Early autumn at the start of deer season I am warned not to go into the woods behind my house. At seven, I understand the dangers of hunting season so I play in the yard and occasionally the pop-crack of a distant gun echoes from out of the trees. My family does not hunt. Our next door neighbors, however, do.
On Friday afternoon I play outside while my mother makes dinner. Our dog comes bounding out of our budding Christmas tree field carrying a large, long stick-like object. I know it is not a stick as it is too floppy, but from where I am I can’t tell exactly what it is. The dog zips by into the back field and I catch a bright flash of red.
I run over to the dog now lying in the grass gnawing on its treasure. I approach slowly, creeping up on the dog. He looks up at me as I near and wags his tail. I pet his head and kneel beside him looking at the object.
A pointed hoof, tan fur, a mangle of muscle, tendons and veins lay between the dog’s front paws. Our neighbor must have bagged a deer that morning and our dog had made off with a discarded leg. Just above the knee joint was a ragged chewed mess; a fly lands and crawls along the hoof. The dog began licking the bloody stump. And a plan began forming in my mind.
Show and Tell is on Monday. I giggle and reach down to pick up the leg. I pet his head and murmured softly and the dog allows me to ease the deer leg from the ground.
As I stand up the to dog bites at the leg pulling it back.
“Hey!” I shout at the dog.
He immediately releases the leg and I back up. He leaps at the leg again, tail still wagging. A game of tug of war has begun. A few minutes pass. Perhaps, my mother has noticed us from the kitchen window. Perhaps she has a sixth sense but she suddenly appears, yelling at both me and the dog. I drop the deer leg and the dog prances away for a second.
My mom takes the leg from both of us and tosses it into the woods. I am defeated momentarily. After dinner, both the dog and I make a second play for the leg. I win. I sneak the leg into the house and tuck it inside a paper bag before tiptoeing upstairs and hiding it away in the bottom of my closet. This will be the best Show and Tell ever. I gleefully hum to myself. My pride and excitement get the best of me though.
In my enthusiasm, I blurt my secret to my cousin’s girlfriend (both of whom were staying with us at the time). I swear her to secrecy but at seven years old, I have yet to learn who I can trust. She listens with a growing look of concern and abject horror. I tell her my plans for Show and Tell and how cool I will be. She nods and thanks me for sharing such a great secret.
I skip up the stairs, my curly pigtails bouncing and prepare for a bath and bed. My mother calls to me from down stairs.
“Did you get that deer leg again?”
I shake my head slowly, more in disbelief than in a lie. How could she know? Did she see me? She must have magical powers. My cousin’s girlfriend comes to stand next to my mom at the bottom of the stairs.
I sigh and nod.
I give over the bag.
“This is disgusting,” my mom says to me. “What exactly were you planning on doing with this?”
I shrug. I am defeated again and this time I know there will be no more opportunities. The greatest Show and Tell my class would have ever seen will never happen.