Waiting On Wednesday
On The Shoulders Of Giants With Andrew Curtis
Andrew Curtis | March 9, 2023
I stared at the clock, anxiously awaiting the lunchtime bell. There was no way I could focus on my school lessons. This was Wednesday!
Right on time, Dr. Hart pulled up to the school to check his son, Tom, and me out of class. Towed behind his 90s model dark green Toyota 4Runner SUV was the 12-foot fiberglass boat where we would spend the rest of the afternoon. All of our fishing tackle was loaded in the boat.
Dr. Henry Hart closed his Albany veterinary clinic at noon every Wednesday, which allowed him time to pursue his passions of fishing and hunting, but he rarely went alone. Thankfully for me, having the local veterinarian sign two kids out of school early nearly every Wednesday was not an issue. From school, we headed northwest, either to his family farm in Americus or to a huge leased pond outside of Weston. The target was largemouth bass.
That particular Wednesday at the Weston pond, I had my Zebco 202 equipped with a black plastic worm. Shortly after Dr. Hart shoved the boat off the trailer, I made a cast along the dam and felt a hard fish strike. I set the hook with my flimsy rod and immediately knew that I had a good-sized fish. The fish made a move toward the boat, stripped my drag, and nearly took the rod from my hands as the bass fought with all it had. Laughing and slapping his knee, Dr. Hart grabbed my line, pulled the fish to the surface and lipped the fighting fish.
“That’s a bucketmouth right there,” he exclaimed, beaming a huge smile.
I couldn’t believe it. There before me was the biggest bass that I had ever caught… maybe 5 pounds if I really stretched it. No matter what it weighed, I was proud. But to this day what I remember most is Dr. Hart’s wild excitement for me. I won’t forget it.
Dr. Hart always took a focused interest in my outdoor likings, and that next fall, he told me that he was going to try to put me in a position to kill my first buck. It was Wednesday, Nov. 4 when Dr. Hart left work early to pick Tom and me up from school. We were going to the deer woods, and I was so excited that I could hardly keep from blabbering on and on in the back seat of his SUV. He quietly drove on, a grin stuck on his face. I think he knew that I had a good chance of seeing a nice buck that day. He dropped me off at the first stand, The Horseshoe Stand, with mowed lanes planted in oats through thick underbrush.
“Take my rifle,” Dr. Hart said to me, handing me his 7mm08. I had recently shot this rifle at a target range and was familiar with the gun. His parting words to me before going to his stand were, “Shoot whatever you are proud of.”
Well, shortly before dark, I saw the buck that I was proud of, a beautiful, tall-tined 8 point. Having only killed one doe in my life, I looked through Dr. Hart’s scope, but my nerves were shaking the rifle all over the place. Finally, I calmed down enough to pull the trigger. The buck ran low and hard out of sight, and I heard him crash in a clump of scrub trees. My first buck was down, and I knew it!
I waited in the stand until Dr. Hart and Tom arrived; they heard my shot but had no idea what I had shot. Remember, this was before everyone had a cell phone. Barely able to climb out of the tripod stand, my shaky legs carried me to a grinning Dr. Hart.
“I heard the shot,” he said, his smile growing wider. “And it sounded like a hit!”
“Yes-sir,” I said, trying to suppress my excitement. “He ran right through there.”
Dr. Hart went to the spot of the initial hit, found blood with the flashlight, and hurriedly tracked the buck down, finding him dead where I heard him crash. Dr. Hart was so excited, I thought I had just shot the state-record buck. He dragged the buck out of the thicket, bragging on me the whole way, before throwing that bloody deer into the back of his 4Runner and staining the carpeted interior. We paraded that buck around, making me feel like a real hunter. The boost of confidence that I gained from that hunt propelled me forward as a deer hunter, and I grew up fast in the deer woods. My dad ended up shoulder mounting that buck for me, but no matter how proud I was of that deer, Dr. Hart seemed prouder.
As I get older, I realize all the time that Dr. Hart devoted to me to fuel my love for the outdoors. I sort of took him for granted without meaning to. The stories seem endless in my mind. So many times we fished and hunted together, but when a child becomes an adult like I did, things change. We have not been together in years, and I have a family of my own now. However, I’m in a position to return the favor in a sense, to pass it forward to a younger generation.
And it is no coincidence that I chose to pursue the same career path as my childhood mentor. I guess I was thinking about all those Wednesday afternoons!
Brings back a lot of similar memories. Early check-outs from school, excitement of the trip to and from the lake or woods, and detailed recall and stories of what happened – whether successful or not.
I think many of us from earlier generations can remember the people (whether family or not) who impacted our love for fishing and hunting, made sure we respected the game and property or others, and mothers who made sure we were fed early or late and forgave the muddy clothes and boots. Only later in life do we realize their unselfishness in helping us achieve that.
So true. Thank you for commenting on this. I love to hear other’s experiences and thoughts.