There are times life will rattle your bones
and will bend your limbs
You’re still far and away the boy you’ve ever been
So you bend back and shake at the frame of the frame you made
But don’t you shake alone
Please Avery, come home.
-The Decemberists, “Dear Avery”
Our hunting adventures are so much more than the sum of their parts. The dogs, birds, coverts, scenery, weather, root beers, Mexican food, and camaraderie are all important, but there is so much more (sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on) that keeps us longing for the uplands each year.
Believe it or not, music plays a huge part of the enjoyment of the hunt for me. Before each annual hunting trip, Brother Shawn and I challenge each other to find the song of the hunt: You know, the one that strikes a chord in your soul during a particular hunt. Countless are the times that one or two songs just fit with the experience. For example, in 2010, it was the Avett Brother’s, “The Weight of Lies” and Gregory Alan Isakov’s, “Idaho,” (”And you see your soul, like some picture show across Idaho”). In 2011, it was Sister Hazel’s, “Just Remember.” Nickle Creek, Mumford & Sons, Carbon Leaf, and countless other bands have had their moments on the podium during our hunts.
I could go on and on with songs that just seemed like they were written for the hunt, but one really stands out. It was October of 2014 and Shawn and I were together for our annual hunt. Earlier that year, our father had passed away and we were still reeling from the loss. Before the hunt Shawn and I vowed to make this annual hunt “a celebration” of our Dad’s life. After all, Dad was the one who instilled our deep love for the outdoors (and music, for that matter).
After a good hunt for Huns and sharptails at a covert we call, “Tommy’s Covey,” Shawn and I decided to make the loop over to a place we call “Grouse Rock” in hopes of finding a grouse, or two. Along the way, Shawn played a band that I had heard of, but never listened to before, The Decemberists, and the album was “The King is Dead.” I instantly related to their music and really enjoyed their alternative country vibe, which reminded me of REM. The music seemed to compliment perfectly the brilliant fall foliage, as October was showing off.
When we got to the last song of the album, “Dear Avery,” Shawn said to me with a solemn look on his face:
I really love this song for a lot of reasons. First, we have a niece named Avery. Second, in Plateaus of Destiny, Mike Gould wrote about an awesome Elhew Pointer, named, Avery, who was my Geppedo’s dad. Gep was the best hunting dog I ever had.
Also, I had a client who used to bring her dog in to see me. She always brought her four or five year old daughter, Avery, when they came. The little gal was always so happy to be there and I always enjoyed seeing her.
After a while, my client brought Avery to my clinic and she was pale and bald. I asked her what was going on and she told me that Avery had cancer. It was so hard to see this beautiful, innocent child suffering from such a terrible disease, but Avery was still always so happy and positive whenever she came in.
One day, my client showed up and Avery was not with her.
I asked her, “Where is Avery?”
She replied, “She passed away, Shawn. I’m so sorry. I should have told you before.” This news was such a jolt to me that I started bawling right in the examination room and my client had to comfort me. . . . I love this song because it reminds me of little Avery.
Shawn ended the story with tears streaming down his face. I could not help but weep as I listened and observed his sincerity.
There are very few times in life when you get a glimpse into a person’s soul. This was one of those times, for me. For a moment, I saw clearly the depths of Shawn’s heart and it was pure and good. I loved my brother more than ever. All of this took place as the quakies were bursting with golden, yellow light all around us.
If I recall correctly, we did not find any grouse at Grouse Rock, but that did not detract one bit from the grandeur of this particular hunt. In fact, this experience was the most meaningful of the trip for me.
Looking back, I can honestly say that the week was truly a celebration in God’s wondrous creations. I cannot hear the song “Dear Avery” without remembering this hunt with my brother.