HODGDON, Maine — Clinton Roy has had a few health setbacks over 20 years or so, his daughter, Christine Roy, will tell you.
He’d already been battling diabetes when, in 2011, he had a heart attack that nearly killed him.
“He underwent open heart surgery,” said Christine Roy, who lives in Milo. “It was supposed to be a four-hour surgery. It was 14. He ended up having a stroke during surgery and went into a coma. Seven days later, he awoke.”
Then, in what has become a bit of a trend, Clinton proved the doctors wrong.
“We’re Roys. We’re stubborn people. And he’s a fighter,” Christine explained.“They said he’d probably be in the hospital for another three to four months. He was in the hospital about 30 more days. He bounced right back, and left, walking.”
Since then, life hasn’t been easy. Clinton has battled colon cancer — his heart stopped on the operating table that time — and had his lower left leg amputated, a result of his diabetes.
But those challenges took more than a toll on his health. They cost him something he loved to do. Something he gave up as his health worsened.
“Growing up, my dad was always a hunter,” Christine said. “In his heart, [he knew] he wasn’t hunting again.”
But Roys, as we’ve heard, are stubborn. And on Monday, 72-year-old Clinton Roy got his deer.
“Today, Dad is still shedding some tears,” Christine said in a phone interview Tuesday.
No more hunting
Six months after his release from the hospital after his 2011 heart attack, Clinton was diagnosed with colon cancer. While preparing for surgery, his heart began acting up, and he was transported from his daughter’s home to the hospital.
“The next morning, the doctor told my father he didn’t want to do the surgery because of his heart, and Dad said, ‘Well, what are my options?’” Christine said.
The answer wasn’t to Clinton’s liking.
“Dad said, ‘So, either way, I’m gonna die. So I want to take the chance,’” Christine said. “Surgery went well. The doctor came out and told us he did great. Within five minutes, there was a code blue. It was my dad.”
Doctors revived him, but Clinton wasn’t out of the woods.
“My left foot. They had to take the big toe first,” Clinton said, “And I still had trouble with it. I ended up losing all of my toes, and finally my leg. So I’ve got a prosthetic leg.”
Through it all, though Clinton said he tried to keep a positive attitude.’
“I said, ‘I’m not going to let this get me down. And I didn’t,” Clinton said. “[Medical experts] were surprised when they made the [prosthetic] leg. They said, ‘Stand up on it and see what you can do.’ I got right up on it and took right off.”
Christine said her dad has kept active doing other things, including playing bass guitar with friends, playing what she calls “old country” music.
Still, Clinton didn’t think he’d ever hunt again. He gave away or sold all of his hunting gear, and resigned himself to the fact that his days in the woods were over.
Then he learned about an interesting law.
“I found out that I could hunt from a vehicle [because of the amputation], so that’s what happened. I didn’t have a gun, because I got rid of my gun, but my son, [Steven Roy] bought me a rifle,” he said. “[Steven] said, ‘Dad, you should go out and go hunting,’ so that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Christine remembers talking to her dad about his return to the woods.
“He said, ‘Maybe I can get one more year of hunting. Maybe one more year,’” she said. “This brought a lot of happiness for him. This just proves, you don’t give up. You fulfill your dreams and keep going.”
One more deer
As soon as he decided to hunt again, Clinton knew exactly how he’d do it.
There’s a place in Hodgdon, up on Westford Hill, that was promising. He knew there were deer there, and he knew he could drive there, sit, and watch a huge field where bucks sometimes showed up.
“I fired at one [last year] and kind of missed out on it,” Clinton said. “A friend of mine next door [adjusted my gun sights] for me because it was shooting too low. So this year, I was ready for ‘em.”
There are a few keys to hunting successfully, of course. Knowing where the deer might be is important. So is putting in your time.
And Clinton was determined to put in the necessary amount of effort to succeed.
“Since the first day, I went every morning. I never skipped,” Clinton said. “The people who own the ground have it posted, but I asked them for permission and they said, ‘Yeah. Go ahead.’”
On Monday, Clinton’s efforts paid off. At about 7:30 a.m., a buck came into the field. By law, Clinton is allowed to hunt from his vehicle, but he he must wait until he sees a deer before he loads it.
But when Clinton looked up after loading his rifle, the deer was gone.
“He kind of disappeared for a few minutes. And then he came back out, I fired,” Clinton said.
The deer was about 400 yards away, Clinton said. He knew he hit the buck, but it ran across the field in one direction, then turned and headed the other way, and vanished down a steep slope.
Confident that he’d hit the deer, he ended up calling family friends to come help.
“Of course, I couldn’t go look for him,” said Clinton, who can walk on his prosthetic, but often uses a walker or a cane. “We was ‘til noon getting that thing out of there.”
The deer was big: 220 pounds, field-dressed, sporting a 9-point rack of antlers. It’s not the biggest he’s shot — 245 is Clinton’s best — but it was impressive nonetheless.
And Clinton knows he didn’t bag his buck alone. He had help from Steven, who bought him the rifle and encouraged him to hunt. From his wife, Rachael, who has been by him through thick and thin. From other family members, including Christine.
And from a higher power.
“I’m getting emotional now,” Clinton said, choking back tears. “Every time I shot a deer, and this is no lie, I always asked the good Lord, ‘Be with me today, and help me get a deer.’ So, just before I shot this deer, I was sitting there by myself, and I said, ‘Lord, let me get at least one more in my life.’”
“It wasn’t five more minutes before the deer walked out,” he said, softly. “I strongly believe in this.”
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke