Who says that you can't take it with you?
In life and in death, a hunter's trophy tags along.
David P. Olson
Among deer hunters it is said that each is entitled to one really good buck in a lifetime. Dad's buck came late in life, when he was 65.
After retirement, Dad and my stepmother, Charlotte, often hunted together. They would get up early, bundle up with warm clothes and carry their lunch and thermos of hot coffee into the woods and sit quietly back–to–back and watch for deer for hours at a time. Dad always wore a red wool tie because he believed it was good luck to get dressed up for the deer.
One day, Charlotte and Dad were sitting on their favorite spot off the end of Walls' field when Dad got a shot at a running deer. Charlotte was surprised and said, "That shot was awfully close."
Dad said, "It was me and I got a deer!"
When they got to the deer, they found a magnificent 10–point buck with especially tall tines. Shortly after, a group of tired, red–faced hunters showed up. They had been chas–ing that buck all morning and were angry that Dad had bagged it. The huge buck was much too heavy for Dad and Charlotte to drag, but Dad didn't dare ask for their help lest they steal his deer. When they finally left, Dad had Charlotte sit right on the deer and hold his rifle in case they came back.
Dad got his old hunting car and drove it right through the woods, knocking down clumps of brush and small trees until he got to the deer. The buck was too heavy for them to lift, so they scavenged around for pieces of rotten logs and clumps of sod and stuffed them under one end of the deer first, and then the other. They gradually built a mound under the deer until it was high enough to push the deer into the trunk. It didn't push easily, so Dad crawled into the truck and pulled while Charlotte pushed. The buck rolled in right on top of Dad, trapping him!
After considerable swearing and yelling, and more pushing and pulling, Dad managed to extract himself from below the buck. Triumphantly, the two 65–year–old hunters drove off.
Dad showed the deer off to friends, relatives,sportsmen at the local bars, bowling alleys and the deer check station. Later, Dad mounted the antlers on a wooden plaque and hung them in a prominent spot in the living room. He showed the antlers to anyone and everyone who came by and regaled everyone with the story of his big buck. Naturally, the story was somewhat embellished — but who would question the veracity of a senior citizen?
As he grew older, Dad's memory began to slip, but he remembered the story of his big buck. The trouble is, though, he didn't remember that he had told the story just 15 minutes before. And his love of brandy didn't do anything but make the situation worse.
One day Dad and his brother, Lloyd, were playing golf and Dad was celebrating the completion of each hole with a drink of brandy. Between the brandy and the repeated accounts of his big buck, Dad was also "minimizing" the number of strokes he had taken. Lloyd was frustrated. Halfway through the sixth repetition of the big buck story, Lloyd had had enough and said, "That damn buck! I'm sick and tired of hearing about it. When you die I'm going to bury those antlers with you!"
Dad stopped, smiled and said, "You know, I'd like that."When Dad finally passed away at 79, Lloyd was first on the scene to console Charlotte, help with funeral arrangements and share her grief. Lloyd noticed the antlers on the wall and told Charlotte about that day on the golf course. She got Dad's red wool tie and said, "This belongs with the antlers."
Together, they took the antlers and tie to the undertaker. The undertaker, a deer hunter himself, admired the beautiful antlers and said, "Let's see if they fit."
They did, and Dad's body was buried with his tie and the buck's antlers at his feet. This was to be a special family secret, but a story like that in a small northern Wisconsin town full of deer hunters had to get out. The undertaker told the minister and he made the story part of the funeral service.
You can't take it with you. Or can you?
David P. Olson lives in Durham. N.H. but was born in Grantsburg, Wis. and spent much of his youth in Burnett County. This story recaps a true deer hunting tale about Olson's dad and stepmother who retired to Wisconsin and lived at Yellow Lake in Burnett County from 1958 to 1978. The hunt he relives here took place around 1968.