Shevis tags a deer

By Stell Shevis | Nov 05, 2015

It was mid-afternoon of the first day of hunting season when a friend came banging at our door.

"Hey Shevis, I got something for ya, and you gotta come help me bring it in!"

Shevis came out of the barn workshop where he'd been working on a silk screen.

"What are you roaring about Lew, can't you see I'm busy?"

"Oh, come on Shevis, you can take a little time to help an old friend! I've shot a deer in the woods and I need help dragging it out and getting it on the car. I'll give you the deer. I'm gonna keep huntin' ...this is only the first day of the season!"

"Oh, oh, you want me to tag this one so you can keep hunting? I can't do that, it's illegal!"

"Oh come on don't be a spoil sport, everyone does it. Look at all your neighbors here...every single one of them in every house gets a deer: the wife, and the kids as soon as their old enough. Hurry up now we gotta get it tagged before dark!"

Ten-year-old daughter Suzi had been listening. She scowled at Lew and said, "Daddy, don't do it." But Shevis weakened, took off his work apron, put on a warm jacket and the bright fluorescent cap, saying, "Let's go then."

I heard the story later when Shevis got home. How it had taken awhile to find the body of the deer where it lay camouflaged by fallen leaves. By the time it was loaded onto the back of Lew's Jeep, it was late afternoon. The Town Office was the front room of the town clerk's house. She was Louella Clark, a cheerful middle-aged woman who greeted the men with a smile. But when Shevis said he wanted a hunting license, she exclaimed, "But Mr. Shevis, you don't hunt!"

Lew quickly said, "I'm teaching him. Come on now, let's get this over with."

Mrs. Clark fussed around, saying she didn't know what the world was coming to. So by the time she found the right papers to be filled out it was almost 5 p.m. and getting dark. They had to get the deer to the tagging station where Lew said how long it had taken to get the carcass out of the woods. Then the animal was brought back to our house to be hung against the barn door.

Two days later, the warden came to our door. He said, "Mr. Shevis, I have to serve you with a summons to appear in court next Tuesday, 10 a.m. Seems you are charged with hunting without a license. Sorry."

"Oh my goodness. Dear, I'll come with you," I said, seeing how distressed he was. Shevis, I mean, not the warden.

"No. No. I'd rather go alone. Damn that so-called friend. He should go! I'm calling him right now!" He did call and Lew quickly said, "Don't worry, there'll be a fine, but I'll pay it after. No I can't go with you, of course not! I have a reputation to keep up!"

Lew was a writer and had published a whole series of boys' books titled, "Jeff White, Young Lumberjack," "Jeff White, Young Sailor," "Jeff White, Young Hunter," etc. Our son, Alan, had the whole set.

When my husband was ready to leave for court, he had actually put on a suit and was wearing his only tie. He tore a couple of checks out of our checkbook and put them into his breast pocket. He was very pale and I really wanted to go along and hold his hand, but he refused and set off alone.

He told me later that the judge was very kind and said to him, "You are charged with either hunting after dark, or tagging a deer you didn't shoot. I believe it was the latter. Is that right?" Shevis nodded. The judge then said, "If you tell me who shot the deer, there will be no fine. Will you tell?" Shevis shook his head. The judge sighed and then said, "Fined $50."

When Shevis pulled a check from his pocket, the bailiff announced, "No checks. Cash only!" "But I don't have cash with me. I didn't know." The judge spoke. "You can make it out to me, I'll give him cash."

When Shevis tried to write, his hand was trembling so he couldn't do it. The judge took the pen, wrote out the amount and then said, "now all you have to do is sign your name. Can you manage?" Shevis did. Then stumbled out of the court room and managed to drive home where I gave him hot tea with a bit of rum in it, and some fresh homemade cookies.

Lew paid him the $50 cash, with a mumbled thanks for not telling, but of course everyone knew and the story has been enjoyed at many a dinner table for years.

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