Thursday, November 16, 2017


There's an old saying that lightning never strikes twice. But I am here to tell you that it does, at least in the form of misfortune--very specific misfortune. 

I turn fifty in a few weeks. It doesn't particularly bother me, nor am I all that impressed. It wasn't hard to reach one-half century in age. I haven't outlived many people I know, as most of my friends and associates are still alive. I don't feel decrepit or unhealthy. It's basically just a number. 

Still, fifty seems like a significant number to some folks, so I decided that this year, for my fiftieth, I'd do something different, something special. I decided to treat myself to something I've never done before. I tried this back when I was about to turn 20. I saved my money for several months, planning on learning scuba diving--something I'd always wanted to do, despite living several states away from any ocean. 

Fate had other plans for me that year. I was laid off just a month before my birthday. My savings went to food and rent rather than weightbelts and snorkel, and my dreams of swimming among all those delicious fish got derailed. 

For 50, I could have chosen scuba diving again, but my interest in it has waned over the years. I suppose if I was on vacation somewhere, I might give it a try, but it just doesn't hold the interest for me it once did. No, for the big Five-O, I decided to try another failed birthday wish: hunting. 

I've been a fisherman all my life. One of my earliest memories is a family trip to Canada when I was 2 or 3, and fishing. I don't remember the actual fishing part, but I do vaguely remember the trip. Growing up, one of the few things I could get my father to do was take me fishing--he had a friend who lived on a private lake. We went out to her house often, and fished with Peggy and her husband. 

My kids enjoy fishing, as does my father-in-law. We try and go several times a year to lakes in the area. Fishing is just kind of a regular thing for us, no more special than a trip to the movies or zoo. 

Hunting, on the otherhand, is something I've never gotten to try. 

When I was fifteen, I traded in my sold off BMX bicycle and used the money to buy a nice compound bow. I became quite adept at archery over the following spring and summer. Unfortunately, my father was not a hunter, and had no desire to become one. But his brother hunted. My Uncle Tommy was an avid hunter. And, for my sixteenth birthday, he invited me to accompany him to Pennsylvania for a week-long deer hunting trip. 

Unfortunately, it meant I'd miss a few days of school. My father kiboshed the trip, and my archery skills remained firmly in the realm of slaying paper targets for the next few years. Among the many things my father did wrong in my life, this is easily one of the top ten that still bothers me. I tend to think about it very often, even now, all these decades later. 

So this year, I decided to change that. 

My planning began in early January 2017. In 2016, I had built my own AR15--something I'd wanted to do for years. It was a fun project that involved buying parts here and there, stretched out over several months, then assembling my rifle and covering it in accessories and add-ons (scope, bipod, etc. etc.)

For my hunting trip, I decided I needed a shotgun (Indiana doesn't allow hunting with a 5.56mm Armalite sporting rifle). I began shopping for a cheap .12 gauge--something I could use to hunt either Deer or Turkey. I planned on finding a nice, cheap, used shotgun, then rebuilding it, adding on bits and pieces much the same way I built my AR15. 

Then 2017 began to unravel. First, my wife had a car wreck in march. She wasn't seriously hurt, but it derailed a lot of our plans, including vacation. Then, my youngest was diagnosed with scoliosis and began wracking up medical bills and attending weekly physical therapy. By September, I hadn't done much of anything towards my fall goal of finally going hunting.

I did manage to score a shotgun around this time--my father-in-law passed down a nice pump-action he no longer wanted. A .20 gauge. It seemed that Deer was off the list, and I'd be setting my sights on Turkey. Not a problem--my birthday always falls on or around Thanksgiving, so some delicious bird I killed myself seemed like a great idea to ring in the next decade of life. 

It was a stupid accident--I wasn't watching where I was going, and fell down the stairs into my beloved basement. I didn't break anything, but I did rupture a tendon. In one literal, fell swoop, my birthday plans were dashed. I spent weeks in an immobilizing boot, then a brace, and now do physical therapy once a week. I can tolerate about an hour of standing or walking at best. 

The only hunting of turkeys I'll be doing this year is in the freezer section at the grocery store. 

And thus, lightning has struck again. For the umpteenth time. There are many other stories of birthday plans dashed I could recount--like when I turned 21 and instead of going out for free drinks with my friends got stuck in West Virginia for a week when my grandfather passed away. But I think I've made my point. An ironic point, actually, as one of the things I've always said is how being struck by lightning (and surviving) would make a great story to tell. 

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