From the rusty old shack, memories are made
The roof leaks. The wooden floor has spaces between each plank and the dirt beneath, is easily seen.
There are mice and crumbs and it is always cold and it smells of cold ashes, wet boots, leather gloves, and the soft bark of old trees. There is no mailbox and the electricity is a single strand of wire, which is snaked through the trees and is suspect when there is ice, wind, rain, and sometimes it is just finicky about the way a naked tree branch brushes against copper wire.
It was once a place that a man lived. It was a place where this man lived and he tended the land by mule and plow and the sweat from their efforts, combined, were the first elements of moisture felt against the eagerness of a single seed.
The roof is made of rusted tin that was once on a barn and then salvaged and bent and patched and the door is fastened by a bent nail and a peg of wood and it is where all that is the world outside, is protected against all that is innocent inside.
This shack is where men and boys meet to hunt. In darkness, they gather. In darkness they leave.
In the early afternoon when eyes had been opened for 12 hours for the two hours to hunt and the four hours to tell lies, tell jokes, bend the truth, and to stretch the size of something they thought they saw, this is a place where the hardness of a planked floor is comfortable to a man’s back.
In the corner of the room where boots dry and coats hand, there are three chairs, a bucket, a handmade wooden stool, two milk crates and this is where the best food ever to come from an iron skillet is prepared.
The smoke from the stove lingers today, tomorrow and for years to come in this one-room place. It defies the bullying wind. It finds the noses of hungry men and hungrier boys and the opportunity for game succumbs to the opportunity for warmth and warm biscuits and to sit beside a brother, uncle, friend, or never before stranger and they come to where the smoke lingers.
On occasion, good dogs and old dogs have been allowed to rest by this stove. There is a place for some things, such as the bucket to hold the ashes, a paper-towel holder on the wall. Three nails pierce the wooden wall, where the cast iron skillet hangs beside the baking pan and the pot for boiling water.
There is no yard, here, only mud and tracks of game and dogs and men and boys. The wood is not stacked, it is split and used as needed and the axe was purchased new, 12 years ago. Someone affixed a hammock between two poplar trees outside and this is a place where coats hang to dry and a place where kids pretend they are captains of a vessel at sea.
The covered shed beside the patched, roof-leaking shack, is where game is prepared, and it is where each member’s name is inscribed on a board, by the same knife, as it has always been. From this shack, boys have never become bored and men have never forgotten their time on the hammock, or time in the woods, or the way biscuits tasted smoky and hot and buttery and everyone took four, when passed around.
There are photos on the walls, too. There is a photo of a grandfather and a mentor and cousins that once had hair, and now do not, and their own sons and daughters look like they did when these cousins once had hair.
There are paths that lead from here to places where a father once led a boy or a girl. There are paths that lead to stands and blinds and to the beaver swamp and into the pines and along the creek and where uncle Ted is convinced he saw a bear.
There are paths that lead from the shack, down the road and across towns and to where people live and people work and where people go when they cannot come here.
From this shack, silence is very quiet. From this shack, one can watch a tree grow; lean, fall, and a sapling take root nearby. From this shack, life is celebrated and life is mourned and thanks is always given, hand in hand, and hats are allowed but cats are not.
It is the place a family hunts from. It is a place friends return to. It is a place where laughter explains mistakes and where red oak and flour and flannel shirts and warm coffee and fresh sausage and the allure of maybe combine with the element of simplicity and ruggedness.
It is the place one might leave but always return. It is a place to hand your hat, if you like. And, it is a place where the plates are shared and the roof leaks and sometimes game is prepared, yet always, it is a place where paths begin and paths return.
Enjoy your time outdoors.
Contact Jason Hawkins at firstname.lastname@example.org