Little Miss Pioneer goes to hunt camp

I’ve always considered myself a “northerner.” I’m a hardy soul at home in the elemental outdoors.
I grew up loving the open air of the wilderness—and I still do.
I also think I would have made a great pioneer woman in the U.S. Midwest, tending to a small little cabin in the quiet wilderness and living a simple life with my hunter, gatherer, farmer man.
If given the choice today between a primitive cabin in the middle of nowhere or a swanky hotel across from the best shopping plaza, the cabin would win hands down.
Yet, all of us have moments in our lives that test our courage. I read somewhere that “taking small children into a house with a white carpet” is one of those moments.
I admit that walking down a bush path to the “loo” in the dark of night is one of them, too.
And when your hide hangs out in the elements while perched on a makeshift toilet for all the night creatures to see (a toilet that is devoid of four walls and a door) in the freezing cold of a November night, and your flashlight goes out and you drop the toilet paper, and it goes rolling down the little hill away from you into the dark, well, this, too, tests one’s courage.
Said pioneer woman also should not have picked up her flashlight and shone it into the dark forest that surrounded her. The “Blair Witch Project” was the only thing that came to mind.
I’m sure the look on my face, if captured on canvas, would have sold for a higher bid than Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” did in auction at Sotheby’s.
The famous image of a man holding his head screaming under a streaked, blood-red sky may be the modern symbol of human anxiety, but that night I held the world record for the fastest pee.
This was part of my initiation and introduction to hunt camp a couple of weekends ago. Yet despite the “loo business,” it was one of the best weekends I’ve had all year. Hands down.
I was invited to the secret hideaway by a certain outdoorsman who, come the fall season, trades his Sperry deck shoes for hunting boots and the helm of his sailboat for a deer stand.
I was so thrilled to be a part of the wilderness project that I drove the trip with a dose of brave counsel after sunset, watching as civilization rose before me and then behind me sank again.
I ventured into the middle of nowhere to a destination I only had seen once before in the daylight from the passenger’s seat.
I managed this feat of bravery wearing my “big girl” pants while eating chocolate bars and listening to Stan Rogers chant songs about cracking the ramparts of the unknown.
All I knew for sure was that the huntsman would meet me at “the junction,” and I was to watch for his headlights on a side road 20 miles into desolation.
I’d be living in a canvas tent with a woodstove for two cold nights in November with a man I hoped would not abandon ship when he saw my camping pajamas.
I arrived safe and sound and when I saw the tent, its chimney stack billowing puffs of smoke, and the glow of the warm light emanating from inside, I was sure I’d just stepped back in time.
It looked like the old photographs I’d seen of my grandfather in a logging camp in 1932.
I couldn’t find the words to tell the huntsman how much fun I was already having and I hadn’t even rolled out my sleeping bag on the little cot over in that corner.
The fact that the cot spoke to me of Ibuprofen before and after sleeping on it fazed me not—and the little fire crackling in the woodstove was more divine than a whole package of “Dove” chocolates.
Supper the first night (and second night) was the huntsman’s homemade recipe—and this man can cook. The meat was tender, the vegetables crisp—and then I asked what it was that I was eating.
“Texas Antelope Stew,” he replied between spoonfuls.
I gulped down the chunk in my mouth without chewing as I quietly reviewed my knowledge of antelope. There are 91 species, most of which live in Africa, and I was pretty sure none were loping around in this neck of the woods, so. . . . .
A well-known smile and chuckle erupted from the cook when I asked for a qualified answer on just what I was eating. Thankfully, he’d substituted venison.
Morning of the deer hunt came early—4 a.m. to be exact. I peeled open an eyelid and cracked a smile as the hunter began his morning ritual of stoking the fire, then consuming bold-brewed camp coffee and breakfast before his long walk to the deer stand before sunrise.
Had he any idea how much fun I was having just being there? I was enjoying the moment. I’d gone back in time and the world once again had dropped away, freeing me from the stressors of a fast-paced whirlwind of responsibilities.
I had a really great time in good company in a little canvas tent in the middle of nowhere on a cold weekend in November.
“This is definitely an element I enjoy,” I wrote in my diary later than morning, except when I had to make mad dashes to the “loo.”
Sitting out there in the open wild in shivering constitution even in the daylight—well, that’s another story.

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