Justifying the obvious
I keep a shack in the U. P. of Michigan where I run off to and hide from time to time when the world gets just a little farther off than the mere 23 ½ degree tilt we know about. It isn’t much, but I have made it comfy over the years and all the changes and additions and improvements have allowed me to justify trips to the place in my airplane to “do some work up there” when I know full well that my living room overhaul, which started five years ago, still isn’t any closer to being finished. I like the flight up and the quiet and the smell of the air up there I suppose. A two hour flight beats 7 hours of traffic seven ways from sideways and I’d rather be flying most days anyway.
Originally, the plan was to spend weekends there feeding the trout that live in MY river that flows through MY piece of the “Great White North.” I did that for a time but somehow there became this back log of projects to complete there because after a time the most common question while sitting around the evening fire was, “You know what we need up here?” I didn’t know most of the time, but when the answer was provided I agreed and went happily to work with hammer and saw and once again created something eclectic from virtually nothing.
Originally I had thought to be there in the summer fishing those sneaky little Brookie bastards, and in the fall for some time running the bird dog on grouse and sitting in the blind waiting for venison to show up. Falls are all too short up there and with the projects that needed to be done prior to “snow fly” season, I somehow got backed into a corner and found that once the fall weather set in all I really wanted to do was sit and watch and listen and put another log on the sputtering fire pit and pet the dog. He didn’t seem to mind, he has enough to do just keeping the red squirrels in check.
And so I began to think that perhaps I should put this “gentleman’s hunting compound” on the market. After all, I have had my fun and the place no longer needs much of anything. There is nothing left to build or upgrade. Who in the big smelly city wouldn’t like a place deep back in the woods so far that you have to pipe in daylight? Who, when faced with the stressful position of a corporate big wig, or mover and shaker wouldn’t like to be able to touch the stars above at night, or listen to the owls hoot and the coyotes howl? Some of those guys are hunters and fishers and would probably chuckle their way through paying way too much for a “rough camp” that just happened to have a flush toilet and a hot shower, heat everywhere you need it and a full sized refrigerator with a freezer. All this and no roaring generator 99% of the time. It’s Rube Goldberg’s next best idea!
The thought of not having to stay grungy while wearing the same underwear for a week during deer season or not sleeping toasty and warm at night in a bale of straw on the floor of a canvas tent must surely appeal to someone besides me? Who wouldn’t get geeked over rising in the morning to the babbling brook below the hill and the bald eagle perched in the giant Hemlock growing from the top of the hill right next to the old log bench where whole days have passed while watching trout rise in the stream below?
That’s it then. I determined to place ads in some of the more populated areas of the city hoping to snag an avid outdoors-man whose love of nature would override his grip on his wallet. And then . . . . . . .
I walked from my house out to the garage in hopes of finding something in the freezer that I could rustle up a meal from. Lying on the top shelf was one last package of venison labeled “Loin Chop.” I reasoned that the package was just what I was looking for since it was a small package and would make just one nice sized meal for me alone. Left overs are a terrible thing when you spend as much time alone as I do and it simply runs against my nature to keep feeding the bird dog left over things like homemade macaroni and cheese with bacon and onions or barbecued country ribs. He doesn’t seem to mind, but there is just something wrong about it.
I carried the chops to the house and placed them in the sink to thaw. I turned to the refrigerator and noted three strips of Wrights, thick cut, hickory smoked bacon, and a couple of onion hamburger buns. I also found some coleslaw from a couple days prior. Things were starting to come together. While the venison was thawing I got out my big ol’ cast iron pan and cooked off the bacon; saving the drippings in my grease keeper of course. (Nobody keeps grease anymore; most idiots simply pour it down the sink!) When the venison was thawed I seasoned it lightly with Cavender’s Greek seasoning, (good on everything but boots) salt, pepper and a pinch of garlic. I heated the old black pan until the remnants of the bacon fat smoked lightly and dropped in the venison. It sizzled and danced just a minute or so on each side and then it was time to take it out. It sat resting as I placed two broken strips of bacon on an onion bun, put Mayo on the other half and covered it with a lettuce leaf. Once stacked together I had a great looking sandwich. With slaw on the side this was just the sort of thing for a quiet lunch at mid-day.
I took a bite. The venison was exceptionally tender; as a “tender loin” should be, and perfectly pink in the middle. And the bacon was all crispy and smoky and I savored it. This was quite possibly the best sandwich in the world, ever! Something like this is simply beyond description; so I won’t try to describe it. It simply melted and bathed my taste buds with that venison / bacon goodness. I pondered how something so simple could be so good. I thought I should do this more often. As I delighted over my lunch, my mind drifted back to the day I had shot this deer and how the woods was all quiet and snowflakes were drifting past the window of the blind and the air was thick with a mixture of my campfire smoke and Beech and Hemlock, and how the light seemed sort of Umber tinted. It had been a great trip that one. Tracking snow and cold quiet nights spent out by a crackling fire in fluffy clothes with the dog until the hoot owls came out; then off to bed. Warm and dry I was through the night in my big cedar framed bed, just the smallest glow from a mini oil lamp for a night light.
Then it struck me. This was the last package of venison from my freezer. There was no more. All I had gone through for that venison, and now there was no more. The cabin porch had been expanded; the outhouse had been overhauled; new gas lights were installed; a bigger gas heater with a thermostat was mounted; the full sized gas refrigerator had been purchased on Craig’s list and I had to go to Irons and pick it up and haul it to the cabin and then plumb the gas to it; the “Indoor / Outdoor” had been designed and built complete with running water system, flush toilet, and a fresh water holding tank; gas service had been upgraded to a bulk tank from 100 pounders that have a way of running dry in the middle of the night during the only heavy blowing snowstorm of the fall. A new heated blind had been positioned and built; I added a full time “camp car;” the stainless cooking grill for the fire pit was designed and installed; and the storage shed was added to house all the odds and ends and tools about the place. Still, I was out of meat!
Perhaps I am being hasty. Perhaps I need to listen to the owls and coyotes one more season. Maybe I need my nose hairs to freeze during one more night by the fire. Some say a little nip of quality Bourbon by the fire as the sun goes down is good for you! Maybe the trees won’t be as red or yellow in the fall if I am not there. God forbid the trout should stop rising in the evening or the moon quit being so huge over the swamp or the stars so close on clear nights. What if the Grouse stop drumming in spring? If I’m not at the cabin and the rain bounces off the tin roof, does it make a sound? How will I hear the thunder of a passing storm rumble the length of Gitchee Gumee? What really happens if the world tilts beyond 23 ½ degrees? Maybe one more trip on one more fall weekend picking out one more deer for the freezer is really needed to maintain the balance. Maybe if I had just enough venison for one more of those sandwiches in my lifetime . . . . . .
Author: Tom Speerstra
Tom Speerstra has had an enduring love affair with aviation for over 40 years. Countless adventures have been enjoyed flying students, people, paper, and parcels in everything from Champs to Citations. He has held positions as both Chief Pilot and Director of Operations for Part 135 carriers and holds an ATP, MEII, SES ratings and a Citation type rating. Tom makes his home in Michigan with his wife Elizabeth and the two dogs Hess and Pappy.