meta name="author" content="Shaman aka Walt Cooper" />

Monday, August 01, 2005

Phil -- What's going on here?

I guess I was pressing Walt for too much detail. I didn’t know if it was just a sore subject or what. Anyhow, he stopped answering, and started talking about the weather. I got the idea I shouldn’t get in his face any more than I had. Walt finally asked if I was going hunting. I said I had to go into town. He left. I left. That was it. I went back inside and asked around if there was anything that needed to be picked up. Most everyone was set. Since folks were still showing up, the camp was still on what they called YOYO mode ( You’re On Your Own). That meant that the big feasts that were in store were still on the horizon.

The closest store I knew was the Sand Hill Market a little further up the highway. I'd been using it on and off for a few years. It was weird that I'd been hunting so close to the camp and had never seen the unmarked driveway. It had gas and a grocery and a fairly good meat counter. It was a bit beyond the usual places you find near a big campground, and the prices were better. The old lady at the check-out recognized me.

“Did you find everything, Sweet Pea?” she said.

“Pretty much.” I replied. “Have you got any steaks? I didn’t see any in the case.”

“Fred!” she cried out. “We need some steaks!”

A distant TV had its sound squelched and a bit later, I felt the floor boards shift as Fred, the butcher, shuffled out and ripped open the cooler. He was a mountainous man with an ill-fitting head. It just did not seem to match the rest of him.

“Does he want sirloins, porterhouses, or what?” Fred yelled.

“I’ll take a couple nice sirloins.” I said.

“Sirloins.” I replied, and then I repeated it louder for Fred. I walked back to the meat case.

“How thick does he want them?” Fred yelled.

“I’ll take them an inch thick.” I said, finally making contact with Fred on my own.

“So,” said Fred. “You’re not all in yet?”

“What?” I asked.

“You’re all still just arriving.” Fred said. “ At camp I mean.”

“Uh, yes.” I said. “At camp? You mean Beaver Dam?”

“Of course.” said Fred. “ You’re Buck William’s kid. Aren’t you? I seen ya’ before.”

“Grandson.”

“Oh, yeah.” Fred said dismissively. “You all having any luck down there?”

“I didn’t hear of anyone getting one.” I said.

“Probably won’t.” said Fred. “It’s still hot. You need to get a cold snap in here, before those bucks start moving. That’s what they used to tell me.”

“You hunted at Beaver Dam?” I asked.

“Nah.” Fred said. “I just been getting the reports from you guys for years. Everyone that comes in here wants to know how Beaver Dam’s doing. You bring me your deer, and I’ll get them done for you. Big ones will run you fifty and I do a small doe for forty-five. I charge an extra ten if you’re in a hurry, and want in the front ‘o the line.”

“That’s great.” I said.

“Taxidermy too.” said Fred. “My brother-in-law does a good job.”

The steaks I got were probably more like inch-and-a-quarter—two monstrous pieces of meat. I had him individually wrap them. Fred seemed like a good man. The lady rang me up and hardly took her eyes off me.

“I’m sorry.” I said. “Is there something wrong?”

“It’s nothing, Sweat Pea.” She said. “It’s just a good thing seeing you.”

“I have to ask this.” I said. “How did you know I was connected with the Camp?”

“Oh, darling” she laughed. “ We’ve been waiting a long time. We all have.”

“But I’ve been coming in here for years.” I said.

“Yes,” she said. “And we’ve all been waiting. It’s just good to see you.”

After the third iteration, I realized I was not going to get any more out of this interaction. I thanked the couple. Fred waved a big ham at me and beamed. I felt like a son going off to the prom.

“Oh yeah,” I said. “One other thing. Have you heard a weather report?”

“Dry front,” said Fred. “We’ll get some wind tonight and then the temperatures are going to drop a couple of degrees. Shame. We need some rain.”

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