Lisa Hamblen Hood: Through the Fence 12-19-11
Like most people, I was naïve and idealistic when I got married. I blindly repeated those words in the marriage vows, “for better or worse,” when the preacher prompted me. I’m glad God doesn’t allow us a sneak peek at our future. Not that my married life has been miserable; it’s just not what I had anticipated. Before I married, I was a pampered princess. But those dreams were soon revised, and I learned about hard work and country life.
Long before we moved out to the boondocks, my husband and I shared many adventures. Most of those involved duck hunting in the swamps and lakes of East Texas. Sometimes he’d get up before dawn, load the dogs, guns, and decoys into the truck and drive a hundred miles to go hunting with his buddies and be home before supper. My friends marveled that I would indulge him like that. But the way I looked at it, it was cheaper than psychotherapy. And it was much more effective.
One year, we were driving back home from visiting his folks in northeast Texas. It was Christmas Eve. My dad was in the hospital, and I was anxious to get back to Dallas to see him. I didn’t suspect what my husband was planning even when he made a detour off the highway. When we crossed a bridge that spanned a lake where he often hunted, he pulled over and stopped. “What are you doing?” I asked crossly. He calmly informed me that he was going to walk down to the water’s edge just to check and see if any ducks were flying. “But it’s Christmas Eve!” I protested. He assured me he wouldn’t be gone long. I knew better.
He slipped into his waders and rubber boots, grabbed his heavy coat and shotgun. He walked into the woods that surrounded the lake. It was an unusually cold winter, and the water was frozen about 20 feet out from the snow crusted bank. I sat in the car and passed the time reading as the last bit of heated air quickly evaporated. As the winter’s sunlight faded, I tried to remain serene. All I could think of was that families across the country were gathered beside welcoming fireplaces as Christmas tree lights illuminated wrapped packages. They were eating, drinking and laughing – enjoying special moments with their loved ones on that sacred night. And I was sitting in a cold car parked in a ditch on a lonely country road by myself.
The minutes dragged by. Right as the evening shadows started to lengthen, I heard a single shot. About 15 minutes later, my husband came stalking out of the woods. He was smiling.
“I shot a mallard drake!” he exclaimed, “and it’s banded.” He excitedly explained that bands were attached to the feet of certain ducks by the Fish and Game Department. They were used to track the migration patterns and age of waterfowl and were embossed with a tracking number. It also had an address to send information about the duck after it was harvested. “I’ve hunted for years, and this is only the second banded duck I’ve ever shot,” he added.
As I looked at him and saw his boyish enthusiasm, my icy heart melted. Wasn’t this part of what made Christmas special – being with those we loved and giving them what was precious to them? Nothing I could have bought for him at any store could rival the thrill of shooting a banded duck. In that moment, I began to learn that love was being more interested in the heart’s desires of someone else. I made the choice to share his excitement.
I listened patiently for the rest of the drive to all the particulars of that incredible hunt – how the lone duck had circled the lake, cupped his wings and prepared to land in the open water – how he’d aimed at the moving target carefully before squeezing the trigger – and finally how he’d had to traipse across the ice and step out into the frigid water to retrieve his prize. Instead of it being a bitter memory, it has sweetened through the years so that I’ve been able to enjoy each time he recounted the details of that memorable day.