriching my vocabulary. The deer snorted and thundered away with a tree entangled in its antlers.
“Great Jumpin’ Jeehosephats!” Jesse hollered. “Matt! Help me git everthin’ packed up! We should’ve niver came ta Spooky Ridge!
I didn’t know we were on Spooky Ridge, but I had heard stories about the Ghostly Deer that lived there. In a frenzied panic I helped Jesse shove the whole contents of camp into the truck bed.
As we careened down the mountain, a yellowish flickering light appeared behind us. I realized that in my haste I had loaded the campfire into the truck.
“AH’VE GOT A MORON ON MAH TEAM!”
It was no easy task to extinguish a blazing tent while hurtling down a mountain in an old pickup truck.