The three of us got on the road early and arrived in Texas the next day. We were told by the ranch owner before we left home that the easiest place to get the requisite hunting licenses for our group was at Wal-Mart of course. He directed us to the closest one to the ranch, also the only one for hours in any direction. We got to the Wal-Mart in the afternoon, tired and road weary, only to find that the license machine in the sporting goods section was broken and that we could not get our licenses there. We were at a loss for words. Where could we get them?! None of the Wal-Mart employees knew, or probably cared. It seemed to be a dead end for us. Luckily, a customer heard our woes and piped up. “I think you can get them at the local state park, they have a ranger station there and sell hunting licenses sometimes.” We perked up and asked for more details. I was able to Google the station and found that it was only a few miles from where we stood. We rushed to the truck and sped off to the station. We arrived at the park and found a British expat working the counter of the station. She sold us the licenses and sent us off with a “Cheerio!”
With all of the necessary stuff we had to do done, we were able to get to the ranch, go through “Orientation”, and get set up in the tiny cabin/bunkhouse by mid afternoon. The guide for our hunt explained that each hunter would set up in a tree stand blind overlooking a feeder that would dump bait at certain times during the day. All of the shooting ranges were less than 75 yards, and were clear of brush. All a person had to do was sit and wait for a pig to come along at supper time. Too easy!
I should mention that at this point in our trip, we were salivating with blood lust for hogs. We had bets going for who would shoot the most pigs, the biggest pig, etc. The guide gave us a map, walkie-talkies, spotlights for night time, answered all of our questions, showed us the stands and where the most activity was, and the most recent kills were, and then said to call him when we shoot a hog. He then asked us if we were ready to go hunting. We didn’t need any prompting. We were ready.
And then it began to rain.
We didn’t mind the rain at first; we soldiered through it. But then it wouldn’t quit raining. It rained a steady drizzle everyday we were in Texas. We would walk to our blinds, set up, and wait for all the hogs to come running out of the forest for us to shoot. The only problem was they didn’t come in droves. They didn’t come in pairs. They never came. So now we were wet and hog-less. The peculiar thing was the feeders that went off at certain times during the day did their jobs fantastically. When they would dump their bait, all sorts of critters would come scampering out of the forest to have some lunch. We saw tons of different game birds, squirrels, coyotes, tiny Texas deer, I even saw a bobcat one day. No pigs.
At the end of the hunting day, we would trudge back to the bunkhouse, sopping wet, covered in red mud, cold, frustrated, and hungry. We would strip out of our wet clothes, put some logs in the fireplace, and pull out classic deer camp fare: MREs, Vienna Sausages, PopTarts, and soda pop. We would huddle around the tiny television in the cabin that was (surprisingly) hooked up to cable, and watch a weekend marathon of this television show on Comedy Central called “Impractical Jokers”. The little cabin rocked with our laughter for hours into the night. Then we would all pass out from exhaustion,(or starchy, sugary, carbohydrates, I’m not sure which) wake up early in the morning, and go out and do it all over again the next day.
When the day came to leave, we quietly packed up our gear, tipped our guide, and left for home. We hadn’t seen a single pig, but that was okay. As I reflected on the trip during the long drive home I found myself wanting it to not end. I knew that after today it was over and we’d all slip back into our normal lives again. Our family was very close, but once all of us kids moved out, got jobs, and married, it got harder and harder to stay in touch, and coordinate schedules where we all could be together. So to be able to spend a weekend with my dad and my brother where we stunk, slept, ate, shared in frustrations, and laughed together was way better than finding “adventure”.
We found family.
And Larry…I found Larry.