This past weekend I was blessed with an opportunity to spend it in the woods with four friends. Our caravan, armed with enough guns and ammunition to secure our southern border, traveled to a super secret location in southern Missouri for a weekend of camping and shooting.
Our “host” has a fondness this particular area. He had been coming here for years with his dad and cousin, hunting the surrounding hills and valleys. Many nights were spent in those woods by him, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. Subsequent trips brought many of his friends to this particular valley, you can tell it makes him happy to share something so special to him with others. Difficult to reach, and mostly disconnected from the rest of the world, this little patch on our little blue marble offered a wonderful opportunity to get away from all the noise in our every day lives, phones, TV’s, computers. None of those things were of any use here.
The campsite sat right on the river. Our drive in was not easy as the road was heavily rutted and eroded by 4 wheelers who were less than gentle on the terrain. As the area was foreign to half of our group, those rutted jeep trails proved to be a challenge at night. We worked through each problem, testing the depth of the water filled holes, and watching clearances to make sure we didn’t leave any oil pans behind as we crawled our vehicles over the terrain. Sometimes you just have to work for something truly spectacular.
We finally arrived at camp, and began settling in for the night. The four of us made short work of the tasks at hand, gathering firewood, setting up the tent, and off-loading gear. Our reward: setting around a camp fire enjoying a cold beer, listening to the river lap against the shore, and being awe-struck by a star-filled sky which God himself placed there for His Glory.
Our main purpose for the weekend was to go shoot someplace where we could shoot longer distances not readily available to us here. But with safety being the primary concern, we settled for a spot where we could shoot at a hair over a hundred yards. I had intended to spend most of our shooting time working with my 30-06. For some reason, I just wasn’t getting in the groove with that rifle this weekend. The sling I purchased from Andy Langlois worked out very well, but I just couldn’t get in a position where I was comfortable shooting. Rather than wasting premium .30-06 ammo, I ended up shooting my 10/22 more than anything else. Rarely do I shoot my 22 at 100 yards, but I was happy with my performance.
For me, this weekend was about getting away with four friends, taking a temporary break from the demands I whole-heartedly embrace. It’s not something I normally do. I don’t like giving up the illusion that I can maintain some sort of control over what happens to my family. Truth is, I really can’t. And after 11 years of marriage, I really don’t like sleeping alone. It felt so foreign to not have the Mrs in the sack beside me. Thankfully, I don’t think I’ve ever slept so good on the ground as both mornings I woke up rested and ready to go.
The biggest treat of my weekend was shooting my brother’s shotgun. It’s nothing special, just a beat up Remington 870. He mostly shot trap with it, and hunted a few times with it. My dad once recounted a story how my brother came home from a trip and had put the gun away wet. It shows. I’ve tried to clean it up, mostly to remove any surface rust, and touching up some areas with Oxpho blue. But the finish is worn and pitted. I’ve thought a time or two about having it refinished, and replacing the wood furniture with something nicer. But then I’d be making it something it’s not. I don’t know why we place such attachment to objects, but there was something very comforting about connecting #8 shot with those clay pigeons, like he had done several years ago. I often get jealous when I hear of friends and relatives who knew my brother say they had a dream about him. I have yet to do that since his death, but this was the closest I’ve come to that experience, and it was as I hoped it would be.
Sunday morning rolled around and it would soon be time to head home. We sat around the fire drinking our coffee and plinking at aluminum cans, spent shotgun shells and leftover clay pigeons with our .22’s. What a grand way to spend a Sunday morning! We eventually packed up and found our way back to the highway. I was glad to be back in cell phone range again, if only to be able to hear that my bride’s weekend also went well and that everyone survived without me.
If we make this an annual trip, and I hope it works out, turkey hunting and fly fishing will be in store for the weekend. I look forward to going back.