WILTZ: Would anyone go camping today without without their iPodAs I sat down at the keyboard this morning, Betsy asked me what I was going to write about.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
As I sat down at the keyboard this morning, Betsy asked me what I was going to write about.
“What I alluded to at the end of last week’s column,” I answered. Then I added, “My desire to make a hunting or fishing trip where we rough it a little bit.”
“You’re too old for that!” she quipped. “You can’t get around like you used to.”
Doesn’t she know this attitude makes me more determined than ever?
I don’t really know where this notion came from. Was it reading about Townsend Whelen’s hunt in last week’s column? Am I feeling a need to prove something? Does it relate to nostalgia and a longing for the past? Or am I feeling what Henry David Thoreau felt when he expressed a desire to reduce life to its simplest terms? Perhaps it’s a bit of all four.
It has taken me a long time to appreciate Thoreau’s views as expressed in his classic book “On Walden Pond.”
While attending South Dakota State University back in the early ’60s, my instructor for American Literature was Dr. Maynard Fox. Though I liked Fox, I saw him as being a bit eccentric. So what’s new about college professors?
For a writing assignment, Dr. Fox had asked us to evaluate Thoreau. We were told that our opinions would not be held against us. I wrote that Thoreau was a dreamer, that spending an unproductive 13 months at Walden Pond was irresponsible. When the assignments were returned, I noted my “F” grade. I was also told to meet him in his office at 10 a.m. Saturday.
At our meeting, Fox told me that my analysis of Thoreau was unsatisfactory, and that there was no point in my being an English major. After a pause, he cupped his hands together as tears formed in his eyes. “Mr. Wiltz, Thoreau is a baby bunny rabbit, a little, furry, baby bunny rabbit.” Holy cow! I thought. How do I handle this? I struggled for a moment and pulled myself together.
“Dr. Fox, I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” My eyes were wet. My hands shook uncontrollably as I cupped them. My voice quaked. “Thoreau is a tiny, furry, wet, trembling, innocent baby bunny rabbit! We must watch over this gentle man!”
“Mr. Wiltz, Mr. Wiltz, You’ve got it!” Maynard Fox was elated. As it turned out, Roger Wiltz and Zane Dickenson were the only male English majors in the SDSU Class of 1964. To this day I’d like to know what my English major peers wrote about Thoreau. I’d bet it didn’t include bunny rabbits.
Getting back to my desire to “rough it,” I’m not talking about a pack train of horses and a camp 10 miles from the nearest gravel road. I’m just looking for a change. In looking at the hunting camp I have in mind, the gear could be hauled to our campsite in a pickup truck. A fishing camp, whether it is on a lake in Northern Saskatchewan or on the shores of Oahe Reservoir, could be reached by loading all the gear, including tent and sleeping bags, into the boat and then searching for a camp site. We could also drive to it.
I’ve heard a deer hunt in the Black Hills referred to as “a poor man’s mountain hunt.” I can picture a tent camp along Rapid Creek, where I singe pieces of venison backstrap over a wood fire. The same would be true of a grouse camp along the Grand River.
If I were to have my own way, there would be no cell phones or iPods in camp. We would be in a vintage wall tent with my old canvas tarp as a floor. I’d sleep on my folding cot, and the ridge pole would be high enough to allow me to stand up tall.
Don’t you miss some of the camp staples of yesteryear? My old Coleman lantern would provide the lighting. Though it has been years, I can see myself pumping up that old lantern. I can hear the tink, tink, tink of the plunger. I can also picture that flickering orange and blue flame licking the mantle in a final effort as I screw in the valve for the night. It makes me wonder if white gasoline is still available.
We’d relish the food prepared over a campfire. My frequent partner, Jerry Hnetynka, is a superior chef. If I’ve learned one thing from Jerry, it would be the importance of bacon. Bacon makes a good sandwich exceptional. Fresh, crisp bacon bits added to a creamy broth puts great soup over the top. The same is true of salads. Our food store would runneth over with bacon.
I have some friends in mind for fishing trips next summer or hunting trips next fall. But if they’re not agreeable to a wee bit of roughing it, and if in fact, no one is interested, I, like my old friend Henry David Thoreau, will go by myself. I can count on the coyotes to bid me good night.
* * * * * * * * * *
I received a postcard from the National Rifle Association. They asked me to email and call senators Johnson and Thune about the proposed gun legislation. The proposal included the banning of semiautomatic rifles that used a detachable clip magazine.
Both the phone call and emailing went smoothly. I told the courteous aids that the Remington Models 742 and 7400, the Browning BAR, and the Ruger Mini-14 are sporting rifles that fall into the ban category, and that I used a 742 to take my first five-point buck. I added that banning any semiautos, and especially these, was ludicrous.
It was personally gratifying to be pro-active. The phone numbers are: Johnson — 202-224-5842. Thune’s number is 202-224-2321. The websites that enable the emailing are: www.johnson.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Contact, and www.thune.senate.gov.
A return email from Senator Thune said that I would receive a personal reply. Please have at these!
*See you next week.