Warning, this post contains pictures that may be unpleasant to sensitive viewers.
Thanksgiving. It is a uniquely American holiday. Every family has its own unique way of celebrating. Each year, our family enjoys an early morning duck hunt to celebrate and remind us how grateful we are for the opportunity to harvest from Earth’s great bounty. Our morning duck hunt is followed by a leisurely afternoon and Thanksgiving feast.
This day started as any other day in the field as we headed out to join our friend Dave and his two year old daughter, Sydney. Dave’s wife, Christy, a trauma nurse at the local hospital, was scheduled to work and would be joining us that evening for our Thanksgiving meal. In the meantime, Dave, Sydney, my husband Todd, my son Wyatt and I, took to the water. After a short boat ride across the Columbia River, we set our decoys on a small island we would call home for the morning.
With Sydney and Wyatt in tow, we did not anticipate a productive morning. The two were running around on the island laughing, giggling, and having an enjoyable time. We knew no duck would come to our calls while the kids caused such a ruckus. That was okay, though. Hunting is not always about the harvest. It is more about the experience and the memories created. It was also a great day to expose the children to hunting and spark their interest in the sport.
The kids would stop playing every so often and come over to check out our duck calls. Sydney was particularly taken by Dave’s teal call. Dave patiently sat with her and showed her how to hold it against her mouth and blow. Surprising to all of us (and catching us all off guard) a small group of teal appeared out of no where and began to sit down in our decoys! Because we were not expecting their arrival, none of us were able to get a shot off before the ducks alerted and flared away.
The morning was a success in that we were later able to harvest two ducks for the freezer. Both Wyatt and Sydney were impressed and asked if they could come back next time. Mission accomplished!
As expected, and as time passed, Sydney and Wyatt grew impatient. It was time to go. I also needed to head home and get the turkey in the oven. As we started to pick up our decoys, Wyatt began skipping rocks into the water. We directed him a bit further down the island away from the decoys but still within eye sight. A moment later, Dave alerted me that something was wrong with Wyatt. I looked over and saw him standing, perfectly frozen with a shocked look on his face, both hands glued atop his head.
When he saw me looking, Wyatt began to cry. I headed over and asked what happened. He said he had hit himself in the head with a rock. He would not let me look under his hood, but he was talking just fine and exhibited no signs of trauma, so I assumed he was more scared than injured and all was well. He had been throwing small rocks into the water which could not have caused any serious damage. I picked him up and carried him out to the boat to begin our trip home.
Before the cold boat ride I insisted I lift Wyatt’s hood and adjust the cap he was wearing underneath to ensure he stayed warm. Wyatt had stopped crying, but was clearly growing tired and did not object. As I lifted the hat, I realized the rock Wyatt had hit himself with must have been rather large. He had blood gushing from the back of his head!
Dave quickly cut a bandage from a towel in the boat as I applied pressure to Wyatt’s wound. He then phoned 911 from his cell phone while Todd settled Sydney down in the boat. I was panicked but dared not show my concern to Wyatt. Todd and I exchanged a look of fear knowing the situation was grave. We were at least 15 minutes from the boat dock, in the middle of the Columbia River, and my child sat in my arms listless and tired, and bleeding profusely. I had to stay strong.
Dave battled the waves and headed across the river as quickly as possible. The wind had picked up and the chop slowed the boat. I said a silent prayer that Wyatt be okay, and that we would get to shore quickly. The ambulance and fire truck arrived at the boat launch just as we pulled to the dock. Within a few minutes we were headed to the hospital where Wyatt received staples to seal up the back of his head.
I later learned that Wyatt had taken a rock about 6 inches around and threw it straight up into the air. When he realized the rock was falling straight back down, he covered his head and ducked… right into its path. It was a lesson learned in Newton’s law of gravity: What goes up, must come down.
We ended up enjoying Thanksgiving dinner at the hospital with Dave’s wife Christy and the other nurses and doctors in the trauma unit. It was not the meal we had planned, but it was yet another reminder of things for which we are thankful. I am thankful for my right to hunt and for the game the Lord has blessed us with. I am also thankful for good health, and that my son was not more seriously injured that day.