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2015 Norm Strung Youth Writing Awards

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Senior prose, First place: Those treasured weeks of November

BY BROOKE COTE, Cook Minnesota

 
I wake up abruptly from an unfathomable sleep; all I can hear is the relentless beeping of my irksome alarm clock. It’s 4:30 a.m., and I just want to dive deep back into the warmth and sanctuary of the bubble of blankets on my borrowed single bed. But only for an instant, only until I grasp the fact that it is opening morning of deer season, 9 miles south of Grand Rapids. My adoration for this sport is indescribable, a family tradition, a passion, an obsession.
Hunting white-tailed deer used to be a chore in my family. My grandpa would wake up my mom and uncle by rudely kicking the feet of their beds saying, “Get up! It’s daylight in the swamp!” Then it was more a need to fill the freezer than to hunt for sport, and from my mom’s perspective, tremendously unpleasant. Things were very different then than they are now.
Nowadays, we use the three treasured weeks in November designated to open rifle season to spend time with each other, eat delicious home-cooked meals, and pass down a tradition that originated many generations before mine. I believe that the love for hunting is something that is something of nature, rather than nurture. You can never be forced to love something.
It started at an early age. My mom would wake me up at about 5:30 a.m. on opening day. She would animatedly ask me if I wanted to join her for the morning hunt. Groggily, I would agree and roll back over to sleep. Shortly after, my grandma would come into the tiny guest bedroom at their house and tickle my feet to get me out of bed. I can tell you one thing for sure, it always got me out of that little twin mattress and mountain of blankets in a hurry!
At that point, she would have breakfast on the table. A pair of the most perfectly cooked and seasoned fried eggs, deliciously buttery toast, and a piece of thin-sliced deli ham sitting there, just for me. After that filling meal, I would don my layers of clothing, including my blaze orange hunting bibs and jacket that I found myself drowning in, because I wanted to be like all of the grown-ups in their bright outfits and not have to wear the childish, and very noisy snow pants.
I can remember the eagerness I felt as the group of us would walk to our designated stands. It was challenging trying to keep up with my papa and my mom. Most of the time I was more distracted by figuring out how to walk that certain silent way my papa walked in the woods: heel first, toes last something I still have yet to master today.
If you walked those same trails that I have been for years and happened to look into one of our several deer stands, you can still make out the impression of a little girl trying to inaudibly amuse herself for the many hours of sitting and unwearyingly waiting. Close to the floor of any one stand, on the walls, by the windows, on the door, are drawings in every hue of colored pencil you can think of. That was my favorite thing throughout my time in the stand. I would let my imagination construct stories out of images that I had scribbled on those ox board walls.
Around the age of 11, Papa entrusted me with the firing of my first rifle. I can picture it like it was yesterday. The apprehension I felt when I picked up that diminutive .22 was incredible. It felt so bulky, so alien, and so hazardous. Papa described the way to properly handle a gun, how to load it, where the safety was, and finally, how to squeeze that delicate trigger that would propel a lead bullet hurtling at a tin can approximately 15 yards away.
Years following, I was given the privilege to hunt in my very own deer stand! Painted burgundy, nestled in a serene clearing in the center of a cedar swamp, stood my personal utopia. It wasn’t much, just a permanent stand, about 10 feet in the air, made out of 2 by 4s and old materials. It was the most incredible thing ever.
Now, at the age of 17, I neurotically sit in that same stand for hours on end. I enjoy the solitude and the skill it takes for the hunt. I  can’t get enough of it. My appetite for this sport hasn’t been limited to just deer hunting. I have expanded my skill set and been fortunate enough to go on duck, pheasant, turkey, and elk hunts all around the United States.
The memories that I have of these practices with the people that I love are irreplaceable. These are the life learning experiences that I could never forget or overlook. The things that I have learned from the time I started sitting with my mom in her stand to the present are uncountable. My papa taught me how to shoot, but he could have never expected how much the first shot would be the catalyst to the beginning of a lifelong addiction. ♦

Senior prose, Second place: The Delicate Arc of a Falling Pheasant

BY ELIZABETH RUBBELKE, Rogers, Minnesota
It is the last walk of the weekend, a strip of land behind the landowners’s house. It is a spot faithfully preserved until the last day of opening weekend. I am anxiously anticipating hunting this spot because I shot only one bird yesterday, much to my disappointment. My father, an excellent shot, makes it look effortless, but this first pheasant hunt is more difficult than I imagined.
They flush so quickly out of the long grass, their tails cutting through the sky and peeling off to safety. My dad patiently takes me out later in the day after our group is done and that’s when I pick off my one pheasant of the day. Needless to say, on this final day of the weekend I am hungry for redemption.
Our small band clad in blaze orange scans the grass intently, flinching at every dark branch that might be a rooster head. I am walking between a weathered wooden fence and my dad. Beyond the fence is an empty field that backs up to a corn field. As I turn a corner in the strips, so that I am now parallel with the road and fields, the prairie comes alive. Ahead of me I see dozens of dark heads popping up and down in the grass like bobbers on a lake.
I shoot at the birds flying back at me. Unsure of my range, I foolishly ignore a few birds and miss some shots. My dad shouts over to me, encouraging me. Finally, a bird flies at me along the fence line. I bring up my gun, squeeze the trigger, and see the tell-tale explosion of feathers. Its body drops and tumbles along the ground.
Excitedly, I reach down under the fence and put its trembling body in my vest. I fumble reloading and hurry to catch up to the line. Dozens of birds fill the sky, many flushing too far out, some over the road, and some get up only to land again quickly. Their sharp, delicate shapes slice through the otherwise uninterrupted sky. Another bird catches my eye.
It gets up on my right and I take a shot as it veers toward a small pine tree. My dad looks over at me, cheers, and pumps his fist in the air. Our black Lab darts through the brown grass, clamps down on the bird, and proudly trots back to me. I add this bird to my vest and the amount of amber feathers in my pouch doubles.
Our Lab runs back ahead of us to zigzag across the field. We are nearing the end of the strip and I hear hollers from the whole group as birds drop from the sky. I am already excited at having doubled my amount of birds from yesterday, but what I really want is a limit. To shoot my limit I need three birds. I already have two, so all I need is one more. I watch the dog cut the dry vegetation into a grid with her sleek, black body, nose close to the ground, and I wait for my opportunity.
The frenzy in front of me fades away as a rooster peels off to my left, catching the breeze and shooting far out over the empty field. All the days skeet shooting with my dad and evenings at my summer trap league come back to me. I raise my gun up to my cheek and sweep the barrel across the sky like a paintbrush. I slowly put pressure on the trigger and gun fires with a noise I do not hear.
The delicate arc of the bird immediately stops. To me, its descent is slow and graceful. Its wings twist and twirl around itself as if grasping for the air one last time. Time catches up to me and the body falls heavily onto the dirt, bouncing up and down until it finally rolls to a stop.
Our dog wiggles under the fence and takes off across the field to retrieve it. I take its warm body in my hand and my own body shakes with relief and pure elation.
My dad congratulates me and pats me on the back as we walk back to our truck to take pictures of our birds. The heaviness in my vest reminds me of what I have just accomplished. I think about how time slowed, how it was just me and that swift creature, how my body and mind worked together, and how all the pieces fell into place.
I can’t help thinking was beautiful. ♦
 

Senior prose, Third place: The magic of the salt marsh

BY PAIGE SZAROWSKI, Rockville Centre, New York
 
Just beyond the outskirts of New York City lies marshlands filled with abundant waterfowl and wildlife few know about.
During the hot summer days of June and July you will find fishermen, kayakers and birdwatchers enjoying the beauties of nature. It’s a popular spot during the summer as everyone from the city and Long island floods to the beaches to get some sun. As September turns to October and the temperatures start to drop into the 30s the marshlands become empty and new groups of winged visitors begin to fill the marsh. And then on a cool, crisp November day the marsh comes back to life as a different breed of people take to the sacred land. For most people Thanksgiving brings images of turkey, football and family. When I think of Thanksgiving I see a black duck over the decoys and hear the echo of a large 12 gauge across the bay. There is only a small group of us left but the hardcore Long Island duck hunters all do it because it’s in our nature.
It’s hard to know what motivates the salt marsh water-fowler. For some it’s a flock of brant coming down the channel; for other it’s bufflehead buzzing over the decoys. I know for myself it’s the entire hunt put together. The excitement of waking up at 4 a.m. not knowing what the day has in store. Riding down the channel with the cold air blowing in your face and the sound of 15-horse wide open. It has been a tradition of hunting Thanksgiving morning with my dad every year.
That hunt is a hunt I look forward to every year and has created memories I will forever cherish. My first black duck out on the marsh is one of those days you wish you could relive. Dad and I knew the tide was going to be perfect, and the excitement started to build. I can see the car lights in the distance as we started to pull up to the ramp. I step out of the car and I can feel the breeze coming off the bay. The sun starts to rise and more ducks began to fly. The first shots ring out over the marsh; I grip my gun tighter getting ready for a bird. Then in the corner of my eye a black duck swings low along the creek. I pull up and put the bead on the duck and BANG! A beautiful black duck floating in the creek.
I remember being so happy and seeing how proud my dad was that I was becoming a bayman. Dad was also able to knock a black duck, and together we had our limit of blacks. That day, that moment, I will never forget.
When it comes to hunting, Long Island is known for field goose hunts and bigwater sea duck hunts. But there is a secret that lives out in small creeks of the bay. I don’t know if people don’t want to believe it or they just don’t know. Long Island has some of the best black duck hunting in the country. Every year thousands of black ducks migrate to the shores of Long Island and there are very few people who invest the time and equipment to successfully hunt them. They are the king of the duckswary, intelligent and beautiful. If you shoot a black duck over your decoys you did something right. As a 16-year-old kid the saltwater bays speak to me like nothing else in the world. I don’t shoot a dozen drake mallards in one hour like you see on TV. But when I shoot my one black duck for the day, I am grateful for the opportunity to hunt these bays I love so much. And I know that if there is a black duck in my boat at the end of the day, I hunted hard and did something right.
As January ends and the season comes to a close a sad feeling comes across me. But I know next November, just a few miles east of the biggest city in the United States, I will be able to find a very small creek with only the smell of low tide and the sound of wind against the marsh with a faint “quack” as a black duck in the distance spots my decoys. ♦

Senior poetry, First place: Fish Catching

BY MICHELLE CHEN, Whitestone, New York

Ducks grow fat on water
like unmoored hyacinths.
I’ll sit along the pier and let the brine

expand in my lungs:
headstrong and luckless
Love set you off like perennial blooms

in dwindling sea. The sun has turned the wooden
cats febrile and rearing, wet hands tendering
the Bastet-furred shorelines.

Memories of Lent anchor the flaunted symmetry
of nymphet legs, revolving numbly
in fanfares of cold drench.

I can hear the piper call of victory
over wan medusa eyes, one flat legless fish
the Ozymandias of them all.

Extinction hums between shaman knuckles,
the valuable clutch of gazing flounder.
Living and rotting, its mouth gaps in worldless ovals.

The water is treeless.
Impatient,
I prick myself on purpose.

I do it with hooks. There is an exceptional
magnetism between fishhooks and fingertips
when time evolves into shuddering gills and

chimneys punch through the roof of a fish’s
mouth house. Grapeleaves black and levee
delicatessen flesh for us old dogs.

Nimbus clouds shade over my sister’s
Disappointment. Vermilion bait rings free
On our empty hook. Their fish juts,

scales kissing the panicked dock, evergreen
howl vanishing beneath chill surface, a miniature truss.
Our fishhook arches curiously. She touches it also. ♦

Senior poetry, Second place: Dear Mother

BY NATHAN JAMES PHUONG, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Dear Mother,
I remember suckling on Your warmth
as You spread Your Light across the meadows
in storms of monarch butterflies,
how You cradled me in the palm of Your
calloused hand
as I inhaled the periwinkle air of twilight.
And You slowly wrapped me in Your arms,
cloak by cloak, leaf by leaf, storm by storm
as I grew into what I am
today.
Mother, can’t You remember?
Mother, it’s been so long.
Here I stand, short of stumbling
as smoke paints Your sky with Gray
as the wind whips grits of sand and concrete
against my sunburned face like the
jewels woven into the braided hair of a
widowed bride.
Mother, I try not to tremble
when my faithful leaves suffocate, as my
heart chokes
with fear, and sap leaks down my hollowed
cheeks.
Why can a thousand-year-old amber be
destroyed in
three fleeting days?
Why can I see the horizon creep closer,
closer, tucking away Your sunset glow?
Your crown fading silver to black as it
wisps into
fogs of methane and poison gas that
shrivels from within my fingers
and slowly rots my past.
Mother, it stings when they slice their axes
through my throat.
Mother, Mother,
How could You have abandoned me so? ♦

Senior poetry, Third place: Untitled

BY WILLIAM V. HARTLEY, Tuckerton, New Jersey 

Cold
Chasing the green life out of the world
Like an army in fierce retreat
Replaced
By a legion of frost, snow and ice
Inviting gleeful festivities of the coming
celebrations
Clean
Nights and crisp morns
Embraced by those who brave the icy
tongues of the season
Green
Grass now frozen in time
Standing at attention
Waiting
To be covered by a sweet blanket
Of white
Through mortal flesh I see
Into the heart and soul of any being
As we begin to understand the language of
nature;
Balance, serenity and tranquility ring in our
ears
Until we fully understand
Then it becomes not a ring in our ears
But a feeling in our hearts
Rocks, the only victors against the winds,
Now become home for the
Carpet of lush green moss
That carries the first seeds of new life. ♦

Junior prose, First place: It Was Big Enough

BY REESE BLAKENEY, Leesville, Louisiana
Kaboom!! A bullet came from the barrel of my Remington model 700 heading for the skin and bone of the biggest deer I had ever seen. As the trees moved out of the way of my bullet, doubt raced through my mind, “Was it big enough? He never looked at me, so I never got a good look at him.” I was worried because Jackson Point has a strict 15-inch rule.

Jackson Point is a “Sportsman’s Paradise” that my grandfather has been a part of since the 1980’s. It is a fertile piece of land nestled between Lake Mary and the Mississippi River. At about 2,000 acres, this land has plenty of room for deer to move around. Not only does Jackson Point have loads of deer, but also wild hogs, turkey, squirrels, and fish overturning the property. The old trees are loaded with all kinds of acorns and fruit for the deer to eat. The woods are made up of hardwood tress including white oak, persimmon, and huge cypress growing along the banks of the lake. I have seen three times more deer at Jackson Point than I have ever seen in all my other hunts combined.


Every year after Christmas, my grandfather, uncle, cousin and I go on a hunting trip to Jackson Point. We drive four hours to Fort Adams, a small, historic settlement with boarded-up churches and a gas station that is decorated with deer antlers. But we still have one more leg of the trip … the leg that seems to take the longest, the 12-mile dirt road through the woods and off the grid. This part of our journey never goes smoothly. If we aren’t getting stuck in a giant slippery pothole, then we are wondering if the dirt bridge is even there anymore. Nicknamed “The Dump,” this flimsy excuse for a bridge has a soul-sucking dark, muddy water of doom on each side, and we fear that the truck and all of our belongings will slide in. Old oil wells and other junk line the last two miles of the road, and at this point Papaw always mentions how close Angola Prison is and how he hopes no inmates have recently escaped. When we finally get to Jackson Point, we breathe a deep sigh of relief.


On our first morning there, we all got up and dressed at five o’clock in the morning except for my younger cousin, Ty, who was the hardest to wake up out of all of us. It was like waking up a log. The four of us crammed into Papaw’s Kubota and rode off into the dark woods. It was cold and pitch-black, except where the headlights shone. A mixture of excitement and adrenaline filled us as we came to our first hunting spot. Uncle Tim and Ty jumped out and went to their stand, and we to ours. The frost was on the leaves, and I could see my breath. As daylight broke, we heard song birds chirping, crickets humming, and Papaw farting. I told him there wouldn’t be a deer within a mile of here as he pulled out of his pocket a meal fit for a king: an apple, two Nutrigrain bars and a pack of Stage Planks. He was like a chipmunk pulling out nuts from its cheeks.


Now, for all of my hunting season, I’ve been told not to bring snacks, not to pass gas and not to pee, but Papaw did exactly those three things in the little time we sat in that stand. He told me that deer are attracted to his urine, not driven away from it. I was a little skeptical when he went out the door of the stand to urinate. I heard the trickle of urine, and then I heard the snapping of twigs. A yearling walked out sniffing the air as it went as if it were intrigued by the smell of fresh urine on the ground. Papaw came back into the stand and said while laughing, “I told you so.”

We decided to try a different spot a couple of hours later because Papaw had another place in mind. We walked four hundred yards away from our previous stand to a new one that had deer sign everywhere. He put me in the stand, handed me my rifle and left some fresh “deer attractant” at the base of the stand. Then, he was gone. There were animals everywhere, birds and squirrels. I was in the stand for not fifteen minutes before I saw a flash of horn two hundred yards away. Two four-points and two does walked in front of the stand, but this time I was not looking for the does; I wanted a big buck. So I waited. Those four came and passed. I saw a hawk swoop for some sparrows but miss. He landed in an old, gnarled oak tree in front of me. Before long Papaw was back, and it was time to make the short ride to the lodge for lunch.

We rode out for an evening hunt that afternoon when Papaw dropped me off at the stand. The surrounding area was full of white oaks and other food trees. Papaw had told me that deer love white oak. I heard some turkeys, but I never saw them. I was in the stand for forty-five minutes before two does walked out. I decided that if I could get a shot, I better take it. I only had one hunt left, so I waited for them to come to a clearing, which took probably an hour. Right before I was about to squeeze the trigger, I heard twigs breaking to my right. I turned slowly to find a spike standing in the brush with one of the earlier four points. “If it’s an 8-point, you can shoot him,” the words my grandfather had told me echoed in my head. Disappointed, I turned my head as far as it would go to find to my surprise, a large deer standing thirty yards from my stand.


He looked big.


He looked very big.


He looked big enough.


I was kind of worried how big the deer actually was, because it never turned towards me. I looked through the scope. My thoughts ran through my mind like a runaway train. He paused behind a large tree. All I could see was his head. It was excruciating to watch him from behind the tree. After what felt like hours, he moved. Figuring it was a large deer, I took the safety off my rifle, took rest on the wall of my stand, held my breath, squeezed the trigger, and prayed for the best. As I felt the kick of my rifle, memories came to my mind of the hunter’s safety course on year earlier. “After you fire that shot, you can never take it back,” the voice in my head told me. 

The deer trotted slowly, tumbled around, and came to rest under a tree fifty yards from my stand.
Immediately, I called my uncle Tim on the radio and whispered, “Eight point!! Eight point!! On the ground!!” Uncle Tim replied “Attaboy!” I watched the other deer scatter in all directions, until the only one left was one little doe, who looked lost and confused without her mother. She came right beside my stand and darted off to the side.
After a few minutes, I heard my buck breathe his last. I got down from my stand walked very slowly to where he was. To my surprise I discovered he was not an eight-point, but a nine-point! I sat and counted the points over and over until I was sure I was right. He was old. He had a fat face, which suggested his age. His twisted antlers were large and tall. The surface of his antlers felt like tree bark, rough on the bottom and smooth on the top.
Uncle Tim, Ty, and Papaw rode up in the Kubota to see the monster I had sitting at my feet. He was so heavy, I struggled to hold his head up for pictures. It took three of us to load him into the Kubota. I was just happy we didn’t have to drag him all the way back. As we shifted his weight to the bed of the vehicle, it tipped backwards then steadied out. We skinned the deer and saved his head to mount. He weighed in at an astonishing 230 pounds with whopping twenty-five inch main beams, and a sixteen-inch spread. It was the biggest deer I had ever seen.
In the following hours, I relived the shot over and over in my mind. It all happened too fast. I wish I could have enjoyed it longer. I had just experienced “buck fever” as my cousin Ty calls it. 
 

Junior prose, Second place: Young lady Sherlock Holmes cracks the case

BY RYLEE GJESVOLD, Ham Lake, Minnesota
I’m running through a meadow filled with flowers. I leap into the air and soar high above the …

“Rylee!” someone yells.


I’m no longer flying. I’m in a cabin in the middle of, well, nowhere. Squinting at the light, I open my eyes. I drag myself out of bed before someone does it for me. In the kitchen I get some cold cereal and listen to my dad’s voice rumble through the small cabin.


“Rylee,” my mom says from the other room.


Basically still sleeping, I stand up and try to follow her voice into the room. After tripping over a chair and almost smacking into the wall, I manage to walk through the bedroom door. Layer after layer after are put on me. Finally, almost fully awake I look in the mirror.


I look like a huge puffy orange snowman. Giggling, I walk outside and slowly crawl onto the four-wheeler behind my uncle, my mom, and my sister. I wave to my dad as he and my other sister walk to a different hunting spot.


We quietly slosh over the muddy forest floor. I can just see the sun rising above the clouds. My uncle switches off the motor. The only sound is the birds chirping overhead. My mom grabs her backpack and we start to climb the wiggly ladder to the box that I’m going to spend my day in. At first it’s fun: listening to the birds, pretending I’m girl Robin Hood. But as a 6-year-old girl, I don’t have much patience, especially without any toys. It gets to where I’m ready to jump and scream. Apparently my mom can tell and she hands me a bag of chips.


“Eat this,” she whispers.


After devouring those, I am once again bored. Like any other 6-year-old girl I love to make noise and I soon realize that if you squeeze an empty chip bag it makes a very loud crinkling noise. After being told not to do that, I start bouncing my legs around like crazy.


I look out and see something across the field. A brownish animal emerges from the trees.


“A deer,” I almost yell. I never thought a deer would save me from my terrible case of boredom.


My sister shifts and silently lifts the gun to her shoulder.


“Bang!” The sound rings through the forest.


“I bet that woke someone up,” I think. The deer takes off like a lightning bolt. “Rats,” I say, forgetting the anti-talking rule.


After a while, my mom says to my sister, “Let’s go see if you hit it.”


“Ok,” I say loudly and jump up, glad to be able to talk once again.


We find some drops of blood. We hit the deer but it is nowhere to be seen.


“Let’s look for it,” my mom says. “Rylee, don’t go too far.”


“Ok,” I yell, even though I know that’s not going to happen. I go deep into the woods and start searching for signs of the deer.


“I’m Sherlock Holmes,” I say, “searching for my criminal in this magical forest where the trees can talk to another and the …” I hear a sound.


“Rustle, rustle.”


The trees are talking to each other, I think. I hear it again more loudly. Using my magical 6-year-old powers, I follow the sound through the magical forest. Breaking my concentration, my Mom calls and says she and my sister are going to look on the other side of the field.

“OK,” I yell back. “Back to my work,” I say hearing the sound again. “Maybe it’s a bear …” I think “Oh well, bears are cute! Hey! What’s that? Either those are some talented leaves or I just found a deer!”

I get closer. It’s definitely a deer. And it’s moving, too. It looks up at me. Well, I think it does, and then it goes still.

“Whoa!” I think. “Sherlock Holmes does it again!” I stare at it for a while and then go find my mom and my sister. 
I run over and tell them to follow me because I found the deer. After 10 minutes of trying to re-find the deer and convince them that “Yes, I did see the deer … not a squirrel!” I suddenly see it lying in front of me.

They are very happy. And I am very proud.


“Come on,” my mom says. “Let’s go get your dad.”


That was my very first hunting trip and to this day I’m still not sure if the deer actually looked at me or if it was just 6-year-old imagination.  ♦

Junior prose, Third place: Bringing home the bacon

BY RAMSAY SMITH, Paw Paw, Michigan
Climbing into the stand, I inhaled the cold, fresh air. I wasn’t nervous, for this was my first year out hunting with the bow in my hands, and I didn’t know that I should be nervous.

Dad, climbing up behind me, handed me the new cross-bow that I had wanted for years. Its strings were new and strong, and it felt good to be holding it. I was new at hunting. All my life my dad had gone, and I always waited excitedly for him to come home, with a deer or without. Most years he would bag a big 8-point buck, or a nice doe. Sometimes I would go out with him, but only when he had the bow, because the gun was too loud and scary for me.


When I first got my license, Dad asked what firearm I would want to use. I told him a bow was the only thing in my future. But not just any bow, a crossbow. So I learned how to hunt from a bowhunter’s perspective.


Laying the bow in my lap, I sighed. I hope I would get a deer, or at least see one.


We sat in a two-man tree stand — Dad on the left, me on the right. It was really the only way we could do it because I’m lefthanded so it was easier for me to swing to the right than the left.


After a while of sitting, Dad gave me a hard nudge. Over to the left, a deer walked in, though we couldn’t tell if it was a buck of not. I stood up for a little, trying to get a good look. It stayed there a while, trying to decide if it should come out in the open. I caught my breath as the deer came into view. It was a little buck, but to me it was the biggest one I had ever seen. As he walked in, nonchalantly eating leaves off the trees, I raised the bow and found him in my scope. I was too short for the gun rest, so I freehanded it. I didn’t have time to be nervous.


Dad grunted and the buck stopped, looked, and I shot. Running off to the right into the woods, we heard him blundering wildly through the brush.


Now I was shaking. Over and over I asked Dad, “Did I get him? Did I get him?” Those 10 seconds felt like hours. Dad got down before me and found the arrow. His face shining, he told me to come down. With my knees shaking, I did, and he gave me a hug.


He went off to the left, and I went to the right. Now that I look back on the experience I think Dad wanted me to find the deer instead of him. Climbing over a fallen tree, praying that I had gotten him, I glanced to my right. There he was, lying in a small open area, half fallen over a small log.


The arrow had made a clean shot through the lungs. Calling Dad over, I touched his soft fur. It wasn’t the biggest deer, but I was glad to get him. I was the only one to bring home the bacon that year. ♦

Junior poetry, First place: Cycle

BY NATHAN JAMES PHUONG, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Wind whistles past my ears
Small sprays of water
Fountain behind my tires
Gears slide
I lurch forward on my bike
My eyes sting
But I don’t’ slow
I slide and glide
Over the glossy surface of the road
But still retain my balance
Rain patters on
The ground beside me
Creating small rippling pools
That reflect the sky’s deep blue lighting
I approach a sharp turn
My brakes screeching in protest
And I whip past a tree
Leaves speckling the road
Cattail fronds arc up beside me
Springing back into place when I brush by
Green stems uniformly bent
In neatly spaced rows
Wind swirls around me
Tugging at my bike’s pedals
Sending a wave of cold through my jacket
Blowing leaves around me into a frenzy
My lungs burn
In the distance
A faint outline sharpens
The end of the road comes into view
I descend the slope
My tires begin to steadily hum
Pebbles shoot off my bike
I plow through the end of the road
White noise fills my ears
A mourning dove’s call reverberates through the air
Shattering the still oppressive silence
I rest for a moment
Then slowly begin a new trek
Following another trail ♦

Junior poetry, Second place: How to Be a Hawk

BY ALEX DIETZ, Zanesville, Ohio

Feel the wind on your face.
Soar across the sky
with your huge span:
five feet of bronze wings flapping.
Focus on the mouse running away.
Scoop him up.
Think: “My chicks are hungry.”
Screech as you spy other animals,
and watch them retreat
to holes, nests, crevices.
Enjoy beign the predator.
Sink your shimmering gray talons
into the wing
of a vulture: a common fight
for your territory.
Bring him down.
Soar across the land feeling
proud of your hawk’s sight.
Rule the air. ♦

Junior poetry, Third place: Ode to the Conch Shell

BY SYDNEY SULLIVAN, Portland, Maine

Conch shell,
my fingers run across the delicate crevices
that guard your concealed treasure.
I follow the bumpy spiral with my index finger
Until my fingernail reaches the point.
I examine your perfect armor –
Pale yet rich brown
That fades into orange
Like a summer peach.


I turn you over to see the beauty you hold,
And your rosy insides dazzle my eyes.
I stroke the perfectly smooth surface
And follow that vibrant pink to the pearly white.
Your cool interior soothes my fingers,
sends shivers up my arms,
and eases my mind of stress.
I press you against my ear
and feel your smoothness against my temple.


Inside my ears adventures echo,
and I reflect on vacation.
I remember how I persisted,
how I discarded broken or cracked shells,
determined to find the perfect one.
Finally I found you
when I was just giving up,
a gift from the sea,
and you became my own.
To anyone else
your echo
would be the sound of ocean waves.
But to me it’s my stubbornness,
my determination,
a bit of my personality,
all in a conch shell ♦

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