Both of my grandfathers were hunters, as were their fathers before them. Neither of my parents hunt, and neither do I, but my uncle was a hunter and my great-grandfather on my father’s side listed hunting as his trade. In a farming community, it was his job to bring home the meat. My great-grandfather on my mother’s side was not only a hunter, but he was said to have a great connection to the forests which he hunted in. It was a reciprocal relationship; both had an affectionate respect for each other. Several stories were told, but there is one that still sends shivers down my spine while it inspires awe in me.
His name was John (Jussi) and John was out hunting. John was always out in the forest, usually hunting. He wasn’t having any luck this day, not that he minded because he loved it here, but it was later than he realized, so he found a nice spot to bed down for the night. He built his fire, ate his bread and cheese cold and then laid out his bed and settled in for a night’s rest. It had been a long day and he quickly fell asleep.
“John.” A voice said and John woke with a start and looked around. Nothing stirred. Did he really hear it? After a few minutes with no more sounds, he decided he had been dreaming and he quickly fell back to sleep.
“John!” John sat up and this time grabbed his rifle, he was met with total silence. After a few minutes he lay back down and a sound sleep overtook him again.
“John, the old man wants to sleep!” This time the voice was booming and John knew it wasn’t a dream, but he was getting irritated. He grabbed the blanket and rolled over and in frustration said, “Then let the old man sleep!” He tried to fall back to sleep but he could not shake off the irritating feeling he had.
“JOHN,” boomed the voice again! “You have to move! The old man wants to sleep!” He jumped up and looked around. Somehow he seemed to know this was not a person, but it was the middle of the night and he just wanted to sleep! He grabbed his rifle and bedding and moved to the other side of the fire, fuming with anger!
“Fine,” he yelled! “Let the old man sleep!!”
The soft sounds of the forest at night always had a way of soothing him. The hoot of an owl, the footfall of forest creatures; he found peace in the forest, it was his refuge and soon he was lulled to asleep again.
This time the sound that woke him was deafening! There was a huge crash and the earth shook and sparks from the fire that was almost out were flying everywhere. John jumped up to brush some sparks off his blankets and suddenly he was staring at a huge tree trunk lying across the area on the other side of the fire where he had been sleeping earlier. Bewildered and dazed, his movements mechanical, he found himself rescuing his fire and adding more wood… he needed a cup of coffee… As he sipped it slowly he finally began to grasp what had happened.
His beloved forest had shown its love for him; saving his life.
“Sleep well old man,” John said, blessing the huge tree.
He brought a few people back to the area as he told his story. They gaped at the huge tree and shook their heads… and the old man slept.