Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pink Roses and Moose Meatloaf

I didn't know it at the time, but the deer was a sign.

Since I had an interview to do on the Northern Neck mid-afternoon, I invited myself to my parents' temporary cottage for lunch beforehand.

Driving up the winding road toward the Moose Lodge in Litwalton where the three-legged dog used to live, I crested a hill and there, standing in the middle of the road, was a deer. And a deer with a lot of attitude; she was staring at me as if I were the one on her territory.

It wasn't like she was caught in headlights because it was broad daylight, sunny and blue skies.

I slowed, eventually stopping and we faced each other down for a few seconds before she deigned to slowly cross the road and scamper off into the woods.

After eating lunch, my Dad took me down to their real house, still in the throes of being reconstructed after a tree fell into it in May. Proudly, he showed off new ceilings, a column that's been added to the living room to support the library floor upstairs and the new windows and sills that replaced the ones damaged by the tree.

Moving from the kitchen to the family room, we were startled when the master carpenter who's acting as foreman appeared out of nowhere to greet us. As my Dad introduced me, I heard the hesitation when he said, "This is my...daughter," tactfully leaving out the "oldest" adjective.

Richard and I shook hands and he told me what a great guy my Dad was and what a great house it was, asking if it was where I'd been born. No, I explained, my parents had raised me and my six sisters in a house a third the size and only moved to bigger digs once we all left home. My Dad rolled his eyes.

But Richard chuckled and proceeded to one up me, saying that he'd been raised in Maine in a house that only had plumbing to the kitchen sink. In order to use the bathroom, you had to go outside - even in the snow - to his Dad's workshop boiler room. Okay, that topped my childhood woe by a mile.

Before I left, I picked a big pink rose blooming just off the screened porch to take back to Mom and Richard observed, "That's a New Dawn rose, an old heirloom variety before they bred all the scent out of them. It's beautiful."

I guess there's lots of time to read garden catalogs when you grow up in Maine.

After saying so long to the parentals, I headed on to my interview of a boisterous college professor who talked to me about baseball, come heres and come back heres.

Work over for the day, I decided a glass of wine was in order and only had to drive a mile and a half to Good Luck cellars. There was only one SUV in the parking lot, but walking up the wide front steps to the tasting room, I spotted a trio enjoying their wine at a table on the porch.

Nice day for a glass outside, I commented. "Go get a bottle and join us!" one of them called out.

Inside, I got a glass of Rip Rap Rose and as he poured it, the winery guy told me I should go join the gents outside. "They came here to hunt deer with bows but the owners aren't here to give permission, so they're having some wine. They'd probably enjoys some female company."

Ah, so that accounted for their attire. I'd given them such a quick glance, I'd assumed they were military but apparently they were in camouflage to hunt.

Outside, the three men drinking Cabernet Sauvignon welcomed me to their table and told me what I already knew: that their hopes of afternoon hunting had been dashed. Assuring them that they looked very huntsmen like anyway, one informed me he was really a potter. The stoneware wine coolers inside were his, in fact.

Another of the guys was retired military, originally from Brooklyn. He prides himself on answering people who inquire if he's from NYC, "No, I'm from Brooklyn. That's different."

The third guy was a scientist eager to discuss Wallop's Island and how close to it they'd hunted.

As we sat there for the next hour chatting, I found out they've been hunting a lot of places together annually for decades. Like Jefferson Vineyards in Charlottesville, which they've hunted for 30 years. They've only hunted Good Luck a couple of years by comparison.

Then there's their annual trip to Maine to hunt moose which the scientist had missed this year because of a wedding in Italy, where, he said, they had a ten-course meal that included everything that swam, flew or crawled through Tuscany. My kind of meal.

The potter showed me a brochure about his studio and another about the upcoming "Made in Matthews" open studio tour next month, the other two razzing him for doing business.

I have to say, for strangers and hunters, they were smart and funny guys and at one point, one said, "At least now you'll know that not all hunters are rednecks."

When I asked what their first concerts were, the potter was hesitant to share and the others assumed it was because he'd be embarrassed. Brooklyn's first had been Murray the K and the Shirelles in Brooklyn back in the '50s.

The scientist's had been Bob Zimmerman in '63, the kind of show a music lover could keep bragging rights on for a lifetime. The potters's first had been the Kingston trio in '65.

As the sun continued to sink lower over the vineyards, the guys agreed that hunting wasn't going to happen today and finished their bottle of wine.

"Oh, well, I've got venison chili in the refrigerator," the scientist consoled himself. "I'm going home to have moose meatloaf from the freezer,"  Brooklyn said. I thanked them for the conversation and as they got up to leave, the potter said, "Just one more thing. Take off your sunglasses so I can see your eyes."

Boring brown, but I probably didn't need them anymore at that point in the day anyway.

After they left, I finished up my Rose alone watching the winery hounds chase each other around in the nearest vineyard. The guy inside told me about an upcoming oyster crawl and sent me on my way.

Then it was back across the river where the sun laid out a shimmering streak of gold connecting it to the water under the bridge with just a couple of smaller fishing boats moving through it.

What have we gleaned today? I can't seem to have a bad day on the northern neck. And not everyone who hunts is a redneck.

What are we wondering? What moose meatloaf tastes like.

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