11/05/2007




Sunday at the cabin.

The trees are even more beautiful than they were on Tuesday. The reds have aged into shimmering, rich shades of wine red. Gone are the juicy sangrias, replaced by deeper Merlots and Cabernets.

Margie and The Barber wave as I drive up the lane toward the house. They are riding their horses across the field next door and when they see me, they head over to catch up on the water situation and tell me all the latest "holler" doins.

It's hunting season. Muzzle-loading and bow-hunting, to be precise.

"Patrick bought me a bright orange visor to wear when I ride," Margie says, grinning. "He's worried I'll get shot. I used to walk up in the woods every morning, but not now." She looks over her shoulder, up toward the ridge that rims my property. "I worry about it too. It can get a little crazy."

Mertis has come along with me and worries she'll get shot if she tries to hike anywhere.

"Not today," the Barber offers. "They don't hunt on Sunday. Sundays are just for adjusting your sites and target shooting."

Other than our voices and the contented chewing sounds of the horses munching on my rejuvenated front yard, the only sound I hear is the wind whipping through the trees and the rustling of leaves scuttling across the gravel drive.

But my Spidey Senses are tingling and I trust my instincts- especially when they warn me that all is not right.

It is not yet 1 p.m. In the South, especially the rural South, on Sundays, no one makes too much noise before church hours are over. My buddy, Joe, pops by to introduce his new lady friend. Mertis and I nose around the cabin and the shed. And I find a thousand lady bugs who have somehow managed to slip their way through the cracks and chinks in the old cabin.

They are everywhere. But as they are supposed to bring good luck, I just sweep as many as I can into a dustpan and shoo them outdoors.

A little before 1, Mertis decides to ride the five miles into town to get hot dogs from the Dairy Queen. She is gone 40 minutes and in that time, all hell breaks loose.

I've been puttering about, feeling vaguely uneasy. I chalk it up to guilt because I took off to Virginia while my boys are at home. I should be there with them-in case they...what, need me?! They're 16 and 19- they pray for me to leave them alone at home!

So I make a pot of Earl Grey tea and settle into a big armchair to read. That's when it starts. A muffled shot echoes through the holler breaking the still Sunday silence.

I open the back door and stare up at the hill behind the house searching for the source of the sound, but all I see are trees.



A moment later it sounds like a battle has erupted outside. Loud, continuous explosions make thinking impossible. I try and distinguish the types of guns- wondering- are there more than one? Are they the infamous "muzzle-loading" rifles I've been reading about? And how would I know? I don't shoot- well, hardly ever and then only handguns.

Mertis is gone so long I begin to envision her waylaid by a band of marauding reenacters armed with muzzle-loading shotguns.

When she finally pulls up, waving a brown paper sack full of hot dogs, she tells me the problem wasn't rabid hunters at all.

It was Mennonites, Mertis claims. They've swarmed the Dairy Queen.

She says they seemed so taken aback by the plethora of menu choices, they couldn't make up their minds, thus halting the progress of the line of hungry customers.

I look at her, trying to decide whether she's telling the truth or has decided she needs to shelter me from the Awful Truth. Maybe she doesn't want to say what really happened. Maybe she doesn't want to spoil my idyllic vision of my mountain retreat.

Then she hears the gunfire. She nods wisely. "I saw them," she says, suddenly becoming her workday, Law Dawg persona. "There's two of them out there. Next door. They've got a target set up and they're shooting at it." Her lips form a thin, tight line of disapproval. "They're young. I bet they're his sons."

She strides to the back door, opens it and stares out across the backyard toward the neighbors'- Making sure the perps are still out there, the same two guys, still shooting. When she's made a positive I.D, she closes the back door, satisfied.

"Hot dog?" she asks, offering the wrinkled bag again.

I take one to be polite but I'm not hungry.

There are a thousand lady bugs crawling all over the cabin. The Mennonites have seized the only restaurant in town that's open on Sunday. And hunters are approaching on all sides, muzzles loaded.

Can aliens be far behind?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd prefer aliens to hunters.

random blogger said...

I'm in, I want to come visit. I'll bring a sleeping bag and a tent, all I ask is that I can make a camp fire in the yard to stay warm by, and you loan me a copy of one of your books to read.