Sunday, October 17, 2021

When a full freezer is about more than just the elk

by CAROL SHIRK KNAPP Contributing Writer
| October 6, 2021 1:00 AM

The freezer is full up with elk. I'm not a hunter — but my husband is. Their foursome went far afield for those critters — to the high desert country, the sage, mountain peaks, and deep draws with tree cover. Steep, gnarly trails to negotiate with their ATVs. Stupendous views.

They had a good old time out there in a week of chilly nights, sitting around a campfire beneath the full moon telling stories. Of course, I'm not allowed to brag on it too much. It's their secret.

Boasting rights come, though, for the man Terry — and his accomplishment in even making the hunt. How do you do that when balancing and standing alone is impossible. When you've almost lost count of the back surgeries and the foot surgeries. When the body malfunctions.

How do you continually climb on and off a four-wheeler — walk hundreds of steps over uneven ground? Sit to shoot using a bipod to steady your rifle — and bring down an elk at 250 yards? You show up determined — and you have friends to help fill the gaps.

An especially challenging washout on a sharp downhill turn beside a deep gully dumped him from his four-wheeler. The machine kept going, its rear tires in the air, and disappeared. His friend, who'd barely made the curve, jumped into action and saved it from completely nosediving into the gully.

Terry sat in the middle of the trail and said, “Well, I'm not going anywhere without my sticks.” The friend climbed across the four-wheeler retrieving his Canadian crutches from where they were secured, and together they winched it out and continued on their way.

Birth anomalies — spina bifida and clubfoot — repaired early gave Terry a normal, active life. His mother chain smoked during pregnancy before the risks were fully known. He's always been grateful for Shriner's Children's hospital. But with the wear and tear of years, when he hit his sixties he began having back problems that affected his mobility.

He now needs his Canadian crutches to stand and walk. Fitting over his forearms they act something like ski poles. Reaching for them with every rise from a chair or a bed is as commonplace as sipping that cup of coffee in the morning.

He's had to give up certain things — probably selling his Harley was one of the most difficult. He and his bike were synonymous with the open road.

But what he does do is unbelievable. He's rigged a pulley system to lift and lower the gate on his utility trailer so he can load and unload it. He has a portable work station in the garage (built by the same friend he hunted with) for all his repair work — that and a roller chair to scoot around. He lifts and carries heavy objects balancing with one crutch. If there's a way to get the job done he finds it.

Terry has been forced to let go by degrees both personal pride and independence these last seven years. To accept some limitations — and challenge others. Too bad there's not an Olympics for the human spirit.

Yep, our chest freezer's jam packed with game meat. But every time I open it I see a whole lot more than elk.