"Are you feeding the deer?", he asked.
"Ya, but now I've got the darn bears tearing my wooden feeders apart", I replied.
"They'll get lead poisoning eatin' this corn, you know"... grinned the hired hand at Farmers Feed and Grain, as he hoisted the last of six, fifty pound bags of shell corn onto my ATV trailer. He wore a light dusting of powder from hat to boots from working in the feed warehouse. His blue eyes were a stark contrast against his suntan and the dust. He looked like he had rolled in flour, a sort of an albino version of Linus from the Peanuts comic strip.
"Really", I said naively. "How so?".
"You know... when youre hunting them with your gun"... he laughed at having temporarily fooled me. I gave him the old "Kistler Grin" and then hopped in my truck for the final 20 mile drive to my hunting shack. Turning the key in the ignition, the stereo resumed the CD that was playing when I first stopped here. The bass was cranked.
"Getch yer motor runnin"...."Get out on the hiway"... "Looking for adventure"... "In whatever comes my way"... "Ya were gonna make it happen"... "Get the world in a love embrace" ... "Fire all of your guns at once and" ... "Explode into space"...."Like a true natures child".... "We were born to be wild".... "Gonna fly so high".... "Never want to die"..... "BORN TO WiiiiiiiiLD !! ". I love that song.
As I sat there in my Nike shades, singing my best Steppenwolf imitation and waiting for a tractor pulling a heavily loaded flatbed full of hay to pass by, I literally started to laugh out loud at this Kodak moment. "Born to be Wild" ?
I was hauling a trailer with a camo Yamaha Kodiak ATV, six bags of corn, several deer lick blocks, a container of winter camo gear and a cooler. My, how wild had changed. In my college years, "wild" was being an earth-momma, fringe-wearing, tie-died, vegetarian hippy, doing cross-country Harley trips, hanging out in communes in Jerome, Arizona, and growing exotic plants. Now at age fifty, Im a non-smoker, teetotaler, & church-goer, and "wild" is getting a tattoo, hunting, planting food plots, running around in the woods and building things. ATV's and chain saws have replaced the Harleys. I am still "Born To Be Wild"... just smooth with age and able to remember it all now. It seemed ironic.
It was another hot sultry day. When I turn off the hiway to the gravel road, the radio goes off, the windows go down, and I savor the last mile in. As I snaked up my approach drive and into camp, I noticed right away that the huge outdoor galvanized storage cabinet had been bent and torn open, and a 5 gallon can of last years rancid grease had been emptied all over the gravel. "Bears", I thought to myself. I had seen a bear cub on the drive in last weekend, and I had heard from neighbors that a sow and three cubs were getting into everything. After unloading the trailer, picking up the mess and shooting arrows for an hour, I loaded up my other ATV to go fill the corn feeders near my food plots, and to check my Buckshot35 Scout camera left the week before. After a couple of hours in the woods, the heat wiped me out, so I decided to get some work done inside the hunting shack. It stayed relatively cool inside since it was shaded by mature trees on three sides. I had been delaying the mundane job of varnishing doors, trim, cabinets and paneling. The floor was too big of a job, so I would do that later. Since I had a contractor here for these two weeks finishing up some work, I was now motivated to finally get the paintbrush part of it wrapped. Into the job about an hour, I stood up from a stooped position with brush in hand, knocking a nearly full gallon of polyurethane varnish off the ledge of my six foot stepladder, onto my head, body and all over the floor. Well, crikey, maybe this WAS the day to varnish the floors after all.
Have you ever had one of those moments of disaster, where even in a state of being completely stunned, you take action and make decisions like a general? In my wisdom, I had purchased "Quick Dry" varnish. "Idiot!", I chided myself. I was also struggling to stand up at this moment, since the dirty floor was now a quickly spreading ocean of slick polyurethane, and standing barefoot in it was like trying to dance on marbles.
My brain went into high gear. I needed a battle plan, and fast. (1) Use mineral spirits in hair and on feet ASAP. I dont want to shave my head or have every dead bug in the place permanently glued to the bottom of my feet. (2) Use Herculean strength and move all furniture from west side of shack where the spill was, to east side of shack. Okay, so it wont fit. PILE it. (3) Spread the spill around with paint brushes and my bare feet, and varnish as much of the floor, walls and paneling as it takes to use it up... before it dries, which at 88 degrees, is fast. (4) Try not to inadvertently do the splits on this noxious slip-n-slide and get stuck to the floor. It would be days before they would find me. (5) Use paper towels to wipe up dirt that got mixed in with the varnish. Two hours later, and totally exhausted, the evidence of my mishap was largely corrected, except I reeked of paint thinner from head to toe and had banged my legs and arms so many times I was bloodied all over. Having a primitive abode in the North Woods is aesthetically awesome, but without electricity or running water, trying to clean up after a varnish disaster, is a disaster in itself. I sponged off as best I could, and after playing guitar for a while to soothe the savage beast in me, I went to bed. I stuck to the sheets... but I didnt care. What a sexy gal, I tell ya. Paint thinner, varnish, abrasions and contusions, over every square inch of me. It made for a fitful night sleep, not to mention, the bears played with the grease can in the woods all night.
Not being one to run from my demons, I slowly circled a new gallon container of varnish the next morning. I had fuzz from my flannel sheets stuck all over me. Thank God no one dropped by this weekend. With great respect, I carefully opened the can. I wanted take advantage of the cooler 75 degree morning to finish the varnish job. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I saw black in the woods while I was varnishing a window. A bear cub ambled into camp and sized up the galvanized cabinet. I kept on brushing the varnish. He followed my noise and looked my direction, walking up to the window to see what I was. He then turned and walked up the North Trail. WOW. My camera was still on the ATV in the crooked shed, so I could not document the visit. A second bear cub came out of the woods. I kept brushing and making my usual "people" noises, but that bear cub was oblivious as well. The two cubs continued to wander around camp for an hour while I worked and watched them. I quite forgot how stinky and tired I smelled and looked, and was completely mesmerized by my visitors. I finished inside, and was ready to hit the woods. I set up the Buckshot camera in a new location on my North 40 and then transported taking several one-hundred pound logs from one of the food plots to my future bear bait area via ATV and Otter Sled. Now sweat soaked, I could take the heat no longer and left for home.
When I think about it, I still am Born To Be Wild. And, I always will be. As a fellow hunter and friend says, "I will never grow up". But Wild now, is just a lot more interesting and fun.
© July 2002