Several years ago, two friends from Richfield, Tiger Goodale and Rootie Marriot, came up the drive with what they thought was a good story for me to write.
They had been in the Genesee, one of the local watering holes, when this guy came in and told how he or some other one-legged man — they didn’t make it clear — was up in a tree, building a stand for hunting, when his prosthetic leg fell off and landed on the ground right under the nose of his Saint Bernard.
It sounded like a good story. It reminded me, in fact, of celebrated writer Flannery O’Connor’s tale where a man romances a woman in a hay mow just so he can run off with her wooden leg. When I pressed them for details, they told me I had better get them straight from the horse’s mouth and gave me a phone number to call, which I did, but there was no answer, so I just left my name and number on the answering machine.
The man never called back and I was left to wonder what happened to the guy stuck up in the tree. How did he get down? Did the dog run away with the leg or maybe just bury it like a bone? Maybe the man had to wrestle the brute for the “bone” and, to show he was serious, he bit the dog’s tail.
Now, that’s news fit to print.
Anyway, I never heard from the guy. I even went into the Genesee and “accidently” kicked some shins producing an “ow” every time which told me I hadn’t found my man — and almost got me thrown out.
I guess he just didn’t want his story told so I had to bark up another tree which resulted in the following:
When I told 84-year-old hunter Nick Kleban about my dilemma, he related an experience he had had nearly a decade before.
“I was so frustrated,” he said. “After being on watch for so long!”
He had been working the lid of his chalk-dusted turkey call box all morning when he finally called in and got a shot at a big tom, only to have the bird take off and crash land in the top of a thorn apple tree. Mr. Kleban, hunting several miles from his home in Richfield Springs, stood under the tree for a long time wondering what to do.
He put his gun down and began to throw fallen apples at the stuck-up bird. Then, he tried to shinny up the slender tree trunk, but his 240-pound bear-like build worked against him. He shook the tree until every over-ripe apple fell to the ground, but still the bird remained wedged in a fork near the top. Then, completely frustrated, he picked up his Remington and walked three-quarters of a mile through leaf-blanketed woods to the road where his truck was parked.
When he got home, he discussed the problem with his wiry wife Sophie, who said, “There’s no way you’re going to get me to climb that tree!” He thought of waiting for his son, John, to get home from work but by then any number of varmints might have made off with his prize.
After lunch, Mr. Kleban stretched out on the couch. He fell asleep thinking about the large bird that would’ve roasted to a golden brown for the Thanksgiving table. When he woke up an hour later his wife teased that his snoring sounded like he was sawing wood.
“That’s it!” he yelled heading for the kitchen phone.
He spoke briefly and then grabbed his coat off the hook in the hall.
Where’re you going?” his wife called after him.
Nick was too excited to answer.
A couple of hours later, with permission secured by the phone call, Mr. Kleban walked out of the woods with his chain saw in one hand and his Thanksgiving turkey in the other.