““Youth, though it may lack knowledge, is certainly not devoid of intelligence; it sees through shams with sharp and sensible eyes.”
H. L. Meneken
Carter held the boat steady while Cage, overnight bag in one hand and a canvas brief case or satchel in the other, carefully climbed in the loaded flat boat. Stony secured a life vest around Cage’s small, but lithe frame and settled him on a box amidst our supplies.
“You’re not joining us this weekend?” I inquired of Carter.
“Not this time; a couple of things came up I need to tend to and I’m afraid they’re the type that can’t wait until Monday morning,” and gave us a shove out from the dock.
Dusk was gathering so I flipped on our running lights as we began our journey back to the cabin. Stony sat in the bow with a large spotlight checking the water ahead for snags or floating debris which, if the motor hit it, would shear a pin and bring us to a halt or, worse yet, be large enough to capsize us or puncture the boat hull. Cage was quiet the entire trip. When we entered the lake in front of the cabin, Stony’s light picked up the reflectors attached to the dock and Cage’s only comment was, “There it is!”
Once we were docked and the boat secured, I led Cage up the path to the house, turned on a porch light, and outside light so we could see to unload, and the inside lights. His eyes swept through the interior visible to him, missing nothing, and taking mental notes of all. I showed him the bedroom he’d occupy, the shower, and how to operate the toilet. “It certainly beats trotting outside in the winter; there were times I was afraid my ass would freeze to the seat but it didn’t,” I mused watching him smile at the prospect.
“But, right now Cage, I have to help Stony unload the boat, so if you want, you can relax for a little bit before I fix our supper.”
“I’ll help!” and he scrambled out the door behind me. As we worked, Cage was quiet, but was a great help in carrying boxes and bags to the cabin and putting them in the pantry. All the while he worked he seemed to be watching the interaction between Stony and me. I suppose his shyness was natural; he was spending the weekend with two people he really didn’t know and we were gay at that. I don’t think he was fearful we’d put the make on him or hurt him; at least that wasn’t the impression I was receiving.
Everything stowed away, we returned to kitchen where Stony fixed a salad, while I put three rib-eye steaks on the grill outside. Cage followed me out, standing next to me as I tended the steaks.
“I didn’t bring a gun to hunt with,” he said softly, almost apologetically.
“You don’t need one, Cage; I have one ready for you to use. You’ve shot before haven’t you?”
“Yeah; Uncle Carter and my older brother, Louis, and I’ve been rabbit and pheasant hunting. Dad has a 20ga. he lets me use. He likes to hunt to, but just doesn’t have a lot of time to do it.”
“In the morning, Cage, you’ll be using a 12ga. superimposed. The barrels are on top of each other; it shoots twice and has more of a kick than a 20ga. but by the looks of you, there’ll be no problem. Stony will be shooting a 12ga. pump, plugged so it only holds three shells, and if he can handle that, you sure as hell can handle the superimposed!”
Cage grinned from ear to ear, his face lighting up, pleased and relieved he’d be able to hold his own in our world. I thought to myself that all young people need to feel successful and accepted; too bad they all aren’t. Steaks done, we took them inside where Stony had the table set, salad prepared, hard rolls with butter, and apple pie I’d baked that morning, ready for our dessert, in anticipation of our repast.
When we finished, the three of us cleaned up the table and dishes, then retired to the front porch where I explained what hunting ducks from a scull boat would be in the morning.
“A scull boat is a shallow, almost punt-like, pointed prow sneak boat, propelled by a long, slightly curved blade, oar extended out through a portal, situated above the water line, in the stern of the boat. The hunter, or oarsman in our case, will work the oar back and forth in a figure-eight movement which propels the boat forward. A change in direction, either left or right, is made by a harder pull to the right or push to left, pointing the boat in the opposite direction. The low profile and a small, brushy blind on the front deck cowling conceals the hunters, and not only makes it difficult to interpret for the ducks, whether it’s a log or something else, but creates very little wake and the hunters can scull “right up a duck’s ass” according to my late Uncle John before they even know you’re within range.”
Cage began to yawn and I realized he must be absolutely beat, so we called it a night, reminding him morning would come early, long before dawn since there was much to do.
Darkness still enveloped the cabin when I entered Cage’s room to wake him. Shaking his shoulder gently, I said quietly, “Cage, it’s time to rise and shine; we have much to do before we can shoot at ducks.”
Opening his eyes, he smiled, responding with a sleepy, “Hi!” Instead of waiting for me to leave, he threw back his covers and crawled out of bed. Doing so, it was obvious he slept in the nude and equally as obvious big cocks seemed to run in the family, for his, sticking out in front of him, drooping a bit from the weight I should suppose, looked large in comparison to his slim body. It wasn’t the maypole of a youth, but flag-staff of a fully developed and cock-erected man. Lest I was caught staring, I hustled from the room after admonishing him to dress warmly.
Stony fed and watered the chickens and gathered up the eggs while I fixed a lunch for us to have while hunting and, chores done, we sat down to a breakfast of pancakes and eggs. Cage out-ate Stony, hands down. We stacked the dishes, vowing to do them when we returned, and dressed for the hunt. I had an extra hunting coat for Cage to wear and insulated gloves, just in case it was too cold for him. On the walk to the flat boat, loaded with eight dozen mallard and bluebill decoys and a dozen Canada goose decoys, I reviewed some hunting safety tips and the use of the shotgun he’d be using. As we climbed in, a brief flash snapped from Cage’s hands and I realized he was taking pictures with a digital camera.
A short boat ride brought us to the duck blind Stony and I’d constructed earlier in the week off of a point and sand bar on the river side of the Island. It was in the same location of the blind that Cameron and I hunted from so many years before and always produced shooting for us. The scull boat rested on shore, sheltered by the blind, but on rollers so it could be slipped, silently into the water. On one side of the point was the main river and the other, a nice shallow slough containing a good mixture of grass and duck weed, offering not only food, but shelter for waterfowl.
The goose decoys were placed in the shallow water off of the sand bar about three hundred yards from the blind; the mallards off to the right, about four hundred yards, toward the slough and; the bluebills to the left another four hundred yards or so from the blind, but more visible from the main channel of the river. Landing zones of open water were arranged between the spreads of the decoys so ducks, if they should be so inclined, would have a place to settle down. All we would have to do, should we be fortunate enough to have ducks in our decoys, was scull within thirty or forty yards of the resting birds, jump them, and open fire.
Cage, asking questions and taking pictures as we worked, questioned what he was doing; “Do these look O.K. where I put them? Are ducks harder to shoot then pheasants? How long have you been hunting? Does everyone hunt from scull boats?” and many others. I patiently answered each one, pleased he was interested and talking so freely to us. Decoys in place, we settled ourselves in the blind to wait for legal shooting hours to begin. I didn’t really expect to see much action, other than local birds, since the northern migration ordinarily doesn’t begin until the end of October or first of November, depending on the weather in the northern states.
Dawn began its slow journey above the horizon, illuminating the river, the Island, and us, a ray of sunshine poking through the blind, fixing on Cage’s face, now literally glowing with excitement and awe as he looked to the east. Reaching over and tapping me on the leg, I looked in the direction he was pointing expecting to see ducks flying our way, instead saw the shadows, silhouettes cast by the sun on the trees and stumps, and the diamonds created on the rippling waters by the sun’s rays. He said softly, as he began taking pictures, “Have you ever seen anything so majestic, awesome, or resplendent in its simplicity?”
Stony and I both nodded in agreement, but I added, “I think, every day now, is ‘pulchritudinous’.”
“What the hell does that mean?” growled Stony, temporarily upset I’d use such a big word.
“Beautiful,” I responded, “and growing more so when I’m with you,” and winked at him.
I thought Cage might like a new word to start a new day and perhaps a new chapter in his life. I was about to comment on that, when he touched a finger to his lips indicating we should stop talking, and pointed toward the rising sun. I could then hear what he heard; the calling, cackling of a flock of geese. Picking up my call, I began to talk back to them, using low chuckles and louder chatter, trying to gather their attention and head them toward our decoys. I’m not the best with a goose call, but I must’ve done something right because that small flock of a dozen or so, set their wings and dropped like falling leaves into our small spread of goose decoys, quietly chuckling, talking to their inanimate companions.
We quickly slipped into the scull boat, Stony and Cage crouched behind the grass blind, shielding their faces from the swimming geese, while I propelled us out into the water, carefully, silently, maneuvering us toward the unsuspecting birds. About thirty yards from them, I said softly, “Take’em” and Stony and Cage sat upright and fired. I heard three shots and saw three big, fat geese hit the water while the rest of the flock, cackling and squawking in surprise and alarm, flew off.
Cage started shouting, “Did you see that? I did it, I really did it!”
He certainly did; Stony shot once and Cage twice, two for him and one for us. We picked up the birds and went back to the blind. Stony took a picture of Cage holding his two birds; Cage took a picture of Stony with his, and then took some more of the boat, the birds, me, and the blind. The rest of the morning’s hunt was quite successful; the ducks decoyed well and we managed to fill out our limits with mallards, ring necks, widgeons, teal, and a couple of wood-ducks. After an early lunch in the blind, we gathered up our decoys, secured the scull boat, and motored back to the cabin in the flat boat.
The job of cleaning the ducks was lessened by a rubber-tipped device that attached to a portable electric drill that made short work of removing feathers by running the device across the body of the duck, sending feathers flying from the carcass. By soaking the ducks in a hot water bath containing dish detergent, the oil in the feathers was dissolved and the feathers loosened from the body making removal easier. I thought Cage might be squeamish when it came to eviscerating the birds, but he wasn’t and got just as bloody as Stony and I.
“I’m going to keep three or four of the teal out,” I announced, “splitting them and grilling them for supper. There’s room in the freezer for the rest of them so we’ll freeze them. Stony and I will keep a goose for Thanksgiving or Christmas and send the rest home with you, Cage. Of course, we may get some more in the morning, so we’ll have to wait and see.”
Stony and I let Cage shower first while we cleaned up the mess from the bird cleaning. As much as he and I wanted to shower together, to save water of course, we were reluctant in doing so since we really weren’t certain how Cage would react or if it’d be wise to do so.
As was our custom before dinner, I fixed us our drinks and some snacks. Cage opted for Pepsi® since I refused him a beer or mixed drink. Had I known the family better, he would’ve been welcome to have a beer, but again, why take a chance? The porch was a perfect place to sit on a nice late fall afternoon, sharing in the fellowship of the day and discussing the success of the hunt. The sun was beginning to begin its slow slide into dusk, casting a warm orange glow across the slough and the house. Cage suddenly got up, went to his room, and returned with a sketch pad and pencils. He sat at the small table, sketching, intent on what he was doing.
Stony and I watched him, observing the concentration, changing emotions on his face as he placed what he envisioned on the pad in front of him. Out of the blue, he asked, “J.T., when did you know you were gay?”
That’s not an unusual question for someone seeking him or just one a naturally curious teenage boy would ask, so I answered, “I think when Cameron, my first boyfriend and lover, moved in across the street. I fell in love with him.”
“What happened to him?” was his next question, so I told him and as I brought my story to a close, I could see tears in his eyes.
“How about you, Stony?” Cage asked with some hesitation.
“Probably your age or a little younger; but I never had a boyfriend or lover until I met J.T. and wouldn’t have it any different. I was always too afraid of getting the shit kicked out me to admit it while in high school so I stayed in the closet!”
“I know,” replied Cage, “ I’ve got to watch it in the showers so I don’t pop a bone and have people holler ‘queer’ at me. It makes it kind of tough sometimes. I don’t have a boyfriend yet, but there’s this real cute guy in a couple of my classes. He keeps looking at me like maybe he’d like to get to know me better, but I think we’re both afraid to make a move.”
He paused a moment, looked at the sketch he was making, looked up at me, and began drawing again.
“Is art going to be your major?” I asked.
“I don’t think so; it’s really just a hobby with me, although I do real well in art classes. The mediums I generally work in are oils, charcoal, pencils, and some photography. My favorite subjects are in Science, especially Biological Sciences.”
“What type of pictures do you draw?” Stony inquired, “I hope not those you have to wonder what they are.”
“Nah; I do animals, landscapes, people, and still life. I don’t do abstract stuff or surrealism. I have a tough time with Picasso’s art work.”
“You know, guys,” he said matter-of-factly, “I really haven’t said anything to anyone else except my parents or brothers about how I feel. I think that Uncle Carter knows, but never says a word – God, he is so smart; he knows everything!”
He’s not the only one, I thought as I listened to Cage. I thought a moment, finally verbalizing what was going through my head, “Don’t worry about us, Cage, we won’t say a word to anyone. Growing up, Uncle John made the Island and the room you stayed in last night available for me away from prying eyes of neighbors and those family members who were too bigoted to accept me. You’re welcome to enjoy the Island as well, if your parents approve.”
I rose, went to the kitchen, pulled the ducks from the refrigerator and prepared them for grilling. I rubbed them lightly with olive oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and some winter savory and placed them cut side down on the hot grill in the front yard. Grilling them for about ten minutes on that side and then fifteen on the other, would give them a nice brown outside and slightly pink inside, but done the way I like them. Cage accompanied me to the grill and proceeded to tell me he also liked music and played the piano, but really enjoyed the guitar and the five-string banjo. He was also learning to play the mandolin. No wonder his parents and others thought he might be a bit “odd;” the lad couldn’t learn fast enough or everything he wanted to.
Jellied cranberries, baked potato wedges with ranch dressing, and salad completed our meal. Dishes cleaned up, we settled ourselves in the living room where Cage took up the questioning again.
“How do gay guys make love- is it always like the pictures and stories portray?”
“No, some guys like anal intercourse, others don’t; some guys are oral only or masturbation or frottage, or all of the above,” I responded.
“It’s not how,” Stony interjected, “it’s who you’re with and why you want to make love to him and have him return the same. It’s not just about sex, its being with and doing things with someone you love. He completes and compliments that part of you that’s missing. So don’t worry about the ‘how’- that just happens – be more concerned with finding the right ‘who.’”I think that satisfied Cage since he settled in next to me on the couch and sat quietly while Stony fixed the a nightcap for him and me. As Stony and I sat enjoying the evening, I felt Cage sort of lean into me and let his head rest on my left shoulder. Stony smiled at me and I looked down at a very tired and sound asleep young man. Between the two of us, we were able to coax and cajole Cage into bed.
Thank you for reading "Gif’s Island – Chapter Fourteen –“Youth, though it may lack knowledge, is certainly no devoid of intelligence; it sees through shams with sharp and sensible eyes.” – H. L. Meneken
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