Cleaning up camp

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” my mother admonished me as a child. It did little good, however, as my wife, Diane, will attest. Even the U.S. Navy could never really change me permanently. Oh, I went along with the spit-polished shoes and Brassoed buttons just to get through basic training, but not for the long haul.

Among the outdoorsmen and campmates I have known, however, I am not the most slovenly. It is astonishing even to me how some of my comrades at deer camp seem totally oblivious to camp clutter, dirt and grease.

Years ago, when we were young hunters, our wives would be invited to visit the deer camp for an overnight during the off season. (At the end of the deer hunting week, we always “cleaned up” camp. We swamped out, swept down and straightened out. The camp was left tidy and ready for the following fall.)

Or so we thought.

“Oh my gracious,” a wife would exclaim upon entering the camp following our hunt week. Her “inspection” would be followed by a wide-eyed “tsk, tsk” and an unsolicited generic observation about deer camps and men in general. Then she would dutifully roll up her sleeves and clean the place from top to bottom. We appreciated these selfless women and their willingness to put deer camp back in order, or at least some of us did. The following fall a few returning hunters invariably complained that precious artifacts (cigar stubs, gun rags, shell casings, one glove) had been thrown out.

That changed, though, with time. Oh, a few wives will still visit deer camp today, but clean up? Not on your life, pal! So deer camp has, over the years, lost some of its sheen and luster, not unlike the older men who still visit it in November.

One aging deer hunter I know presides over a remote deer camp that is a model, a poster camp if you will, in the annals of the Most Slovenly Deer Camp in North America. Stepping into this camp is a profound experience, not like entering a Catchall of Clutter. In the camp’s 50 years of existence, nothing has ever been discarded that is of a non-vegetative state. There are old slippers that are never worn. Rifle cartridges in gray ash trays. Old army blankets festooned with white dog hairs from a variety of gun dogs that have come and gone. Bunks never made. Old hunting licenses tacked to the wall. Jars of peanut butter bought during the Carter years. A bottle of solidified maple syrup. A deer antler hiding under a broken down overstuffed chair. Empty Decon boxes. A yellowing newspaper with a historic headline: “Nixon Resigns.”

You get the idea.

The man — we’ll call him Otis — who built and oversees this unique woods domicile is, as fate would have it, a longtime widower who does not like living alone. He has been wooing assorted females over the years in search of a companion who will share his love of the outdoors — and his beloved deer camp. A personable man with some degree of charm and singular energy for a member of ARRP, he has been able easily to attract potential lady friends. At least, in the beginning.

You guessed it. After a couple of days’ visitations at the Catchall of Clutter, the ladies, for some reason, get second thoughts about a lasting relationship and make themselves scarce.

So what do you think? Should Otis stay the course, or clean up camp?

Oh, by the way, the name of this camp from day one has been, as proclaimed by an old wall sign, “Suits Us.”

V. Paul Reynolds

Columnist at Ellsworth American
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]

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