Once upon a time, just the other day, there lived a family of five just down the street. Some days Momma stayed home, and some days Daddy stayed home. Every day Ava Anne, Savannah Lynn, and Hunter Thomas stayed home. Nothing extravagant ever seemed to happen. In fact, every day seemed almost the same as the day before. When Ava Anne, Savannah Lynn and Hunter Thomas awoke, they would tiptoe out of their bedrooms, down the hall, and to the kitchen. Momma or Daddy would be there or on the nearby couch, reading or eating or doing something uninteresting like sorting mail.
On this particular day, Daddy was the very first person out of bed. He awakened so early it was still very dark outside. He tiptoed around his bedroom so as not to wake Momma. He pulled his clothes on and brushed his teeth very quietly. Then he tiptoed down the hall and into Ava Anne and Savannah Lynn’s room.
Both Ava Anne and Savannah Lynn were sleeping soundly. Daddy tiptoed to where Ava Anne was sleeping. He kissed her forehead and brushed her long hair out of her face.
“Do you want to go hunting with me?” Daddy whispered.
Ava Anne pulled herself out of a dream and blinked at Daddy. It was too early to smile, but she nodded and sat up.
“Ok, get dressed and come on out to the kitchen,” Daddy whispered again.
As Daddy tiptoed out of the dark room and into the dimly lit hallway, Ava Anne slowly crawled out of her warm bed. She loved hunting with Daddy, but she was not so fond of waking up in the middle of the night.
At last, Daddy and Ava Anne were ready. They had their camouflage clothes on, flashlights in their pockets, and snacks in their backpacks. Ava Anne climbed up into Daddy’s big truck and buckled her seat belt. She knew she had a while to sleep before they would get to the woods.
Daddy turned on some old country music and pulled out of the driveway. There were no others cars out on the country roads this time of night.
When Daddy pulled into the field an hour later, Ava Anne awoke. The truck bumped up and down, side to side as Daddy carefully drove to the back of a long field. He finally pulled to a stop near a small bridge that crossed a creek.
“Ok,” Daddy said, “let’s go.”
Ava Anne dug in her pocket to find her small flashlight. She climbed down from the truck and very quietly closed the door. If they slammed their doors, they might scare all the deer away.
Ava Anne waited for Daddy to hand her backpack to her. Daddy swung his own backpack over his shoulders, fit his folding stool over his right shoulder, and carried his bow in his left hand. With his one free hand, he turned on his small headlamp and started walking.
Ava Anne walked right behind and sometimes next to Daddy. It was a long walk over the creek, through another field, into a meadow, and into the dark woods. The woods always scared Ava Anne just a little, but she knew Daddy was right there with her.
Daddy walked carefully, trying not to crack any sticks or shuffle his feet. Seemingly little noises could easily alert the deer that danger was nearby. Ava Anne tried to walk quietly like Daddy. She slowly lifted and set down each foot, holding her breath at times.
Suddenly Daddy stopped. Ava Anne had been so focused on walking quietly that she had not noticed they were at the base of the old wooden tree stand. Daddy carefully tied his bow to a string that hung down from the tree stand.
“Ok, go ahead,” Daddy mouthed.
Ava Anne adjusted her backpack, put her flashlight in her pocket, and began climbing the old wooden ladder. Daddy was right behind her. When she reached the top, Daddy helped push her up onto the platform.
When they were both safely on the platform, Daddy set up his folding stool. Then, he picked up the string that was attached to the platform and began pulling up his bow. When it reached the top, he carefully lifted it over the edge and sat it down very quietly while he untied it. Ava Anne was amazed how quiet Daddy could be.
Daddy sat down on his folding stool with is back against the tree. He looked down at Ava Anne. She was already curled up next to the stool with her small camouflage blanket wrapped around her.
“Do you want any hot chocolate?” Daddy asked, barely in a whisper.
Ava Anne grinned as she looked up at Daddy. She nodded.
Daddy pulled a silver thermos out his backpack. He poured a steaming cup of hot chocolate and handed it to Ava Anne. Daddy always brought a thermos of hot chocolate, along with other snacks that were just for hunting.
Ava Anne sipped her hot chocolate and leaned against Daddy’s knee. This was going to be a great day in the woods. She just knew it.