Eating Like Kings

This article is pending publishment at North American Whitetail magazine.

“Brudda Kyle, you kilt me a deer yet?”

Sherman had asked me that question every Sunday for the last three weeks, and every time he did I reminded him that it was still July.

“Not yet, Sherman,” I’d answer. “It’s nowhere near deer season.”

“Oh, brudda Kyle, there are only two seasons for deer – salt and pepper!”

My friend Sherman had been hit by a drunk driver while moving an orange barrel for the highway department back in the early 80s, and the impact had broken nearly every bone in his body. He couldn’t even tie his own shoes, much less put in a full day of physical labor, and as such he didn’t have much. He was content enough, though, to sit in his chair and hope that whatever daytime television talk show happened to be on might be interesting enough to distract him from his ever-present pain. That, and dream of the deer I’d shoot for him every fall.

I don’t know that I’ve ever known a man with a taste for venison like Sherman. He talked incessantly about his favorite recipes, always reminding me to be careful not to nick the backstrap when field dressing his deer. That’s about all I’d do with the whitetail I shot for Sherman – tag them, field dress them, and then hang them in the stunted redbud that stood in the corner of his yard. After that, I’d stand back and watch as he worked the phone lines. His message was simple and succinct.

“Brudda Kyle kilt me a deer. Get over here.”

Before he’d made the last of those calls, Sherman’s neighbors would already be congregating in the front yard, ready to descend on the deer like army ants on a picnic lunch, taking their orders from the little general himself. Leaning on his cane, Sherman would divvy up quarters and detail which cuts of meat were best suited for each of his recipes. No one left without receiving specific instructions.

“Put that shoulder roast in a crockpot with taters and onions tomorrow morning, Jim, and you’ll eat like a king tomorrow night.”

“That rack of ribs will be tasty and tender so long as you rub it down good with that seasoning packet I gave you and don’t leave it on the grill too long, Charles.”

Every one of Sherman’s neighbors walked home with something, mumbling their thanks and trying to remember his recipes.

Sherman’s been dead for years now, but I still drive by his house after I shoot a deer, wishing he’d answer my knock, wishing I could see his eyes light up when he spotted the blood smeared across my knuckles. That sweet old man taught me that there’s something even better than deer hunting – sharing the spoils of the hunt with others.

I’ve got a shoulder roast defrosting as I write this. The plan is to drop it in a crockpot with some taters and onions tomorrow morning and then eat like a king tomorrow night. I told my neighbors to be here by 6:00 PM.

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