Kevin’s word is always to be relied on. This is all well and good when, as a trader, he gives his word to his customer that he will give them the best possible fill. Also when, as a husband, he gives his word to have and to hold and, if not to obey, certainly to honor. It’s only when, as a hunter, he gives his word that he won’t shave his beard until he shoots a deer, that this whole integrity thing becomes something of a problem.
I wish I’d lost count, because then I wouldn’t have to report that this is our fourth season hunting deer with nothing, thus far, to show for it, and I believe a number of factors have conspired to create this perfect storm of deerlessness. One is overextension. We’ve spent so much time figuring out how to fish, and farm oysters, and raise livestock that we haven’t had enough time to give hunting the focus it requires. Another is location. There are about twenty thousand hunters on Cape Cod, all pursuing the same seven deer. A third is our utter lack of experience. While Kevin has hunted birds, and is good with guns, we’re both new at this.
The last two years, we’ve wandered farther afield to find places where there are more deer and better odds. Last year, that was a 35-acre piece of the Maine woods that our friends Ron and Susan own, but it was a last-minute decision that didn’t allow for much planning. This year, we got a chance to scout those woods, to get some idea of how the deer move around, and to capture, on film, a fine-looking six-point buck. When we looked closely, he appeared to have our name on him.
It was a relief to know that there was, at the very least, the theoretical possibility of Kevin’s shooting a deer, because the beard is beginning to get old. And, as beards get old, they get long. Kevin spent about a month in his Serpico phase before moving on to his Ulysses S. Grant period. Now he’s well on his way to Duck Dynasty.
This, however, does not make me happy happy happy. While Kevin’s facial hair is his own business, my distaste for kissing a caterpillar that’s walked through last night’s dinner is mine. And so this matter of deer hunting has taken on a new urgency.
Our six-point buck, though, is not cooperating; he seems to have taken off for a more congenial patch of woods. We’ve been in Maine since Monday, when the firearms season opened, and the buck has not been spotted – not by me, not by the camera, and not by Ulysses S. Grant. Today is our last Maine chance. Although Kevin did find fresh scratchings and steaming poop this morning, we are not sanguine.
There are other states, with other deer. We will certainly try Massachusetts, where we are already licensed. Kevin may go to Vermont, to hunt with his friend Dave. And, if all else fails, we have a most kind invitation from a friend who owns a farm in Loudoun County, Virginia, which is so overrun with deer that they make a deal with hunters: we’ll let you shoot a second buck if you shoot two does first.
But it’ll be a while before we get to Virginia, and that beard won’t be getting any smaller. Kevin is almost as tired of it as I am, and I harbor a suspicion that he feels the occasional twinge of regret for the moment of man-the-hunter machismo that spurred him to make this promise to himself. He’s started to talk about how nice it’ll be when his hair is finally long enough to pull back into a ponytail again, and he can buzz the beard down to stubble – but I think he has an agenda, talking that kind of talk.
You see, we have a deal, Kevin and I do. We each have three lifetime marital vetoes. We can each, three times over the course of our life together, put a foot down and say no. I have exercised one, and Kevin does not own a motorcycle. Kevin has exercised none. He will tell you that this is because he is an easy-going, live-and-let-live kind of guy. The truth, however, is that I never want to do anything that has to be vetoed.
Kevin, though, wants to do all kinds of things, and so he makes periodic efforts to goad me into using up my other two vetoes so he can then go climb Mount Aconcagua (which might sound like a harmless enough plan, until you learn how he comported himself on Kilimanjaro). For a while, he threatened to get his pilot’s license (another harmless-sounding plan, until you learn that his nickname is Crash). Then he thought he might take up professional lobstering (again with the Crash). And now he’s growing a beard that no reasonable woman should be expected to tolerate.
I won’t break, on the give-a-mouse-a-cookie principle. If I do, next he’ll be telling me he won’t shower until we catch a tuna, and before I know it he’s booking his flight to Argentina. I will deal with the caterpillar for as long as is required.
But I really hope he shoots that deer.