I'd been rubbing tung oil on some old wood for a project, phone rang, Justin was headed this way with walls for the deer stand, he'd pick me up, would like me to hold plywood walls in place while he put in the first screws and nails. I put up my rags and tools, picked up the camera and went out the door. We arrived at the deer stand, he pulled around and turned the back end of the truck toward the stand for ease unloading the plywood and the ladder. Tailgate makes a good work bench. His toolbox amounted to the carrying case for his cordless drill. He had a hammer and a carpenter's outfit attached to the belt with pockets for nails and screws, measuring tape, whatever might be needed for the specific job. He came up yesterday while I was in town and put the roof on it and the plywood for the lower half of three walls. He put the roof together at home first using leftover roofing shingles from the new roof he put on his house a few months ago. With his friend Jesse, they took the old roof off the house one day, put the new shingles on next day. Today, he attached the three-quarter inch plywood walls on the upper parts of three sides. He measured the fourth side around the door, and will make a door. He said the box will be air tight. He will cut two openings for windows and the portal for a rifle. I'm assuming the windows will open and close for using a bow. I assume this from seeing the rectangle for the rifle is too small and too low for shooting an arrow. This box is fitting together like a kit. He makes the parts at home, brings them to the site, puts them in place and they fit together easily like puzzle pieces.
This plywood box is built so well, so minimally, so firmly, so frugally, I had to say out loud to Justin, "I'm impressed." It is taking him no more time or materials than it would take to build it poorly. He is working at it step-by-step, visioning each step, making the parts and fitting them to the 3D puzzle in the woods. He said this is the place he has had his deer stand for the last six years. It amounted to a camouflage tent tall enough to stand up in. He wants to get it painted right away so the scent will be gone by September when he'll start using it. Possibly next week, when it's not raining, I'll be out there with brushes and paint disappearing it, painting the woods around it onto it. Sometimes I think it's not fair to the deer or anything else he shoots from this woodland pillbox. Yet, hunting is about deception. Cats creep almost without motion. The human has tools to put things together he conceives in his mind to outsmart the most wary. Justin has an aerosol can of no-scent, something that covers the human scent. This is not my world, hunting, making it all the more fascinating to me to watch Justin put together his mental construct, hear him tell its purpose, see him in my mind's eye perched inside like a snapping turtle with head pulled back waiting to strike. Justin has a hunter's mind; I enjoy listening to his adventures. When Justin talks, it's mostly light-hearted experiential, no conjecture, no predictions, no politics, no bullshit. He thinks deeply and he cares deeply. He cares passionately about the ones dear to him. Like a dog, he would jump right in and die if it can't e helped defending one of his dear ones. He will be able to keep Vada and Cheyanne with him so they won't be too uncomfortable. They could have sleeping bags. He could have battery-powered heat if he wants. He probably won't need much more light than a flashlight or some small thing powered by batteries.
Hunting is something I find interesting when somebody else is doing it. Years and years ago, I forced myself to watch Justin's dad string a buck up by its back feet, cut its belly open, let the guts fall out and everybody laugh. But me. I see what was a sentient being a short time before with a life in a herd, extended family, was already missed by all of them. Roscoe didn't make it. He made it as far as a deer goes, a "monster" buck, the target everybody is looking for. I see a tiny bit of the hunting going on in this county, which is considerable, yet they say the deer are overpopulating, fewer hunters every year. And gigantic places like Gander Mountain down near Statesville, and Bass near Concord, huge places like mega Walmarts with millions of fishing lures, fishing poles, boats, cammo outfits, hundred dollar flashlights, things beyond my imagination. I've been in both of them with Justin when he was looking for a particular target to set up in the yard to shoot arrows at. I gaped around like a child at Disneyworld the first time. It reminded me of the time I stopped at South of the Border in South Carolina to see what it was. Lots and lots of the cheapest beach junk that can be found around the world. Bass and Gander Mountain were lots hunting and fishing equipment, astonishing inventory. Sonar for fishing, motion cameras for night hunting, even a spotlight that lights up your subject by motion and you've got a clear shot. Deception to the max. This is even beyond deception. You're walking through the woods you've always walked through at night. A light in a tree, a red dot on the forehead. High-tech deception. They are fascinating toy stores for boys grown up enough to have money to buy things with. The vastness of Bass Pro Shop made me feel compelled to buy something. I bought a short-sleeved button-up-the-front shirt I wear whenever I go to town for its pockets.
Everything having to do with hunting and fishing is antithetical to who I am, anyway in this lifetime. It's an ethics thing I hold no one to but myself, and not totally myself. I don't believe something like an ethical standard is ever absolute, and I don't believe they're meant to be. And why feel compelled to make something absolute? To pass a test question? I'm inclined to go with the sweat lodge tradition of Lakota Indians. A certain construction is advised, I think it is willow sticks and buffalo hides. There is provision, if you don't have access to willow and buffalo something else will do; it gets down to, if need be, anything will do. I like to allow for the human element of self. Yeah, I do screw-ball stuff, always will. It seems like if I embrace my humanity I don't feel so guilty for being human. Resisting my humanity brings all the church guilt, school principal guilt, don't walk the line good enough guilt, to the surface and occupies my head making me doubt everything I do. That doesn't pay. You need to make more money. What a torpor to fall into, woes about debt. I like to hold a high standard for myself, don't berate myself if I don't make it sometimes, don't berate others for having no part in my own standard for myself. A woman I was talking with yesterday started going on about abortions, how can somebody kill a little baby, and all I could think was please don't ask me what I think about it. All I can say is other people's business is other people's business. I have no desire or will for myself to hunt, for my own reasons. I don't like killing. That's the basis of it. At the same time, it is not my role to expect my friend to be like me. He has his reasons, like I have my reasons. I enjoy hearing my friends talk about their hunting adventures. They don't feel like I'm an idealist or anything political. I just don't like to kill anything and I don't hold anybody to it, not even myself when it comes to a varmint mouse.
all photos by tj worthington