harvey the elk…

I grew up with a father who hunted.  In fact, I am sure that some years, we only ate well because he hunted.  The fall season for my family was built around the times that he would be gone with his uncles and friends.  My mom and I (and eventually my sister too) would sit at home and wonder where exactly Daddy was, what he was doing, and if he was safe.

While I am sure the men enjoyed the time they spent on the mountain the most, I waited with great anticipation for the day they would arrive home.  The family would gather, the spoils of the hunt would be hung in the garage, and we would spend hours working together to butcher and package the meat. The smell that collected in the air was an intermingling of odors from hunters and the hunted. As we worked, each of the men would recall their moment of glory from the adventure.  We would hear about time spent around the campfire, long hikes up a ravine, and the eventual story of “the kill.”

The purpose of the hunt was always the same; to gather the food we all needed for the coming year.  The only thing that changed much was that as I got older, I was given more responsibility during the butchering, and even my own knife to help with the trimming.  However, one year, my dad had his eye on a larger prize than just feeding his family.  He had been scouting a majestic elk in the forest for several months.  While Daddy had never been a trophy hunter, this was going to be the year he got “the big one.”

As the fall arrived, the men packed up for their annual 10 day trek in the wilderness.   At home, things were as they had been every other year.  Mom and I ate poached eggs on toast for dinner, (something we only got to eat when Daddy wasn’t home) and the time passed SO slowly.  Each day I would kneel on the couch and look out the window straining to see if they were coming yet.  Each day I would watch as my warm breath made foggy shapes on the cold windows.  Each day I would wonder if they would ever return.

Finally, the moment arrived, the men pulled into the driveway, this time accompanied by the carcass  and antlers from the largest animal I had ever seen in my 6 short years of life.  This animal was so enormous and so tough that my mom would later tell us that she couldn’t even pressure cook the meat.  Eventually it all had to all be ground and used for burger, but my dad had captured the animal that he set out to find.

Most great hunting trophies meet the same fate.  The hides are tanned and they are made into some form of  wall art.  My dad’s massive elk was no exception.  This animal that was once the king of his forest soon became “Harvey” a beloved member of our family that hung on the wall of our home for many years.  When Harvey first joined us, we happened to have a place for him directly above the fireplace.  However, when we moved to another part of town, not only did Harvey follow us, but this time, the wall above the fireplace was constructed specifically for him.  There was even a reinforcing bracket on the opposite side of the wall to ensure his security in his place of honor.

Harvey looked on as many memorable occasions took place in our living room.  Parties, graduations, weddings, funerals, and each year… CHRISTMAS.  I do believe that Christmas was Harvey’s favorite event in our home.  (If it wasn’t, he never mentioned otherwise.) In fact, some years Harvey even dressed up for the occasion.  Decked out in ornaments, garland, and a red nose, he became a part of the overall effect of the seasonal ambiance.

And there he remained day in and day out.  Year after year. Clinging to his spot. Never changing while the world around him moved on at a frenzied pace.  About a year ago, my parents moved.  Harvey had to give up his place on the wall and be packed into a moving truck.  Now he sits in a corner of the garage collecting dust.  Yet, the lives around him continue to move on.  My sister, only two when Harvey first joined our family, has a two year old of her own.  My parents married 14 years that autumn, today celebrate their 36th wedding anniversary.  And I… well I, continue to seek out the adventure that might be coming down the street.  I wait with my face pressed to the glass of life, wondering what might happen next.

The writer of the Psalms had had gone through some great trials.  He was king, but he had taken the wife of another man, fathered a child with her, and then had the husband killed.  While forgiveness was an option, the writer was often filled with great remorse for what had occurred.  He worried that God would change,  and that He might not continue to work on him and through him  There are many times in Psalms where the writer cries to God for mercy and compassion.  In Psalms 138: 8 we see a statement that mixes faith and hesitation.  “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever- do not abandon the works of your hands.”

While Harvey could have lived a few more years in the forest, the life he gave provided much for many.  Many nights he was the food on our plates.  Many years he brought us great joy.  His purpose continued on beyond what could have even been expected.

I am often challenged to continuously lay down my own purposes for my life.  I want more than anything to surrender my will to the will of my maker.  I want God to do HIS work in me and not my own.  He sees the bigger picture of my life and He knows how the pieces will fit together and where my place of honor is and will be.  I know he will fulfill His purpose for me, and yet I continually pick things up for myself and go along my merry way.  How much more full could my life be if I would just let God do what He needs to do?  And so I say, “Oh Lord, do not abandon me, the works of your hands.”

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3 responses to “harvey the elk…

  1. This is really an interesting post. As I read through the lines on this article, it gives me a great interest to go through hunting activities.I learn a lot of things and agreed on the write-ups you have made.

    thanks for sharing your story.

  2. When I was 10 or so, we were eating breakfast when Dad saw a trophy Elk standing in the field across from our house. He dropped his plate and ran to the back hall to get his gun, and spent several tense minutes trying to find the ammo. He shot it, and then went out into the field with the front end loader and loaded it onto our truck so we could take it in. The butcher said he’d never seen one come in whole before.
    Our bus driver was upset because Dad got a trophy elk without being miserable, which is a prerequisite for hunting, apparently.

    I love how the story of the hunt is completely irrelevant to this story.

  3. Enjoyed this very much! Love your writing style. Thank you for sharing.

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