Meridian Star

August 3, 2012

The Long Quiet Wait

Scenes from a Deserted Deer Camp

By Otha Barham / Outdoors Editor
Otha Barham ©

MERIDIAN —    Someone had locked the rickety old door on the camp house and had given it a shake to be sure. It is dark and quiet inside now, with all the hunters gone. The last of the deer hunting ended with the close of last January’s bow and primitive weapon seasons, the gun hunters having packed it in two weeks earlier.

    Gone is the laughter and boisterous banter of cold December mornings. Gone is the red glow from the old wood stove, its memory hiding somewhere beneath cold, gray ashes. A wood rat shuffles through the wood box unafraid, looking for a nourishing morsel.

    A shaft of light from the morning sun, entering a small uncovered corner of a window, pierces the dark room and beams into the blackness like a theater's white spotlight cast against a black velvet stage curtain, illuminating the hunters’ leavings. Measuring the sun's steady climb, the lighted spot creeps along, gradually highlighting an empty drink can, and then a crumpled jersey glove and then a broken piece of antler; all else in the room waiting in stark blackness.

    Like in the theater’s spotlight beam, hundreds of dust particles curl through the shaft of sunlight in the camp house, reflecting like tiny silver fireflies rehearsing in slow motion. If a sound could be ascribed to the silence in the old camp house, it would be a continuous, droning note resembling the doleful reverberation of a rosined bow drawn steadily across the open largest string of a cello. The sound of waiting.

    The shaft of light moves slowly across the arm of the tattered brown recliner, where the older hunters rested tired joints and told their stories after evening hunts. As the light shaft reaches the wooden table, the smoky coffee pot takes its turn in the parade of featured pieces, followed by the big box of wooden kitchen matches and then the empty paper bag the onions came in.

    Next to be highlighted is the metal boiler pot with the broken handle. Only a third of the black, composite handle clings loosely to its steel center shaft, flopping suddenly right or left when hefted by unsuspecting camp cooks. It had been salvaged for the camp after someone's kids, who ate its meals for 20 years, had grown up and left home, the old pot having been replaced by a shiny new one.

    The shaft of light has now widened because of the sun's angle of entry and thus dims slightly as it creeps along, now in its last morning moments. At the edge of the table, the open page of an outdoor magazine brightens in the glow. The magazine has been folded so that only one page lies face up. On the page is the story of the author's best deer hunt, a thrilling adventure in a distant forest.  The color photos and artwork paint exciting images for the reader's mind. And the words on the page do the same, commanding attention as the great trophy buck is spotted and stalked.

    But the story is unfinished on the illuminated page, for it is noted at bottom right "(cont'd on next page)". So the story, half told, lies there in the waning light. Unfinished. Waiting for someone to turn the page; waiting in the droning cello note silence, as the stove waits for a fire to crackle once more in its belly. And as the coffee pot waits to once again fill the camp house with the aroma of its brew.

     Yes, there is a story begun here but not finished. And all the hunters' leavings are waiting for the rest of the story; the part that will continue in the time of falling leaves and chilling wind and frosty mornings. But for now, there is just the waiting.