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It’s Enough to Know it’s There

At four this morning I drive my younger son to where he’d scouted turkeys the week before. It is opening day of spring turkey season. The road is spongy; fog obscures the potholes, and I drive slowly. There are vestiges of the prior day’s snowfall visible at the fringe of the headlights’ range.  We climb a knoll, then the road flattens, and suddenly there is a man running in the dark, plodding through the mud and melting snow along the roadside, his shoulders leaning into the effort. I love being out at this time of day, it’s a window into a secret world, things are happening that I never knew happened, and I like the sense of possibility that comes with that awareness. I slow as we pass the man and try to see his face, but though he wears a headlamp, the fog is thick, and the darkness is near-complete, and I don’t want him to notice me staring. But I want badly to know what he looks like, what it looks like to be somebody who rises so early (or stays up so late? Even more intriguing!) to run a muddy back road in northern Vermont.

I’m not much of a turkey hunter (not much of a hunter of anything, honestly, though I generally do ok during black fly season), so I drop my son and head home, hoping to catch another hour of sleep. I look for the running man, but he’s not to be found. Still, I imagine him carrying on, one labored step after another, shoes and socks wetted through, shins aching cold with mud and melted snow. It’s not light yet, but it’s a different shade a dark, a shade in the direction of light. I think I’ll be able to sleep when I get home. I think about my son, sitting at the base of the tree he’d picked out, the day slowly coming alive around him. I don’t know what kind of tree it is; I wasn’t there when he decided, and I didn’t ask, and because I cannot picture the tree, I can no longer picture my son sitting beneath it, it’s like that one missing detail throws everything off.

Reluctantly, I let it go. The tree will be what the tree will be. It’s enough to know it’s there.

12 thoughts on “It’s Enough to Know it’s There”

  1. We tried turkey scouting when we were at the ranch. Turkeys are wicked hard to get. So wary. So able to deceive the measly abilities of the human. And then they’re a relatively small target with a bunch of feather insulation. I imagine the first hunter gatherer. Woman, “What? Nothing again?” Man: “See if you can do any better!” Woman: “Fine! I’m going out to the berry patch (muttering under her breath) dang raggle frantzen so and so!” The beginnings of cursing and vegetarianism.

  2. It’s interesting to think about letting kids go, little by little, especially for an age older than my kids. Thanks for the glimpse. Makes me simultaneously look forward to the responsibility of that age kid, and hope it never comes. But come it will, and I hope I’m ready. Although I won’t get a choice to be ready or not.

  3. We have exponentially more turkeys than we do turkey hunters, so most of them probably die of old age or, if they are unlucky, they get caught by a bobcat, coyote, or fox. A week or so ago I saw a flock of around 50 turkeys at Boys Town seemly oblivious to the cars whizzing by on Pacific Street. Probably no predators there, unless you count cars.

    1. I did end with a nice roadkill turkey a couple years back… I think I wrote about it here.
      Funny, too, I’m working on an essay for Car & Driver about roadkill…

      1. My soon to be 16 year old son had me up and out at 6:30 this morning to do some more country road driving. We were cruising along when we rounded a corner and came upon a group of turkey vultures breakfasting on a freshly road killed opossum. They were more interested in the opossum than they were in the 2003 Honda Pilot that was rapidly closing on them and lazily flew just high enough to clear the Pilot before dropping back down to finish their feast.

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