The Right Side of Dreary

Nick relaxes with a cup of coffee while waiting for his next hunt on Cumberland Island.
Sometimes camp is what makes the hunt worthwhile.

The lantern crackled to life and the camp with it. The hunters did their best ant impersonations, attacking their post-hunt routines as quickly as the darkness would allow. Headlamps flashed across camp as they popped in and out of tents, rummaged through coolers and bins, and did their best to prepare for the next morning. Rain fell through the beams and drummed steadily against the palmettos around them.

“Well this sucks.” Steve chuckled, shaking the rain off his pack and tossing it into the tent. “I’ll get going on supper if you two can get the gear put away.”

“Sounds good…” Brannon said. “My heads are rustin’ already.”

The bows and arrows were first. They needed wiping and storing. Damp clothes and growling stomachs were inconvenient, but matted feathers and dull broadheads wouldn’t do in the morning. We’d touch the latter up after dinner.

“Sloppy Joes then?” Steve asked, rummaging through the cooler. Brannon and I looked up, but continued working. It wasn’t much of an answer, but Steve didn’t expect one. It wasn’t the kind of question that needed answering. It was the kind that signaled something better. One that made us all feel a little bit warmer inside. Besides, we’d already discussed it on the hike back to camp.

“Well alright then!” Steve chuckled, pulling a frosted pack of orange meat from the cooler. He then collected several bricks from the fire pit to build a platform and balanced a small, propane-fueled stove on top. A two-quart pot fit the burner perfectly and completed the stack. Steve carefully lit the burner with a “pop” and the familiar hiss of flames licking metal filled our camp, instantly distracting Brannon and I from the task at hand. Within minutes the chunky orange brick melted into a bubbling, mouth-watering slop.

I’d just climbed into the tent to ready my pack for the morning when it all hit me. The sharp sound of the meat crackling mixed with the smell of meat, tomatoes, molasses, and brown sugar was far too intoxicating to ignore.

I slid my longbow and quiver beneath the cot with my daypack, set out a dry pair of hunting clothes, and climbed back into the night to find Steve and Brannon crouched over the pot, ladling spoonful after chunky spoonful over slices of wheat bread.

“Come get you some of this Nick!” Brannon said. “There’s bread over there and plates are right here.”

I tried my best to avoid burning the roof of my mouth, but it didn’t matter much. I’d eaten my first sandwich in minutes and immediately headed back for a second. I’m not sure how many Brannon had, but Steve was well on his way to number four by the time I’d finished two and I wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to harass him about it.

“How many of those things you gonna eat?” I poked. “I thought you were trying to get back into shape?”

“I get hungry in the woods,” he shot back. “And I’m not the one eatin’ hard-boiled eggs all day and stinking up the woods.”

“I’ve got to get my protein!” I laughed.

Brannon perked up suddenly. “Them hard boiled eggs are good!” He added, sopping up the last of his sloppy joe with a slice of bread. “I told ya it was a good idea to bring ‘em!”

“No wonder ya’ll haven’t seen anything.” Steve chuckled. “Nick, I walked by your stand this afternoon and there was eggshells all over the place!”

“So hogs and deer don’t like eggs?” I asked. “I bet they do in Michigan.”

“Well, I sure hope for ya’lls sake they do.”

Brannon’s brow furrowed in the way it always did in deep thought. “Hell, the last two bucks I’ve seen came when I was eatin’ them eggs.” He said. “Apples too.”

“Well you’ve got a rabbit’s foot somewhere. I’ll give you that.” Steve said, cleaning the remainder of the pot with a piece of bread. “Anybody want coffee?”

We turned in after the coffee wore off. Steve unzipped the flaps of the tent to let the evening in and fell sound asleep shortly after. Brannon’s snoring indicated the same, making me wish I’d fallen asleep first. The drizzle continued, lightly drumming against the tarp over our tent. It was muggy. I could feel the moisture on my face and taste it on my tongue. It reminded me of home and trout fishing with my Dad when I was young.

I rolled over and felt for my longbow beneath the cot. The smooth, familiar curves of the riser still felt warm to the touch. But it always did. I shut my eyes until arrows disappeared into game beneath my lids. A smile crept across my face.

We were ready for another adventure.

Nick Viau lives in Rockford, Michigan and is an active participant of the Simply Traditional Field Staff team. He owns and maintains the traditional archery blog Life and Longbows and is currently the president of the Michigan Longbow Association.


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