Is it a Blind or a Fort?
I was staring at the wreckage of several expensive portable hunting blinds. Canvas and collapsible hubs that assemble quickly and allow you to be concealed in almost any location. You are supposed to break them down after each hunt and take them from the field. They were never meant to be left up without an occupant. Apparently they were also never intended to sustain a South Dakota prairie wind.
Carelessness on my part and a foolish trust in meteorological forecasts have had me walk up to carnage. Blinds that I had brushed in and secured with heavy rebar stakes have been lifted and twisted into useless camouflage art projects. Like a piece of paper that held possibilities and then had been crumpled and discarded.
I needed to get out my wallet and throw a lot more money at my blinds or come up with a few creative alternatives. I headed to the barn for inspiration.
A few falls back, son Connor and I had gotten inspired and camouflaged one of our old horse trailers. While it proved to be adequate at concealment and excellent at keeping hunters out of the weather, our efforts at recreating trees and grasses had fallen a bit short in the aesthetic category. The trailer blind was pretty hard on the eye and even though our failure as artists never bothered the deer, it spoiled my view.
I turned the corner on the shop and stumbled over the handle of a pickax, normally the last tool in the shed I ever want to lift. I’d had to chip away on some frozen water lines a few years back and bought a gaudy model that I have yet been able to break. Perhaps I could dig a blind?
The holes I dug in my youth were often clandestine affairs. Moms frowned on them popping up in the middle of lawns, so young miners in search of treasure would often have to slip away with our tools and look for less adult supervision. Abandoned lots or gullies bordering farm fields would become our playgrounds with whatever tools we could scavenge. Any boy who could have actually discovered a pick for us to use would have been an instant hero. Mostly we took turns with small gardening spades until the sun got too hot or we were discovered and run off.
Once I got older and into the military, one of the primary objectives was the creation of fox holes. The shovels grew only slightly larger. We carried them on our belts. When opened and properly configured, they had a little flip-out pick that helped removed stubborn stones. Digging to orders and then refilling the depressions was much less satisfying, but I was good at it.
The sight of the pick reminded me of a small ridgeline that was too exposed for a good hunting spot, but if given a little effort and time, a hunter might dig out a little seat and reduce his visibility. I own the ridge and had no time constraints. This time, no one would run me off or yell for me to dig faster. The sultry heat had me greatly discouraged, but it is summer and I have the time.
The first night, I took just the pick and a shovel. Still hot and so many stones. I made little headway, but as the sun started down, I sat in the depression and enjoyed the sight of a young fawn creeping closer to see what I was up to.
The next evening showed improvements. There were a few field stones close at hand that might block the wind. Stacking a few wouldn’t take much work and could provide a good rest for rifles and spotting scopes come fall.
The third morning blew in a cold front, with temperatures in the low sixties. I was starting to regain some of the excitement and joy of my childhood.
The walls grew, the dirt flew and more stones were discovered. In the heat, I had been discouraged about the advance of age and loss of energy. It was hard just to walk the quarter mile up the ridge.
But suddenly I was building a fort as much as a hunting blind. I carried heavy blocks while whistling up the hill and never gave a thought to the previous fifty-plus years since the last time I had the leisure to dig a hole for youthful pleasure.
Now I’m planning a roof and I think I’ll chink some of those cracks. There’s a bag of concrete around here somewhere for mortar and I have a few more weeks of summer.