A Shack in the Woods

Back in the woods, through 300 yards of knee-deep mud, past a hardwoods clearing and into a quiet, peaceful cedar swamp, sits a 6-by-6-foot deer blind.

It stands amongst the massive cedars, solemn and alone, on the ready, waiting to be used. It was constructed with salvaged wood from an old garage, a few new sheets of plywood and some tar paper. To anyone who might stumble by, it’s just a shack. But to me, it’s so much more.

A loud groan echoes through the swamp as I pry open the door. Sunlight fills the darkness to reveal a single metal chair. Immediately, the aroma of cedar lifts my spirits and puts me at ease. My boots sink into the cedar chips that line the floor. They don’t make a sound.

Over in the corner sits a small brown propane stove, rescued from salvage. The grates on its front seem to greet me with a smile as I bend down to light it. Although it doesn’t provide significant heat, the small flame is just enough to take the cold bitterness out of the air.

I slide silently into the cold, hard chair. The blind is spacious, with a high ceiling and room to move around. I feel as if I’m sitting out in the open— though I’m unbelievably concealed. No one knows I’m here, hidden behind balsam boughs and dried limbs. I am invisible.

I stare out the long rectangular window that spans the front of my blind. All is still. Today there are no squirrels hustling about, chattering at one another. It seems far too cold for that. My breath, hanging like an apparition in the air, tells me winter is on its way. Laying my gun across my lap, I relax and listen. The ancient cedars moan in the wind. Their wails make my mind wander…

BUILDING A PALACE
My husband and I built this blind together. I drew up the plans and, despite his endless words of caution, would accept nothing smaller. While I was working, he hauled in the over-sized pieces of plywood, two-by-twos, nails, screws and all the tools needed to get the job done.

I will never forget the look on his face when he took me there to see the framework he’d done. He was so proud, as was I. For weeks, whenever we had spare time, we’d make the muddy trek to this spot. Together, we decided where the door should be, how high to make the windows and where to put the little propane stove.

After months of turmoil at home, constructing this blind seemed to be the only thing we could agree on, and it felt good. To anyone else it looked, I’m sure, like just a rickety shack. But to us, it was a masterpiece. It was an incredible testament to the idea that we could get things done if we put our hearts into it—and I loved it.

I picture him showing up at my door, “Can I sit with you? It’s too cold in my blind.” His eyes were so blue, so honest. His voice was shaky and winded from his long, frozen walk through the woods. He came in and set up his camouflaged pop-up chair. It was loud as he sat down. He flashed me an awkward grimace, and I couldn’t help but smile.

We sat for the rest of the day watching the wildlife, whispering jokes and laughing together. For the first time in ages, we enjoyed each other’s company. He never sat in his blind again.

Though it’s only one deer season old, we’ve been through a lot in this blind. We’ve seen squirrels scamper by getting ready for winter, and does trying to evade the rut. With our hearts racing, we’ve watched many bucks come and go … shooting only one.

There were times when the wind was so fierce that our little propane heater seemed to be a cruel joke, and times when the steady lullaby of the rain on the roof rocked us to sleep. There were times when the only sound to be heard was the gentle whisper of falling snow, and times when adrenaline made it impossible to hear anything but our own hearts beating.

This rickety shack is a gift, our secret place, our hideout from the rest of the world. For this shack, I am forever grateful.


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