GAIL WHITE Hunt for truth proves elusive in these tall tales



For as long as I can remember, my father has hunted.
Every year, as each animal comes into season, my father spends evenings and weekends in the woods searching for it.
During bear and deer season, he travels "to the mountains" and stays in "the hunting cabin."
I do not know where "the mountains" are or what "the hunting cabin" looks like. But they have always fascinated me because eventful things happen in these places.
Every time -- not just every couple of years or once in a blue moon -- EVERY TIME my father comes home from "the hunting cabin" in "the mountains" he has stories to tell.
When I was younger, he would tell our family the stories at supper. He made the wonders of tracking wild animals through the woods exciting.
But the truly interesting stories are revealed when my father gets together with his brothers and in-laws at family gatherings.
Once they get started
One brother starts, "There I was, sitting in the woods ... "
And for hours and hours the stories and howling laughter do not stop.
I remember my mother sending us children in several times to tell Dad it was time to go when we were visiting family. More often than not, we took a long time to return the message to her. We became so enraptured in the latest tale.
I never considered the validity of the stories my father and uncles told. To me, "the mountains" and mysterious "hunting cabin" were enchanting places where the funniest and most incredible things happened.
Recently, my eyes were opened, and I have come to the conclusion that hunting stories are stretched longer than fish tales.
"Timmy caught a bear," my father told me after a recent hunting trip to "the cabin" in "the mountains."
"That's great," I said and poised myself for the story I knew would follow.
"It was about 4:30 in the afternoon when he shot it," my dad began. "But he didn't kill it, and it took off through the woods."
The chase was on. A group of men caught up with the bear right at dusk.
"It was leaning up against a tree," my father said.
But it was too late in the day to shoot it -- no shooting after dark.
One of the men picked up a big log and swung it at the bear, hoping to knock it out.
"That bear grabbed that log and threw it across the woods," my father said with a chuckle.
My mouth dropped open. "What happened?" I gasped.
"The bear chased him," my father responded without blinking.
"Chased him?" I said in horror.
Reeled in
But before I could ask for details, my father continued with the story.
"Timmy got away from the bear, and they all went back to find it. They found that bear back at the same tree."
The signs of a tall tale were all over this story, but I did not detect one of them. I was being reeled in hook, line and sinker.
"They decided to throw a big rock at it," my dad continued.
"They did not!" I shouted back in complete disbelief at their stupidity. (Little did I know, I was the stupid one.)
The chase was on again as the angry bear went after its captors.
My father paused in his story, which gave me time to process the facts.
"Bears can run 35 miles an hour," I said suspiciously.
"He had been shot," my father answered resolutely. "He was hurt."
In the end, the bear was found the next day in the middle of wild rose bushes. (Which was a whole other adventure!)
Turns out, the location that the bear was found in the wild rose bushes and the time of the initial shooting were the only true facts to my father's hunting tale.
"That story did happen," my father insisted." Somewhere up in Canada."
Yeah, right. I bet they have really big fish up there, too.
gwhite@vindy.com

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