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Let me tell you a story about persistence and patience.

Back in my early twenties, I wrote a short story called “Elk Talk.”  The tale had grown out of an experience I’d had back when I was working as a cook on a ranch in Wyoming.  One evening, I had stayed up late telling jokes and drinking beer with a few of the cowboys.  These guys were all hunters, and we got to talked about elk calls – the various techniques for imitating a bull elk’s mating call in order to draw the animals near.  One of the cowboys, Hank, admitted that he had recently purchased a tape recording of some elk calls made by the greatest master of elk-calling in elk hunting history, a guy named (and I will never forget this) Larry D. Jones.

For some reason – it might have been the beer – I thought this was the funniest thing I’d ever heard.  I loved that there was somebody in the world named Larry D. Jones who made a living by recording himself imitating mating calls of elks, and I loved that people like my friend Hank bought these tapes in order to practice their own mating calls.  I persuade Hand to go find the Larry D. Jones instructional mating call tape, and I made him play it for me again and again while I laughed myself dizzy.  It wasn’t just the sound of the elk call that I found hilarious (it’s an eardrum-shredding Styrofoam-against-Styrofoam screech);  I also loved the earnest twang of Larry D. Jones droning on and on about how to do it correctly.  I found the whole thing to be comedy gold.

Then somehow (again, the beer may have played a role) I got this idea that Hank and I should go try it out – that we should stumble into the wood in the middle of the night with a boom box and Larry D. Jones tape, just to see what would happen.  So we did.  We were drunk and giddy and loud as we thrashed through the Wyoming mountains.  Hank carried the boom box on his shoulder and turned up the volume as high as he could, while I kept falling over laughing at the loud, artificial sound of a bull-elk in rut – interspersed with Larry D. Jones’s droning voice – blasting through our surroundings.

We could not have been less in tune with nature at that moment, but nature found us anyway.  All at once there was a thunder of hooves (I’d never heard an actual thunder of hooves before; it’s terrifying) and then a crashing of branches, and then the biggest elk you ever saw exploded into our clearing and stood there in the moonlight, just a few short yards from us, snorting and pawing at the ground and tossing his antlered head in furry What rival male had dared to bugle a mating call on my turf?


Whatever you’re looking for is looking for you too.

Gilbert, Elizabeth. “Elk Talk.” Big Magic: Creative Living beyond Fear. New York: Riverhead, 2015. 187-89. Print. www.amazon.com

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