He followed me home

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(Host) Commentator Willem Lange has been to hunting camp for a work weekend, and regrets that he’s being given all the easy jobs these days.

(Lange) It’s the end of a work weekend at hunting camp. Three guys are out with a chain saw, clearing the trail up to Beartrap Notch. Charlie’s draining the generator gas tank through a pillowcase. Spen is pushing the carpet sweeper. I’m sweeping the bedrooms. In an hour this place will be quiet again.

Some years, there’s major work to be done – like the room we added for the snorers. Most years we just fill the woodshed and clear the “sneaky trails” through the woods. Last year we cut, split, and ranked enough firewood for two years. So this year it was time to fix the water bars that have been washing out the road in every heavy rain.

I guess I’m considered too old to run a chain saw in the brush. They always give me the best bed nowadays, with a window and reading light They give me carpentry jobs that involve mostly measuring and cutting. In return, I bring kindling scraps from my shop, or rows of Shaker pegs for the walls. There’s some comfort in being venerable, but some frustration, too. Sort of a twist on the old biblical saw: Of him from whom much has been taken, little is expected.

It’s amazing how many talents are gathered here. Mechanics, welders, cops, computer wizards, contractors, an engineer, and a guy whose truck doors list at least a dozen specialties. Diverse as we are, we’re united by our love of this retreat. There’s a coffee can on the sideboard. During the weekend, each of us, according to his ability, privately stuffs a few bills into it.

The trail crew finished up at two o’clock. I’d read everything in camp, so I decided to take a walk up the hill. My joints have been pretty stiff recently, so I wouldn’t go far. “I’m going to take a walk up the old blazed line,” I said. “If I don’t come back, that’s where to look. I won’t be long.” I took off – no radio, no matches or compass, no knife.

To my surprise, after a few minutes I began to feel good. Nothing hurt. So up I went, sweating like a horse, regretting I had only one bandanna. I swung north, followed the contour, and finally, just as I’d hoped I would, struck a trail. I knew where I was – a thousand feet above camp, healthy and headed home.

Boy! I thought. Won’t they be impressed! They don’t think I can still do this. I didn’t, either. I shuffled down the trail, passing old landmarks, and stomped into camp to receive my chums’ congratulations. Several accusing faces turned toward me as if I were a teenager returning late from a party. “Where you been? We were just coming after you!” Oh boy…!

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

Willem Lange is a contractor, writer, and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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