A recent school holiday too warm for deer movement, which meant that I had Emma until noon, when she was due to go over to her mother’s.
My daughter would have been happy as a cockroach stuck inside a Twinkie to watch videos all day. Sometimes, however, a parent’s duty is to provoke the storm to get to the sunshine on the other side. When I turned off the TV, the hysteria called to mind Britney Spears being cut off at a bar. “I don’t wanna go to the woods!” she wailed. “It’s boring!” I nodded, then gave her a choice: She could put on her clothes herself or I would put them on her. Well, her socks hurt her feet, and her shoes hurt her feet, and her pants had a seam in the wrong place that might have been drawing blood by the howls she emitted. When she ran out of clothes, she switched to general health, claiming she was sick and that her “hair hurt.” By the time I bundled her into the car, her face was splotchy with a 7-year-old’s rage.
The good thing about my daughter is that her anger often subsides as quickly as it arrives. Driving along, we were soon tallying the reddest fall maple foliage in the history of the world. A small hawk buzzed us as we exited the car to look for deer sign in a nearby park. “Whoa!” Emma breathed. “Awesome!” Thirty yards into the brush, Emma exclaimed “Daddy, poop!” over a pile of fresh droppings. Suddenly she was on board. “Let me go first,” she said, whacking a way through the prickers with her stick. Being the same size as a deer, she was soon leaving me in her leave duff as she rocketed down deer tunnels.
Before long, she had found prints, rubs, and a couple of fresh scrapes. She insisted on leading the entire time, except when she ran out of gas 200 yards from the car. I put her on my shoulders and told her she’d done great. “Does this mean I can have the M&Ms; in your office drawer?” she asked.
“How’d you know about those?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she said distractedly. “Can I?”
“You can have some of them,” I said.
We drove home singing a geography song she’s learning in school.
You may be wondering: Does taking a day in season to go scouting with your daughter in a park where weapons are prohibited count as “hunting”?
The answer is “Yes.” It also counts as something far more important.