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Well, Walzie just came in from a long, cold day of bear hunting. His face was red from hours of being stung by the wind that whipped towards his tree stand. It snowed off and on all day, sometimes coming in white squalls. He built his little four feet square tree house, eight feet above a cornfield at the Pine Hill Hunting Club. He and his little canvas wrapped tree house have been a permanent fixture there for a decade or more. Now all the younger members of the club refer to him as that old geezer who sleeps in that tree stand at the corner of the cornfield.
A month or so ago, as a part of the mentor program, he took six year old, Mason, hunting for turkey. Oh yeah, Mase thought he was a big deal. I made him a pair of camo bib overalls and a camo jacket; Grampy even pinned one of his old hunting licenses on Mason’s back. The boy was in his glory. After Grampy showed him how to place the decoys, he let Mason climb into the tree stand ahead of him, then Grampy tossed their fanny pack full of snacks onto the floor, and then climbed up beside him. As they each got situated on buckets used as seats, Grampy heard a thump. The fanny pack lay at the bottom of the ladder.
“Uh oh, Grampy,” the boy said. “I kicked our snacks out. It was an accident. Honest. Can you go get it?”
Grampy climbed down, scooped up the fanny pack, and then back up again.
Far off across the field some black things appeared. Mason spotted them. He was so excited to even see a flock of something. The little fellow began to make gobbling sounds. Grampy checked with his binoculars. Turkeys.
“Lemme see”, Mason whispered excitedly. “Can I do my owl call now?”
“Shhh, not right now,” Grampy handed him the binoculars.
Grampy retrieved them from the bottom of the ladder.
Next went one of the buckets; then the thermos and then the other seat. All in all, Grampy made a dozen trips up and down the ladder that day. Needless to say, it was not a successful turkey hunt, and it was a three Aleve night. But a little boy and his grandpa bonded.
So now that the weather has gotten colder, Grampy has been a little reluctant to take his sidekick. But Mason insists he’s going along for the first day of buck season. Unable to resist those pleading big brown eyes, Grampy decided he needed to fix up a heater for his boy and him. He rooted around in his shed for hours the other day and by darn he did come out with a propane heater.
“Where the heck did you get that?” I asked.
“My brother left it here twenty years ago,” Walzie said. “I’m gonna fix it up for Mason and me. I’m gonna test it out in bear season.”
And so today was his first day experimenting with the heater. It stands about 12” high and has a funnel shaped shield with a flame in the center that radiates heat. Walzie got himself and the heater situated in the tree stand. He lit the propane and settled back to watch for a bear. Now you know if a fellow isn’t seeing any action in the woods and there is a warm heater blowing directly on him, it’s really easy to get drowsy. Soon his eyelids got heavy, and his chin dropped to his chest.
Behind his eyelids he watched a huge black bruin lumber through the brush right under his tree stand. Its thick fur rippled and shined in the sunlight. The heater blasted at Walzie’s feet. Feeling the heat, he shuffled his feet a bit, and the heater tipped. The flame blasted directly against his insulated pants. Suddenly, his dream of the bear shifted to a flaming barbeque grill. Was he grilling a bear steak? The burning smell woke him. The bottom of his pant leg was smoldering. He jumped up and tipped over the heater. The flame hit the canvas on the tree stand just like a welder’s torch. Poof! Ol’ Walzie dropped his rifle over the side and did a tuck and roll off the edge of that stand. He rolled like a bowling ball across the cornfield. When he looked back, the entire tree was aflame. Oh crap, he thought. My extra clip of ammo is up there. Then without warning, the ammo exploded and Walzie hit the dirt.
Suddenly, he bolted upright and shook his head. A nearby shot woke him from this nightmare. He was breathing hard and his heart pounded. The heater was fine; the tree stand was still intact; and his trusty rifle was still on his lap. Wow, he thought, no wonder I never used a heater before … must have been the fumes.
And then, there it went. The backside of the bear disappeared into the thicket. Oh shucks, Walzie, don’t feel too bad, we don’t need another dust collector hanging on the wall anyway.
Mason, good luck deer hunting with your old mentor. Hope you can keep him awake!