Uncle Bill sold the Madison County cabin on the Castor River to my Dad, so I grew up going to the cabin. Visits often included my Aunt Betty and Uncle Mac, their kids, Gram, my other uncles and their families. We always swam, fished and collected rocks.
As a 10 year old, I enjoyed playing there with my dog, Skip, He was a medium sized dog, a mixed breed of border collie and shepherd. We discovered dead ‘possums, brush pile residents, small streams, neat rocks, and other “treasures” in the eyes of a young boy.
After the Madison County cabin came into the family, Dad and I took Skip with us on several trips. He jumped through brand new woods, scaring up deer and racing squirrels to their nearest escape tree. The squirrels always won, but it was fun to see him try.
While I attended college in Cape Girardeau, several friends accompanied me to the cabin. We fished, drank beer, played music too loud, and swam in the Castor River. I shot my first deer there, my friend, Mike, shot his first deer there, and Dad shot his first, and only, deer there! On that memorable day, failing to find any quail, Dad had taken a smoke break next to my VW, parked on a gravel road. When he happened to glance down the road, he noticed a 10-point buck looking at him. Somehow, he retrieved the 7.5 mm Swiss military rifle out of the back seat of the car and dropped him with one shot through the spine, at 90 yards, with metal sights! I still have the antlers from that deer.
Several staff members from the college also accompanied me on trips to the cabin, mainly to have a relaxing and friendly weekend next to the river. I recall Lorna and Max Cordonnier, Paul Heye, and my friend, Rod, visiting one spring. We caught smallmouth and largemouth bass, lots of bluegill, and perch. Dad and I would squirrel hunt, always aware that the country squirrels were much more wary than city ones. One morning, as we prowled along one end of a cornfield, I noticed a short plant with very small seed pods. Pinching the seed pods introduced me to the fragrant odor of what turned out to be beefsteak or what some call pennyroyal. I cherish pinching the pods when I see them now and it always transports me back to a morning at the end of that cornfield. I share that scent with folks that I hike with now, whenever we encounter the plants.
All these experiences out of doors have given me a deep cache of poignant memories. Mom and Dad and many of those staff members and relatives are no longer with me. I’m so blessed that I took the opportunities to share time and special places with each of them, while we had that chance. I hope you share time with your friends and family in the out of doors, because those shared times will become special over time, especially when you can’t saunter through the woods with them anymore.