Dear returning reader,
In Wednesday’s letter, I wrote about our recent caribou hunting trip. I described the small details — the sights and sounds of the river.
When my husband Sam got home that evening, he read the letter. “It’s nice,” he said. “I like it.” But then he chuckled, and said he told his coworkers a different version of events. Same hunting trip, same characters, setting and plot, but Sam’s telling was a comedy of errors.
It began the day before we left. As Sam drove to town to get supplies, he heard an ominous sound from his truck. The brakes were going out. He called me at the bookstore, said he wasn’t sure how this was going to work out, but he would try to replace the brakes that afternoon. There was no way we could make the 150-mile drive, pulling the boat, if he didn’t fix the problem.
Which, much to my admiration, he did in about an hour, with the only help coming from our two daughters. First hurdle cleared.
At home, we hurriedly gathered all of our gear and food, working late into the night. We rose the next morning at 5 a.m., bundled up the girls and hooked up the boat trailer.
There, in the pitch dark of our driveway, we realized that the trailer lights weren’t working. No brake lights. No taillights. Sam followed the wires and came to a connection where, when he tugged ever so gently, the entire line fell apart. After much searching, he found his tools in the shed and began rewiring. It was cold and dark. I held the flashlight for Sam while the girls waited, half-asleep, in the house. After a half hour or so, he had all the wires mended. We turned on the truck, tested the lights — now we had no trailer lights, AND no truck lights.
“We blew a fuse,” Sam said. Fuses, and any other store-bought items, are 30 miles the opposite direction of caribou. But by now it was nearly light (not part of the plan.) Sam said we would head north, and if someone came up behind us, we would turn on our turn signal (which we miraculously still had) and pull safely off the road. Next hurdle cleared, kind of.
Until we arrived at the boat launch, more than 150 miles from home and in the middle of nowhere, and our 12-year-old daughter hopped out of the truck in her flimsy Converse shoes.
“Where are your boots?” I asked.
“What?” she said with an expression only a middle school girl can give you. “You didn’t bring them for me?” It was 37 degrees. There could be rain, snow, sleet, and at the very least freezing river water. So I gave her my new insulated rubber boots, which are about three sizes too big for her, and I took Sam’s rubber boots, which are about 6 sizes two big for me, and Sam wore his leaky hip waders. The only one of us in appropriate foot gear was our 4-year-old, who as sweet as she is isn’t much help in launching or landing the boat. But another hurdle was cleared, albeit with cold, clumsy feet.
We got in the boat and turned up river. When we stopped to scout for caribou, we saw dozens of big, beautiful grayling swimming in the clear water below us.
“I want to catch a fish!” our youngest announced excitedly. She has her very own pink fishing rod, which she is very handy at casting and reeling. She loves fishing. It was part of the goal of this trip — we could caribou hunt, and Rori could catch some fish. Except, in the flurry of the morning, we forgot all the fishing gear. Even Rori’s hot pink fishing rod. Rori scowled and stared over the boat’s edge, watching 50 fish swim by.
For the next hours, all was how I described in my last letter — burbling river water, eagle feathers and bear tracks, all beautiful and amazing. Evening approached, and we started a campfire. We hadn’t seen a single caribou, despite all the tracks, but we knew they could come along any time. We got out our dinner — hot dogs, buns. “Where’s the ketchup?” Grace asked.
Sam looked at me. I looked back. “Mustard?” he asked, kind of sadly. Apparently fishing rods and hunting boots weren’t all that were forgotten — we had also left the condiments at home.
But at dusk, not long after we finished our meal, Sam whispered loudly “Caribou!” and we proceeded to shoot one, field dress it, and bring it back to camp just before we lost all light. We left the meat on the sand bar, just the other side of the river from camp, and during the night the monstrously huge bear that had left his tracks along the river did not come visit us or the meat. We stayed warm enough in the tent, and Sam dried his wool socks and hip waders beside the campfire. In the middle of the night, we heard coyotes yipping and the northern lights were out in all their majesty.
In the end, all things forgotten were, well, forgotten.