The Tree Stand
"It as just a little noise. Not much more than a whisper. In the dark and quiet of the night it was plainly adible".
This story goes back to my brother-in-law' farm in the Missouri Ozarks. It is nice to have an in-law that likes to hunt and buys a farm just for that purpose. Not of course that it influenced my pick of brides. Heh Heh. But here we were in the fall deer season and all summer we had been preparing for this event. My brother-in-law, my nephews and I had put in many weekends making deer stands. Some on the ground and some in the trees like the one I was about to climb up to. I had my Mauser 8mm rifle slung on my back and a soft pad tied in front to my belt. Along with some sandwiches and some water, extra ammo and a book, I was set for a long days wait.
The tree stand had been built HIGH in this big old oak tree. Not because the deer were that tall on this farm but because there was a hump of a hill between anyone in the stand and the horse pasture where the deer browsed during the morning and evening hours. So from my soon to be perch I could see and shoot over the hump and the deer would be none wiser. We made a wooden rung ladder to climb up to the tree stand using pieces of 2x4 nailed to the main trunk of the tree. I had been up and down that ladder so many times I was satisfied with it's strength and could negotiate it even in the dark.
But this time I stopped just before I reached the top. There was that little noise you see. I listened and listened and it did not repeat so, I shrugged it off and took the next to the last ladder rung. And then I heard it again. Birds.? Squirrels.? branches rubbing each other in the light breeze? I had clipped to my belt my Boy Scout flashlight. (don't laugh, I still have it and it is a genuine antique now, worth big bucks) I reached down and pulled it off and took the last rung up and pushed it over the edge of the platform and hit the switch.
The say that they scream like a women. Having 4 sisters I was very familiar with women's screams. But this one was right in my face. And my flashlight reflected off big white fangs. And red eyes and a huge black shape against the moon light. It screamed and I screamed and we both reacted instantly. I, by letting go of the top rung of the tree ladder and falling, falling, falling. All the way down to the ground I was not thinking about the apparition that I saw up at the top, but rather I was wishing we had not put this dumb tree stand so high in the tree. Then I hit the ground. Actually my German Mauser hit the ground first and then it just about killed another American enemy soldier when I landed on it. I screamed again or maybe it was my death knell, who knows. Landing on your rifle had to break or crack at least half your known count of ribs and maybe a couple of vertebra too.
Then I stopped worrying about my back, it was my chest I was more worried about. Why? Because something big and furry and heavy landed on my chest. KATHUMP. Then we both screamed again. I fought with my hands and fists. I blindly struck out and occasionally landed on a fur covered body. Then the cat, lion, tiger or what ever it was, decided I was too brave, too strong, too dumb to eat and it dug in it's claws and used my stomach and my belt as a launching platform to leap away in the dark. I heard it land just behind my head and the immediate thought I had was, it and I were now both down here on the ground where the animal had all the advantage. Boy Scouts teach you and even Scout Masters like me, to not lay around thinking about an emergency, DO SOMETHING! And I leaped to my feet and grabbed for the lower rung of our fabulous ladder and up I went. My hands were hitting rough bark half the time and I tore skin from my hands and fingernails from my fingers but I was making progress even though that lousy German rifle was banging my legs and jamming it self in under branches not happy with just breaking all my bones it wanted to kill me.
Finally I had to stop. I looked down and could see nothing but dark black shadow under me. So I was going to have to wait till the sun came up before I could see if I was alone in the tree or was on somethings breakfast menu. The tree limbs that I was grasping were not much bigger than my fingers and the morning breeze was coming up. Creak, crack, OH OH. crash. And down I went again. Luckily ?? I had found refuge in the small twigs that were over the tree stand and I only fell 6 feet. Only 6 feet I thought again. as I lay on the platform. At that point I really didn't care if that monster would eat me, I was so sore and aching.
The sun finally came out and to my groaning joy I found that I was all alone in my tree. This time I tossed the lousy rifle over first as far as my crippled body could throw it. Then I strapped the soft coushion that I had tied to my belt on behind me. (See all the survival things you learn in the Boy Scouts) Just in case I went back down the same way I did the first time. It took me an hour or more to get to the farm house with many rests an a few false alarms when small animals made scurrying sounds in the bushes. My Sister in-law first asked if I got one already, and then she put her hand to her mouth and said OHHHH. That is the last I really remember until some 'built like a wrestler' woman nurse stuck a needle in me. Then the pain went away and I slept with dreams of a nurse with big needle sharp long teeth biting me, not in the face or arm but in the......Oh never mind.