It's the opening day of the firearms deer season, and Don is out long before I get up. Light comes late under a cloud filled sky; there's not glimpse of the sun, and the wind here is biting and cold. Twenty feet up in an old Oak tree, waiting for first light and, of course, a big buck, Don must think he took the wrong trail and ended up at the North Pole.
Before dawn, I pull my exercise mat out from under the bed to do stretches. Barley pads in from the living room, bone in his mouth, and lays down, half on my mat, offering to help. He leans hard against me, tail thumping the floor, paw waving the air, a request for all of my attention. His cold nose burrows under my hand and pushes it up as an invitation to pet him. It works, and we lay there for a few minutes, enjoying the morning and each other's company. When I get up, he rolls on his back and smiles.
Late in the afternoon, the sun, finally freed from the clouds, lights the trees and defines the shadows, bringing dimension to the landscape. We walk, Barley and I, enjoying the crisp air and white puffy clouds.
Then, at last light, there is a deer to help skin, a nice 8 point buck. The carcass warms our hands as we work. We leave it hanging overnight in the cold air, grateful to have meat for the upcoming winter.