“I’m setting up the basement of the farmhouse as a game room,” I said. “Great idea!” my husband replied. “That’s going to be so cool.”
Hmm. I never thought of him as being all that enthusiastic about board games. But I proceeded to bring all the games down to the basement: Scrabble, Bananagrams, Boggle, Uno, Chutes and Ladders (God help me), playing cards and even a ping-pong table. “It will be nice to have rainy day group activities for folks who come down to visit,” I thought.
Shortly after that, my family and I traveled to the Montreal Jazz Festival in Canada. My husband and I had attended the festival a few times before and wanted to share it with our girls. It is a nonstop musical celebration with incredible musicians from all over the world. And Montreal is an amazing city; it feels like you’re in Europe, without the jet lag. We were all very excited to explore the city when my husband went rogue, as is his wont. “I’ve booked a date with Musky Mike. I’m going musky fishing,” he declared. “Anyone want to join me?”
Silence. We had come all this way to one of the great cities of North America, full of beautiful architecture, great food and of course, world renown music at the jazz festival … No, no one was interested in hanging out with Musky Mike on a cold river when we could be drinking café au lait or wine in the city. Duh.
The girls and I dawdled around Montreal, touring churches, galleries, and local restaurants. When we met up with The Musky Hunter later that day, he was ebullient. “You should see this fish! We were in about 3 feet of water and Musky Mike told me just what to do. It took me about a half hour to get him in, but I landed a huge musky.” And he did. The fish weighed about 35 pounds and stretched about 52 inches. The Musky Hunter could not stop looking at the photo of his epic catch, showing it to friends and strangers alike. This went on literally for years. Still does, actually. Sometimes, even today, I will find him gazing lovingly at the image on his phone.
“I’m going to have a replica made and hang it in the game room at the farm,” he gushed.
“Well … we’ll see,” I cautioned.
“But that’s what a game room is for … for showing off your kills. This musky is just the beginning.”
It dawned on me that for the past year we were each talking about different “game.” Me, Parcheesi; him, dead animals.
You see, The Musky Hunter has long had game room envy. Our farm neighbors, Johnny and June Cash have an epic game room, or more appropriately, a trophy room. Some might call it a room of death. Johnny is an avid, accomplished hunter and has traveled all over the world hunting bear, antelope, gnus, wildebeest, crocodiles and of course, good old Ohio deer. And each of these kills has a place in his game room. It’s quite fascinating, really. He has complete reverence for each of his conquests and thrilling stories of how he got them. June is much more quiet about it all, almost apologetic about the still life display of once animated subjects. “I should be named Wife of the Year, honestly,” she says as she gently picks dust fuzzies from the bear.
So, we now have a very realistic Musky hanging in our game room, all by itself over by the pool towels. I’m hoping he doesn’t get company any time soon, but The Musky Hunter is threatening to hang a big deer head down there when he lands one. Now, I’ve got nothing against hunters, really. Our farm is located in gun country. I get it that hunting animals is a tradition that has been passed down through generations. Johnny Cash has schooled me plenty on how hunting is actually good for animals: it controls the animal population (which, hello, is much needed here with Ohio deer.) And in African villages, it offers jobs and local income for guides, permits, vehicles, etc. as well as literally feeding the locals. It also discourages poaching, which is a completely heinous, immoral act. I get it, I really do.
But I sincerely don’t want to be met with an animal head hanging on my wall. I was afraid of my parents’ painting of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for goodness sake. As a child, Jesus’ eyes followed me all over the room. I can only imagine how Mr. Bambi will freak me out. “You spineless, heartless wench. How could you?” he would whisper under his breath to me.
But I know I’m going to lose this fight. The Musky Hunter will eventually be The Deer Slayer one of these days. He says he’s waiting for “the big one” with a giant rack.
Sigh … maybe I can hang my pool towels on its antlers?