From the pen of a younger, fresh faced Nick Devin, comes a story once written for a uni assignment that will now see the time of day. So sit down and listen in for a tale of hope and courage as Radio Friendly presents: Following Footsteps.
Pa got me up before the rooster had awoken and crowed his cries of a winter morning. He told me it was time to get ready. My bed was warm, and by the looks of it my teddy was still enjoying his sleep. I looked around our house and saw that everyone was still asleep. Mary-Sue and William were sharing their bed, and Ma was in bed with baby Jack. The fire that kept us warm all night had died down to little dancing sparks. I rolled out of my small bed and fought against the bitter chill that shook my bones. I decided to put more logs on the fire so Ma had plenty of heat to cook breakfast. Even though I am the second youngest, I like to think that I am just as old as William. Even more grown up. I found my coat and pushed my feet into my boots. I whispered bye to my bear before I opened the door; I didn’t want to keep Pa waiting. The cold sent another shock through me as I stepped outside. Pa was already calling me to hurry along.
Our footsteps crunched the snow as we set off into the trees. Pa was carrying his pack with his rifle over his shoulder. I could see a small line of yellow and orange blur across the sky. It was too far away for me to feel any warmth, so I wrapped my arms around my chest as I followed the footsteps Pa had already created. I was walking much easier in the tracks that were already made for me, so I could worry more about keeping myself warm. I didn’t know how long we’d be out today, but I was glad to be away from the house. Ma said that I had to study my words today, but Pa took me out instead. Even though the cold is making my bones shiver, it’s better than learning my words.
As we walked along the mountainside, Pa continued with no rest. My legs were beginning to become stiff and sore and I needed to sit down. I asked if we could stop and rest, but Pa said no and continued on. He didn’t look back. He only looked into the distance where we were heading. I looked up at the sky as I shrugged it off, noticing the thin yellow and orange line had grown bigger and brighter and had now almost filled the sky. Clouds began to form and the moon had almost turned invisible. The sunlight on my face scared away the shivers from my bones. As I let go of my breath, I watched the misty air float up and become a part of the sky.
I still followed Pa’s footsteps, hearing the crackle of his boots meeting the snow in front of me. Even though the sunlight had warmed me up, a small chill was still in the air and it made my ears throb. I had no way of protecting them from the cold air so I cupped my hands over them as I walked. I looked at how Pa walked in front of me, wondering if he too felt as cold as I was. He walked at the same speed as when we first started, ploughing through the snow and the cold air. I knew Pa was strong, but as I watched him walk with his heavy pack and his rifle along his shoulder, and his legs stretching across the snow, I wondered how I could become like that. I decided to break away from his path he had created and started to step through the deep snow. It was harder than I had thought, and my legs were aching with each long step I took. My boot had become stuck in the snow, and I had fallen back onto my tracks. As I tried to push my frozen foot into my boot, I felt a large hand pick me up and put me on my feet. Pa didn’t look too happy as he let go of my coat. He told me to stick behind him and not to fall behind. We headed deep into the tree line.
The forest was always scary to me. My brother and sister told me it was where the monsters make their home. The shadows of the tree tops along the forest floor created frightening images in my mind. Large teeth of a creature, its claws almost as sharp as the knife Ma uses on the hens, patterned the floor. I noticed scratch marks along the trees and I wondered what beast could do this. Strange noises bounced off of the bark and echoed in my ears as I looked around into the distance. The leaves began to move and shake, frightening me more, so I ran to catch up to Pa. The sky couldn’t break through the tops of the trees so the air become colder again. Pa didn’t seem to worry about the shadows or the scratches or the noises, he kept walking through the snow. He began to watch his step, he knew we were coming close to our prey.
Our pace had slowed down and Pa told me to watch where I stepped. I noticed tiny hoof prints in the snow alongside where I was placing my boots. I realised we were following them. We were following the trail just like following the breadcrumbs in the stories Ma reads to me. Pa whispered to be quiet as we tiptoed through the woods. I didn’t want my boots to crunch the snow. I could hear movement behind the bushes as we moved closer. My frozen feet began to hurt the slower I walked on them. We crept down beside a bush. Pa pulled aside the leaves to show a large deer grazing at the tall grass that broke through the snow. He gently lowered himself onto his knee. He told me to do the same. He didn’t look away from the deer at all. I knew what Pa was about to ask me, but I didn’t want to hear it at this time. I had never been so close to a deer before in my life. His soft brown fur had snowflakes brushed across it and its antlers stretched further than my arms could. I knew what I was being asked to do; I knew from the moment Pa woke me up this morning. Pa had taught me how to shoot before. I had shot at foxes around the paddock, but I had never shot anything as big as a deer before. I didn’t want to miss the shot and I didn’t want to know what Pa would think of me if I missed. I wanted to be strong like him and not let the noises and shapes in the forest frighten me. I wanted to be able to walk by myself and not fall over in the snow. I wanted to be like Pa. My eyes began to fill up with tiny tears. They were cold as they fell down my cheek. I quickly wiped them away with my sleeve. Pa hadn’t noticed me crying. He was still watching the deer.
The only time Pa looked away from the deer was to hand me his rifle. He whispered for me to breathe carefully as I aimed and reminded me not to miss. Silence had fallen over the forest and was broken only for a second as the click of the hammer was pulled back into position. I pulled the gun up against my shoulder just as Pa showed me. I began to breathe slowly so I could watch the deer. For a moment, the cold air became invisible to me and all my feelings had gone numb. I pulled the gun back tighter into my shoulder and wondered what Pa was thinking. Another thought of upsetting Pa entered my mind as I focused on the deer. My knees began to shake and my arms had lost all their strength and began to wobble. I won’t be like Pa at all. As I tried to straighten up, a hand gently patted my shoulder and Pa whispered, “You can do it son.” I tightened my grip on the rifle and smiled. The loud bang of the gun bounced between the trees followed by the soft thud of the fallen deer. My heart felt as if it would break through my throat as I looked up at Pa with my smile even bigger now. He looked down at me with the same smile on his face and patted me on the back.
I helped Pa wrap up the deer so it was easier for him to drag back home. My heart was still racing in my chest with excitement and joy. “Hey son, you lead the way back home. I’ll follow your footsteps this time.” Another smile reached across my face as I began to set off into the snow.