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Bottom Stand

Bottom Stand

It was one of those moments that are etched into our memory like a fine checkering on a treasured double’s walnut stock. Intricate, detailed, mesmerizing and invaluable.

It was early season; the leaves were just beginning to turn from their summer green into shades of yellow, orange and red. A soft chill filled the air, our jackets proving to be barely enough to fight off the coolness.

Clouds of vapor bellowed from our mouths, even as we made our way down a long quartz covered roadbed to what has become known as our “bottom stand”.  Our stand is located along the edge of an unnamed creek surrounded on two sides by hardwood ridges and a plantation of planted pines on the other.

This part of the piedmont is covered with white quartz, at least that’s what we call it. It appears in great numbers where the sand-land of the lowcountry meet the red clay of the midlands inSouth Carolina. Along this ridge just off of the Wataree river is a piece of property that has been in my wife’s family for more generations than anyone can remember. Long ago logging activity carved this road through the heart of this ridge leaving a scar on the landscape that we now use as a passageway into our future.

This was his first hunt on this treasured land, his brother before him had made this same walk several years prior. Now he makes his pilgrimage to the “bottom stand”.  I’m not sure he understood the significance of this event. He was much too young to shoot, just a few months into his sixth year, and while some introduce their sons and daughters into harvesting game animals at this age and younger. I choose to wait until he has a better understanding of the responsibility of being a hunter, not just a shooter. Still he longed to be a part of the experience. So on this day, I endeavored to take them both. This stand is where I took my first deer off of this property, and where his brother took his first buck. Soon in a few years it would be his turn and this stand would be here to welcome him.

It was still dark as our headlamps caused the white rock to glow an eerie shade of yellow-white. I whispered to the boys, “walk slow, these rocks are noisy; we don’t want to spook anything on our way in.” Our pace slowed briefly, but the excitement quickly took over again as I found myself gasping for breath from the speed of the pace.

We had been walking single file down the road, me leading the way, followed by Ridge the youngest and Alex the older of the two boys; when suddenly it happened. Without warning, an unmistakable instant when all Dads know this is a moment to remember. As we walked down that road in the glow of our headlamps – Ridge reached up and took my hand into his and we walked down that road together. Hand in hand, father and son to his first deer stand. Alex followed in the rear, unaware of what happened. Ridge, I am sure not understanding the significance and me wanting the walk to be just a tad longer. I knew all too well that in a few years, this son will grow just as I had, and his brother had, and holding your dad’s hand in the dark is something we no longer do. But for this moment, for this brief interlude on this day, my mind will always know and remember this walk in the dark with my boys.

Until, that is, the day in the not to distant future, when we again make our way down this very road, a grown son and his aging Dad, going one last time to the “bottom stand”. Uncertain of my footing in the predawn darkness I am convinced, if I can, I will reach out a shaking and twisted hand – and take his and I will remember thirty years before when the roles were reversed and I led him to his first hunt, as he leads me to my last.

I hope I am around to see it, I hope I am around to see when the day will come when he walks in the predawn darkness, headlamp on, the glow of the quartz rocks, the shuffling of uncertain feet, and small fingers find their way into his waiting palm as they usher in a new generation of hunters into the “bottom stand”.