by Keith Fisher
Today, we continue our three part story. Remember last time, I had just emerged from the bushes and discovered I was in someone else's camp.
The three men in camp all wore red shirts, not flourescent orange, which is a requirement for Utah deer hunters. The wall tent across the clearing had been pitched using recently cut lodge poles. There were horses staked out under the trees, and someone had been busy building camp furniture from fresh cut trees. A Dutch oven hung from an iron tripod over the fire and one of the men dipped something from it onto a tin plate. I turned to leave without bothering them, but I needed to find out where I was.
"Hello in the camp." I called. I didn't want to surprise anyone with my sudden appearance from the fog.
They turned and stared at me. One man quickly stifled a laughed.
"I got lost in the fog. Can you tell me where I am?"
The man with the plate welcomed me and invited to have some stew. "I’m Jake," he said.
"I’m Keith." I offered my hand. I just need to find my camp, but that stew sure smells good," I took the plate and sat on a hand-hewn bench.
The other two men moved away from the fire. They were using binoculars, trying to see something through the fog. They looked worried.
I heard the clang of another lid and turned to see the cook dump coals from the lid of another Dutch oven. He reached inside, pulled out two sourdough bread rolls, and handed them to me.
"You want some butter on those?"
I nodded. "Sure, you’re a great cook," I said. I watched as Jake went to a pile of straw. He lifted a mat made from a bunch of sticks lashed together. He reached into a pit dug into the ground, pulled out a bowl, and handed it to me. I liberally dabbed fresh, creamy butter on the hot rolls and watched it melt.
Jake returned the mat and the straw then snapped his fingers. "I almost forgot. Would you like a little milk to wash it down?"
"That would be nice if it's not too much trouble," I said.
Jake shook his head. "No trouble." He pulled the mat up again and reached into the pit.
I watched Jake pour milk from a tin can into a cup. I became fascinated by the spectacle. Jake had been cooking with firewood coals, lifting lids with a forked stick, and making food that would rival anything I’ve seen at the Worlds Championship Dutch Oven Cook Off.
When I finished eating, Jake asked me if I had seen his friend. "Robert set out this morning in the direction you came from, and he hasn’t come back yet."
"No, I haven’t seen him," I said.
"Well, he probably downed a really big one. Not like those puny deer we got." He pointed at three large bucks hanging from a tree. If those deer were puny, I’d love to go where he hunts.
"You were very lucky to find those," I said. "I haven’t seen anything but a doe and two fawns all day."
Jake stared at me with a look of disbelief.
One of the other men came and sat next to me. He started drawing a map in the dirt with a stick.
"This is Henry, he knows these mountains like the back of his hand," Jake said.
"Good to meet you." I stuck out my hand.
Henry shook my hand then directed my attention to the map. "Now this is Strawberry valley." He pointed at a spot in the dirt. "And this is the road over Daniel's Pass." He showed me his representation of every landmark within 40 miles, and showed me where we were.
"This is the trail we came in on." He dug the lines deeper in the dirt. "And this is the one that goes to Current Creek."
I began to recognize where we were from the landmarks I knew. I noticed he referred to all the roads as trails. "Where is the road . . . uh, trail you came in on?"
"About a hundred yards in that direction." Henry pointed.
I nodded my understanding. I knew my camp could be seen from the road, so I decided to follow the road until I found camp. It would be dark in about an hour, but if I got on the road, I could hitch a ride on an ATV.
I thanked Jake for the good food, and offered to help cleanup. I also offered to help pay for the food I’d eaten, but Jake slapped me on the back. "Don’t be silly. You never turn a man away from your fire unless you've fed him."
"If you see Robert, tell him to get back to camp, will you?" Henry asked.
I said I would, and shook both men’s hand. I set out in the direction of the trail and was almost out of earshot when I heard Henry talking. "That boy sure is a strange duck, I wonder where he got them bright clothes. He must be some kind of dude from out of state."
I walked about eighty yards and found a trail. According to my reckoning, it should’ve been a road. I wondered how those men got their horses up there. Then I realized I didn’t see any vehicles in camp. I thought of my 23-foot trailer. If I were in my camp, I’d probably spend the evening watching a movie while being warmed by the furnace in the trailer.
My mouth fell open when I reached the trail. The fog suddenly lifted, and the temperature climbed about ten degrees. The sun hung on the treetops in its last throws, before dipping down behind the ridge to plunge the world into darkness for the evening. In my confusion, I stumbled on a rock, and fell down. I remember a sharp pain in my head, then nothing.
continued next time
Return to the Neighborhood.