New kid’s lifelong tools of the trade
As a youngster, l was considered to be somewhat of a scallywag, which is a polite Irish term that was often used to explain that l was just a regular old pain in the … butt.
In current day medical terms, l would be considered a hyper-active youngster suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder or some similar type of modern malady that has been developed to cure a pain in the butt.
For me, the experience of going to a remote fishing or hunting camp was a real wake-up call. There were actual chores to be done, and I was expected to do them without being told or reminded. After getting cuffed in the back of the head with a wet towel a couple of times, memory improved and l remembered how to take care of the collective chores before they took care of us.
Hunting camps are still a special place where boys can take on the responsibilities of men, and where men can be kids again, if only for a few short days. Eventually, reality is bound to intrude.
During my first visit to an old hunting camp, I witnessed the first dead deer l had ever seen up close. It was sporting an eight-point rack, and the ropes holding it soon proved to be far too heavy for the kids that were attempting to drag it through the deep snow.
Although many heavy snowstorms have passed my way since that initial experience at a local hunting camp, it remains as vivid in my memory as it was in reality.
My memories captured in the freshly fallen snow back then, seem to clearer and sharper than they were when l was a guest at the old Niambi Hunting Club near Indian Lake.
The camp’s main cabin was located on the access road to OK Slip Pond, about a 10-mile drive from Indian Lake. Our host was a forester for the Finch, Pruyn Paper Company. He owned a sports shop in South Glens Falls and his wife was a school teacher in Lake George.
Admittedly, l was in shock while learning how to field dress and remove the vitals from a fresh kill. It had a moist, musky scent, which some of the hunters rubbed on their boots. In an effort to be a real deer hunter, l rubbed my boots and pant cuffs with the same musky scent.
Needless to say, l was banned from the cabin and I spent the remainder of the day outdoors. If it had not been so cold outside, the camp regulars probably would have made me sleep outdoors. In hindsight, l have come to realize what a life-altering experience that trip was. It introduced me to a handful of outdoor opportunities that were within easy biking range from our house.
I also had an opportunity to spend a lot of time around the gun shop, where l learned how, when and where to shoot, and all about the ethics of the hunt. Mr. Church was a hands-on educator who stressed safety first and ethics always.
His old lessons hold true to this day. He gave more of his time to the sport than he did to himself. Although he passed away over 42 years ago, l continue to take his old Model 77 Browning, lever action .35 Rem. Carbine for an occasional walk in the deer woods.
It was one of the most popular deer rifles in its day, when hunters needed an easy handling brush gun with open sights and true knock down power. At the time, the Old Model 77 was as popular and deadly as any of today’s super-scoped, red dot, laser mounted semi autos.
Over the years, I’ve only viewed two deer through the notch of the carbine’s old iron sights. Unfortunately, neither of the potential targets were sporting any headgear. All l could do was sit and watch as they scampered away. It was a bitter pill to swallow, especially after being cooped up in oily old gun cabinets for the majority of their existence.
l believe that old fly rods, knives, rifles and similar tools of the trade deserve to be outdoors as often as their owners. When I carry an old hand-me-down rifle, or field dress a grouse with a hand made knife, l feel as if l am sharing the experience with other hunters that may have gone this way before.
As we are all part of the process, l believe such tools of the trade have earned a place of honor in my home.
Although they may be simple inanimate objects, they have regularly provided me with incomparable rest, recreation, education and at times the opportunity to find a complete and incomparable retreat from any and all my earthly troubles.
They are tools that can heal, entertain and provide safe cover like no other. They offer a safety net too. They have carried me to many wild and wonderful places, and have provided me with many safe returns. They are the tools of my trade, and without their valuable services l simply couldn’t do what l do.
I suppose that is the reason these items continue to adorn the walls of my game room. When l grow too feeble to take them out back for a long walk, they will still carry my stories and bring a smile to my face. The big game season continues to grow shorter with every passing day, so l must say, “Have you taken your rifle for a walk today?”