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January 18, 2013

Little things mean a lot to an outdoors writer

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The Daily Star

---- — Every once in a while, I wake up in the morning to write this column and have no idea what to write about.

Nothing seemed to plant a seed in my brain this week, so I thought I’d just tell you a few small tales from my past that just wouldn’t make a complete story on their own.

A few weeks ago, I told you about Charlie Reese and his complaint that, “the fishers are eatin’ all the patiges.” Charlie was a colorful, old gentleman from Wells who was in his 80s when I met him. He’d been a logger, trapper and hunting guide in the north country all his life.

I had planned an outing for the local boy scout troop for a Saturday in the dead of winter. I had arranged for the snowmobile club to take us back into the Kunjamuk so we could spend the night in the old log cabin.

Back in the late 1960s, we had real winter. That morning, the snow was deep and the thermometer in Speculator read about 40-below.

Now I knew some of those old-timers were tough, but when Charlie arrived at the meeting place on his snow machine wearing an old felt hat with no ear muffs and a couple of ratty flannel shirts, I wondered about his sanity. The rest of us couldn’t get enough clothes on to keep warm and here’s Charlie dressed like it was a sunny fall day. We made it to the cabin and Charlie didn’t freeze to death.

Another time, Charlie came running into Vodron’s Restaurant with more excitement than an 8-year-old on Christmas morning. You see, he had a few chickens and sold fresh eggs to the restaurant every few days. That morning, Charlie couldn’t believe what he found in his hen house. His old hens laid the average medium-to-large eggs every day but that Saturday, he found one three or four times larger than normal.

“Look at the egg my chicken laid!” he exclaimed.

It was huge, but he didn’t know he was set up. John had found a Canada goose nest the day before while fishing and sent one of the goose’s eggs home with Charlie’s wife to plant in the chicken coop. It was a funny episode and everyone in the dining room roared with laughter.

A year or so later I got a call from my old buddy John one brutally cold Saturday morning.

“What you doing?” he asked. Since I wasn’t busy, he said, “Dress warm. We’re going to the Kunjamuk on the snow machine.”

Being always ready for a little adventure, I went along. We unloaded the sled a mile or so south of Speculator and started up the old Fly Creek Trail. After covering a few miles, John turned the machine sharply off to the left and down over the bank. I had no idea where we were going until he stopped.

“Climb up that tree and get that deer.”

“What?”

I looked up into a tall balsam fir and there was a deer tucked deep into the branches some 20 feet off the ground.

John shot it during deer season a month or so before, pulled the tree top over and with a rope around the deer’s neck, he pushed it back up. The tree straightened right up and the deer was securely hidden up in the thick boughs.

So up I went. After reaching the deer, I jumped out and the deer came down to the ground with me. John chopped off the hind quarters and we headed back to town with the deer in my lap.

I’m not sure why the deer was hidden back in the woods, but I know he sometimes served venison Saturday nights in the restaurant. Maybe that’s what you call a redneck deep freeze.

One more quick story, then I’ve got to go.

Don Voorhies, the shop teacher in Wells, and I went duck hunting one morning up Cherry Brook on the backside of Lake Pleasant. I was in the front of the canoe when a pair of Mallards came down the stream high overhead.

They were probably too high for a shot, but I gave it a try. As my Ithaca 12 gauge roared, the rear duck folded and feel into the swamp.

“Nice shot!” Don exclaimed.

“Not really,” I explained. “I was shooting at the first one.”

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at robrockway@hotmail.com.