Back in late September, FD started getting his hunting gear together in preparation for the upcoming deer hunting season which would open October 1st. Other years, he managed to get his things organized in late August or early September but, somehow, things did not come together in as timely a manner as usual. Constant business travel kept him out of town much of the summer, and missed communication with the landowner left him scrambling around at the last minute to get set up. On the day he loaded everything to head to the cabin, I opted to go along and help him out. Of course, we both knew I would really not be much help, and would wind up just going along as a photographer. Still, it was rare I was able to go to the cabin with him, and any time I did tag along I was elated. The mostly-undeveloped region where he hunts is a wild tangle of wilderness, and I had never been in that particular area with my camera.
The weather man called for it to be hotter than Hades that day, so I wore what I would normally wear on a warmer day’s trek to the river – the only difference being that I generally wore my work boots in the woods. But those boots were hot and heavy so, for this trip, I opted for my Keen hiking shoes, thinking they would be much cooler and easier on my feet. For the same reason, I also wore lighter-weight pants. These were actually scrub pants that I had long ago discovered were great for photographers in the summer months. What with all the little snap pockets of various sizes, I had room for extra SD cards, a battery, my cell phone, a pocket-sized pack of Kleenex, and whatever else I wanted to tote along. Aside from all the handy pockets, the scrubs provided ease of movement and the fabric was light and comfortable – perfect for summer wear! FD wore jeans, which was more appropriate for him, as he would be doing the work necessary to install his tree stand. FD and I both wore camouflage T-shirts.
When we arrived at the cabin, it was apparent FD had some weed whacking to do before tackling the tree stand installation. Grass burs, along with other prairie grasses and weeds, grew quite tall, right up to the cabin. Not only was this a fire hazard, should there be a wildfire in the area, but it also made sheltered access for rodents to make homes at the cabin. FD noticed areas along the window screens where rats and mice had already managed to get under the shutters and eat away at the fiber glass screens and wood of the windows, and making nests in between. So FD cranked up the weed eater and I took off to the lake, away from the noise.
Right off the bat, the grass burs became an annoyance for me. I had not walked far before I found them stuck to my pants, socks, and shoes. I had no idea they were this bad, and had never had this experience out here before. Thinking back, I had rarely visited the cabin in the summer and autumn months. It was usually springtime when I came out with FD to do some bird watching and photograph wildflowers and butterflies. The burs dug into my ankles and, as I walked along, they worked their way down my socks and into my shoes. In an effort to escape them, I got off the main path and ventured into the woods. At least the grass burs weren’t so bad in there. I found a fallen tree trunk to sit on and began pulling burs off my clothes. Soon, I heard the motor of the weed eater stop.
By the time I returned to the cabin, FD, who was already sweating profusely, had his tree stand strapped to his game cart and had loaded a pack with the tools he would need to get his stand attached to his tree. The afternoon heat was sweltering and heavy. As we headed out from the cabin, I was sure not to say a word about my grass bur problem. Men do not want a whiny woman trailing along and complaining about stickers in her shoes! Besides, I had noticed FD had lots of burs sticking to the back of his jeans and shirt from the weed eater throwing them up on him. If he could tough it out, then surely I could too! So, I loosened the drawstring on my scrub pants and lowered them where they would hang low on my hips. This way, with my pant legs lower to the ground, it would keep the burs from getting onto my socks and into my shoes.
As we walked to the lake dam, I realized the weeds and prairie grasses were nearly as tall as we were! FD was walking in front of me, and I could see the plant debris (pollen and dust) going airborne as he trudged through the tall growth at a brisk pace. I trailed behind, trying to get a photograph here and there, and stopping now and then to get the burs out of my shoes. I soon found this to be impossible to do and keep a decent pace, as I was falling further and further behind FD. I finally just set my mind to deal with the jabbing in my shoes and move along, doing my best to keep up with FD’s pace.
Over the dam, then up a steep incline of sand rock we climbed, with the sun beating relentlessly down upon us. “Would those clouds to the west never block the sun?”, I wondered. “And why hadn’t I worn jeans?” My flimsy scrub pants were just no match for these horrible stickers and burs. And, if I had only worn my work boots, I would have had a higher top to protect my ankles against the burs. Finally, my negative thoughts were interrupted as we made it to the end of the dam and headed into the deeper woods, where I was happy to find the bur population had dwindled. However, I still had a collection of those stabbing bastards in my shoes!
As we moved on into the woods, I wondered how much further it was to this tree where FD put his stand? We climbed steadily, at times stopping to whack a path through blackberry thickets that had crept into the easier routes around trees and shrubs. Sweat was pouring off of FD, while I was focused on each painful step I took, wondering how long my agony would continue. Finally, we stepped into a beautiful, shaded hardwood bottom, where a swamp lay just beyond. The trees became tall and the woodland floor was carpeted with leaves, walnuts, and acorns. I felt like we had reached heaven! As I marveled at the beauty that surrounded us, FD stopped just ahead. There was his tree.
FD wasted no time untying his chair stand from the cart. He strapped a tool bag around his waist, tied one end of a rope to his tree stand, and carried the rest up with him as he climbed the branches of the old cedar tree. After reaching a familiar height, he tossed the rope up and over a limb and began pulling the stand up while I guided it from the ground. It was heavy. I knew I could never climb as high as he was, and I surely couldn’t pull a heavy metal tree stand like that up with brute strength. I asked if I could do anything to help, but the answer was no, and I knew it would be. FD had done this many times by himself. So, at this point, I sat down and took another opportunity to pick burs from my socks and shoes, placing them in a sandwich bag I carried in my pocket for small trash. I wasn’t about to disperse seeds in this area that had remained untouched by the grass burs. With my socks and shoes cleaned of burs, I grabbed my camera and headed out to photograph the swamp, where bullfrogs of all sizes made plopping noises, jumping off sunken logs as I approached.
FD finished up his task just as a bank of clouds moved in. We made the long trek back, around the lake, up and down the hills, stopping again to cut back a few blackberry plants so that he would have a clear path when he returned to hunt the next week. As we neared the dam once again, I bolstered myself for the agonizing trip through the allergen-laden weeds while my lower extremities were attacked by those damned burs!
Finally back at the cabin, I pulled off my shoes to clear stickers yet one more time. That is when FD noticed my bur problem. He felt bad, as he had not thought to suggest I wear jeans and boots before we left the house. Still, the day was not a loss. I ended up with some nice photographs, and I saw an area of FD’s hunting grounds I had never seen before. I also gained a better understanding and appreciation of what it takes for FD to prepare for hunting season. And I learned a painful lesson about wearing appropriate clothing when hiking in wilderness areas!
© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…