Robert Hitt Neill column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Inner peace found in tree inspires poem

“Last fall I made my way to one of my favorite stands in a light rain. I settled in and waited for first light. Right at daybreak the rain stopped and when the cloud cover moved out I was treated to one of those truly exhilarating mornings. As I surveyed the forest I found myself thinking about the different human and animal life that once either inhabited or passed through this area.  I thought that if these old trees could talk, the stories they might tell!

“Then these verses started pouring forth. Not having pen and paper, the only chance to remember this was to recite it to myself over and over and over until it was committed to memory, then rush to my truck and write it down. About half way through this process I sensed I had company: looking down, I saw the back half of a deer sticking out from under my stand. Because of the rain, the normally noisy forest floor was quiet as could be, and this deer had come in undetected. As I leaned over further it was clear that the mystery deer was a six-point buck. What a dilemma: if I shoot the deer, I then have to clean and drag it to my truck, and in all likelihood my poem would be lost forever.  As the buck sniffed the tree I was in, I made the decision to just enjoy his company and to preserve my poem. Not the least bit alarmed, the little buck walked out from under my stand and paused to look up. I just smiled and wished him well, and I could swear I saw him smile back. He strolled off without a sound and pretty soon it was just the forest, me, and my poem again. It doesn’t really get much better than that.

“I remember a poem called ‘The Deer Stand’ from your classic cookbook, Outdoor Tables and Tales. Poet Bob Anderson’s last line fits my experience: ‘Success is in the being there, not what’s brought to hand.’

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“Please be advised that no deer was hurt in the telling of this story. The buck smiling back at me may be a bit of a stretch, but that was his expression.”

The Tree, by Terry Fritz, a hunter from Missouri:

“Years ago while hunting, a giant oak I did spy.

I stood in awe and wonder as it spread across the sky.

I thought if this old tree could talk, the stories it might tell:

Of life here in the forest, and all therein that dwell.

If this old tree could talk, would it speak of calm and storm;

Of standing tall in evening shadows, or greeting each new morn?

Well, it was high in that old tree, where I chose to hang a stand,

From which to hunt the whitetail deer, that travel across our land.

And from this lofty perch, with an arrow and a bow,

Many times I have been blessed, to take a buck or doe.

Yet it’s not the hunt so much these days, that draws me to this Tree;

No, it’s more the peace, the solitude, the feeling of being free.

And at the close of day, when my feet are back on the ground,

My load’s a little lighter, an inner peace is what I’ve found.

You see, this old tree and I; it’s more like friends we’ve become,

As we’ve watched the seasons pass, like we might with an old chum.

And as I turn to leave, I’ll often pause and tip my hat;

Saying ‘Thank you, my old friend, it won’t be long till I’ll be back.’”