I hunt deer. To some of you that is akin to confessing that I drink the blood of babies under a full moon. To others, it's more of a "so what" kind of thing. Others think, "Cool. When can I get some venison?"
All of you can keep reading. No deer (or babies) were harmed in the making of this story. It isn't a hunting story. It's more of a pre-hunting preparation story.
As part of my preparation this year, I bought a hunting stand. It's a tripod stand, three long legs leading to a platform with a seat. The legs are braced to each other and one has ladder rungs on it so you can climb to the platform. The whole idea is to get up higher so you can see over brush, short mesquite trees, and folds in the land. The place where I hunt is small, and most of it is covered with heavy oak forest. But there is one place where I can see for 150 yards in a couple of directions, if I can get a little height. Hence the stand. I love it when a plan comes together.
My first check came after I picked the thing up at the local Bass Pro Shop and got it home. It was a heavy, tightly packed box, and when I opened it, it looked like a giant green erector set. Okay. I liked erector sets when I was a kid. I can do this.
Since it was 107 degrees outside that day, and since my mother didn't raise any fools (except maybe my brother), I brought the first parts of the stand inside to assemble them on the living room tile. Of course, I first had to find the parts I wanted, which always seemed to be under the ones I would need later. And naturally, the bolts supplied were of four different sizes, in one bag, most of them only identifiable with a ruler or by comparing them with each other. Did I mention there were about a hundred bolts?
I laid out the first three pieces, the platform out on the floor, and began to attach them to each other. Immediately I ran into trouble. One of the sections was welded badly. Oh, it's strong enough, but there was no way the supplied bolts were going to stretch from there to there. Well, that's no problem for a handy guy like me. I just happened to have a couple of longer bolts in the garage. Back on track.
After several trips back to the truck where I had the rest of the pieces, I managed to get the platform, the seat, and the safety rail assembled. I knew I wouldn't be able to attach the legs, or even assemble them completely, because the whole thing had to be transported in my pickup to the ranch. After I got the legs partly assembled (short enough to fit in the pickup), I was done for the moment. When my son got home I got him to help me carry the assembled platform outside.
Well, almost. You see, no matter which way we turned the thing, there was no way it would fit through the door. From assembly to disassembly in four, or five, or maybe fifteen easy steps. Eventually we got the parts out into the back yard, where my dog was sure to mark them. What the heck, it has to stand up to the weather for years anyway.
The plan was to take the parts to the ranch and put it all up the next weekend. It was even supposed to be a cool day. That, of course, didn't work out because of some family emergency. So it was a not-so-cool Saturday morning when I headed out early to the ranch. Early because it's cooler then. Not cool enough, but every bit helps.
Once at the site it was clear that my original location wouldn't work. It was not level enough in front of the trees to put up the stand, unless I wanted to dig deep holes for two of the three legs. Did I mention that our ranch is mostly rock covered by a thin dusting of soil? That was out.
Still, I found a relatively level spot and began to put the legs together and attach them. It was then that I realized they had not given me even one extra nut or bolt in the package. Did you ever try to find a black 5/16 inch lock nut in high grass?
The instructions also forgot to mention that you really need two grown men and a bull elephant to put the whole thing together. And it's certain that in the process both of the men and perhaps the elephant will be reduced to tears. But maybe elephants are tougher than that. My experience with them is limited.
I'd pick up a leg, balancing it in the middle, and attempt to slide it into a socket that was just a bit larger than the leg itself. Ever try to guide a 15-foot steel leg from seven-and-a-half feet away? Eventually, I would get it inserted, then go to see that the holes didn't quite line up. Okay. Pick up the end of the leg and ever so gently, slide it forward. Set it down and check. Too far. Go back and tug on it. Set it down and check. Too far. Try again. And again.
Then it comes time to insert the braces. Hmmm . . . gravity seems to be working against me. This is where the elephant would have been handy. Brace against the upper leg, strain, groan, guide the brace into place . . . don't let it buckle! Do it again to insert the bolts. Okay, one down, five to go. And of course, they get harder as you go.
Dripping sweat, hands numb, back throbbing, I finally got it all together. Surprisingly, setting it upright wasn't that hard. Take that, elephants! Drive the hold down stakes which, in a brilliant display of poor engineering, are blunt, hollow tubes. Two go in with only mild battering. The third is apparently dead center on a large rock about three inches below the ground. You know what, two are probably enough.
There it is. Sturdy. High. Positioned so I can see a long way. Unfortunately, it's kind of exposed. In the military, they tell you not to silhouette yourself against a skyline. That's exactly what I've done. And my camouflage isn't going to do much against the sky.
I think I'm going to dress like a cloud.