We were such brave warriors back then, prepared at the first hint of danger to strap on a six-gun, slap on some war paint, dust off the sling shot, and march into battle. We never knew where the next deadly challenge might take place, but we would know the call when it came: a low whistle outside the bedroom window, or an insistent, solitary crow cawing in the backyard, and we were gone, like thieves in the night.
One summer morning we awoke to the news that a black bear had been seen wandering along Delaware Avenue, and, glancing quickly at each other across the breakfast table, we knew that this was a moment when we had to spring into action. We had to save not only our own family, but the entire neighborhood, from this menace. Perhaps the entire city.
Excusing ourselves with as little fuss as possible, we wandered casually into our bedroom, closed the door and began to gather everything we would need to track down and eliminate one very large black bear. Combat boots, hunting knives, knapsacks, a compass, a magnifying glass (to study bear tracks, of course), and canteens to be filled with ice cold water.
After making several sandwiches and stuffing them in our knapsacks, we said our farewells and headed out to round up the Olander twins and a few others to complete the expedition. Soon we were marching into the woods, brothers in buckskin, savages to the bone.
We had trekked for about an hour when we sat down starved and exhausted on a tree that had fallen across the trail, to eat pemmican and wild berries (or was it peanut butter and jelly?). After discussing our new strategy to spread out in the woods and surround the bear, thus guaranteeing his annihilation, everyone began heading further down the trail, leaving me behind to close up the rear to prevent any chance of escape.
I hadn’t waited very long when I heard shouts coming from somewhere downtrail, and, reaching for my hunting knife, I turned in time to see a full-grown buck deer, probably an eight-pointer, galloping straight at me. I was frozen, transfixed, not knowing what to do, and, not having the time to do it anyway, I just sat there. Just before he reached me, he lifted off and soared over my head like one of Santa’s reindeer, landing gracefully on the other side, running full tilt down the trail and into the woods.
In the clamoring excitement of your return, I remember thinking that a young Indian brave would have received his adult name from an event such as this, and Flying Deer, I decided, would suit me just fine. And though we never did see the bear, we returned home as triumphant hunters, for we had experienced a supernatural event in that forest, and the spirit of the deer would be with us forever.