Buckcakes

As the sound of a distant gun shot recedes from hearing, I am reminded again that we are living through the fourth day of Minnesota firearms deer opener. We keep our fingers crossed: The baby wears a bright orange hat, when he’s not yanking it down in frustration.

Signs of the season are everywhere: big trucks, their drivers seemingly gripped by buck fever (hopefully not by beer) make three point turns right in the middle of the highway; you can spot discarded hunting orange knit hats crumpled in the crease of nearly every dashboard; and more literally, the dead deer strapped to roof racks pile up at the Two Inlets Country Store. The hunky iron scale sitting outside the store wears dots of blood.

But there are sweeter notes to this deer hunting thing. Yesterday I passed my neighbor’s 13-year old daughter as she stood on the road at the top of the creek bank, drowning in a men’s small orange camo jacket. She held her oversized rifle safely, hands at 10 and 2. We exchanged a few words, a few laughs, she shifted from foot to foot, and she seemed under the completely normal spell of middle-school bashfulness. I left daydreaming about how it would dissipate when it came time for her to pull the trigger, and about the resoluteness she’d need to put her knife to its warm belly and the lack of squeamishness she’d need to yank out its guts.

I guess sweetness needs to be tempered. And no one around here seems to see the incongruity of baked goods that commemorate a mass execution. Deer cookies are everywhere, their heavily frosted faces looking suspiciously like Bullwinkle to me. Hank savored his “co-coo” the other day fully, identifying the eyes before chomping them.

Today the Menahga Bakery, a tiny but warm-blooded coffee house at the front of a cavernous but cozy old-fashioned bakery, featured deer and gun cupcakes. They also sell Finnish flatbreads and cardamom breads and danishes of all sorts to a faithful crowd—mostly Finns from the area, but also some interlopers and locals like us who drive 20 miles out of our way just to swing through Menahga for a little sweet.

Like a couple of leisurely retired people we hemmed and hawed over our choices, as if these were the last doughnuts we’d ever eat. In a last-minute change of heart I went back to basics, picking out the cupcakes and a plain cake doughnut. Aaron chose a cream-filled, chocolate-glazed raised doughnut. I fished mine out of the box when we got in the car and it was still WARM and the nooks still held droplets of fat. I made the right choice, but now the cupcakes are starting to call me.

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