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Friday, July 22, 2005

The Story So Far

Shaman here. I brought over several posts from the forum to get this BLOG caught up with where it was when we moved here. I'll make a couple of more postings like this. Enjoy.

From: wannatikka

Original Posting - 02/25/2005 : 15:34:14

“Well, that’s just about it” I said to myself as I loaded the last two gun cases into the back of “Old Blue” Don’t ask why we still called the truck by that name because it had long since stopped being blue, although old was certainly an accurate description. The 1971 F100 now looked more like a patchwork quilt of rust, bondo, and primer than anything else. Although she looked her age from the outside, the little 302 engine and three-on-the-tree tranny ran along just fine, even if it did have a penchant for needing a quart of oil every other tank of gas. Even though I had the new RAM, I just couldn’t bear the thought of driving anything other than “Old Blue” to camp. It was our family “deer truck” and I wouldn’t be the one to break that tradition.

I suddenly caught sight of Jackie’s eye through the back window of the truck. He didn’t seem to notice me, but was looking intently back at the bed full of gear. He looked so old now that he was twelve, but the look in his eyes reminded me of a time from the past … when he used to stand at the top of the stairs before making that mad dash down to see what Santa had brought to him and his sister. The wild-eyed excitement of tearing through ribbons and paper to reach the prize hidden inside, the bubbling of conversation as he talked about his new “favoritist” toy, the begging and pleading to go outside just one more time to watch him go down his sled jump, they all seemed so very far away from today.

Jackie finally saw me looking at him and grinned widely. As I walked around to the drivers side and climbed in, he let lose with a barrage of questions. “How long will it take to get there? Do you think Jim will be able to make it? What about my new boots, did you get them packed? Do you think ‘Ol One Eye’ survived the winter? Which stand can I hunt in?

“Hey slow down there, Jackie,” I interrupted, “I haven’t even started the engine yet.” He scowled at me and said, “it’s Jack! – you know I don’t like being called Jackie, that’s what mom calls me.” “OK fine JACK," I said, "let’s get this show on the road.” The engine cranked & puttered to life and soon we were rolling down the road towards Crandon, some 80 miles away. Then it was a long winding drive up state route 13 before we turned down the lane to camp.

“Well, so how’s it feel to be going on your first deer hunt?” I asked my son. He had successfully passed the DNR hunter’s Ed. class during the summer and on his birthday we walked down to Ace’s hardware and he bought his first hunting license with money he had earned mowing neighborhood yards. Of course, he had been going with me for a number of years as he learned to shoot rifle at the club and he even shot trap league earlier that spring. But this was different, it was real, it was hunting.

He bustled with excitement and said, “I can’t wait to get there and go hunting with you and uncle Bud and everyone. I only hope that Jim was able to get leave so he can be there when I get my buck … err, if I get my buck,” he corrected himself. Jim was his favorite cousin and had joined the marines right after 9/11 and had served a tour in Afghanistan and one in Iraq but was currently back in the states awaiting redeployment back to Afghanistan. Jim had been one of dad’s pallbearers this spring along with Jackie and his dress blues had made quite an impression on my boy.

Suddenly I felt a lump rise in my throat and my eyes start to well up. It was tough to think that this would be the first time dad & I hadn’t hunted together in over 20 years. Doubly sad was that he and Jackie never got the chance to share time in camp together. Dad was the last of the old guard from deer camp to go, and even though 7 months had passed the old grief swept over me anew. I shook off those old feelings & went back to creating new memories with Jackie.

The miles passed behind us quickly and our conversation turned back to hunting and tactics, rifles, and hope for the upcoming season. We rode on and on and without consciously remembering making the turn north in Crandon onto route 13 I found myself signaling to turn into the lane to camp. As we drove down toward the gate we both noticed the flicker of flames from the fire pit in yard. As Jackie looked over at me from the passenger seat I said, “Welcome to deer camp.”

From: Buckaneer

Original Posting - 02/28/2005 : 21:47:36

The traffic slowed down coming out of Port Simmons. These narrow, mountain roads create lots of bottlenecks, and when there's an accident, it's usually a bad one. The fire truck from Lake Louise came screaming by, and I knew there was trouble ahead. When I rounded to switchback at the base of Cropper's hill, I came upon the scene. A semi hauling logs had tried to make it around the curve, and ended up rolling down the steep hillside. The driver had somehow survived, but the truck was a mess. As I cleared the scene, and the flashing lights faded away in the rear view mirror, I thought back to the ice storm of 74. There were so many cars sitting at the bottom of the switchback, it looked like a parking lot. I was running a few minutes late, and when I pulled into Centerville, the gunshop was just closing up. This bothered me, as this was a regular stop on the journey to deer camp every year. Jack and Stu always stopped here on the way in, just in case they needed anything. The old gunsmith always had a bottle behind the counter, and a log on the fire. It was a great place to kill an afternoon, just shooting the bull, and enjoying good company. I can't believe Jack is gone. The last of the old guard, he had always seemed bigger that life to me. I was the outsider in this group. When Uncle Jack passed on, I didn't know if I could come back, but some things just need to go on. I would hunt with a heavy heart this year, and dedicate my efforts to our dear, departed friends.

From: Buckaneer

Original Posting - 03/01/2005 : 09:01:21

As I turned down the lane to the camp, the old emotions came pouring back, like the passing of a high tide. Camp would be a different place without the presence of any of the old timers. The torch had been passed, and it was now up to us to keep up the tradition. Jackie came running out to greet me as the Jeep came to a halt. I could smell the wood fire, and the inviting odor of Hoppe's No. 9 wafting through the air. We had the Jeep unloaded in a few minutes, and I started putting away gear in the cramped but friendly confines of the cabin. I didn't go near Jack's bunk-I just couldn't be the one to claim that space. The bunk would sit empty this season as a tribute to our lost friend. The kitchen was all ready filling up-we always bring way more food than we could ever use. Everyone still remembers the storm following the '74 ice storm when we got stranded here for a couple days. That was the only time we ran tight on food.
The work being done now, I settled into the old overstuffed chair to savor the moment and reflect on being here again.

From: wannatikka

Original Posting - 03/01/2005 : 15:21:55

I had barely coasted the truck to a stop when Jackie leapt from his seat and ran back towards the fire pit. He only made it half way there when he was met by a huge bear hug from Ol’ Walt himself. Walt’s family had owned the camp since as long as I could remember and even though he was an intimidating huge bulk of a man, he was one of the kindest and quickest-to-laugh guys I’d ever known. Jackie wriggled loose from his grip and landed with a thump at his feet just as Walt boomed out in a laughing voice, “quick Joe, get the net this one’s a keeper.”

“Mr. Cooper!” Jackie beamed, thankful to be so warmly welcomed to camp. “Is anyone else here yet?” Jackie asked as he looked back towards the fire.

“Nope, you’re the first to arrive. And although you’ve gotten here too late for dinner, you’re in plenty of time to do the dishes,” he laughed. “Well, well, well, if you didn’t go and bring your ol’ man with you,” Walt said as he reached out and took one end of the cooler I was carrying. “Good to see you again Joe,” he said, “and even better to see you bringing up young Jackie with you!”

“It’s good to be here again Walt,” I replied, “and good to see an old friend again.” Between the three of us we had the truck unloaded in a jiffy and the foodstuffs stored in the shiny new oak kitchen cabinets. We’d added those cabinets just a couple of years ago when the kitchen had been unexpectedly redecorated. We’d all been out hunting for the day and somebody must have left the back door unlatched because when we returned that evening we encountered the unmistakable efforts of “Twiddle Dee” and “Twiddle Dum”, our friendly neighborhood black bear cubs. The yearlings had managed to climb into the kitchen and dismantle every kitchen cabinet as they rummaged around for food. They had eventually found Gene’s stash of peppermint Schnapps and one had taken quite a liking to it as we found him fast asleep outside under the bows of the old pine tree – with a bottle of Schnapps lying alongside. It was all we could do to keep Gene from skinning him right then and there, but we eventually convinced him there was a better way. We’d managed to slip a cord around one of the bear’s hind legs to which we tied a couple of empty coffee cans. We’d then roused the bear to his feet just as Gene lit off a string of firecrackers inside one of the cans. That lil’ bear took off running across the field toward the beaver pond like the world was comin’ to an end. We must have laughed for a good half hour before we could bring ourselves to clean up the mess inside. For all we know that lil’ bear ran clear into the next county, because we never saw him again around camp.

I smiled to myself in thinking of all the good memories that camp held for me and had just turned around and walked toward the bunks when I noticed that Jackie had placed his sleeping bag over on Dad’s old bunk. Not that there was a nametag on the bunk, or anything, but we all sort of kept certain bunks “open” in memory of those who were no longer with us. I certainly wasn’t expecting anyone to bunk there this season. Even so Jackie had no way of knowing where to put his gear, but he had simply chosen the bunk that was near to the fireplace and had a clear view out the Eastern window towards the open field down in the valley below. That field was the one that Dad always liked to still-hunt along the edge of the pines just as the sun was breaking over Dawson’s Ridge. He claimed that he could go sleep one night and in his dreams just see through that window where the deer would be moving the next morning. As a kid I’d always thought he was joking with me, but more times than not he’d be in the right place at the right time to get his deer. Maybe there was some truth to what he’d said and that bunk was special and was better used than to remain vacant out of some silly tradition. I guess I couldn’t think of a better place for Jackie to sleep in deer camp than Dad’s old bunk.

Just as I was turning to tell Jackie about his bunk, we heard the rumble of an engine down the lane. Jackie glanced up at me and as I nodded approval he shot out the door and down the lane to see who was new in camp.


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