Camouflage old hunter after elusive quarry.

The Most Elusive Quarry Ever

My stepfather served a twenty-one year tenure as an Army Staff Sergeant. After retirement, he would often camp alone on the weekends in our local National forest.

He continued to rise before dawn to start his day, as he had done while actively serving. He would hunt and fish during the day, followed by reading and relaxation under the starry sky, his faithful dog at his side.

During one of his many excursions, an unknown thief entered his tent late one moonless night. Without waking him, the prowler quietly removed his most valued possession. My stepfather was left behind undisturbed, wrapped in his sleeping blanket, oblivious to the horror which would await him early in the morning.

Always on schedule, he woke before daylight. Fumbling around in his tent for the flashlight, he rose and neatly dressed in his usual military camouflage. Ah, he was now the hunter extraordinaire. It was time to start a fire and make coffee, read for a bit, and at first light perhaps do some serious target practice. He began packing his supplies for the day's outing, soon noticing something was missing.

They were gone!

In a panic, he fumbled around the floor of the tent, searching through his clothing and gear. Boxers, socks and camping supplies were thrown into the air, only to hit the top of the tent and rain down upon him.

He quickly unzipped his sleeping bag, searching inside. Nothing! It was empty. How could this happen? How could they just disappear into thin air? He was a grizzled and cantankerous veteran. Trained to sleep with one eye open, always on guard .

He soon realized this was no act of simple forgetfulness. His military career had taught him organization skills which he adhered to strictly. It was time to broaden the search. Without hesitation, he burst outside into the dense woods. He would hunt the thief down!

Crawling at dawn on the forest floor, he was a well-oiled hunting machine. Years of training had fine-tuned him into a fearless predator. With honed precision and animal stealth, he crept amongst the leaves searching under brush and thicket. Fallen tree limbs arced behind him into the air, as he scattered leaves into the winds, exposing only bare earth. He was a soldier on a mission, decades of stalking his prey came rushing back to him with vengeance. He would not give up the search!

Nearly two hours later, by the grace of God, the mystery was solved. A glimmer of white beneath the leaves caught his eye, beaming up at him. He had found his missing possession, semi-covered in the mossy earth. He carefully picked up his dentures, gently shaking off the dirt and debris.

As his little dog stood nearby watching, he soon realized who the culprit was. The rascal! During the night, she had crept into the tent, helping herself to his most needed item. She had carried them out one at a time deep into the woods, playing with his teeth until her master awoke.

He looked around for other campers, discreetly rinsed them off in the nearby river, and popped them back into his mouth. With newly regained composure, he stood up straight and proud like the soldier he was, turned on his heel and marched back to camp. It was time to start breakfast, now that he could finally eat. His little dog followed humbly behind, oblivious to his humiliation.

In my mind's eye, I can see my stepfathers hunting trophies lining the shelves in his den. Yellowed pictures of long ago expeditions decorate the walls. He sits at his desk, oiling his gun, or browsing through an outdoor magazine. Just above him, carefully mounted upon a wooden plaque, rest his dentures. The most elusive quarry ever.

~ Shelley Madden ~
<shellmadde at>
All Rights Reserved

Shelley Madden is a short story author who resides in Wise County, Texas. She enjoys raising poultry and ponies on her small farm. Please email Shelley and let her know what you think of her story.

[ by: Shelley Madden, Copyright © 2010, ( shellmadde at ) -- submitted by: Shelley Madden ]

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