A light snow had fallen the night before. The sun was breaking through the forest canopy trying to melt the crystalline blanket, yet it was bitter in the shade of the trees.
I squatted in my father's tree stand and froze. I had begged him to take me hunting and he finally relented.
"Why did you build the fort here?" I asked.
My dad smiled, "This is a tree stand, not a fort."
"Why did you build the tree stand here?"
"The well-worn path you see at the base of the tree, that's where the deer wander past on their way to the creek."
"Why is the fort, I mean tree stand, so high up?"
"You don't want the deer to see or smell us, do you?"
"No, I guess not." I said.
I loved spending time with my dad. It was being allowed into the adult world, a sneak peek or coming attractions, if you will, of the future.
I gazed at the can of Budweiser beer my dad was drinking.
He caught me looking and asked me if I was thirsty.
My eyes widened and I nodded with a grin.
"Just a sip. Don't tell your mother," he said.
I grabbed the can and took a sip as he instructed.
I made a twisted expression.
"That's awful," I said.
He laughed and took the can and patted me on the back. "Hank," it was the first time I remember him calling me that, "we have to be quiet now and wait."
I placed my finger in the snow that had collected on the edge of the tree stand and ran my hand along the side watching the flurries drop to the ground. I waited in silence with my father.
Though we didn't see a deer at all that day, I now know that I succeeded in a rite of passage.
Originally posted as "Henry's Life: The Tree Stand" on the Axiom Report on 2/29/2008.