By Dan Graves Daily News
Greensburg Daily News
---- — I gave up hunting years ago. It wasn’t an issue of animal cruelty. It had a lot more to do with human cruelty.
With another hunting season now here, deer hunters will be out in force, stalking while wearing camo and spending hours shivering in tree stands. Whether successful or not, it’s the age-old game of man against nature and enjoying the great outdoors while pursuing a foe that evens the playing field with its keen senses and amazing endurance. More simply, hunting is being in the right place at the right time and trying to outfox the fox. For some, that is.
Many sportsmen and women live for the day when the season opens on the type of game they prefer. While some spend hours following a bunch of pot bellied, bawling beagles in search of rabbits, others use huge cannons on critters big enough to pull a circus wagon up Pike’s Peak. I used to spend hours following a pair of bird dogs through what seemed like impenetrable briar patches and other types of hostile terrain in all kinds of weather to little avail. Inevitably, the dogs would point birds, either right at the edge of a conservation officer’s yard or under a mass of jungle a mouse couldn’t crawl through. Needless to say, all that combined with my jerky shooting did little to reduce the bird population.
Many years ago the opportunity to bag something a little larger came when a buddy invited myself and a couple of others on a deer hunt at his uncle’s cabin. According to our host, the cabin was isolated and although still under construction, it would be the perfect place to spend the night, followed by a day of hunting in the surrounding woods. Loaded with provisions, we headed for this rustic chalet overlooking a river, and as we were led to believe, a deer behind every tree. To say it was isolated was a classic understatement. When any semblance of a road disappeared, I asked the miscreant who’s uncle owned the real estate if he had imported material for construction or had he built it from local mud and sticks.
“He’s still putting a few finishing touches on it,” he replied, “but you’ll be surprised at how well it’s built.” A cold feeling began creeping up my spine and it wasn’t from the howling wind that bent tree tops and peppered us with buckshot-like ice balls and snow. All traces of a trail finally petered out as the gloom got deeper and a heavy cloud layer promised more cheerful things to come. For what seemed like hours we stumbled through a gathering darkness until finally, we slid into a small clearing and faced our lodging.
Simultaneously, three of us fell to our knees, extended our arms skyward and cried, “Why us? Why did you let us fall into the grasp of this nephew who’s uncle is surely a disciple of the devil?” With that, we fell forward on our faces , our noses buried in the mud and gathering snow and wept, saying, “If you don’t strike him now, we’ll gladly do it for you. Give us a sign.”
Cheerfully, he said, “Hey, c’mon guys. It’s almost finished and we’ll have fun roughing it. Right?” I rose slowly and faced him, my nose covered with mud and with his blood in my eye. “Does your uncle know that most dwellings have more than one wall?” I screamed. Backing up he replied, “Well, it has a floor and a roof. What more do you need?”
“You call that assemblage of scrap lumber a roof? I’ve seen better roofs on burnt out warehouses.”
Faced with three well-armed and potentially dangerous adversaries, he back-peddled and convinced us it would be better to spend the night than try to find our way back to the car in the dark in such lousy weather. Finding a 55-gallon drum full of Dixie cups, hamburger wrappers, bean cans, and assorted other trash, we set it ablaze, and wrapped in the meager covers we had brought, sat huddled around it like trolls at the city dump.
Snow and sleet peppered down and soon had the so-called floor covered with a sheet of white while the wind caused the “roof” to creak and groan, threatening to collapse at any moment. By 2:a.m. we were seriously considering feeding sections of the floor to the fire and by 6:a.m.we had to fight down the insane urge to set the whole thing ablaze and get warm before starting the trek back. Only stiff penalties by the law prevented arson and a hanging. We considered our chances, thinking it could be made to look like a satanical ritual.
Dawn broke and frozen stiff, we decided to salvage something from the original plan. So, we sat on the edge of the floor and waited for those deer hiding behind every tree to begin moving. The only thing that moved were purple lips that muttered occasional profanity directed at our host. After an hour I struggled up on frigid, stiff legs and announced that even if a deer big enough to pull the Budweiser wagon walked by, I wouldn’t think about harming any local resident that had the courage to live like this every night.
No wonder wild creatures have such fear of us. What other species would attempt to survive on a bitter night, wrapped in a cloud of smoke generated by smouldering Dixie cups, old peanut butter sandwiches, and months old copies of The American Handyman? Such a species is either the toughest or the craziest. Since then I’ve bought my meat from grocers, hung up musty old racks from antique shops and lied to my friends about them.
As for the nephew, the three of us invited him to ride a mule that had never seen a saddle. I don’t care what the Bible says, I still believe in the old saying of “Revenge! How sweet it is.”