Hunter's Lodge on the Osage

by Nicholas Hall

Chapter 14

"The sword of justice has no scabbard" – (Joseph de Maistre)

Wedge and I looked at Grandpa Hunter in disbelief, evident on our faces by the wide eyes and open mouths, finally exclaiming "No Way!"

Wedge finally looked at his mom for confirmation.

"It's true, honey," she said in answer to his unspoken, but very real, question.

"How?" he asked.

"When?" I chorused.

Grandpa held up his hand, curtailing our jabbered questions and asked us to be silent so he could tell us.

"Wedge," he asked quite seriously. "do you know a Melvin Kenard?"

"No," Wedge replied hesitant and puzzled. "Should I?"

"Are you certain?"

"I'm pretty sure!" he answered emphatically.

"Did you ever take any food leftovers or extras from the restaurant during or after your work shift?"

Wedge started to squirm, embarrassed, and unwilling to answer the question. I figured he thought he was being accused of stealing.

"Yeah," he finally said, "but the owner let me if I didn't tell anyone. He didn't want the health department or some other agency finding out and closing him down. It sometimes takes a lot of bribes or butt-kissing in the 'Windy City' to do business.'"

"Did you take any of it home?"

By this time, the rest of us were leaning forward in our seats, waiting to see what Wedge's answer would be and just where the hell Grandpa was going with this.

"Oh, my God, no!" Wedge countered with a growl and an angered look on his face. "We had plenty to eat!"

He then countered with a question of his own that set Grandpa back a bit. "What do you do with your leftovers at home- stick'em in the fridge until they get moldy or dried out and then toss them? Better yet, do you sit down and give thanks for the abundance at your table and wish you could share it with those who don't have as much or nothing at all?"

With a huff, he continued, "What I did with the restaurant's abundance, in any small way, is really none of your or anyone else's business!" and clamped his mouth tight shut. As well as I knew Wedge, as far as he was concerned, this conversation was over! If his mother and grandmother had not been present, I wouldn't have been surprised to hear him tell Grandpa to "go fuck himself." Had it been anyone else and under different circumstances, he would have!

"Whoa!" Grandpa said quickly, taken aback and almost silenced by Wedge's outburst.

"I meant no harm or intentions of accusing you of anything! Please, Wedge, accept my profound apology; the last thing I ever intended to do was anger you or make any accusations of impropriety on your part. I was merely trying to explain how Melvin Kenard was an important person in your case against Pittman!"

Wedge eyed him suspiciously, glanced over at me to see if I was reacting in any way or cautioning him to not proceed. I gave a slight nod of my head and Wedge finally answered the question.

"Again, I don't know anyone named Melvin Kenard. The only person I ever gave anything to was 'Dollar.'

"Who the heck was Dollar?" I asked, interrupting the conversation.

"One weekend, as I was taking some things out to the trash, an older, seemingly homeless man living rough on the streets, approached me in the alley and asked if I, as he put it, 'would be so kind as to purchase him a sandwich.' He quickly told me, when I raised my eyebrows in questioning him, he had a dollar and could pay for it. Well, there was no way that was going to happen, so I told him to wait, went inside and talked to the owner and got permission to take a carry-out container with a hot beef dinner inside, out to the old gentlemen. We had a slow crowd that night and plenty of roast beef, mashed potatoes, and gravy left so what little really went into the container wouldn't be missed. Dollar, as I called him from then on, was so appreciative and thanked me profusely. I told him when I had to work again and from then on he was a regular. If I worked on a Sunday or a night during the week, I tried to give him extra, like sandwiches, salads, or desserts (he especially loved pie), so he'd have something to eat the next day or so."

"Often, I'd take my break at the same time and we'd visit; not about anything in particular, but just visit. He seemed like a highly educated man and I often wondered how and why he ended up on the street."

It was quite a story and one I'd never heard before; evidently Wedge's mom had since I noticed her nod her head several times. I couldn't have placed Wedge any higher on my list of wonderfully compassionate people. Of course, with me it was more "passion" and one hell of a lot of it!

"His real name," Grandpa said, "is Melvin Kenard and yes, he is a highly educated man. How and why he ended up on the streets I have no idea; only that it happened after he retired."

Pittman had been secretly under investigation by the state for some time concerning what investigators thought was suspicious activities. They just never had enough on the man to bring an indictment. It was thought he might be on the payroll of a larger organization, (ie; organized crime), dealing in drugs and other illegal activities. The death of the man in the alley began ringing alarm bells in the investigators minds and when one of their undercover people working the case, sent word there was an old gentleman wondering where that "good-looking black kid that used to work in the supper club went to" they sent a couple of agents up there to visit with him.

The old gentleman was reluctant to talk, but once he became convinced Wedge might be in danger or dead already, he was more than willing to tell what he saw. Wedge was not the only person in the alley that night. Mr. Kenard, tucked in behind the dumpster out of sight getting ready to head for his bedsit, was just finishing his hot meal Wedge delivered earlier and was about to gather up the sandwiches and extras he was going to take with him, when he heard two men talking in the alley. One man he recognized as a cop he saw around quite regularly and figured he was as dirty as "defecation on a stick." The other man he knew as a small time drug dealer. When Pittman shot the other fellow, Kenard was close enough to identify Pittman and saw him drop the spare gun on the concrete. About that time, from the corner of his eye, he spotted Wedge standing in the shadows near the entrance to the alley. He didn't think there was anyway Pittman, as he walked away and glanced over his shoulder, could've missed seeing Wedge. Later he heard the street talk was Pittman was hunting the young black man and not as a suspect, but as a witness that needed to offed.

When Tom Sutton made contact with the state informing them he had a witness to an alley shooting who was willing to give a statement, if immunity from prosecution could be obtained, the state investigators and attorney general's office was more than willing to cooperate. Wedge's deposition confirmed what they heard from Kenard and prepared an indictment against Pittman. Before it could be served, evidently someone leaked the information to people other than Pittman, and he disappeared. His body floated to the surface in the Illinois River quite some miles away from Chicago. Evidently, someone didn't want him brought to trial or cutting a deal with prosecutors.

"End of story," concluded Grandpa. "That's why we were able to persuade your mother and grandmother to join us for the week and celebrate not only Thanksgiving, but your good fortune as well! Besides, it gave us old timers a chance to get together and enjoy each other's company. If George and Lou get their deer early, Grandma and I, along with Loretta, will have a chance to catch up on old times."

I don't think Wedge and I ever hugged each other so close and so emotionally! Our tears of joy poured forth as he rocked me back and forth in his arms, telling me everything was going to be fine and we didn't need to worry about Pittman anymore. I knew that, but in the back of my mind I still knew I had to deal that that shit-ass Harvey!

Now we had a real reason to celebrate! Pittman was out of the way; one down and one to go! I decided I needed another beer and Wedge headed for the wine bottle. Our moves must have been the "go-ahead signal" for everyone else because all of us descended on the snack table, eager to devour some more of Wedge's delicious creations.

By nine-thirty that evening, we were all wearing down and ready for bed. Grandpa and I wanted to be up by five in the morning and in our deer stands by six. The season opened close to seven and we wanted to be in the stands and ready before that. Wedge and I started to clean up and put things away. Grandma, Meredith, and Loretta helped while Grandpa headed for the bedroom.

"Dishes can wait until morning," Wedge announced, so we just rinsed and stacked them in the sink.

After everyone else headed to bed, Wedge and I went out and stoked up the furnace, came in and checked the windows and doors to make certain all was locked up. The furnace would keep the Lodge warm until morning and Wedge could take care of stoking it then.

Before we undressed to get ready for bed, I made certain the bedroom door was shut, just in case! I happened to think, as I crawled in with Wedge, I hadn't instructed his mom and grandmother on how to use the toilet.

"I did!" Wedge said.

"How about the shower?"

"Did that too."

"Did you tell them no hair dryers because of the drain on the batteries?"

"Yep!"

Wedge cuddled even closer, his bare front tight up against my bare back and butt.

"How about…." I began.

"How about you just relax," he said soothingly, with passion, "and raise your left leg so to give me better access and let me love you?"

We've been doing this since we became boyfriends, each of us enjoying not only the pleasure but the intimacy of lovers, and I still don't know how he can get all of that inside me! He just seems to gently ease his way in, tickling and massaging every inch of me until his crotch is tight against my buns. It feels as though the end of his stiff rod is poking my belly button – from the inside- he's that far into me! I do know, I love it and I love him!

The next morning Wedge had two thermos of hot coffee ready for us and lunches packed before Grandpa and I were dressed in our blaze orange hunting coats and overalls. The outer clothing was light-weight, but well insulated and perfect for the cold November day. The rifles, safely unloaded and in cases and stowed in the black Otter® sled towed behind the ATV, we made our trip to the deer stands. I dropped Grandpa off at his and waited until he was safely situated and I drove down the logging road to a "t" intersection and headed for mine, not too far from a small Tag Alder swamp.

There was plenty of evidence of deer in the area since there were tracks and numerous buck scrapes and rubs. Bucks used the scrapes and rubs to mark their territory and advertise their presence to any does which might be in estrus. It also served as a warning to any interlopers they were entering an area another buck claimed.

I checked my watch and once legal shooting hour began, I loaded my rifle and waited. At seven-thirty, only a half hour after legal time, I was watching two bucks, one a six pointer and the other a fork-horn sparring about two hundred yards away. Their antics were interrupted by a single gunshot coming from the direction of Grandpa's stand!

He either missed or killed whatever he was shooting at with one shot, I surmised! The two deer I was watching, lifted their heads, parted ways, and with a snort and a wave of their whitetails, high-tailed it back into the swamp. Disgusted, but not deterred, I waited! I expected to wait for some time, but within five minutes the six pointer came back into the clearing. He put his head down as he walked, grunting, and snorting. It was then I saw what the two males were fighting over; off to the side, just out of my sight originally, were two does and the way they were acting, they were in the mood for love!

As the buck came closer, I thought seriously about letting him do his duty first, but when he was forty yards away and presented a perfect shot, I said "fuck it" and dropped him with a clean shot to the neck. That ended the hunt for the day for me!

After climbing down from the stand, tagging the deer with my buck tag, and field dressing him, I loaded him in the sled, cased up my gun, climbed on the ATV, and pulled the sled to Grandpa's stand. He was eating his lunch and drinking coffee when I pulled up. Looking in the sled, he congratulated me.

"I heard one shot;" I asked, "where's the deer?"

He pointed off toward the woods. "I hit him low in the chest so I don't think he went far, but I knew I'd need some help tracking and bringing him out."

"Big, is he?"

Grandpa laughed, "You're not going to believe it when you see it! Unless my eyes are failing me, I counted ten points on his antlers!"

"Wow!" was all I could say in response.

Reloading my rifle, just in case, the two of us followed the blood trail. The buck was about seventy yards away when Grandpa shot it and ran another two hundred yards into the woods before collapsing into a heap into a tangles thicket of brush and raspberries. We had the very devil of a time, after tagging it and field dressing it, dragging it to the logging road so we could bring the ATV and sled close enough to load it in with mine. The two deer made a load for the sled and the ATV to pull.

Back at the Lodge, before we transferred the deer to my pickup truck, Grandma and Loretta just had to take the obligatory pictures. Wedge, eyeing the carcasses suspiciously since he'd never seen a dead deer before (actually any deer this up close and personal), decided he wanted to ride along with us to Thompson Corners where we'd register them and take them to a local meat processor for cutting, wrapping, and freezing.

There really wasn't much to see at the sports shop where we registered the deer, other than the tag we attached to the deer's antlers was replaced with a metal one signifying our kill was now registered with the state. The sport shop employee, a young man about our age, asked Wedge if he got his deer yet.

Wedge just shook his head "no" and kept quiet.

In the truck, on the way to the meat processor, I laughed and gave Wedge a poke in the ribs.

"That guy thinks you're George and Lou's nephew and figures since you're Native American, you should have at least one hanging somewhere."

Wedge leaned over and whispered in my ear, "I do; do you want to see how many points it has?"

I didn't dare look at Grandpa, fearful he heard what was said or figured Wedge was up to no good by the flush spreading across my face.

The meat processor promised the he would have the two deer, cut, wrapped, and frozen ready around Christmas. We ordered steaks, chops, roasts, summer sausage, and ground venison. He figured the deer were big enough we could get all we wanted, if we had fewer roasts prepared. We took his advice!

Driving back to the Lodge, Grandpa announced he'd have a mailbox placed at the end of our lane on the county road so we could have our mail delivered.

"Now that the rotten cop is out of the way," he mused, "there's no reason to hide where you boys live?"

"How about Harvey? I asked anxiously.

"He's not near the threat Pittman was," Grandpa answered reassuringly. "Besides, if he does show up, which I doubt, the two of you can handle anything he decides to dish out!"

Grandpa went on further, informing us he was having a satellite dish installed so we could do –email, rather than just using our cellphones to texts with the internet accessibility, plus a package which would allow us to watch movies, news, and other programming. He also planned going into Willow Run on Monday to see about getting a big snow-thrower for our lawn/garden tractor. I'd been using the blade on the ATV for snow removal and hadn't even thought of using the garden tractor.

"You've been pretty lucky so far, boys," Grandpa explained, "those lake effect snow storms we get subjected to can dump anywhere from one inch of snow to several feet at one time. If the snow-thrower can't handle it, then George will come down and use bucket on his farm tractor to dig you out."

We spent the rest of the day at the Lodge, visiting and relaxing.

The next morning Grandpa decided to join me in trying to fill my antlerless tag. He'd commented he saw a number of antlerless deer from his stand the day before, so we decided to use his stand instead of mine. Several deer passed within shooting range, but I decided to let them go. Within a half-hour, a nice fat deer fell to my shot. Field dressed, the deer ready to transport back to the Lodge, Grandpa suggested we process it ourselves and have some fresh meat instead of waiting until Christmas when the processed meat would be available to us.

We registered the deer, returned to the Lodge, hung the deer in shed, skinned it, and washed the carcass thoroughly. The next morning, right after breakfast, we boned it out, cut out steaks, a few boneless chops, and some roasts. It was no problem for me since I did have some skills as a meat cutter. Grandpa had all of the meat saws and knives available at the Lodge and within a couple of hours, we were done. Wedge requested two round steaks about two inches thick so he could fix Swiss steak for supper that evening.

I knew I'd pleased Grandpa when patted me on the shoulder and said, "Good job!"

Since it didn't take long to process the deer, Grandpa, accompanied by Grandma, Meredith, and Loretta drove over to Willow Run. The satellite company arrived mid-afternoon and by four o'clock we were hooked up and ready to enjoy the programs and other things the internet provided via satellite.

Wedge and I enjoyed a light lunch, since Grandpa's entourage would be eating lunch in town. Wedge and I took the opportunity to enjoy each other's dessert with a nice, slow sixty-nine in bed. We finished and re-dressed just in time since Grandpa and the others drove in the drive.

They were laughing and visiting as they came in the door, evidence I thought, of old friends enjoying each other's company and the trip to town.

"I noticed George put up the new mailbox," Grandpa commented.

"How; the ground's frozen?" I asked.

"Put a post in old milk can, filled the can with concrete, attached a mailbox with our address on it, and placed it at the end of the drive. Mail delivery will start tomorrow."

The rest of the week was fun and relaxing. On Tuesday, an implement dealer delivered the snow thrower. He spent time with us on how to attach it to the garden tractor, as we watched him install it, and how to use it.

Wednesday, all of us, except Grandpa who claimed he couldn't cook (verified by Grandma), helped Wedge bake pies, prepare salads, bake crescent rolls, and, for breakfast the next morning, a huge tray of cinnamon rolls.

Wedge and I were up (those parts of us were too, but we had much to be done) early Thanksgiving Day doing the final preps for dinner and preparing breakfast as well. The bird got stuffed (no smart remarks now) and ready for the oven, along with pans of scalloped corn and oysters. Breakfast consisted of an egg bake and cinnamon rolls, along with coffee juice, fresh fruit, milk, and tea.

After breakfast, the turkey went into the oven to roast for about three hours, Wedge estimated, and once it came out, the corn and oysters could go in. The Lodge was permeated with the smells of roasting bird, pies, and rolls. Dinner was delicious and we all overate! Leftovers put away, dishes cleaned and put away, and all of us collapsed into a food induced stupor to digest our meal and visit some more.

The next day, our company left for their own homes, amidst tears, hugs, and promises from us to visit at Christmas. Loretta was having Christmas at her home in Green Bay and really wanted to introduce me to the rest of Wedge's family since his mother would be there as well. Grandma and Grandpa Hunter were disappointed, until I promised we'd visit them a couple of days the day after Christmas.

Wedge and I collapsed on the couch after everyone left. It was a fun week and now we had to get ready for the rest of the winter.

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