Jonathon Cody was back in the North Woods last fall, near his childhood home in Big Falls, Minn. For three days, he'd been shivering up in the trees -- rifle poised.
"I got off the deer stand just long enough to relieve myself and that, of course, was when three deer walked by and literally caught me with my pants down," he says. "My gun was over there, and they just went right by and said: 'Hey, Cody, what's up? How's it going?'''
He chuckles at the memory of getting skunked instead of getting venison -- and at the pull Minnesota has on him. The youngest of six kids of a Koochiching County sheriff's deputy dad and an accountant mom, Cody has gotten around more than most people twice his 31 years.
After graduating from St. Cloud State -- "I majored in gym" -- he joined the Army as a bomb technician and commanded the 731st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company based in Ohio. His crew would respond to suspicious packages in an eight-state area, defusing bombs big and small for local police and municipalities.
"People think it's crazy, but I loved it and always thought it was fun and challenging," he says. "I still have all my fingers, so you know it couldn't have been too terrible, right?"
While recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon five years ago (suffered while running, not defusing), Cody wrote his first novel -- "Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown," the official designation of missing soldiers presumed captured.
In 2007, Cody struck a deal with a battalion commander, joining his staff in Iraq as an intelligence officer during the U.S. surge. That experience helped him "fill in the details" of his action novel, which was self-published by Mill City Press in Minneapolis in 2009.
With the Achilles keeping him out of bomb squad gear and the notion of desk work unappealing, Cody mentioned law school to one of his supervisors. He's now a third-year law student at the University of Minnesota while on active duty with the Army, which is picking up the law school tab.
"Taxpayer dollars," he says. "And I appreciate it."
He plans to work as a Judge Advocate General's Corps attorney -- better known as an Army JAG lawyer.
"The Army is a giant government corporation," he says. "So the work includes everything you can imagine."
After serving in Korea and Iraq and bouncing around a dozen states with the bomb squad, Cody is back in Minnesota. He lives in a condo near the Metrodome and the Guthrie with his fiancée, his Great Dane and his black lab. He plans to take the bar exam in July after spending much of the summer back home in Big Falls, studying law books and fishing at his favorite spot beneath the falls.