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January 2009
Winter Hunting Lodge

Let's take a trip back to Grandma's Garden for an adventure with the neighborhood gang. We all pald around summer and winter, skinny-dipping, fishing, exploring, and come hunting season we were outdoors together, too.

Every one has their tales to tell of monster bucks that inhabit the areas they hunt. The fields and woods around Gram's in the late 50s and early 60s in Somerset, New Jersey, had their share of deer. The wilds were also home to Old Ironsides, aptly named since, as the story goes, many of the locals had seen and even shot at him with no one ever taking home the trophy. It seemed as though the Double OO buck pellets just bounced off.

So here was the plan.

The gang decided to work together to see if someone could be the lucky hunter to finally take him. Now, you have to get up early and settle into a spot before the sun wakes up the inhabitants of the fields and woods.

But let me back up a bit. We began formulating the plan during the summer before. We would build our own hunting cabin just a short distance from Gram's house, and wed all sleep there so we could get up and take to the woods at the same time. The site was picked, surveyed, and the work began.

We scoured the neighborhood for donations of building supplies, collecting 2x4s, 2x6s, plywood, shingles and whatever else we needed to build that cabin. Boy, were we lucky! The neighbors responded with donations, including a pot-bellied stove. What an absolute sight to behold!

Over the course of several months the cabin took shape. We were proud that we built our own hunting lodge, complete with an eating area, six double-decker bunks, and a stove to cook our game on and to keep us warm.

Then in December, probably 1960 or 61 we' were finally sleeping in the cabin, or should I say trying to sleep. Its tough to sleep when you're eagerly awaiting the next morning so you can finally get out hunting for that elusive Old Ironsides.

Oh, did I forget to mention it was raining? That's right, raining, and the cabin roof was leaking. Ah, but the joys of being young and full of adventure - we were undaunted!

The morning came and we took to the woods wet, but full of anticipation and excitement. The sky lightened, the rain continued, but we were determined. Shots rang out in the distance, but nothing close by.

As the day wore on the rain continued, Old Ironsides never materialized, though some of us did get to see fleeting glimpses of deer, but nothing with antlers.

By dark we were back at the cabin to dry off, discuss the days events, and say our goodbyes till tomorrow. Of course if the rain stopped the next day we would have to find a bucket of tar somewhere so we could patch the leaky cabin roof.

That cabin served us well for a few more years until we finished high school. Some of us went off to college and unfortunately our young gang moved on with life, heading in different directions.

The fields and woods were lost to housing developments, but the memories are still there, just another page or two in my Huck Finn book of wonderful adventures.

by Lance L. Casper

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