Many years ago, my husband and a couple of his friends went on a guided, big game hunting trip to Canada. A “once in a lifetime” kind of trip for most hunters. Since I am an accountant, by profession, I am inherently interested in numbers, and budgets, and how much things cost. I just can’t help myself. It’s like an addiction, or a disease. I just have to have the numbers. So, of course I wanted to know the cost of this “once in a lifetime” trip. Now, my husband, who runs as far away from me as he can at the mention of the word “budget”, was not particularly forthcoming about the numerical details of this expedition. As the trip grew closer, being persistent as I am, I pressed him for more details. I got nothing. Much to my dismay, I was never given any specifics, only vague mumblings that ended in “I don’t know”, or “don’t worry about it”. So, I didn’t. Okay, I tried not to, but I did a little.
Finally, the day came for him to set off on his big adventure. As I bid him farewell, I kissed him and, being the sweet, loving wife that I can sometimes be, said “I hope you get the big one”. Now, you should know that I sincerely meant those words at the time I said them. What I didn’t know at the time, was that besides the cost of the trip; the airfare, the lodging, the new wardrobe, and the new gun (because you must have a particular rifle to shoot big game, silly me, for thinking one of his other 15 rifles might be able to bring down “the big one”) you also have to pay for the animal that you shoot. And the price is based on the size of the animal. And, you guessed it, the bigger the animal, the bigger the price. The guide actually prices the animal before you pull the trigger. A practice that a detailed, number lover like me, can certainly appreciate.
Well, the moment finally came. My husband waited patiently hoping “the big one” would walk out in the open. And he waited, and he waited some more. His friends had already shot their “big ones”, and my husband began to worry that he would be the only one without a trophy to take home. (Of course, he already had me, but that’s another story for another day. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. I digress.) And then it happened. The biggest elk that anyone has ever seen in a hundred million years, walked out into the open. My husband smiled. He couldn’t believe his luck. As he zeroed in on the poor, defenseless animal, who didn’t have a chance against his big, shiny new rifle, the guide told him the price. My husband, being the hunter gatherer that he is, and not the accountant in the family, pulled the trigger. Bam! And with that, the elk was his. Ready to be cut up and sent home in several ice chests with elk burgers and elk steaks in our future. Oh, and of course, ready to be mounted. Because you can’t shoot “the big one” and not show it off.
When my husband called to tell me about his lucky day, he was ecstatic. He had shot the biggest elk ever on this ranch. He told me every detail of how he took down the enormous animal. I listened patiently, excited for him, but with something else gnawing at me. Finally, being the numbers freak that I am, I couldn’t wait any longer, I had to ask: “So, what did it cost?” Upon hearing his answer, to say that I was shocked, would not begin to describe my mental state. My mouth dropped open. Then, I was livid. When adding up the entire cost of the trip, we could have bought a new car. A small, but nice new car.
Needless to say, the trip became a source of contention in our marriage. A real sore spot. There were times when I thought it might be the breaking point. The one thing we couldn’t seem to get past. The one thing that was brought up by me, when I wasn’t the sweet, loving wife. And my husband became disgusted about the whole thing. I stole his joy by making the trip about money. Granted, it was a lot of money to spend without discussing it with me first, so he wasn’t entirely innocent. But he is a very good provider, and the trip wasn’t entirely out of our range of what we could afford. It would have been nice if he would have prepared me for the hit our savings account was about to take. But then, I probably would have brought up the budget and, well, you know the rest.
As time passed, the arguments grew further apart. And we got over it. It didn’t hurt that the elk had been sent off to be mounted by the slowest taxidermist this side of the Mason Dixon line and wouldn’t be ready for more than a year.
Soon, life went back to normal and I forgot all about the elk. Then, one spring day, we went to our boat stall to get our boat. As my husband opened the garage style door to the stall, I saw it. Or pieces of it, lying on the ground in a heap in the corner; discarded, like some old piece of junk ready to be thrown out.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“The elk” he said.
I could almost feel the air thicken between us.
“Wow, it’s really big” I said. “Why’s it in here? When did you get it?”
He told me that he’d gotten it a few months earlier but that with all the tension it caused, he didn’t want it in the house. He didn’t know what to do with it. Boy, did I feel bad. His ultimate hunting trip had been turned into a bad memory. Something that he’d rather forget. As we stood there, looking at the elk, I was thinking about how far we’d come. We’d weathered quite a few storms in our marriage, like most other couples, and I was happy that we were still committed. I felt thankful for him and our two boys. Although things weren’t perfect, we were still in it; still trying, and things were pretty good. So, I told him that I was really sorry that his dream trip had turned into a such a point of contention between us. I told him that he should bring the elk home; we would find a place for it.
“Where” he asked? It was mounted on a stand, and with its large horns it took up a sizable amount of space. I couldn’t imagine putting it in my living room.
“What about our bedroom?” I offered. We’d recently added on a larger master bedroom with a vaulted ceiling. It would definitely fit in there.
“You wouldn’t want this thing in our bedroom” he said.
“Why not? You deserve to be able to enjoy it” I mused.
“I don’t know. Let’s get the boat” he said.
And that was the end of it. We got in his truck. He smiled at me, and I smiled back. I think we both felt it. It was as if we had finally put the whole “elk trip debacle” behind us.
About 6 months later, on a Saturday afternoon, I walked in the house, home from a long day of shopping.
“Mom, come see” my boys said excitedly.
“What?” I replied.
“Come see what’s in your bedroom?” they said as they hurried me down the hall.
“What? What do you want to show me?” I didn’t see anything.
“Look! Over there!” they said, turning me counterclockwise and pointing to the far left corner of the room.
And there was the biggest elk I had ever seen. I smiled. He’d done it.
As I laid in bed that night, and thought about all that we had overcome, I felt blessed, and I thanked God for the elk in my bedroom.