Hunters in the Snow

by

Tobias Wolff

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Hunters in the Snow can help.

On a cold, snowy day in Spokane, Tub (who, as his name suggests, is tubby) is waiting, armed with a rifle, on the side of the road. Suddenly a truck swerves around the corner and mounts the curb, nearly running Tub over. He drops his rifle and two sandwiches and some cookies fall out of his pocket.

The truck eventually comes to a halt and Tub goes over to it. The driver of the truck, Kenny, is laughing hysterically at having scared Tub by nearly running him over. Tub is angry with Kenny and Frank, who is in the passenger seat, because they are an hour late picking him up. Though Frank doesn’t join in with Kenny’s laughing, he doesn’t take Tub’s side, but tells him to “be mellow.” Tub gets into the truck with Kenny and Frank, and the three of the drive into the country, towards some woods where they are to go hunting. The truck is freezing because the windshield has been broken by “juvenile delinquents,” so they have to stop twice for coffee to warm up.

They arrive at the woods—the same woods they’ve hunted in, unsuccessfully, for the last two years. Cold and restive, the three men squabble and Kenny threatens to divulge a secret that Frank has told him about “a certain babysitter.” Frank is angry but Kenny only laughs.

They set off hunting. Tub trails behind, struggling to get through the fences and trudge through the snow. Rather than helping him, Kenny and Frank simply watch him struggle. After two hours and no success, they stop for lunch. Tub barely eats anything because he is trying to lose weight. Frank makes fun of Tub for being fat and Kenny laughs hysterically, again. Tub blames his fatness on his “glands.” They continue hunting, Frank and Kenny looking for tracks along one bank of a creek, with Tub on the other bank. Still unable to keep pace, Tub stops looking for tracks and just tries to catch up. With daylight fading and no sign of deer, they all decide to walk back along Tub’s side of the creek. Almost immediately, Kenny spots some tracks and reproaches Tub for missing them.

They follow the tracks, and when they come to a no hunting sign, they decide to go to the farmhouse to ask the farmer’s permission to hunt on his land. Heading back to the truck, Tub falls behind again. Tired and dispirited, Tub sits down alone and eats the sandwiches and cookies that he didn’t eat for lunch. Kenny and Frank have already started driving, and Tub has to run to catch the truck. While Kenny goes into the farmhouse, Tub chides Frank for failing to stick up for him. He asks Frank about the babysitter, but Frank tells him to “mind your own business.”

Kenny re-emerges having gotten permission to hunt on the farmer’s land. The farmer’s dog snarls at them, and Kenny, pretending to be a dog, snarls back until the dog retreats. They start following the deer tracks again, but lose them in the woods. Kenny is furious and argues with Frank. They walk back to the farmhouse and the farmer’s dog runs out again. Kenny says, “I hate that dog” and shoots it. Then Kenny turns to Tub and says, “I hate you.” Believing that Kenny is going to shoot him, too, Tub shoots Kenny in the stomach. Kenny crumples to the ground, while Frank barely reacts and Tub weeps. Tub suggests they call an ambulance. Leaving Kenny bleeding in the snow but taking his rifle, Tub and Frank go into the farmhouse to find a phone.

The farmer, somehow guessing what has happened, is unsurprised and unfazed, but lets them in. In the house, there is a pale and sweating woman holding a sleeping child. While Frank goes to call the ambulance, Tub confesses to the farmer that Kenny shot his dog. To Tub’s surprise and horror, the farmer reveals that he asked Kenny to shoot the dog because it was old and sick. There are no available ambulances and so Frank and Tub decide to drive Kenny the fifty miles to the nearest hospital. The woman gives them some complicated directions for a shortcut.

Frank and Tub carry Kenny to the truck on some boards. It is dark and slippery and Tub falls, dropping Kenny who screams in pain. Frank calls Tub a “fat moron” and Tub, enraged, grabs Frank by the collar and tells him to stop talking to him like that. Frank apologizes.

They lift Kenny into the back of the truck and set off. Once driving, Frank tells Tub that he would have shot Kenny, too, if he’d been in Tub’s position. Freezing because of the truck’s broken windshield, they stop at a tavern to warm up, leaving Kenny in the truck. In the tavern, Frank confesses to Tub that he is leaving his wife and kids because he is in love with Roxanne Brewer, a fifteen year-old babysitter. Frank worries that Tub will think him a “complete bastard,” but Tub tells him that he will always take his side because they are friends.

They set off again. Tub has left the directions to the hospital at the tavern but Frank assures him he can remember the way. They get cold again and stop at a roadhouse to warm up. This time it is Tub’s turn to make a confession. He tells Frank that his being fat has nothing to do with his glands, but that he overeats compulsively. In response, Frank orders Tub four plates of pancakes, slathers them in butter and syrup, and then watches Tub eat them all. They drive on and Tub reveals to Frank that the farmer had asked Kenny to shoot the dog. They both laugh. Meanwhile, Kenny is in the back of the car, bleeding, freezing, and being driven in the wrong direction.