I walked past my youngest son’s car the other day and did a double take. Glancing in through the side window I could see that the pile of “stuff” in the back had not only taken up all the available leg space, but had actually filled the space between the front and back seats. You couldn’t even see the rear bench seat for the clothes, college textbooks, cooler and fast food wrappers.
I immediately implored him to make things right again, saying something like: “that’s some nasty in there.”
He just gave me a look. The kind that says: “hey, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.” So I decided, it being June, that it was probably time for my own semi-annual car cleaning.
The auto du jour is a 2001 Toyota Corolla. Yeah, I know. I’ve really got to trade that sucker in on another pickup. I just find it difficult to do when gas prices are skyrocketing toward not being able to go anywhere.
I’ve never been of the opinion that the car defines the man. My attitude is “as long as it gets me there.” Well, it actually doesn’t always get me exactly there, due to ground clearance issues, but some extra walking is supposed to be good for my blood pressure.
Anyhow, I opened all the doors and raked it out as a start. Then I divided things into piles – stuff to put away; stuff to take to the dump; compost … Then I started the serious sorting, which involves considerable decision-making. You know … is it better to try and clean this up or should I just get another?
Here’s some of what I found. Two insulated shirt-jackets, to start. Why two, I wondered? Closer examination provided the answer. One had a crow call in the breast pocket. That was obviously something I wore during the spring turkey season, since I don’t hunt crows and only use the crow call as a locater call during the daytime hours of the turkey season when an owl call would seem suspiciously out of place.
The other shirt/jacket? It had some squashed and badly melted bite-size Snickers Bars in the pockets. That was obviously leftover Halloween candy, which told me I was wearing this one during the deer season last fall.
Among the papers there was a rather extensive “to do” list of things that I quickly determined never got done, the exception being number 32 – “sight in the muzzleloader,” which dates the list back to October. I put the list in the recyclables pile. I feel it’s very important for outdoors people to be “green” about things like trash disposal and to recycle whenever possible.
I was momentarily puzzled as to why I had a hammer and a coffee can full of nails in the car until I remembered nailing up those targets to sight in the muzzleloader.
One of the stray audiocassettes was a “how to” one about moose calling with my new moose horn call. It features a lot of cow moose moaning-in-lust sounds. That one got some attention from other motorists at stoplights back last fall when the weather was still warm enough to have the windows open. Earned me some mighty strange looks. I think it’s safe to put this away since it took me ten years to win the moose lottery this last time.
The empty soft side gun case, owl call, hardwood and acrylic “strikers” and the hen turkey decoy are pretty much self explanatory, since that season just ended. The camouflage gloves are a bit of mystery, though. There are two left hand gloves in different camouflage patterns and two rights, in the same pattern, but it doesn’t match either of the left patterns. This leads me to suspect there are some more stray gloves waiting to be found somewhere.
Look at this, a number three Mepps escaped from my tackle box and took up residence on the rear seat. Good thing no one sat on that baby.
There’s a pocket notebook with a bunch of notes in handwriting that no longer make any sense to me, with one exception: “add to ‘not to do’ list – do not repeatedly wipe nose with artic polar ice fishing gloves.” I remember that day. I couldn’t even touch my nose with tissues for a couple days after that trip. Those fleece-lined sandpaper-textured gloves are nice and warm and they’re great for holding onto slippery fish, but they definitely shouldn’t be put on the hands of someone with the gloved-hand-drippy-nose-wiping-habit.
And there’s my hunter orange knit hat, for gosh sakes. It’s amazing the things you find under the seats with all those candy bar wrappers, crushed Styrofoam coffee cups and half-eaten bagels. It’ll clean up ok. I’ll just drop it in the hamper.
I wish someone could explain the film canister, since I’ve been shooting strictly digital pictures for more than a year now. And I think I know now where all the lead depth sounders were been disappearing to throughout the ice fishing season. Good thing the EPA isn’t in charge of car inspections.
All in all, it wasn’t such a bad task, cleaning the car. One thing that speeds up the process is that I don’t bother vacuuming – just scrape together and toss out a few double handfuls of road sand and grit. There’s definitely a limit to how fussy I want to be about things like cleaning out the car.
Now I wonder if maybe I should take a peek in the glove box … or just call it a day.
Seventy five years ago my great-uncle Lee Sherman Chadwick, my paternal grandmother’s brother, went on his third sheep hunt. The Stone Ram he brought back from British Columbia after a hunt that took two months set a record that has never been surpassed. It is the only North American sheep ever taken with horns that both measured more than 50 inches. It’s a world record that has endured for three-quarters of a century. It is very unlikely that record will ever be beaten. The kind of unexplored wilderness in which Chadwick hunted has since felt the frequent footfalls of human encroachment.
L.S. Chadwick kept journals detailing all of his big game hunts. He was 62 on August 28, 1936 when he shot the ram on what was primarily a meat hunt. This is the story of that hunt, in Chadwick’s own words, taken from the journal he titled: “Peace River Hunt.” It’s a story of hardship, risk, and triumph that was punctuated by the charge of a wounded grizzly, a freak blizzard that left this hunting party marooned in unexplored mountains, and flood conditions that impeded their return to civilization.
Two days prior to his historic hunt Chadwick, his guide Roy Hargreaves, and wranglers Frank Golata and Curley Cochrane were totally disheartened. They had travelled 18 days on horseback to reach the end of the trail. There, on the edge of British Columbia’s “known wilderness” they figured they had the best chance of taking a trophy ram. Four days previously their bacon had officially “gone by.” Their only meat was trout they caught along the way.
The four men went scouting in different directions. They were scouting for sheep sign and they were hunting for fresh meat. At the end of the day they all had the same thing to report: lots of wolf sign and no game to be found.
The situation looked dismal. They had gone beyond the hunters’ trails. Now they were at the outside edge of the trappers’ trails, up against a wilderness with no known trails.
After a night spent listening to wolf songs Chadwick made his decision. He hadn’t become a successful inventor and industrialist by being a quitter. He hadn’t come this far just to turn back and hunt with everyone else. They would just make their own trails. And so they pushed their horses two days further and made camp on Lapp Creek, just below a natural pass into the Musqua River Basin. That camp was on the Continental Divide at the 58 degree parallel.
On the morning of the 28th Chadwick and Hargreaves set out to shoot some fresh meat for the camp. Chadwick carried his big game rifle, a custom made Hoffman .404. It weighed nine pounds, four ounces and held five rounds, four in the magazine and one in the chamber. 300-grain bullets left the barrel of that rifle with a muzzle velocity of 2,700 feet per second.
Here’s the story of that “meat hunt” in Chadwick’s own words
“Just at the top of the divide, we sighted three rams on the very top of a high mountain of the next range. They were about one and a half miles away, and we had to go down into the valley, cross the south fork of the Musqua; then make a hard climb to the mountain.”
“Roy and I took our guns, camera and packboards. We had to go down over a glacial bridge and crawl along the side rocks of a sharp ravine, hacking footholds in either ice or shale rock. The sweat poured off me like rain. Once we got halfway down there was no turning back!”
“We had seen through the 20-power scope that there was one fine head among the three, so we determined to make it or bust, and going down was only half the battle. The other side was higher and had a bad rock slide at the top.”
“I went up pretty fast for a man of sixty-two. When my hatband, which was tight, banked up a pool of perspiration, I would remove the hat, wipe away the sweat, take a short rest, then plod on toward the top with my mouth dry as dust and my boots filling with perspiration.”
“When we reached the top, the sheep were gone. We soon sighted them, though, down in the Musqua Valley, two thousand feet or more below. Down we went, over the rock slide, my feet were throbbing and my knees trembling. Finally we were within two hundred yards and could go no further. I took movies of the three rams and then took aim at the largest with my .404.”
“My first shot was low, but through his brisket. He took off at a terrible speed and both Roy and I shot several times, one of those hitting him in the hip.”
“When the rams started up the mountain the big one was obviously hurt and falling behind the others. Roy took off on a run and his younger legs got him there first for the finishing shot. The ram fell down a sharp ravine and into a little brook. I was about all in and still trying to keep up with Roy. It was a very bad place to get to, but we both got down to the sheep without a fall. When we got there we saw he was well worth the hard work.”
“He has the most magnificent head I have ever seen, with two almost perfect horns. The right horn is slightly broken on the end and measures 50 and one-half inches. The left horn is pointed clear to the end and measures 52 and one eighth inches. They are both over 15 and three eighths inches at the base and the spread is 31 and a quarter inches. If he is not a [world] record head, he is close to it.”
For another week they moved about and hunted in a wilderness they had all to themselves. Although most of Chadwick’s hunting was done with the camera, he did take a second sheep. This ram took a fall down a rock slide and broke six inches or more from the ends of its horns. Even so, those horns still measured almost 40 inches. Roy Hargreaves shot two sheep, as well, and the larger measured over 42 inches.
On Labor Day Chadwick took sick with headache, fever, and “terrible bowel and liver problems.” Adding to his discomfort he weather turned bad.
For five days and five nights an unexpected early blizzard raged. The men had to fight to keep their tent from being blown away in gale force winds and when the snow stopped the accumulation was higher than their horses’ bellies. The trail they had blazed to leave the mountains by was a treacherous one even without the snow. They had to wait for a thaw.
It turned out to be a four day wait for a thaw to begin. Meanwhile below-zero nighttime temperatures froze their canned goods and chilled their morale. Chadwick’s illness had lasted as long as the storm. The men were beginning to develop a sense of their own vulnerability. Even so, on Sept. 16th Lee, Roy and Frank went out to hunt grizzly.
“At about 3 p.m. the three of us started out on foot to hunt the big basin south of camp in the hope of seeing a good-sized bear,” Chadwick wrote in his journal. “At the top of the climb and about 250 yards away, we sighted a grizzly. It looked to be fat and well-furred, so with the six inch lens I took a lot of film as he climbed, unconscious of our presence.”
Satisfied with the footage he had taken, Chadwick put down the camera and lifted his rifle. The first shot knocked the bear down, but up it came again. The second shot broke its hip and that sent the bear charging straight at them. That’s when things began falling apart.
“When she was coming fast and getting a bit too close for comfort Roy attempted to load my No. 54 Winchester with a cartridge from the magazine and pulled the bolt out of the gun into his hand. At the same time, the floor, or rather the follower plate in the magazine of my Hoffman, in some manner, jumped up in front of the bolt and I couldn’t close the bolt until I pulled the plate up through the opening, and then had to hold the magazine spring down with my thumb, while I loaded a single cartridge, by hand, into the chamber.”
“A wounded, snarling and charging bear with two malfunctioning guns with the bear coming fast and not over a hundred feet away – this simply shows that even the best of firearms can make a man hustle in a pinch. I was forced to finish the bear by using my rifle as a single-loader and shot several times that way. Roy never tried to shoot, as he thought his gun was broken. Frank ran the film and claims that he took over 30 feet of film as the bear came charging toward us.”
The next day, Sept. 17, they began the long trek back to civilization in a cold rain.
“It was a cold, hard trip up to the summit, through heavy snows. At times it was well above the horses’ bellies and on the steep portion of the pass it is about all a horse can do to climb up, even when the ground is bare. The heavy snow made it exceptionally hard for them and near the top, the wind blew a gale against which a man could hardly stand upright.”
The return to civilization was a 22-day trip marked by a bout of near snow-blindness. They traversed snow-choked mountain passes, forded flooded raging rivers, and encountered horse trapping quagmires. And they brought back the biggest big horn sheep ever shot – the world record Stone Ram forever known as the Chadwick Ram.
The Chadwick Ram is regarded by many as the Greatest North American Trophy. The head and shoulder mount of the ram and Chadwick’s rifle reside on display in the Cody Museum in Wyoming.
My writing career started with a help wanted ad in a weekly newspaper called the Monadnock Ledger. The Ledger was looking for an outdoor columnist. I had been pissing and moaning about the lack of an outdoor column in the local papers for about a decade and a little voice said: “Do it, Eric.”
A year or two later I was an honest-to-God newspaper reporter who cranked out 5,000 to 6,000 publikshed words a week. I had often thought about being a writer - now I was one. I did that newspaper reporting thing for 17 years and won 18 journalism awards in the process.
Now I'm a retired journalist. But I still write outdoor dolumns. I also write novels and occasional poems. The truth is I'll write anything.
It was nearing noon on the first day of the Massachusetts turkey season and we were giving it our best shot, so to speak, in a warm up session prior to the New Hampshire season. We were wrapping up the morning by doing some “walkin’ ‘n talkin,’” hoping to stumble across a gobbler foolish enough to answer our calls when all of sudden Howie went musical on me. It only took a moment for me to realize it was the “William Tell Overture” I was hearing. As a baby-boomer I’m familiar with the tune from the days of The Lone Ranger on black and white TV.
It wasn’t actually Howie that was making the music, of course. It was the cell phone he had been secretly carrying in a holster on his belt under his camouflage overalls. Howie is a contractor, a specialist in excavation, and it was a customer understandably anxious about maybe getting his cellar hole dug sometime that spring.
When Howie got done appeasing the customer, who apparently wasn’t a turkey hunter, I asked him if I heard that phone right – did it actually play the William Tell Overture? He said yes and that the phone had something like forty different musical ringalings you could select – and if you didn’t like any of them you could program your own instead.
I considered asking him if I could take a closer look. With his usual trusting nature he would have handed it right over, I know. We were on a woods road right next to a huge marsh at the time and it would have been my real treat to express my opinion of cell phones in general by trying out my pitching arm. What gave me pause is the fact that Howie (I’ve never heard anyone call him Howard) is one of those guys who has to go to the BIG and TALL men’s section of the clothing store. He’s big enough that he could have just pitched me in after the phone.
Somehow, throughout the entire month of pre-season scouting we’d done together I had remained blissfully unaware that Howie was carrying a concealed telephone in a holster on his belt beneath his outer layer of camouflage. I proceeded to tell him what to do if his phone rang while a hot tom was coming to my calling emitting a series a booming gobbles.
“Don’t answer the phone,” I instructed him, “until after you shoot me.”
“Why would I want to shoot you?” he asked.
“Self defense,” I said.
I’m not a big fan of cell phones. It’s not just that I’m one of those guys who was dragged, kicking, hissing and spitting, into the technology age. It’s also that, as a newspaper reporter I’ve had multiple occasions to write about people who have gotten themselves – and others -- into real hot water by going off into the woods and mountains of New Hampshire without some basic stuff like a compass, matches, maps, appropriate clothing, footgear and the like.
For some reason these people who can’t take any of this other stuff always seem to remember their cell phones. Then when they get lost and find themselves in big trouble they just call 911. Apparently it’s pretty easy to get a signal when you’re up above the tree line.
For me, it just seems like cell phones attach themselves to some … well … not-very-with-it type folks if you get my drift.
A local ranger put it this way after risking his life in a raging blizzard at night searching for a couple who got lost in a whiteout at dark when trying to descend a mountain into the teeth of the storm. They had ignored advice not to attempt to summit the mountain. When they got in trouble they called 911, of course.
“I’ll be very excited when they build cell phones with flashlights and compasses,” the tired Ranger told me.
I don’t have anything against cell phones – in their place. I’m just not sure if that place is in the outdoors. The woods are where we go to get away from things like cell phones and TVs, right? A person who can’t go hunting or fishing without a phone shouldn’t leave the office or the house is how I feel about it.
I realize that cell phones in themselves aren’t really evil – although I sometimes wonder about the people who can’t stop themselves from carrying one.
One really nice May morning not long after I discovered Howie was carrying a cell phone on the turkey hunt he called me just as I was getting ready to go to work. It was a morning when I really, really HAD to go to work. “Listen to this,” he whispered.
There was a period of silence where I wondered if I had lost the signal. Then I heard what sounded like a crow caw. Then I was listening to the gobbles of tom turkeys still on the roost.
Now, that’s just a downright evil thing to do to man who has to go to work.
It was late morning on Thanksgiving Day and the store-bought bird was just about ready to come out of the oven. The phone rang.
“I got one,” Howie announced.
I was happy for him. Howie had hunted long and hard starting with the bow season in mid-September, right through the muzzleloading season, and now well into the regular rifle season. He had paid his dues. He deserved this buck. I listened to him recount the tale of how he had tracked the deer through fresh snow all morning before it finally made a fatal mistake.
“Where are you?” I asked. I was wondering if maybe I had time to go admire the deer before dinner.
“I’m not exactly sure,” Howie said.
There was a pause then, while I assessed the situation.
“Let me guess,” I said. “You’re on your cell phone and I bet you’re standing next to that deer in the woods somewhere and you called before you even dressed it out.”
There’s nothing like a fresh story, I say.
It made my morning.
Just recently Howie called me on the regular landline phone to compare notes about the start of the bow season for deer. He related how his cellphone probably cost him an opportunity.
He was up in his tree stand and wondering if he had remembered to turn off the phone. So he decided to check. He lifted the flap of the phone’s holster and the approaching deer that heard that ripping Velcro sound started blowing at him.
“Tough luck,” I said, resisting the urge to elaborate.
Deciding that she might need her own phone at some point during the upcoming deer season, my spouse went and bought me my own portable for Christmas. I’ve been taking it ice fishing, thinking I might get lucky like my brother who used to keep his in his shirt pocket until he accidentally lost it down a hole. The first time we went out fishing it was lightly snowing. Howie thought he might get called out by the state to treat the roads and he kept calling his wife to check. My youngest son, Devin, had already reached out to touch a friend on his cell phone. And I was on the phone talking to my oldest son, Damon, inquiring how he was doing fishing on another nearby pond.
At one point all three of us were running to answer tipup flags while talking to people on the phone. It was like a scene out of some modern day version of the Three Stooges.
I didn’t get around to losing my phone that day on account of the fishing was so good. So I took it out again on Valentine’s Day. Good thing. About the time we got done boring the holes through the stiff part of the water and setting up the tipups I realized I had left that full thermos of hot coffee sitting on the kitchen counter. I called my spouse and talked her into dropping it off. My truck is parked at the landing, I told her. Just put the thermos in the back of the truck and beep your horn.
A half hour later she beeped and I went to fetch my coffee. Tied to the thermos was a big red Valentine’s Day heart-shaped balloon.
“Sweet,” Howie said.
So it looks like I’ve missed my best opportunity to get shuck of the phone. Now I’m trying to make the best of the situation. There isn’t much of a snow cover and the ice is almost two feet thick. A lot of people are driving around out there. We’re wondering about maybe a pizza delivery – “to Grassy Pond, about two-thirds of the way out to the big island.”
Might as well put the phone to good use.
It was the second morning of the New Hampshire bow season and I watched the woods get light from a perch high in a hemlock tree overlooking a swale where acorns were collecting. I checked my watch and then took a careful look around before pulling my cell phone out of the backpack hanging nearby. I dialed home.
Five rings later I heard my youngest son’s sleepy “hello?”
I hung up with a smile, knowing he was out of bed and standing in the living room. He wouldn’t be late for school that day like he was the day before.
I’ve come to the conclusion that cell phones can be a quality part of the outdoor experience, after all. And best of all, you can always turn them off. My wife got me this phone last Christmas. She figured that since I’m about at retirement age and I’m still climbing up in trees I should probably have some way to contact friends or authorities in order to direct them to my broken carcass when the inevitable occurs.
I started carrying the phone to make her happy – and quiet. But then I discovered how useful it can be. I hate to park my vehicle near where I’m hunting because I know that when I get a deer everyone who saw where it was parked will know where I was hunting.
So now I have my honey drop me off and when I’m ready to call it a day I call her to come get me. When the right car approaches I step out of the woods and flag it down confident my secret spot is still secret.
“Aren’t you glad you got me this phone?” I say as we head home.
“Yes, dear,” (sigh).
The cell phone is valuable in other ways, as well. Need help with a difficult blood trail? How about some extra muscle for dragging it out? I have a friend who used a cell phone and the promise of beer to easily round up a bunch of friends to finesse his bull moose from the woods into his pickup truck.
I’m coming to the conclusion that they’re not such a bad tool to have, actually. Except now they double as cameras and friends are sending me photos of their deer while I’m still in the woods.
How nice for them.