The month of May was certainly a busy one. While we all dream of a world with minimal responsibilities and unlimited personal time, the simple truth is that the real world is far more important and often dictates when we have free time to enjoy our leisurely pursuits. For the O’Neill family, this means that a busy dental practice, college graduation, demanding RA responsibilities, Mother's Day, a son’s Christening, and a new apartment to renovate all takes precedence over hunting. However, we were still able to enjoy several days of rewarding hunting time and formed everlasting memories in the process.
Ben and Kellen dipped their toes in the alluring waters of spring turkey hunting and both caught the bug. Restricted by the most familial obligations of any of us, Ben was only able to make it out for opening day. Although the action was slow that day, Ben got a good taste of the preparation and work that goes into getting ready for a hunting season. Kellen on the other hand, saw tons of action—perhaps the most of any of us. On opening day he was the only one who saw a tom, but the stubborn longbeard wouldn’t come out into the open. His next day, he had a monster tom gobbling loudly in the field above him right as the clock struck 12:00. And on his final day he had a group of three bachelor jakes cross right in front of his blind. I think it’s safe to say he got his money’s worth this year.
Grandpa saved the day
Meanwhile, dad did a tremendous job of managing the property, and working hard all winter and spring to put us on to some birds. While he won’t admit it, I am certain that he sacrificed his own hunting success to ensure that Kellen and I would have the best experiences possible. I am truly thankful for such a selfless and hard working father who has afforded all of us such wonderful opportunities. Additionally, we had the help of the eldest John O’Neill at Red Hand this spring. Grandpa O made the trip with me and dad days before the season opened to help us finalize our preseason preparations. He was truly invaluable; without him we would have never been able to tow the Kawasaki Mule out of the deep mud we got it stuck in.
As for me, I had the time of my life. Beyond harvesting my first animal ever (details here), I gained exposure to the hard working blue collar class that powers America. Being up at Red Hand immerses us in a lifestyle that seems completely foreign to the slickers down in the suburbs. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of the two, but it’s very enlightening to experience a bit of both. However, I do have tremendous amount of respect for the folks out in the country who perform the knuckle busting work that is necessary to earn a living. You think waking up for a job that starts at 8:00 is tough? Try waking up at 4am, hunting all morning to put food on the table, and then rushing to get into work on time at 8:00. This physically demanding way of life is the norm for nearly all of the residents out in the country. While we live to hunt, they hunt to live. Literally, it is a matter of survival for many of the locals in the area, who do all that they can to provide for themselves and their families. My point is, I have an immense appreciation for these hard working individuals that many people down in the city view as simple minded or backwards. It’s a privilege to live amongst them, if only for a day at a time, and an honor that most of the locals have accepted our suburbanite family into their small sphere of existence. They’ve seen us out working hard on our property and busting our asses just as they do everyday, and as a result we have earned their respect. We have forged a strong reciprocal relationship with the farmers in the area, and for this I am thankful.
Finally, this spring witnessed the first ever visitors to Red Hand. Although they were all family members, we had to pull out the guest cot and inflatable mattress for a couple nights. Ben of course doesn’t count because he’s essentially full blown family at this point and as much a steward of the property as any of us. Similarly, I don’t quite view Grandpa O as a guest because he was working as hard as anyone else to prepare for turkey season and didn’t really get to enjoy the visit. The honor of being the first guests at Red Hand goes to Uncle John and Aunt Lois Whalen (although I’m still not sure this qualifies because they’re family and helped dad take down blinds after hunting). Regardless, we had a wonderful time with the Whalens hanging out on the deck, target shooting the Gamo airgun all day, visiting Fly Creek Cider Mill and simply enjoying the wonder that is “God’s Country”. Beyond the obvious—we had an awesome time—the reason I’m pointing out we had guests is because it shows how the house has really taken shape nicely and can comfortably sleep up to 9 people at present. Most of the credit for this of course goes to mom. Even with the broken hip, mom has stepped up as much as anyone else in terms of furnishing the house and tirelessly trying to keep it clean (which is nearly impossible after a day of trouncing around in the mud). Mom deserves a lot of credit for putting up with all the male personalities in the house, and we definitely appreciate all that she does.
On the whole, the spring season came and went in the blink of an eye, but we were well prepared and forged memories that will undoubtedly last a lifetime. I just hope that everyone else enjoyed it half as much as I did.