I wake up and my shoulder is cold. Damn cold. The rest of me, however, is toasty warm snuggled into several blankets so I wriggle a bit and get the shoulder in too. The bed is soft and I am comfortable.
It’s 5am and still very dark. The only light in the place are the softly glowing night sights on the .357 Sig next to the bed and the brightly glowing green indicator LED on the CO2 detector in the other room.
I can hear my neighbor rattling around outside. He’s in a tent and I feel sorry for his having to sleep on the ground in the cold weather for a brief moment. Then he fires up a Coleman lantern and floods my cozy retreat with bluish-white light. I had the blinds open the night before so that I could lay in bed and see the billions of stars that they have out here and left the blinds open. I hope he has to sleep on the ground at home too.
I blindly grope for the plastic rod that closes the blinds and twist them closed. It’s still too bright in here to get back to sleep but I think I want to risk it. I go through the laundry list of lies that might keep me in bed this morning. I hate deer hunting, it’s freezing out there, it’s dangerous hunting public lands.
I sigh and scoot off the end of the bed. Mrs Jinksto and I replaced the foam pad “bed” that came with this camper with a full size queen mattress. The only problem is that the bed almost fills up the “master” bedroom end of the camper so, you have to scoot off the end and right out the door. Kinda nifty really but a little annoying.
I can see well enough using the neighbors light so I don’t bother turning any on. Since there’s no power at this campground I want to save the batteries as long as I can and with a second sun glowing outside there’s no point anyway.
My clothes are all laid out on the couch in the order that I need to put them on. Socks, jeans, shirt, boots, another shirt and carhart jacket all go on quickly enough that I barely notice the cold. I marvel briefly at how quickly you can get dressed when you lay your things out like this and then grin. Mrs Jinksto would be horrified at the state of the camper were she here. All of my things are stored neatly. All of the dishes are washed. Leftover food from last night is put away. The only bit of disorder in the place is a neat pile that has three days of dirty clothes in it.
I stumble out the door and realize that it’s warmer outside than it is in the camper. I hate when that happens.
My neighbor, Mike, from somewhere in the far western part of the state nods good morning and I mumble a reply. He’s up making coffee for himself and his buddy Chris. He looks up at the sky and says, “should be a good day for it.”
How the hell can you tell with that super nova glowing right there?, I want to say but simply nod and say, “hope so.”
Mike and Chris were here when I arrived last night as were Rudy and his wife Judy (I kid you not) who have a motorhome parked nearby. Behind my camper is Greg who is, apparently, still asleep in his pop up camper. He will remain so for several more hours owing to my campers ability to block the light from Chris’s lantern and the two bottles of cheap wine that he drank last night around the fire. Such are the hazards…
They all seem to know each other and chatted amiably last night over a roaring fire. Mike and Chris have been coming to this campsite on opening day of Muzzleloader season for sixteen years. Rudy and Judy have been coming for twelve and Greg for only six or so. They don’t hunt together and only meet here once a year on this weekend. They tell hunting stories until late at night and talk about campers that were here last year (who got a little too drunk a little too fast and passed out before nine o’clock) and wonder where Mark is. Mark has been coming every year for longer than Mike and Chris have but hasn’t been seen this year.
I went to bed early last night and laid there listening through the thin camper walls to the drone of hunters talking quietly around a campfire. It reminded me of being a kid, crashed early, listening to tales of Outdoor Life quality deer and spindly little “cull” deer that would have made the record books if these men cared about such things… or the stories were half true. Each story leads to the next as I watch the stars out my window and I eventually drift off to sleep..
This morning is no time for talk. I climb into the truck and switch the headlights from “automatic” to “off” before I fire it up. I turn on the parking lights and roll down the window as I quietly crawl out of the campground, lights off to avoid blinding anyone. As I pass by Mike quietly wishes me luck and I respond with “you too.”
When I reach the road I flip the headlights on and head slowly down the bumpy dirt road. As I top a hill I meet another truck. The road is too narrow for our trucks to pass side by side so I pull over and flip the headlights back off just leaving the parking lights on. As he passes the other driver looks out his open window and says, “mornin” with a half wave at the same time that I do. When he’s past I turn the lights back on and continue on my way.
A few minutes later I find a likely spot and back off of the road into a stand of trees where I shut everything down. I find a Moonpie in the passenger seat and eat that as I smoke the first cigarette of the day. At 6:45 I get out of the truck, lay the muzzle loader over my shoulder and quietly move into the dark woods.
Thirty minutes later I am half a mile away sitting beside a tree on top of a tall hill to watch the sun rise. It’s a clear day, the birds are singing and it’s 43 degrees as I watch two squirrels playing chase around an old oak tree. The day doesn’t get any better than that moment but it doesn’t get any worse either…