Friday, November 26, 2010

Deer hunting, Grampa Martin and the guys' week out


Even as the last bits of turkey are being scrubbed out of the roaster pan, the men in my extended family are packing up their gear for their annual trek to the Lucky 7.  The hunting camp was founded by my grandfather, his brothers and a few friends (totalling 7 guys, of course) in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania after they all returned from WWII and Korea.  They built a simple, low-slung cabin out of concrete block and furnished the loft bunkroom with Army surplus beds and the downstairs with offcast rocking chairs, a long picnic table and another table for ping-pong.

I grew up with my dad heading for the mountains with Grampa Martin on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.  They headed up to the woods for a weekend of socializing and deer spotting, card playing and hanging out.  Neither my dad nor my grandfather were drinkers, but I'm sure that there was some of that going on too among some of the other hunters.  Grampa's way of hanging at the cabin was to set food up for the guys and puff on his pipe with the custom blend tobacco.

A lot of the weekend was about cooking.  Grandma and some of the other wives would prepare pans of lasagna and other entrees to make it easy for the hunters, but Grampa was pretty good with the griddle.  He'd crank out slabs of bacon and eggs by the dozen.  The hunters had to hang their outerwear outside the cabin so they wouldn't spook the deer with the intense scent of cooked smoked meat and coffee.

A few of the hunters would bag a deer, but it certainly wasn't an "every guy, every year" proposition.  The deer was the icing on the cake of a guys' week out.  Nobody to tell you to pick up your socks (or to take a shower for that matter).  My dad never brought home a deer, but I'm thinking that it had to do mostly with the cellophane that covered the food he'd take into the woods with him.  He claimed that he did have a shot one time, but that the rifle (a Japanese rifle that Grampa brought home from the war) jammed.  It's just as well that he didn't bring a deer home, because then we would have had to eat it.

I know that my dad enjoyed his time with the guys and with my grandfather.  My husband also went up there one time, for the trip that turned out to be my grandfather's last.  Grampa has been gone for about a dozen years now, and the cabin has moved on to other hands, some related to the original lucky seven (like my uncle Skip) and some not.  I'm thinking that the trip now is more about playing cards and hanging with the guys than it is about being a successful hunter and outdoorsman.  The bonds are not as tight as they used to be.  I miss the old Lucky Seven,  and on the day after Thanksgiving I miss Grampa too.