Along The Trail 5-22-14

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Editor’s Note: This is a column written by Switzerland County’s David Hewitt. The articles center on all things ‘outdoors’, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

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The mud is kicked from our boots, bows and quivers arranged on the pegs along the walls of the clubhouse and we find a seat after a long day of slinging arrows at the State Traditional Bowhunters Shoot. Club members mill around, talking this and that, exchanging a few hunting stories and embellishing when they can.

The meal is ready, and 40 or 50 hungry archers shuffle their way through the buffet line continuing with the conversations as we each wait our turn to dive into the food.

The small dining room is alive with the constant buzz of voices as they all mix together.

Back at our table, I try to listen to multiple stories from different hunter between bites. The stories grow and become more colorful as the meal passes. Lots of laughter and lots of disbelief is shared as each of the old timers seem to try and “one up” the other.

The late afternoon turns to evening and with it comes the annual trade blanket.

Fifteen or so of the fellas circle around, all taking out their treasures for a round of bartering. Some of the items qualify as junk, but a few real jewels are there to be had if a trade can be made. My boy and I take our chairs and join in. As I look around the room, I can’t help but think of how things must have been a few generations prior to mine when trading, bartering and dickering were as common as cash.

The average age around the circle was considerably older than mine and much older than the 16 year old next to me. All the seniors wearing their flannel or wool shirts with a fedora and or driving cap thrown in to seem like days gone by.

The first round was quick, no trades made, but as the evening wore on, the real gems were displayed.

An old Bear Grizzly recurve bow; some custom made knives; beautifully crafted arrows; a Swedish hand-forged ax; and other items that any hunter or woodsman would be proud to own. Round and round, the trading went with a few items exchanging hands. Each hunter described his goods and gear, some truthful, some with a long yarn, but all in good fun.

I watched and listened as my boy got into the mix with some men that were old enough to be his grandpa. They jabbed back and forth and he dickered with the best of them. He’s been horse trading for a few years now and has a knack for knowing what he wants and how to go after it.

Some of the older gents rib the kid pretty hard as they know he drives a hard bargain, but in the end, a few good trades are made, even a little cash in his pocket and a solid handshake.

I lean back in my chair and take a long look around at the experience in the room with me. A group of men in their late 50s, 60s and 70s.

All connected through their love of the outdoors, their passion for bowhunting and their desire to carry it on to future generations. None of the old boys talked about cell phones or social media or Instagram; they talked about Korea and being cold and being in battle.

They talked about Vietnam and service and honor. They talked about politics and America and how things used too be. They were dejected at the current state of affairs in our country and the world.

They talked about hunting and old bows and shots that they missed and deer that they’d taken.

But most of all, they just talked – no texting, no emails.

Face to face conversations, meaningful communication. And through it all, there next to me was my young man of a son taking it all in, eyes and ears wide open, no hint of his cell phone or playing this game or that game, his interest was piqued by something real. A real privilege to learn from his elders.

Something that too many young men today miss out on or worse, have no interest in.

– David Hewitt