By Mark Kenyon
The 5 Stages of Grieving. You might have heard of them. First proposed in the 1969 book “On Death and Dying,” the 5 Stages of Grieving are an attempt to explain the shared set of experiences that most people go through when handling a tragic situation.
Today, I’d like to try and develop something similar. But instead of describing how we experience grief, I’m explaining how we experience a shed hunt. Interestingly, the two aren’t too different.
Stage 1 – Excitement: Leading up to the shed hunt – and I mean EVERY single shed hunt – you feel great. Shed hunting is fun! This is going to be a good day. Antlers will be found. Memories will be made.
The conversation between you and your buddies on the drive to the property will typically go something like this:
You: “Dude, I’m pumped.”
Guy #2: “Me too man! So freaking pumped.”
Guy #3: “Honestly, how many sheds do you think we’ll find today? Conservative estimate … What do you think?”
Guy #2: ” Ohh mannnn, I don’t wanna get too excited or anything, haha, but dude, I got a good feeling. I’m thinking thirteen. That’s not too crazy right?”
Guy #3: “Haha! That is crazy man, because that’s exactly what I was thinking! Thirteen sheds for sureeeeee. I think we’re here on the perfect day, I really do. I’m thinking most the bucks have dropped. There’s no snow. It’s cloudy. Today is gonna be goooood.”
You: “So good!”
As you continue the drive, spirits remain high, laughter echoes through the truck and optimism abounds. 20 minutes later, you grab your backpack and binoculars, line up and take off. The shed hunt begins.
Stage 2 – Anxiety: The three of you spread out, pick a general direction and start walking. At just about the same time, all three of you notice a small patch of standing corn in the corner – 200 yards away. You start walking faster. So do they.
The group’s pace quickens even more. The corn approaches. Your eyes dart side to side, up and down, this way and that. There’s going to be an antler. You’re going to find an antler. This is it. And then …
Guy #2: “Got one!”
You see your pal walking your way, actually running your way, he points toward a stalk of corn you were about to step on, he picks it up. It wasn’t a stalk of corn.
You’re 95% happy for your buddy, but 5% pissed that you’re so blind and stupid that you missed that antler. That big, shiny, 75 inch antler. It’s OK though, you’ll find one soon. You move on.
The shed hunt continues. You’re happy for your buddy, but four hours have passed now and you still haven’t found an antler. Your eyes continue to flick back and forth, searching desperately for anything that remotely looks like bone. You’ve gotta find an antler soon. Please let there be an antler. But speaking of antlers, how could you have missed that one? It was right there in front of you. You were so close. Was that your one chance? Was that the only antler you were going to find? Are you going to get skunked? The questions cloud your mind, your stomach is turning, your hands are sweaty, your mouth is dry. You keep walking.
Stage 3 – Loathing: Eight hours have passed since you first left the truck – so full of optimism, energy and joy. Things have changed now.
You can feel the puss-filled blister rising on the heel of your right foot. The blood on your left cheek is finally dried, but the sting of the thorn to your face lingers. Your head is aching from the constant strain of a furrowed brow and the now bright sun in the eyes, and your neck is stiff after being bent down towards the ground for most the day. Your buddy comments that the limp in your step is getting considerably more noticeable, and maybe that tumble down into the drainage ditch wasn’t as harmless as you claimed. You’re hungry. You’re thirsty. You can’t hardly take another step. You forgot toilet paper. Still no antlers.
Who in their right mind thought this was going to be fun?
Stage 4 – Acceptance: It’s just not going to happen. You’ve spent ten hours hoping, wishing, praying that you’d see an antler. Under every cedar, in each patch of CRP, on the edge of every crop field – you thought you’d finally find the treasure you were hunting for. But it’s never there. It was never there. It will never be there. It’s just not going to happen. No use getting so stressed. So it goes.
At least there’s dinner to look forward to.
Stage 5 – Shock: It’s been eleven hours. You’re thinking of a hamburger. Extra cheese, pickles, lettuce, onions and curly fries. Yes, it’s definitely got to be curly fries. Oh those fries will be so good. And then it happens.
It’s the mental equivalent of being hit in the face by a cotton bag full of bricks. You freeze in your tracks. You blink your eyes, nearly lose you balance, gasp for breath, lose your voice and then finally, starting with a whisper and then crescendoing to a scream, you yell out with the force and fortitude of an eight year old girl who just saw a spider on her shoulder.
And then you’re back to Stage 1. The cycle will repeat. Forever.
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