holidays

Last Year’s Deer

A popular night of killing animals is cut short by an unsightly blemish.

It was cold that afternoon when Grandpa and I made our way past Townline Creek over that narrow homemade bridge he built. It was still his land way out back there. I don’t know how far it was from the house, but it seemed like miles. Of course, I was a kid so everything seemed like miles.

The little shack was only about six feet wide at the biggest. Room for a chair, a stove, and a twin-size bed. Grandpa had some old yellow newspaper comics in there, but I got tired of reading those pretty fast.

I watched him build a fire and waited as the shack got warm. Grandpa took off his coat and loaded his rifle.

He opened up the latch on the window facing across the creek where a pile of apples lie rotting.

You never knew what as gonna be there. Could be deer, black bear, grouse. I had my small compound bow along with me, but there wasn’t any sense in it. I only had practice arrows. If I wanted to shoot anything I was gonna have to use Grandpa’s thirty-ought six.

It was the first day of rifle season so he wanted a buck.

Where I come from people take hunting season seriously. It’s like a national holiday or something. Most people wouldn’t want a kid along either unless they already got their buck for the year.

Grandpa was in his eighties. Maybe he figured he shot enough deer.

LastYearsDeer

We waited as the sky got dark.

I had a weird mole on my neck that I started picking at. It was ugly. Every time I looked in the mirror I had to see it and it was driving me nuts.

I scraped my fingernail hard across it, felt a gush of something warm in my hand.

Putting my fingers up to the light by the stove, I could see the darkness running down past my wrist into the cuff of my jacket.

My shirt underneath was getting wet.

“Grandpa, I think I’m bleeding.”

He set the gun in the corner and picked up a flashlight.

Nodding gravely, he began packing up our things.

I could feel my jacket getting wetter and wetter with blood. I started to panic. Maybe I clawed down to an artery or something and I was gonna die right there in the woods. My throat made some kind of sound. Like a deer gurgling and choking on its own death.

“Go on, run ahead to the house,” said Grandpa, moving slowly.

I ran, hard.

Back over the bridge, through the wet grass of the field. The coyotes were starting to yip. I could hear a pack of ’em far off to my right and I ran faster. I imagined them smelling my blood and signaling one another to come and get me. One coyote wasn’t anything, but a whole pack of ’em could take me down easy.

I knew there were wolves out there too, bob cats, cougars, and I was sitting there bleeding away like a dumbass.

I cursed my stupidity, looking behind every now and again to see if Grandpa had caught up with me.

He hadn’t.

I finally caught sight of the smoke from Grandma’s chimney. The scent of frying meat hit my nostrils and I ran faster, breath coming in bursts of white steam in the cold night air.

I just about tore the door off its hinges.

Grandma jumped, her eyes wide at my bloody coat, face, hands.

“Are you shot?” she croaked.

I shook my head and peeled the sticky layers off me, feeling the hard crusted scab that had started to form on my neck.

“I think it was a blood mole,” I sniffed, snorting up a stream of snot that was running down my upper lip. “I picked at it too much.”

She nodded and handed me a plate of venison. Last year’s deer.

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An American in Japan Part V | Walking Nagahama

Even tourists with poor cardiovascular endurance can walk a small distance to see sights in this port city.

Nestled on the northeast corner of Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan, is beautiful Nagahama. A 70-minute ride on the Biwako line express train from Kyoto, Nagahama is a mellow respite from the busy city. Best of all, tourists can enjoy some nearby sights on foot. After traveling twelve hours to Tokyo and then another few hours, it feels rejuvenating to stretch my legs and walk.

As far as setting up accommodations, Nagahama Royal Hotel is a centrally located hotel right on Lake Biwa. It features rentable karaoke rooms, several restaurants and a public onsen or hot spring bath. In fact, it even has its own indoor smoking room and vending machines featuring snacks and alcohol, so there is no urgent reason to leave the compound.

However, next time, I will personally try to find a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) with a private onsen because of tattoos.

Read more about how having tattoos is a real nuisance in Japan. 

When I become bored with swimming, singing, eating, and drinking, I decide it’s time to venture out and see the nearby city. Walking straight across the street from the hotel lobby, I see the sparkling waters of Lake Biwa to my left. All along the lake is a paved walking path with benches that provide a view of the waters and surrounding mountains. For moments I do nothing but stare at this beautiful scene.

Then, taking a right, I find a foot path through some hedges into what looks like a sports field. I skirt around the edges of the field and eventually find myself at a fountain where there is a statute of some kids walking in a straight line together. This is Ho Park.

Further on, I see Kunimori Shrine and Torii Gate. This Shinto shrine features a series of small doll-sized buildings with items inside. It is hard to see, but one of the items seems to be a Tanuki or monster Japanese raccoon dog.

The Tanuki are technically members of the Yokai in Japanese folklore which I understand to be malevolent tricksters. The Tanuki, as the Bake-danuki have adopted a more “harmless, jovial lifestyle focused on bestowing humans with good fortune and prosperity.”

Taking a moment of silence in the shrine, I attempt to soak up some of that jovial fortune and prosperity for my own life.

Looming up ahead is the pointed roof of Nagahama Castle and Museum. This version of Nagahama Castle that exists today is a recreation of the original 1575 castle built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi who is standing nearby in statue form.

There is a also a random cage of monkeys adjacent to a playground between Nagahama Castle and some tennis courts, northeast of the Ho Park fountain. This unexpected find confuses me greatly.

I scan the cage for obvious signs of distress or cruelty. The primates have a pouring water source, continually refreshed. Peering into their pink faces, I wordlessly inquire as to their wellbeing. It is difficult to connect through the wire of the rusted cage. One of them reclines atop a small dwelling inside of their limited habitat. No karaoke room. No restaurants. No smoking.

Seemingly acclimated for cold with what looks like thick fur, I can’t imagine they are enjoying the balminess of 97 degrees Fahrenheit and the one-hundred percent humidity of Japan in August.

Monkeys

Feeling a bit depressed for the monkeys, but also stimulated at seeing this novel sight, I move on toward the playground, the high point of which is a slide that looks like a loading conveyor belt at a grocery store. I can imagine sending boxes of produce down this rolling incline. Instead, I send myself.

Rather than the normal slippery surface, there are a series of rollers. I stand up and go down the slide on my feet. It feels a little like snowboarding. With a quick internet search, I discover it’s called a rollerslide. This is my first experience with one of these pieces of playground equipment and I wonder why they are not more popular. They should be everywhere.

Making my way out to the street again, I come upon a 7-11 store. This is not just any American 7-11 store filled with MSG-laden potato chips and Mountain Dew. This store is like a gourmet eatery. There are bento boxes of sushi, dried fish in whole form, expensive bottles of Japanese whisky, and so many other delights. I could spend tens of thousands of yen here and not even scratch the surface of my gluttonous appetites.

Then I assess the heat and the long walk back to the hotel.

Three items. I can carry three items.

I make my choice quickly, opting for a cold bottled water, a box of sushi that I hope doesn’t get too warm before I arrive at my destination, and some Hi-Chew candy. I know there are vending machines with more items at “home,” and it seems like a nice afternoon for a swim. 

 

 

 

Sweetheart Mixtape

If you’ve got a sweetheart, one of the most thoughtful things you can do is to make her (or him) a mixtape. I know, nobody does “tapes” anymore, but mixCD, or digital song mix, just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

In order to spread the Valentines Day love, I’d like to share with you the mixtape that I made for my sweetheart this year. So if you love slide guitar and a Western skyline, wild horses and whiskey, or a kiss by a campfire, then this is sure to put you both in the mood to ride off into the sunset.

I’ll even throw in a free song to get you started. Enjoy!

  1. The Black Lillies – Dancin’
  2. Chris Stapleton – When the Stars Come Out
  3. Lord Huron – Ends of the Earth
  4. Hozier – Like People Do
  5. Kacey Musgraves – I Miss You
  6. Delavan – Love Shine (Free Download)
  7. Jason Isbell – Stockholm
  8. Sturgill Simpson – The Promise
  9. Alabama Shakes – I Found You
  10. Ashley Monroe – Has Anybody Ever Told You
  11. Erik Koskinen – First Time in Years
  12. Patty Griffin – Heavenly Day

 

SweetheartMix