"If I don't believe in solipsism, who will?" - Al Batt

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Hunting Camp (Revisted)

I posted this a couple of years ago. I just caught it on a search for something else.  I think it's worth a reposting. I posted the pictures a little larger and gave the copy a good once-over editing.

Every late Fall the Old Man and his cohorts went Up North to go deer hunting. You must understand, in Minnesota, "Up North" is a place, a destination... even a state of mind... not a direction.  They went Up North, a place of rough rocks and rapid rivers - deep snow, frozen lakes and White Pine forests - a good place to spend time in a warm tent alone with friends.

Left to right: Marlin "Bud" Berg (The Old Man), Chuck Nelson, Donald "Big Don" Wayne, Chris Lindrupp and Homer Jensen sitting around the evening table, which Homer had just built from a pile of boards he brought along from the Clarks Grove Lumber Company, which he managed. Those guys could really wear caps well. I also notice that Big Don was still wearing a white shirt and tie, apparently left over from a meeting he left in a hurry to get a fast jump on the road north. Dad looks like Dad always did during the winter - hunting or not - a man of leather and wool. He even smelled like leather and wool. As I've gotten older, I find myself dressing more like him ... and enjoying every day of it. I put on my Filson double-cruiser with the shearling collar and Filson cap with the tie-up shearling flaps - what the kids today would call a Fudd Hat, and I go out about on my northland business. Sometimes out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of the Old Man's reflection in the store windows as I pass, walking stride for stride with me ... and I nod and smile. It looks goofy, but as he would have said, "You cannot put a price on personal comfort". .

The same group getting ready for bed. Damn, Dad looks young! Just a kid. I must have just been a newborn baby then. They are all young men in their prime, not yet knowing how time would tear them down, break their bones and bury them.

Our boys ready to bed down for the night. They are sleeping in bedrolls, as this is before sleeping bags were common, at least for this conservative crew. The gentleman on the rear cot (or is it on the ground?) is Al Swenson. No one ever called him Reverend Swenson. He was Swens. He was a rough-edged, take no prisoners preacher. He was big and burley, and he could kick your ass. The Old Man said Swens was always trying to save their souls by have morning devotionals. Everyone ignored him and escaped his salvation by crawling under the tent wall when he was distracted. Dad said the last thing he heard in the morning as he was walking into the deep woods was Swens, now alone back in camp, bellowing, "Come back here! You HEATHENS!". They were and they didn't.

Chuck after he got his buck, ever the neat and dapper killer. No blood spilt on his pants nor under his fingernails. There is no evidence that he had met Bambi in the woods and killed him. Then cut him open and tore his guts out, before looping a sisal rope around his neck to drag him out of the woods and hang him from a tree for all the honest world to see. How easily he wears his look of innocence.

I realize that a Winnebago is more convenient and blaze orange is safer, but we've lost a certain sense of class, style, even elegance, when the soft wools, buckled leather straps and cotton canvas tents were lost over time to nylon, polypropylene and velcro. Sometimes progress can be a bitch - a hard and ungiving mistress..

These are the people that taught me honor and honesty, how to be a man, a man in the best sense of the word. Swens was the preacher who lived across the street, a man I knew as a friend and neighbor, more as a role model than a Sunday minister. The religion didn't stick, but hopefully his strength did.
Donald was my first employer as a kid - 50 cents an hour and I was rich. Nobody else my age had a paying job. We would be talking about moral dilemmas and he would come up with things like, "Well, just don't forget to rotate your tires" - things that at the time didn't seem to be related to the conversation at all, but of course they did. Thoughts that just took me a few years to process.
Chuck owned the gas station where I worked my way through high school. One time I was agonizing over a gift for a young lady (keep in mind he was paying me all of $1.25 an hour). From Chuck I got, "In the long run, for women, I've found it's tough to beat furs and jewels". That little nugget has stood me in good stead, although over time furs seemed to have become a faux pas. Also on women: "I made big two mistakes in my life. The first was marrying a woman like Margaret. The other was having a daughter just like her."
Homer was the father of one of my best friends and lived four doors down the street. Later in life, the Old Man and Homer really only talked when they were in the middle of life crises and needed counsel. When the Old Man died, Homer came to the funeral home and had a long conversation, out loud, with my father laying in an open casket. Their last counsel.
From good hearted Chris, I still have a Remington 513T target rifle and the skillset to use it well, though not the eyes. As Chris said, "A long range paper punch". I must say, now that they are all gone, Chris was the best shot of the crew and worst hunter. He never killed a deer. Now that I am older I wonder, was he a poor hunter by choice?
And of course the Old Man ... from my father, particularly from my young father, I got ........ everything, everything I am. These were all good men, and they are all gone now, and I'm still here to tell their story. And still resisting comments about going to the Happy Hunting Ground.


Johann Rissik said...

What a brilliant post.

"I see the Old Man's reflection in the store windows as I pass... and inwardly I smile."


Gunnar Berg said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

yeah it's a sweet post.

when I was young I loved shooting the bolt action 22s at targets. At scout camp I used to put every shot right on top of each other. A few years ago I finally went and bought a nice little Browning 22, and some targets and went out in the woods. Yeah, not having the eyes anymore makes a lot of difference. So much for target practice.


Gunnar Berg said...

I haven't shot the gun in years, but I suspect that macular degeneration coupled with cataracts is not a good formula for hitting targets.

Steve Grimmer said...


Johann Rissik said...

I think macular degeneration led to the development of the shotgun? Macular degeneration with cataracts would probably require a short-barrelled shotgun with a laser sight.
Enjoy the weekend.

Gunnar Berg said...

I didn't even mention the 13 retinal tears which I've had to have lasered.

Which may help explain the bazooka.

Steve Grimmer said...

'tears' with a long 'a', not with a long 'e' right?

George A said...

One of my mentors, now sadly departed, told me that in the case of gifts for women you couldn't go too far off course if you stuck with the big three: cosmetics, jewelry and clothing. Similar advice as per your mentor--just another example of how humankind's best ideas spring forth independently in many minds and at different locations.

Gunnar Berg said...

Steve, Rips.

Gunnar Berg said...

George, Clothes are tough. There are way too many variables - size, what she wore when she was in her teens, style, too sexy, too dowdy, co-workers similar clothes, color. You can go sooooo wrong in so many ways.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant thoughts and great photos.
Thanks Gunner

Allan Pollock

George A said...

Women and clothes? Go wrong? Naw! No panic; I just walk through a women's shop and buy whatever catches my eye. Elisabeth is always "surprised" and as long as the item can be returned all is well regardless if the color or size is a bit off. My bride says I'll surprisingly correct most of the time. After 25 years I know her tastes fairly well.

Debb said...

"They are all young men in their prime, not yet knowing how time would tear them down, break their bones and bury them." These are words written by one very wise man. You know how to express raw emotion very well through your writing. I feel privileged to be a reader.