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Rodd's Ramblings: Trip to shack is a treat


May 8, 2020

Pandemic or not, there are still some things we can do. Last week I was able to enjoy a short trip to the deer shack, somewhere near Cromwell. It brought a welcome respite from being boxed in and held hostage to the virus.

As you might recall, last Saturday was gorgeous, in the high 60s, but a bit breezy. After parking the truck and unloading the ATV, it was time to take the short ride through the woods to the old shack, which had not been visited since last deer season.

Taking the side-by-side off the trailer was uneventful, and the anticipation grew as I loaded the back of it with a thermos full of coffee, three bottles of water, and a sack lunch that included sandwiches and a bag of M&Ms. Oh, not to forget the chainsaw, blade oil and gas.

The drive from the gate to the shack is only about five or six minutes long and there are a couple of mud holes to navigate. As I rounded the corner to the shack I caught myself smiling. A tree had to be taken down last fall and the remnants of the work were stacked and tucked away just where we put them last season. The old and battered outhouse still stood erect on the east side of the shack and the grill was not bothered by bears. In all, things appeared to be just the way we left it the last day of deer season in November.

Anyone who has an old shack knows that one of the most anticipated moments is what you’ll find inside. Will there be mice, or squirrels or chipmunks running around? Was a window broken and damage done? In this case, the good news was that things were fine. My mousetrap line had yielded seven new pelts, four of which were caught in my Finlander mouse pail and the other three in traps. There was little sign of any other critters and the mouse poop minimal. After opening every cupboard, checking behind every mattress, looking under the oven and stove, the furnace and everywhere I could imagine, I found nothing. No nests, no more mice and no more mouse remnants.

The first item on the agenda was to pull out the broom and sweep the floor. Next up was to thoroughly clean the countertops and anything that could have been contaminated, not by COVID-19, but by the mice. One bottle of 409, a roll of paper towels and one hour later, the job was finished.

The time flew by, as I had the radio tuned to classic rock on WKLK. It’s odd being at the shack and hearing my voice on the radio but comforting as well out in the middle of the woods by myself.

All winter long I had been compiling a list of things I wanted to accomplish outside the shack this spring and summer. Among the top priorities was to start moving the wood pile and to eliminate some of the stumps around the shack.

The wood pile has been there since the days of the woodburning stove. It’s been nearly a decade ago that much of the wood was stacked underneath a makeshift metal roof. The wood pile stood nearly 6 feet tall, 8 feet wide and 7 feet deep. I backed the ATV up to the pile and started loading wood. Once the dump box was filled I would drive about 20 feet and unload the wood, and start stacking it on the other side of the trail. Not a huge move, but the hopes are that we put a little distance from the wood pile to the shack, and maybe we can keep our mouse collection down. After 15 trips back and forth I had moved about a quarter of the pile. It was obvious I had put a dent in it and I felt good about my efforts.

It was time for a cup of coffee and lunch. It’s kind of funny how things seem to be magnified when you are alone in the woods. The clicking of the thermos opening seemed to echo off the trees. The sound of the baggie in my hand as I got my sandwich out sounded a bit more scrunchy than normal. As I sat on the deck of the shack, a sliver of steam rose up and the aroma of homemade coffee seemed to permeate the landscape more than usual. This was a perfect shack lunch.

I decided to start digging around the stump of a tree that had toppled over a few years ago. The stump was not straight up and down, but instead slightly angled over, with the roots sticking out and looking a bit like an alien from the movies. Over time the dirt and sod began to cover the lower end of the stump, so I needed to expose the base of the tree to figure out if I could chip away with an axe or if I could pull it out with my ATV.

After a few minutes of shoveling, the dirt started moving on its own. I would stick the shovel in and pull out a little dirt and then all of a sudden the dirt would flap up and down almost like a bad toupee in the wind. After another shovelful the flap of dirt flipped back, and there staring me in the face was a chipmunk. After we both jumped back, he bolted underneath the decking of the shack. I felt bad that I ruined his home, but this was the same stump that had a nest of ground hornets in it last year. I didn’t want to deal with them all summer when I mowed the lawn. Eventually I was able to peel the sod back and got a good look at what will need to happen on my next trip, but it was a good feeling to at least get a start on the whole thing.

A check of my watch showed it was nearly 2:30. I was hot and sweaty and decided to take a break. The bottle of cold water and the M&Ms hit the spot. As I sat on the deck, a feeling of satisfaction washed over me, and I was content.

A few minutes later it was time to close up the shack, load the wheeler and head back to the truck. I rounded the last turn and drove onto the open field and saw three deer grazing on grass that had sprouted after last week’s rain. They stood and looked at me and showed no fear at all. I just sat and watched them for a few minutes and took a couple of pictures. When I stepped off the ATV, they slowly trotted away, perhaps realizing that I was a bigger threat than they had previously thought. I sat back down and they stopped and stared, and after another few minutes they started grazing on the grass again.

Finally, I restarted the ATV and proceeded to skirt around them and head to the gate where the truck and trailer were waiting to take me back home. The day ended on a perfect note as a flock of turkeys gobbled off in the distance. As I started my truck, my last thought was: “This is my slice of heaven.”

WKLK radio personality Kerry Rodd writes sports for the Pine Knot News and can often be seen about Cloquet walking with his wife — slowly.


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