Monday, February 28, 2011

The Outdoor Plague: Cabin Fever

An Outdoors- Inspired Scavenger Hunt

            Snow swirls outside, making the world look like vast tundra.  Venturing out for a carton of milk or some bread seems a daunting task in the bitter chill.  The only other alternative to adventuring outdoors is staying indoors, which can be as much, if not more so of a challenge.  But fear not, friends! The cure for your cabin fever is here!

            Ben G. Outdoors, along with a handful of his best blogging compatriot buddies have teamed up to provide some entertainment to break this cabin fever that plagues so many of their chilly readers.  The rules are simple if you’ve ever taken part in a scavenger hunt.

            On March 1st, Ben G. will be posting the first clue.  Once a participant finds the answer within his blog, then he or she will be directed to the next blog; so on and so forth. The following blogs will be participating in this scavenger hunt give-away.

The contest will conclude on March 10th.  Winners will be announced.  The prizes are as follows:
·         1st place:  A pair of Magnum boots Work Pro Ultra WPI CT, 50$ Bass Pro gift card and The Complete Trail Food Book - 300+ Recipes for Campers, Canoeists and Backpackers and one pack of jerky*
·         2nd place:  Flat Head deer poster and Cap 25$ Bass Pro gift card, SEEMZ scent elimination and one pack of jerky*
·         3rd place:  Flat Creek Spinners- 3 Trout lures with 3 bass lures, Catch of the Day - 200+ Recipes for the Everyday Angler*

For more information, check out!
Any questions, e-mail Ben directly!

Happy Searching and Good Luck!

The super fun and binding list of
rules and regulations:

·         Participant must live in the US and Canada to participate.

·         Contest begins March 1st and concludes March 10th, EST

·         Participant must be 18 years of age or older.

·         Only one entry per contestant.

·         Participant MUST leave comment with answers on starting blog.

·         Only participants that have provided an answer for each of the blogs may be eligible to win the aforementioned prizes. 

** * Check out the attached links for product information! *

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hunting from a Female Perspective

   It's the middle of a sweltering hot day. I've been shooting archery all day when one of my arrows decided to break in half.  Stupid arrows, I mutter as I stalk out of my car, wearing home-made Real tree camo short overalls and matching camo flip-flops. Bass Pro looms in the distance when I see a gaggle of little girls reaching the same door I'm about to enter.  Given that I have manners, something that the majority of people seriously lack these days, I open the door to allow the girls and their haggered-looking parents an easy exit.  Unsure as to how to understand something they had never seen, the pink-Dora the Explorer clad group slowly meander by.  Muttering in muted tones saved for sideshow freaks, they make little comments about my chosen garb. One of the boldest, a girl whose father looked on with approval walked out the door but came back to ask, "You're GI Jane.. do you kill animals?" 

    Ever since my hunting love affair began, I have had to face many questions.  Some of them are hard to answer but the majority are just stupid assumptions by those who have no idea what they are talking about.  People don't seem to understand how someone, a girl; a very short one at that, can enjoy harvesting her own animals. Hence, I get bombarded with inquires about the guns I shoot, camo I wear, and my motives for partaking in such a sport.  The girl I encountered, as depicted above, had every right to ask that kind of question.  She may have never seen someone (who was her size) who hunts that she could actually relate to.

   I realize that I'm an oddity. I enjoy an ethical hunt, I shoot skeet, wear camo but can also string a couple words together.  When I began writing this blog, I figured that there were a lot of girls like me out there.  But unfortunately with society's new adoption of an anti-hunter attitude, with PETA and animal rights activists who chow down on burgers but work for the plight of the poor moo cows, people seem to be increasingly more ignorant about why hunters do what we do.  We're told over and over that guns are evil and so are the people that operate them.  That eating animals who are "organically" raised is more ethical to consume than a deer who has lived its entire life outside, in the wild.

  With all of the questions, speculation and negative publicity we hunters receive, it is refreshing when someone works to find the truth.  Days ago, I opened my e-mail, hoping that any of the jobs I've applied for had gotten back to me.  While I was downtrodden that no one had responded to my stellar resume, I did get an interesting message.  The e-mail was from an undergraduate student at Winona State University.  A communications study major, Ben, had stumbled across my blog and wanted to see if there was any way that I could help him out with his final project, researching the hunting motivation of females.  Besides being tickled pink that he deemed me acceptable to ask, I was struck that this kind of research can be brought into the realm of academia.  This idea began the wheels turning in my head for the kind of papers I'll write while in graduate school in the fall, including my theories about the Disney movie, "Bambi" and its implications of forcing younger generations to reject their primal instincts as hunters and gatherers, but I digress.  Benjamin sent his list of questions along which I decided I'd tackle as I did at Niagara University.

    So now I've regressed back into my good ol' essay writing days of college. I haven't studied at all, my kitchen is a mess and the only thing in the fridge is beer.  I've sharpened my #2 pencil, my blue books are ready and I've shaken off last evenings festivities in order to crush this final test.

   Name: The Writing Huntress
   Class: Hunting 463
   Professor: Dr. Benjamin

   Question 1: Why do you hunt?

        Funny you should ask, as I dedicated a post to this a handful of months ago.  But to reiterate, I hunt for the things that can only be obtained through the sport.  For the sunrises, sunsets, days spent laughing in the blind and the tranquility of solitude in the stand.  I've seen a fawn being pushed along by her mother, squirrels acting like heroine addicts, and a cat who had a stockpile of dead mice near my stand tree.  I befriended a hoot owl who softly roused me from slumber with his deafening calls as DU slept in a tree 40 yards away, his snores scaring any deer within a 50-mile radius.  Hunting has introduced me to various ways of feeling powerful and strong, which is important for a female of my tiny stature. I love the smell of gunpowder after a perfectly placed 5-stand shot.  I adore the feeling of my bow in my hands, hungry for another arrow.  Hunting speaks to one's ancient self; a way to operate as humans have always lived for centuries before the modern comforts of the present muddled our understanding of what it means to be human, as hunters and gatherers.

   It feels weird but to quote myself, "hunting purges its minions of  all confining things."

   Question 2: Who introduced you to hunting?

       My granddad.  He taught me to fish and injected a passion for safe hunting in my blood, even though it took years for it to cultivate.  My dad taught me how to shoot my first gun and various ex-flames introduced the actual process of hunting.  While I've hunted with men I've dated, it is inaccurate to say that I hunt because of DU, or for any man for that matter.  I hunt because it is what I love to do.

   Question 3: What, if any, motivations do you have to take a spouse/ significant other afield?

         DU and I hunt together but it is generally not within 100 yards of one another.  The first couple of times I hunted here, he stayed close just to ensure that my primary runs of getting up the tree were successful.  In terms of deer hunting, I have no motivation to hunt with DU. (This has nothing to do with the time that he spilled hot chocolate directly under my tree prior to a stand hunt.  Okay- maybe a little.)  There is no reason to, as we can't speak to one another and there are only so many deer on the property we hunt.  I don't need cues from him or need him for anything except entertainment during slow days. This stands in stark contrast to waterfowl hunting, as I have never hunted ducks or geese alone.  Given that it is in duck hunting's essential nature that the hunt be shared by many in a blind, DU and I always hunt together.  The real motivation to bring him out is that he is a superb duck caller while I'm still a novice.  I can't read ducks quite yet so it is nice to have him there to teach me the ropes.  Also, it is always nice to have a 6'5 guy to steal jackets from when the pre-dawn hours bring along a freezing chill.

   Question 4: Has hunting brought you and your significant other closer together?

         Yikes.  Well.  I guess to pass I have to be honest so I'll go with yes and no.  Obviously, DU and I spend a LOT of time dealing with hunting.  We prepare for it, shop for it, try to make next year's season better, and spend at least 8 months out of the year actually taking part in it.  We can talk about things and work out our problems in better ways than I've seen with my peers.   Although this may root from the knowledge that we both are heavily armed, hunting has indeed brought us closer together. If we're upset, we just shoot something (generally not one another) and the world just seems better.  However, we tend to get in a rut during season.  We'll eat, go to work, hunt, eat, sleep, hunt, work, eat and then on the weekends, hunt more.  Also, when DU had more success than I did this season, I was a little jealous.  As we've seen, I'm not the greatest loser.  Hence, when he scored a 6-point buck early on while I struggled and lost a deer on Thanksgiving, I was a little green.  Since I'm obviously not eight years old, I got over my issues and congratulated him after secretly figuring out a way to extract the firing pin in his gun to ensure the next deer harvested would be mine.  But considering the lies, deceit, fighting and bickering I've heard about via my friend's relationships, I don't think we're doing too badly.  Unless, of course, I don't get a turkey this season, then we'll have problems.

   Question 5: If you answered yes to the previous question,  what specific aspect of hunting has brought you together?

   I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we both share something that we love.  I don't hunt for him and DU most certainly does not get up at 2am because I tell him to.  Also, we work together for a common goal.  It isn't as if I'm working to get a deer and he's trying to build the biggest Lego castle in the garage ( I hope DU isn't reading this because he'll probably attempt it..).  As a team we work to fill our freezer with wild turkey, fresh duck and loads of deer. In the same respect, we're efficient outside of the blind as a team, tackling all of what life has to offer.   Most of all, there is something divine about waking up at ridiculous hours, freezing one's backside off, and enduring all of hunting's unpleasant aspects together.  If something negative befalls DU, I know that he isn't going to run away but he'll work it out, just as he did when our boat mysteriously ran up an invisible rock completely by itself.

Bridges looks confused after DU runs our boat up a rock.

   I feel blessed that I can share my passion with DU.  In all honesty, I do not think that I would ever be able to date someone who did not hunt, as he would not understand the amount of time I spend on it, even outside of season. 

   Question 6: If you don't have a spouse or girlfriend, or are going to get rid of the one you have, will you take your future beloved hunting?

        I've put this question to a couple of hunting buddies who flat out refuse to take their girlfriends, wives, mistresses, what have you, out in the blind or stand.  They say that hunting is "man time", that women aren't allowed or even invited.  I've had to toe this line in the past, as I know that there are some trips and excursions that DU embarks on that I cannot.  If I ever do get a chance to go back home to Indiana with him, I know that going goose hunting will be difficult, as a woman has never stepped foot into their underground pit.  Antiquated hunting code still reigns supreme in some circles of men that prohibit their female counterparts from participating.  However, as strong as DU and I are in our relationship, I hope that more men will encourage the women they love to take part so their relationship can grow along with their meat intake.

    Ours is a relationship that began mainly with the common love of hunting.  This is aberrant, as women that I know generally began hunting after meeting someone who hunted.  It is in the hope if this huntress that more women begin hunting for themselves or are encouraged by their partner to do to so.  Either way, from our experience, hunting strengthens relationships.  Except of course, if he bags a bigger deer.

   How I did on this test remains to be seen but Ben needs more information so please- men and women alike- if you have any interest in helping him out or want to express a different opinion, answer the same questions I did here and either post a comment or e-mail him directly.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Titus Search and Rescue: 2011

    My dogs are currently partaking in their daily 1:00 nap.  Since my job disappeared, I've spent a lot of time at home so I have been able to observe how my little spoiled canines spend their day.  Like clockwork, the dogs take naps between 1 and 3pm.  Obviously their day has been long and stressful, as by this time they've eaten, pooped, and barked at close to two dozen cars.  It's tough being a dog but I'm glad they seem to take the title in stride.  Titus is currently snoring away, paws twitching slightly, lips snarling every so often; obviously sniffing something beautiful or finally catching up with that evasive squirrel in the yard.  But knowing my pit bull-boxer mix as I do, I think he's probably reliving the nightmarish events of a week ago.

  Titus is afraid of long car rides.  Granted, he loves going in cars but after hours in a moving vehicle, a change is seen in his eyes.  The blissful, ignorance his brown eyes generally exude cloud over as he realizes, shit.  we've been in the car for a while. Mom's here and so is dad. Maybe they're leaving me somewhere! CRAP.  I knew I shouldn't have eaten mom's favorite stuffed animal.... he was looking at me funny..  Titus' amaxophobia came about last summer when I made the 735 mile trip to my new home in North Carolina.  The unbearably long trip took 14 exhausting hours.  About 7 hours into the east cost adventure, Titus knew something was up.  Instead of doing the thing normal dogs do (urinate, defecate, allow an extreme amount of flatulence to stink up the car, or moan loudly), Titus simply worked his way up onto my lap and stared out the window.  When I tried to move, he would dig his little claws into my legs until I gave up.  He seemed terrified and rightly so; I was moving everything that he had ever known almost 1,000 miles away.  Titus remained, statue like, on my lap until the very end of the trip.  As we crossed into the boarder of North Carolina, I cried.  Looking at me the way he always does when tears fall, Titus burrowed closer as we both came to understand that life as we know it had forever changed.

   The same feeling resonated in the car as we ventured to Fourth Lake for some good snowmobiling and personal reflection. Avery, not used to long car rides, was a champ as she made the arduous 16-hour trip without a whimper or cry.  Titus, however, figured that we were going back to live in my tiny apartment without his siblings, so he cowered, refused to eat and looked at me as if I was slowly torturing him into an untimely death.

  We reached Old Forge, an Adirondack town near the Fulton Chain of Lakes, which was laden under 5 feet of snow.  Once our destination was finally reached, the dogs bounded out of the car, eager to stretch their weary legs.  Titus, upon seeing the dozens of inches of powdery, white stuff, suddenly resembled a crack addict as he plowed through the frozen precipitation. Avery, the thoughtful one, had never seen such a sight; mounds of stuff that resembled the meager ration that was dusted upon Charlotte, now over her head.  Twelve to fourteen seconds later, both went into a snow-crack coma.  They dipped, dodged and ducked into the snow, only to reappear feet away, panting.

  Days passed with sore snowmobile thumbs, wind-burnt faces and bellies full of good Adirondack winter food.  DU and I had traveled over 60 miles one day when we came home to let the dogs out before going back out on the trails.  DU went in to warm up as I supervised the dogs' outdoor festivities.  After the last time the dogs got out, I've kept Titus on a tight leash.  But figuring, as any naive parent does, that he would behave better this time, I allowed Avery and her brother the freedom to play.  We were walking over to where the trailor loop loops when something must have caught Titus' eye.  Without a backward glace, Titus booked it into the woods.  I called, Avery followed, but Titus refused to look back.

  Freaking out as I always do when negative things come to pass, I screamed and yelled until my lungs, rejecting the frozen air, refused to utter another syllable.  Running as fast my heavy boots could ambulate, I beckoned DU outside. Our voices united, we called for my retreating pup.  Nothing. DU waded into snow up to his waist after Titus' prints; nothing.  After a couple of minutes, DU told me to take the snowmobile to look for him.  Fully being able to realize that I'm a hysterical mess and would surely run our Polaris into a tree, I grabbed DU's keys.

  Driving down our neighboring drive,  I cried as the temperature dropped to -1; far too cold for Titus to be out too long.  Avery, my grief companion, looked out the window, smelling for her brother.  She growled then began barking as we came across his bounding prints.  Realizing that he had been across this road, I made the snap decision of turning around, right there, so I could follow his prints further. In retrospect, this was a bad idea.  Immediately to the right of DU's Denali SUV stood a 5-foot tall snowbank.  Of course, in my hasty response, I failed to take the bank into account and plowed right into it.  My frustration reached its zenith as the wheels turned and turned, digging the heavy vehicle deeper into the snow.


  Just as Batman's signal pushes the bat-like hero into the night; DU heard the tires and their human operator's squeals from hundreds of yards away.  He jumped onto one of our sleds, not like Batman's, unfortunately,  and braved going against traffic to reach me.  As he pulled up, he was greeted with a sobbing huntress, perched in the front seat, arms ringing the neck of the dog who wasn't stupid enough to blindly follow something shiny up a mountain.

  Quick to magical feats of manliness, DU began assessing the situation.  Like the lumberjack he was in a former life, he grabbed the shovel stowed in the back of the truck and began digging out the mess I had made.  Minutes into his ferocious snow removal, I heard, "Hunny....."

   I sobbed something that sounded slightly like "W-w-w-w--w-hat" but it could have been Sanskrit for all the sense I was making at the time.

  Just as I had given up hope, DU pointed a shaky finger next to the truck.

  There was Titus, battling through snow as tall as his head.

   I stuggled through the snow and grabbed onto my shaking pup.  Looking as if he had done something seriously wrong, Titus looked confused as I carried him, as best I could, into the car.

  My exuberance was short-lived as I realized the disparity of the current situation.  The Denali wouldn't budge.  No matter how much snow DU moved, the stubborn tires refused to move.  Fearing that I had done extremely expensive damage to the truck, we called on a local friend for a help out.

  His truck was massive, and plow even more so.  We greeted his approaching form until he tried to back in to where we were.  Turning around, the "unstuckable" truck got stuck.  With the same disbelief as Titanic passengers forced into their rubber boats as a solemn symphony played, we stared at the truck; disbelieving.

  His stuck situation did not last, as a little gravel and some snow removal quickly forced the 4x4 out of its sticky situation.  As he went to the opening of the drive to turn around again, we worked on DU's truck.

  Tens of minutes passed with no sight of our savior truck with its wings and halo.  Confused, I snowmobiled to the opening only to find that the previous-unstuckable truck had managed to get stuck again.

  I drove back to camp to procure another snow removal implement via snowmobile, feeling lousy.  My dog got out, DU's truck got stuck, and our savior vehicle not only could not get out of one bank but two.  Essentially, to put it in the crudest way possible, I suck; royally in fact.

   DU managed to get the Denali out a little while later.  And in a stroke of perfect irony, he freed our savior truck from the evil grasp of the hue-less snow. 

  Titus was weary as we ventured home and for the rest of the trip, he stayed by my side.

  Weeks later, I came home, again crying (see a theme forming?) because of the job that disappeared, my diminishing bank account, the GRE that didn't go as I hoped, and an overall useless feeling that has hung like a cloud over my everyday life.  I fell into bed, the one place that I have sought solitude my entire life.  The dogs stood around the bed, feeling out the vibe of whether or not they could safely climb up without castigation.

  While Oscar and Avery crept up to sleep at the end of the bed, Titus walked around the bed and sat near my head.  Tears creeping down my face like little caterpillars, I looked through moist eyes at my guard dog.  As if wanting to stop my tears by saving me from any evil that may attack the bedroom, Titus watched. He stood static, and remained so until I patted the bed, when he moved next to me, still watching for the evil that had made water stream out of my eyes.

  In knee deep snow, we had looked for salvation from the pick-up truck that would un-stick the stuck Denali. But the Denali ended up reversing the order of things. When I adopted Titus, I felt that I was saving him from a life of maltreatment.  However, what I failed to grasp until that weekend is that he saved me in his own way.  He brought me back down to earth when nothing else could.  In his fleeing from my side, I was brought to a place that was so deep, I forgot about the rest of my problems.

   Sometimes the things that save you come from the least expected place.  I keep hoping that something will happen to save me from my jobless, aimless state but Titus taught me that the catalyst for change can lay hidden anywhere, I just have to be ready for it.

  And trust me, reader, after that experience,  I can tackle anything.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Growing Up As A Lake Kid

I began writing a post about the place I call "camp" when I realized that i failed to allow you, my dearest reader, a chance to fully comprehend this location which helped create the huntress I am today.  I would abhor myself for doing such a disservice to my readership so in the name of self-respect did I post this little essay about my tumultuous love affair with the mountains of the Adirondacks.  Henceforth, it shall serve as a prologue for all future references to Fourth Lake.

Sitting on the hard wooden dock, she is overcome by the intense silence of the moment.  The calm water is slowly becoming rough as skiers are awakened from their slumber by their yearning to get on the water.  However, for the time being, the boats stay at bay, while their operators begin preparation for a day on the lake.  These chariots of the water are nestled into the shore enveloped by a thick covering of statuesque pine trees. They seem uniform to her eye, but differences lie in their chosen profession.  A group of the stately plants enjoy the feeling of the cold water around their toes, lending themselves to the task of providing a resting place for tired ducks.  Another collection can be seen off in the distance, working as coverage on the otherwise bald tops of mountains, enjoying the high altitude. Back on the dock, the gargling of boat engines combines with the opening and closing of cabin doors.  As children are roused for breakfast and begin to play, the silence is broken- For this, a place where childhood memories and lasting friendships are created, is not a place were silent moments are frequent.  The crisp air cleansed by the numerous trees remains so, withstanding the aromas of cooking meals.  Knowing the lake will soon be too choppy to ski on, she stands.  Pausing for a moment, intuitively aware her family will be waiting for her arrival on the boat, she sighs deeply, wishing the silence would return.
   I have always been a lake kid.  Spending summers in Fourth Lake, Old Forge was heaven.  There was nothing else like it.  Even now as I sit in classes filled with people who focus on the wrong things and will never understand that one fantastic feeling, and I wish I was there.  Henry Thoreau had Walden Pond, I have Fourth Lake.  The life of solitude, the unattainable; convention follows everywhere.  When all is lost and there is nothing else to hold onto, Walden still remains.  Time rotates differently in Walden. Time slows to a crawl and no one’s time is gauged in dollars and cents.   Walden is that one place of understanding.  Each infinitesimal part adheres to the soul; makes an imprint ever fossilized on life.   It is that place that I am unable to escape and yet I miss it.  

            I began my life as a Lake kid early. Tasting fluffernutter on young taste buds. The treat disallowed at home is given freely here.  Hands filled with sand from prolonged hours spend on the endless beach.  Parents getting along fueled with mind alternating silver colored cans.   Hair in pigtails- pink flowered bathing suit partially dried by the incessant August glaze.  Perched atop an orange canoe, smile broadcasting nothing ever could be wrong as long as the background lake never changes.  My then still attached family ventured to the Adirondack Mountains in an attempt to bond with my only set of cousins.  Days spent drinking and lounging did well for the growing beer bellies of the men who looked on as the bonds of the children strengthened.  Being only two, I had no idea that this place of mountains and sun would be the only place that I could find solitude.  

            As the years progressed and the small ones grew older, interests changed.  The photos returning from the Wegmans 5 day Photo Processing painted different pictures of the times each year after the annual two weeks came to a close.   Times at the beach were my favorite.  In my blue flowered bathing suit, I point to something intriguing in the water as my other chubby hand clings to a bucket.  The redheaded girl that my mom insists was just the most adorable thing she’s ever seen in her entire life looks on, seemingly interested in whatever I had to say.  My cousin and I running into the water, displacing the hydrogen and oxygen combination with each step.  

            After years of staying with the cousins, their interests changed, however ours never waned.  We took up permanent residence down the road and never looked back.  We started out spending one week in August then two.  The owners began to think of us as family, allowing us to do pretty much anything we wanted.  It was a beautiful existence. 

            The four-hour trip up to the heaven that was our Lake was pure hell.  My brother and I were never the ones to act the sibling loving bond that our parents tried with no results to solidify.  My mother, the narcoleptic who made me think it commonplace for mothers to sleep away entire weekends and half of weekdays, would be off in dreamland in mere moments.  My father, the entertaining super-dad would insist on playing games the entire way up.  Games started to include monetary gain as we grew older.  A quarter for the first person to see the Emu Farm, quarter to the one who saw the crashed air plane, the big cow at the steakhouse, each still holds a special place in my materialistic heart. The drive down the road to get to our lake was always excruciating. Speed limit 20. To my young eyes, it took ten years to finally catch the first glimpse of the crystal waters.  

            Upon finally descent, the family of four would tumble out of whichever truck deemed fit enough to caravan our loving possessions.  With the efficiency of a double flying acrobatic act, the family unit dismembers the truck as the matriarch looks on.  Knowing full well no fun is to be had until everything is where it should; my brother and I would attack the luggage like hungry wolves.  We pile everything onto the small porch which inaudibly grunts under the weight of the newly acquired burden.  Going to work on rearranging the furniture we’ve been scolded years and years over to not rearrange, my mother works to make the cabin home again for another two weeks.  Once all is unpacked and she has room to do what her DNA has been programmed to do, she hands over bathing suits and swim trunks.  Again, being well trained as Seeing Eye dogs, my brother and I tip toe to the bathroom, change, and tip toe back; nothing out of place or soiled.   

            Heaven forbid one of us in our retreat to the lake allow the swinging door to slam its frame in an over zealous nature.  My mother, whose ears could pick up the sound three hundred feet away, would turn to the offender and give the look.  With the knowledge that history constantly repeats itself and the door can never stay shut in such a state, the culprit will gingerly take the door handle and guide it to its resting place; absent of the thunderous close.  

            Years went by and this process repeated itself time and time again.  The way I looked forward to these trips never rivaled Christmas Eve; it always surpassed it.  The zenith of happiness and freedom lay in the swirling waters of our Lake.  As I grew older, the trips changed.  Outgrowing the two bedroom cabin we so lovingly inhabited gave way to a larger cabin, further up the hill.  No longer able to be gently coaxed out of rest by the therapeutic rhythms of water on rocks, my connection to our new two week abode never held the same sentimental value for me.  The larger cabin contained four bedrooms and a loft.  The loft always mystified my young mind.  Carving out an enclave fifteen feet above the living room floor, the hidden room allowed three to sleep comfortably.  A ladder made of historic wood and blond unidentifiable tethers acted as the staircase to the adolescent heaven.  My brother and his friends were constantly allowed to sleep up there, lest I or a girlfriend were too absentminded in our attempts to abdicate the loft and fall to our demise.  The family unit, then still strong as iron, moved into a permanent location in what is dubbed “The Trailer Loop” located on Teddy Bear Lane. The name of the road began as a joke, those knowing that Ted, a gargantuan man with the disposition of a grizzly bear who had been spending summers at the Lake for as long as I can remember, would be at least appreciative of his road’s name.    Our dwelling was encircled by individuals whose names and faces were considered family during my growth at the Lake.  

            With the changing of time becomes that awesome and yet terrifying phase in life- adolescence.  Given that I was never comfortable in my own skin nor exceedingly attractive in any way; the Lake gave me the freedom to be anyone I wanted to be.  No one knew me; no one knew anything about me.  Being one who irrevocably looks for escape, I spent two entire summers living at the Lake, working a myriad of jobs.  Among my laundry list of professions, the lake provided me with some of the more interesting jobs I’ve erased from my resume; selling chocolate at the Candy Cottage to hungry tourists, providing over priced nourishment at the only grocery store within twenty miles of anywhere, and expunging the remnants of a family’s stay in a cabin  to name a few. Each week brought a batch of new individuals, taking the place of the previous week’s inhabitants. Among the onslaught of fresh meat each week contained viable weekly friends and potential male companionship. It was the year I turned fifteen that I got my first kiss next to Balsam, a cabin my family called home for a winter trip when I was eight.   

            To say that my first kiss included fireworks would be massively cliché but very true.  It was Fourth of July, not my fault that fate can be cliché. Being fifteen and never been kissed was a hard to pill to swallow.  My brother, the one who incessantly mocked me for my lack of physical attractiveness, was the one who all the girls loved.  He would set his skies out on our dock early in the morning, waiting impatiently for boat driver dad to descend from his throne.  During his wait, my brother would slowly but surely gather a crowd of adoring fans.  Spanning from the new additions to old flames, my brother could never do wrong.  Being short for a boy, he more than compensated with his blond hair, blue eyed self.  That said, it was tough to live in his shadow.  I was the one, freckled and short, who would be called “cute”, never “beautiful”. 

            When the week of July 4th finally came around that year, we had moved into our permanent residence in the trailer loop.  There were new boys staying there that week, much to my delight.  Being the daughter of the man with the big pretty boat, I was immediately popular with everyone that summer.   As I prepared for the morning ski run, I noticed one in particular was in constant attendance.  I slowly figured out that he was there for me, not anyone else.  This was shocking to me, someone watching me? Why me? Even boys would come watch my stellar brother.  But he came to see me.  

            The week rambled on, bringing with it new adventures, countless camp fires and ski runs.  July 4th finally came, along with it fireworks.  Independence Day was always a big thing on the lake.  Various camps on the water’s edge would put on small displays before the big show.  Every year for as long as I can remember included rain.  That year was no exception. The rain subsided just in time for the show to start.  I usually would pile into the family boat in order to view the explosions from the water but that year I opted to go with another family.   Half of the reasoning there was to get away from my family, really feel the independence of being fifteen.  The other half was that he, my skiing spectator, was going to be in the boat as well.  

            As fate would have it, and why wouldn’t it in a story like this, he ended up sitting next to me.  I recall not one firework that night, just the feeling of his arm around me.  I remember finally feeling how all my girlfriends must have felt before talking about boys they’ve been out with.  Once the show ended and we retreated home,  butterflies numbered in the thousands fluttered in my stomach; so much so that  I could barely concentrate.   Full of the festiveness of the holiday, the group of boys and I decided to walk the shore.  Our neighbors were all extremely generous, sharing campfires, food and beverages foreign to our underage palates.   We eventually returned home and he was beckoned to bed.   I walked him to his cabin in order to say goodnight.  

            Darkness fails to describe that night.  Unable to even put one foot in front of the other, I stumbled trying to get to his deck.  An impromptu gaggle of fireworks began going off in the distance.  Procrastinating, I looked to watch them, hoping that his ears were bad and couldn’t hear my heart pounding.  Focusing back on the task at hand, I looked to him and mumbled goodnight. Smirking that cute laugh boys do when they know exactly what you’re thinking, he bent down and kissed me.  

            That kiss opened the floodgates and even now I fail to remember exactly how that particular one felt.  The only impression I have is the lake; the place that holds memories of thousands of firsts. The first family vacation. My first campfire. The first ski run I ever had.    My first experience with all that is lake culture.   My first kiss. My first bought of puppy love.  My first glass of wine. The first massively drunk night.  My first horrible hangover. Also a thousand lasts.  The last time my family was together.  The last time I saw my parents truly happy.  The last time I remember everything being whole. 

            Ever since my first visit, I have never been able to forget my soul’s harbor.   Fourth lake constantly flows through my veins.  It is ever present.

She Returns to the wooden dock, the clomping of her sandals echoing upon the still water below.  Settling once more on the hard surface, the familiar scene has undergone dramatic change.  Being early in the evening, younger children have already retreated to bed, taking with them the joyful sounds of play.  Their older siblings have begun loitering, filling the space with nervous laughter and experimental curiosity.  As she peers over her shoulder, a bright, intense light surrounded by an array of mismatched chairs emits the perfect source to master smore production.  As the chairs begin to fill, the sound of paternal chatter, clanking of beer cans and loud laughter are heard.  Focusing her attention back on the opaque, mysteriously calm lake, her eyes only pick up the light of neighboring camps burning through the endless dark.  The monstrous mountains clearly seen during the day take a backseat to the blanket of stars speckling the sky.   Each individual star struggles to out stage one another- even the members of the same constellation.  Turning slightly to the left, she notices the sliver of moon illuminated by the sun. It seems that the sun is trying to conceal the moon in an attempt to make the lake disappear in darkness.  As a slight chill runs over her bare, sun kissed legs, she stands and once more breathes deeply to take in her surroundings.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Valentine's Day The Outdoors Way

  Is it just me or is Valentine's Day on a serious amount of steroids this year?

  It seems like just yesterday that the Christmas decorations were taken away by burly garbage collection workers, only to be swiftly replaced by red hearts, chocolate boxes and cheap, gaudy jewelry.  Shoppers no longer have a moment to breathe as they are assaulted by ad after ad reminding them of the "Valentine's Day Sale" or to not forget their loved one on this commercialized "holiday", and best yet; "Take 30% of on this pile of crap that will surely be forgotten and thrown away before St. Patrick's Day when we'll force you to buy more things you either don't need or can't afford!"   This year, in accordance with my anti-conformist ideals, DU and I won't be doing anything special. I know people (generally women, yes I can be sexist as I am one) will say, "Oh don't get me anything" or "I really don't want much this year" and expect the largest bear God ever deemed acceptable to be created on his earth to be lowered by the National Guard on the front lawn, all to illustrate her beloved's adoration of her.  But I really don't want anything, in fact I think the holiday is a complete waste of money.

  This was always not the case, however.  In high school, I was not the most popular nor the hottest thing to ever grace the halls of Aquinas Institute.  I was short, freckly and played hockey.  Hence, boys didn't chase me up and down the school; I wasn't tan, skinny, or played soccer. I had a great group of friends who helped me out of there alive but the males I came in contact with were on the boarder of ruthless.  I was called a lesbian, a midget, and was asked if the torturer in question could play connect the dots on my face.  All in all, it was a terrible experience.  I wanted to be "normal" and "pretty", this feeling was multiplied ten fold around February 14th. Leading up to this day, rumors ripped through the school like an F5 tornado. Who was getting what, who liked who, etc.  When the fabled day came, I would watch in silent envy as squealing girls would open their overflowing lockers; flowers, pillows, and heart-shaped entities tumbling out to paint a grotesque mural on the floor.

   I wanted to be one of those girls.  I wanted to have a boyfriend who adored me THAT much.  Fortunately, I was not one of those girls. I went through high school focused on hockey, having little time for anything else.  I received a few hand-made cards from boys who I had called friends and who may have wanted something more. I had my first kiss when I was fifteen and dated my first actual boyfriend in college.  I went through years of torment in high school and came out on the other side stronger for it.  I'm assuming that I'm leading my readership to conclude that my cynical attitude towards this fake holiday resonates from my past.  While there may be a touch of truth to that, I can confidently say that this year, the past has no bearing on the present.

   DU and I are a pretty disgusting couple. We overuse "I love you" daily, kiss constantly and work our way through problems like adults.  We have ridiculous pet names (Hunny bear,  Woman, Stupid Inconsiderate Woman, Sandwich Maker, Beer Wench, etc.) that we generally, as if out of our complete control, verbalize in baby talk. My friends find it strange that we can get up really early to hunt, be in the stand all day and still want to talk over dinner at night. Hence, this "holiday" of flowers, candy, and pink things is wasted on us.  "Us" as in the collective "we", the contingency of lucky couples who show their love everyday, not just once a year.  I am blessed but I know some are not as fortunate, which of course makes Valentine's day necessary.

  Greeting card companies use this ploy to their monetary advantage annually. Commercials exemplify the "late guy", "bad boyfriend", or "forgetful husband" as evil men who never buy their wives copious amounts of chocolates everyday and must make up for it in the middle of February.  Usually these monsters, always clad in business suits, crisp and clean from their wife-abandoning office hours, are portrayed running into the nearest [enter name of discount store trying to make money off of guilty husbands] to procure necessary implements of heart meltification. These men are always exonerated at the end of the 30-second exercise in marketing genius by a wife who laughs with her perfect teeth, kisses him and leads him upstairs, leaving the audience to guess what exactly will happen as the summit of the incline is reached.  The love-sick will believe that he lead her to the bed room and laid her down on a bed of roses.  The more pragmatic of us will know that just like in real life, the pretty wife put on a smiling face for the cameras but waited till doors closed in order to browbeat him for the laundry that didn't get done last night.

   If the wife in question brought Valentine's day back to its essential roots, she could kill him in celebration of the day.  Given that this holiday is the commemoration of St. Valentine's role as martyr for the Christian church, those who yearn to participate in the holiday should just off their significant other, just as the saint was back in the 200's AD. Yes, I know legend tells that Valentine wrote notes of love and stuck them in random places, but that is trivial to his actual sacrifice.  Valentine so loved his church that he was unwilling to renounce his faith, so he was murdered for it. Hence, that poor husband in the [we're trying to sell you things that she'll hate anyway] store commercial should really have just given her a gun to do the honors and make them both happy.

  Unfortunately for the cave man in all of us, it is no longer socially acceptable to show your love for your woman by beating her over the head and dragging her into your cave.  Likewise, women can't off their husbands because her love for him overwhelms every fiber of her body.  Societal conventions restrict our actions so that unlike Saint Valentine, we show love through fluffy teddy bears rather than sacrifice.

   I picked up a magazine while at the grocery store, simply because I have a secret passion for reading tabloids while the check-out girl looks at me awkwardly as  I laugh at the dumb celebrities.  Across one of the sides of the cover, parallel to an article about 5 Ways to Get Thin Before Spring Break and under a PETA ad for saving poor piggies was an article about What Your Man's Valentine Gifts Say About Your Relationship.  I figured this was a joke until I actually took a gander at page 25. There it was, in all of its mind-numbing glory- a spread of flowers, candy, office supplies and furniture- each with its own little bubble proclaiming, "Your man thinks your sweet- and skinny! Eat these chocolate bon bons up and lap up the luxury of his embrace".  The article only got worse when I turned the page to a tear-out center that the reader can give to her man in order to perfectly instruct his Valentine's day buying spree.  I started laughing at the beginning of the article and was in full hysterics once I saw the "Man Guide". I asked the bewildered clerk if people actually buy this. She looked a little offended and said of course, I bought one last week.  I inserted my foot in my mouth, took my groceries and without a backwards glance hurried to my Jeep.

   I realize that many do not share my cynical views on this holiday, and for the majority who use it as simply another day to show the person they love their appreciation for the person they are, I applaud them. Nothing is better than feeling a little bit special everyday and if Valentine's day brings it out, then fine with me. However, if one uses it to rectify a year of bad behavior, to get what they want via a red and pink guilt trip or as a performance based outpouring of faux-affection, you should stop reading this now and go treat your partner better each day, not just on February 14th.

   Men seem clueless as to what women want.  Especially those manly men who spend the majority of their time outdoors, who kill animals, grow beards and fail to shower for days on end.  To those guys out there who are good, hard working dudes who love their families, treat their women right and want to do something nice for Valentine's day, there is hope.  I yearn to help out whenever I can so I figured that since I am a woman who hunts but also knows how a woman's brain operates,  I can debunk some theories of what to get your wife/girlfriend/mistress, etc. (Be rest assured, there is no tear-out pocket guide.)

   Things to not get your woman:

    Vacuum- Or any appliance, unless she has SPECIFICALLY said something along the lines of, "I hate this stupid [insert broken oven, dish washer, refrigerator, easy bake oven] and this marriage will end if you don't do something about it."

    Waffle Maker- Goes along with the vacuum but this says, "Get in the kitchen where you belong, woman."  There is a clause however, that allows a man to give this as a gift as long as he is the one who makes the waffles.  *cough* DU,  I'll have mine with chocolate chips*cough*

    Pajama Gram- No. Whatever you do. No.*  Women can buy their own footie pajamas if they feel that dressing like they're five is sexy.
               *Not to point fingers, but this comes specifically from DU's mom who was on the receiving end of such a gram. His well-meaning father sent the gram with the best of intentions, resulting in less than successful results.

    Carnations- I realize that the guy selling these on the side of the road on your way home from work is really tempting but for the sake of your relationship, refrain. Carnations, again unless your woman likes them, are the ugliest and cheapest of the flower family.  It takes four seconds to call up a flower company and have them deliver something beautiful to her door, a hundred times shorter than the fight that will ensue if you thrust Carnations into her arms.
  Things to get your woman:

    Jackalope- Okay while many women do not enjoy dead animals adhered to slabs of wood, an exception can be made for this mythical beast.  This gift is unique in and of itself, hence she will feel special- it's a win-win! Additional brownie points are added if you go Wyoming and harvest the thing yourself.

    Mount of 2 Jackalope heads fighting- I really hope this needs no explanation. What is more rare than the perfect love you share with your significant other? Not one but two jackalope mounts engaged in an epic, everlasting tussle.

   Venison from this season's harvest- Yes, my dear outdoorsman, nothing says love and devotion like being able to provide for your lady with your own two hands.  Cut her some nice backstrap and relax together near a fire, preferably from wood you cut down earlier that morning.

   Time- A simple but meaningful present that means the world to any down-to-earth girl. Turn the TV (even if Uncle Ted is on) and cell phones off, cut the world out for a little while in order to enjoy one another. Talk about everything and nothing; even silence says more than roses ever could.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Crying Over Burnt Waffles

   Losing one's job in a blaze of surprising glory has its perks.

    On Friday I found myself a huntress who not only no longer had a job but could be brought to hysterical tears at any moment. In order to anesthetize the sting of being jobless, I partied hard during the weekend and hoped that Monday would never come.  Unfortunately, I have no baring on the earth's revolutions so the dreaded day did indeed rear its menacing, ugly head.  Dusk broke and I woke up just as I had in the past.  Around seven I let the dogs out then started to get ready.  It was only when I heard the toaster oven's DING did I realize- I don't have a job to wake up for.  I crawled into bed and cried.

    Startled by my sudden teary reaction to everything , DU consoled me and told me that he'd go get breakfast; there was no need to cry over a burnt waffle.  As I cried harder and blubbered about Mrs. Butterworth's job as a pancake icon, DU decided it was high time to take action. He contacted my Dad who owns a house in the Adirondack mountains of New York.  Knowing that I love all that is Fourth Lake, DU figured getting out for a little while was the perfect antidote for my woes.

   There may have been some method to his thinking, as we had an absolute blast.

  The stories are too many to tell, which of course means I'll do my best to re-create them here. However, I find it prudent to employ some visual aids so as to paint a perfect picture inside of your creative imagination.  If I don't, then I'll risk saying something like the "snow was over my head" and for a skeptical reader to look at the screen, scratch his nose (or whatever appendage is either itchy or habitually scratched when he does not agree with something) before stating, "No it wasn't".  In my perfect world,  I would appear next to Mr. Nose Scratcher Know-It-All, slap his hand away from his face and yell, "YES IT WAS!".  Since I haven't invented a way to teleport or eavesdrop on every reader's audible comments to one of my posts without going to jail, I'm going to put up pictures of my trip to avoid having to figure either out. 

    The stories shall come but as for now, dearest reader, allow me to transform my blog into a picture-book of sorts.

  On a snowy day in February, I adventured to the magical land of Fourth Lake to escape the pain of everyday life.

   The snow was over my head

(It really was!)

          and I had to battle with a giant to get across the bridge that took me to the beautiful mountains known as the Adirondacks.

   After reigning victorious over the treacherous beast, I flew down railroad tracks to get to camp.  

  Once I was there, I was shocked at what I found.

  There were deer who are content with hanging out on walls for years. 

  Dogs who can fly. 

  Other dogs who don't walk but leap like gazelles through the snow.

  Shoes that have thrown themselves up and over electrical lines for no reason whatsoever.

   Lakes full of crisscrossed tracks which go nowhere.

  Resorts that can only be reached by boat, snowmobile or foot...

   inhabited by the most content of recluses.

The most perfect Christmas tree known to mankind. 


Ice-cold, refreshing beverages crafted from the hands of Canadian gods.

  Lamp posts which stand in a frozen tundra waiting to guide someone on their way.

   And strange rocks that jump on top of one another, hoping to find a way out of the snow.

  I rode my snowmobile until I no longer could see anything except for the whiteness below.  For a fleeting second, I entertained the idea to become a hermit myself.  I'd pitch a tent right there in the snow and fend of the land for the rest of my days.  Life had been hard as of late, I told myself, I deserve some time off. 

  But as I gazed at the snowy sky, sun broke through the clouds. The snow below turned into valleys of glittering diamonds and I knew I must go back.

   Now that I am home and that mythical land is hundreds of miles away, I don't feel any better than when I left.  I'm still lost and have no idea how I'm going to pay my bills.  I thought the solitude of camp would bring me to the peace I've been searching for, but it didn't.  As I sit here, munching on mini-saltines and peanut butter, I'm terrified with the what if's and what will happens that plague my thoughts.  I want to lay in bed all day but the dogs are barking, imploring to be let in out of the cold. Laundry needs to be done, so does the cleaning.

   As bleak as everything looks, I have to remember- there are perks to losing this job of mine.  The scenery, the stories, the fresh air and of course, the opportunity to share it with you.