CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - Observations From Deer Camp From A Gutless Hunter

By Jack Cawthon 2001

It's called a "gut pile" and supposedly everyone has one tucked inside except cowards like me who have been told from time to time that they have none.

Some men, especially, walk around proudly with it protruding over the beltline with the belt itself lowering to become a sort of protector against vigorous athletic contests.

At this time of year you might find piles of such odious offal lying around in the woods and fields. Yes, it is deer season once again, and from the standpoint of a non-hunter one of the most gruesome tasks, after, of course, blowing the deer to kingdom come, is what to do with the lifeless body, a particularly troublesome problem no doubt faced, but seemingly overcome, even with a celebrity such as Jimmy Hoffa.

(I am certain Bob Weaver could add to my knowledge if I were to ask him, not about Hoffa, but about dead bodies in general, although he may not have prepared deer in his licensed profession.)

That is a good reason, as I see it, not to become a hunter. You're not going to catch me slitting open a carcass and reaching inside-ugh!-to extract all that gory mess. I wouldn't attempt it even if I had had four years of medical school with an internship in internal medicine, although some people may suspect I've dealt with worse waste matter in my years of journalism experience. (They may be right.)

Nevertheless, I recently spent four beautiful days and four star-filled nights in a deer camp at the head of Barbecue Run in Gilmer County, which you won't find on the state tourist promotions list for scenic holiday tours.

You might wonder what a non-hunter like me would find appealing in a primitive setting such as that. Well, hey, it used to be home and a couple of times each year I go home again and the best company I can find to go with me is armed killers. We all live a little dangerously at times.

My two armed companions carried weapons that would have caused envy from Sitting Bull's warriors bearing down on Custer's Seventh Cavalry. The bow and arrow has much advanced through technology although the same might not be said for the hunters, but it was deer only through archery as proclaimed by the state, take them or leave them.

Troy White is a serious young man who does something with chemicals in a plant somewhere in the Kanawha Valley, the most information I will disclose in case the agents of the Taliban are reading this, and Matt Brown, his brother-in-law is a pharmacist, who I am sure could take deer painlessly if the law only allowed it. Troy is a veteran of the Barbecue hunt while Matt is a relatively newcomer.

And what is a nice guy like me doing in a place like this? I'm sort of like the kid who owns the only ball in the neighborhood. I own the land and these guys are pretty nice to me. For example, when the alarm goes off around sixish in the A.M., morning, early morning, fog-hugging, night-hanging, sleep-shrouded morning I am not expected to arise and be cheerful.

It is accepted that I roll over and snarl "What time is it?" I cynically feel that any deer that has no better sense than the hunters to be about at this god-awful time deserves whatever fate holds in store and the hunter deserves doing whatever he does with its dead body. But I don't dwell a lot on it as I roll over and go back to sleep.

Along about tenish when the two struggle back in, no dead bodies on hand, they are beginning to sweat as the layered clothing of the early morning has weighed heavily on them in the morning sunshine. I am tempted to inquire, "Are we having fun yet?" but have the discretion to keep my mouth shut as they are still loaded with arrows.

The process is repeated in the afternoon until darkness brings them back again. My day begins when I struggle out of a warm bunk peek at the holler and still see shadows lingering.

When I look at the clock it shows that morning should be at hand. I eat something that comes in a wrapper and head down the run to see if the world is indeed clad in perpetual twilight.

I find the sun shining over the old Cell Turner house that grandson Bob and his wife Wyene have done wonders to improve and I understand once again why I am a person of gloom and doom: I was born a child of the shadows in my closed in upper holler.

I walk on up to visit the new neighbors, Willard and Margie Turner and their wonder dog, Hannah. It's nice to have neighbors after years of loneliness in the holler. And it's nice to be able to scrounge on them.

Willard insists that I use his cordless saw to cut a sheet of plywood that Troy and I plan to use for a major structural repair on our rustic dwelling as some animal-some large, unusually huge, with accompanying big teeth-has chewed through the wall.

We nail the board into place, stand back and take pride in our work and figure it will hold up at least until December when we plan to return, this time armed with modern weaponry. Let the varmints, not to say deer, take heed!

I figure I have it pretty good, all told. I don't threaten the deer and I don't have to worry about having a dead body on my hands.