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#398449 added January 11, 2006 at 3:08pm
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Keep Making Lefts
         This week, in the mail, I received my first copy of Horizontal Bowhunter magazine. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, horizontal bowhunter refers to someone who hunts with a crossbow. Now before you click on to something else, this isn’t a story about killing anything with a bow…or any other weapon for that matter. In fact, it’s not a story about killing anything at all. Something I’ve done quite a lot of in my days in the woods, the not killing anything at all part, that is. *Smile* It is a tale about young friends. It is a story about being tight with a buck. It is a story about pliers.

         About thirty years ago or so, probably less than more, I hung out with a group of my fellow bowhunters. These particular bowhunters happened to be my friends from college; roommates, etc. These same friends would later become my work buddies also. In the end we would go separate ways and lose touch, but back then we were inseparable.

         Every year, in September, as the nights got cooler and we looked forward to the opening of archery season for deer, we would make a pilgrimage to Forksville, PA. If you were to do a Mapquest search you would discover that Forksville is nothing more than a crossroads, a scattering of houses, and a Pennsylvania State Park, appropriately named World’s End.

         This annual pilgrimage was to the Pennsylvania Bowhunter’s Festival. The festival was located at the county fairgrounds just down the road from the park. I imagine it still is, the fairgrounds, I mean, and the festival, I suppose.

         The Bowhunter’s Festival was three days of nonstop archery practice utilizing trails through the woods with realistic 3D targets, something of a novelty at the time. It also included a running deer target, as well as pop up groundhogs, etc. The fairground buildings were packed full of vendors trying to sell you anything and everything related to archery. The attendees were a mixed bunch. They ran from the traditional longbow archer dressed like he just stepped out of the L.L. Bean catalog to those of us struggling to pay off college loans on minimum wage jobs. There was never a dull moment, but there was a catch.

         The fairgrounds shut down at 11PM and there was no overnight camping. Unless you were intelligent enough to plan ahead, something I’ve never been real good at doing, you usually ended up in the overflow parking lots at World’s End State Park where the good and kindly park ranger charged you 5 dollars to sleep in your pickup. As I said earlier we were cheap.

         If you do a Goggle Earth search for Sullivan County PA, which is the location of Forksville, the fairgrounds, and coincidentally World’s End State Park, you will discover a large amount of the surrounding area is green. It’s green because it's covered by state forest and state game lands, both of which have their own peculiar nuances about camping.

         One year, we had finally had it. We had had a bad experience the year before with one of the good and kindly rangers. I can’t remember what about, but most certainly, I can state, it was not our fault, whatever it was. We decided that when everyone was pulling out of the fairgrounds and turning left for the World’s End. (Has a nice ring to it doesn’t it?), we would turn right and head up into the mountains of north central Pennsylvania. Surely, there was someplace we could camp for the night and save our five bucks a head.

         After about twenty minutes or so of driving and not finding anything we came to the conclusion we were hopelessly lost. Sitting on the side of the road consulting a dramatically out of date roadmap, which by the way, didn’t show one-lane dirt roads in north central Pennsylvania, we began to have fond memories of the World’s End. (I do know how to turn a phrase, don’t I?)

         About that time, my buddy John, whose truck we were riding in noticed a light bobbing through the pitch dark woods. As it came closer we recognized it as a lantern and soon the silhouette’s of three individuals could be seen and the barking of dogs could be heard. Did I mention this was about the time the movie Deliverance was in the theatre? Without saying a word we locked the doors.

         The gentleman with the lantern came around to John’s side of the truck. John cracked the window just enough to talk. Without so much as a how-do-you-do he asked us if we had a pair of pliers. John nodded his head yes. I opened the glove compartment, got out the pliers and passed them to John. John passed them through the window. Without a thank you a hand reached out and took them. Almost as an afterthought he asked John to turn on the headlights. John obliged.

         The man with the lantern went around to the front of our truck, handed the lantern to one of the other two and took a dog leash from one of them. At the end of that leash was a beautiful looking coonhound. They were hunting raccoons. We all breathed a sigh of relief. Fellow hunters. The moment’s respite was shattered by the most God-awful squeal that I had ever heard. When we looked again, the man with the pliers had locked the dog between his legs and was busy pulling porcupine quills from the dogs face and muzzle. We sat there dumbfounded. With each yank of the pliers the dog squealed again.

         After all the surgery had been completed he walked around to John’s window and handed him the pliers. Giving us the once over he asked if we were “up” for the festival. John replied with another head nod. He then offered us a chew. We declined. Almost as an afterthought John asked him how to get back to the fairgrounds. He responded by telling us, “to go down the road about a mile until we cross the stream, then take the first left.” He paused for a moment as if he just realized something and added., “In fact, just keep making lefts and you’ll get there. You fellas have a nice night.”

         Tails between our legs we rolled into World’s End and paid the ranger our five-dollar tribute.

         Oh. Why did I start this with Horizontal Bowhunter? Well, right there, in the centerfold, is a photo of a dog with a muzzle full of porcupine quills.

         Somewhere, a naked porcupine runs free.

         Throughout my life, I’ve been confident of one thing. If I keep making lefts, I’ll get there.

© Copyright 2006 Rasputin (UN: joeumholtz at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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