21st century hunting camp

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(Host) Commentator Willem Lange has been going to the same deer hunting camp for almost fifty years, and is intrigued by some of the recent changes.

(Lange) I watched, incredulous, as a kitchen designer bandied ideas with several husky, bearded men in T-shirts standing around the old-fashioned wood cookstove in the kitchen at hunting camp. In my wildest dreams, this scene had never appeared. But, I reflected, if men could walk on the moon, then perhaps the denizens of our camp could also entertain the suggestions of a woman.

What changes this place has seen! Fifty years ago, the old man and his two boys began trekking to this high side valley. On Friday afternoons, they drove as far as possible, then shouldered packs and hiked up the brook to what’s now called “the old camp bottom.” There, where an old logging road petered out, they had an illegal wall tent camp with a stove.

The old man was everything a boy could want: a terrific hunter and storyteller; an excellent cook and carpenter; a romantic scofflaw and loyal friend. Somehow, both boys inherited just about all of that. The men gathered around the kitchen designer almost fifty years later were fueled by the old man’s recipes: venison fried with salt pork; baked potatoes; and “slumgum”: green beans, dark gravy, green peppers, and onions.

The tent camp’s future was shaky; somebody was bound to find it. So the old man bought a two-acre plot farther down the brook and built a 16-foot-square platform covered by a Korean War surplus tent. That camp is now moldering quietly into the duff beside the brook. I still visit its moss-covered joists and rust-stained porcelain sink.

That was two camps ago. Its successor burned to the ground one November day. The old man’s 1946 Jeep parked beside it was destroyed. Shortly afterward, the old man died.

That was the end of an era. The Jeep road up the mountain was widened for pickup trucks, and a much grander camp stands here now, with modern amenities Some of us older guys are grumpy about it, but that shower is hard to resist.

The kitchen, however, has left something to be desired. The alien designer offered in two minutes more solutions than most of us can agree to in several years. The unused bar came out this morning, and the new cabinets will be here in a few days.

Meanwhile, somebody’s discovered that some dyes used in hunting clothes, as well as detergents used to clean them, are visible under ultraviolet light, which deer can detect. So now, before beginning a hunt, we stand under the fixture to see where we light up. I’ve discovered that some of my teeth (not the originals) shine in a bizarre pattern; so I don’t smile anymore when I hunt. I’m not sure I’m going to enjoy this century as much as the last. But it’s going to be interesting.

This is Willem Lange up in St. Huberts, New York, and I gotta get back to work.

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