The clouds skirting the Catoctin Mountains were magnificent as we drove east across the Piedmont Plateau on our way back from Pennsylvania — flat bottoms and billowing tops, sliding from south to north in an endless parade of shapes. It certainly got me thinking about how seldom we (I) stop to observe clouds, and trees, and grass, and all of the other incredible bounty of nature. As a people, we Americans have created a bastard existence for ourselves, focusing only on people and people-created things (and mostly, on what other people think about the people-created things we’ve accumulated, spending our time keeping score instead of looking at clouds). I myself quickly lose track of the phase of the moon or the few constellations I know, or the hour of sunrise or set, and scold myself constantly for it.
We had spent the weekend treestand-building on my sister’s farm. The stand we know as “Little Dom’s Stand,” because it is and has been his spot, has been dangerously out of repair for several years now. Dom III hunts out of it the first couple days of rifle season every year. He doesn’t hunt with a bow, so I often use it on my all-too-infrequent bowhunting trips to Italia Farms, and usually for a day or two of rifle season after Dom III heads back home to the Eastern Shore. It is easily the most productive stand on the farm. I shot my first deer with a bow from it, a doe, and my first buck with a bow as well, and a number of others. But it had been hastily repaired with a few more nails a few too many times, and was beyond any attempt to patch it.
So big Dom, little Dom, and I loaded up and made a caravan down to the spot at the edge of the oat field — Dom III driving his truck pulling a trailer with our stack of lumber and tools, Dom II on the John Deere with the Bush Hog, and me on the IH with the salvaged 6×10’ section of deck dangling by chains from the bucket, which would be the main deck of the new stand. I hadn’t driven a “real” tractor in some time, so they just put me in a single gear and sent me on my way.
We pulled away the 12’ commercial swimming pool ladder that had served for more than 20 years, banged off a couple of the main limbs of the treestand, draped a chain around it and pulled it down with the tractor in one neat move. It was one of the many times over the weekend that I admired Dom and Dom’s on-the-fly engineering. For this project, I was a glorified gopher at best, and glad to support their impressive skills.
One of the problems with the old stand was that it was attached to trees, and their swaying worked constantly to detach our unnatural appendage. This new one would be freestanding. We started scraping and chopping at the rocky soil to dig four postholes — the soil was rocky to start with, and strip mining brought eons more to the surface — but soon decided we needed to go back and get the auger for the tractor, though we we not convinced it would do the job as well as the out-of-commission skid loader would. But it worked fine.
I insisted on bringing and buying as much new pressure-treated lumber as I thought we needed. We so seldom focused this kind of effort, I wanted to be sure it was well-spent. We set four sixteen-foot 4x6s as the main uprights, 2x10s as the bearing beams, all generously cross-braced with new 2x4s and reclaimed 1x6s. By Saturday evening, we had it all up, including the deck on top. Sunday we re-set the swimming pool ladder, finished bolting things together, and cleaned up the old stand and took it down to the on-farm dump.
I was amazed at the accomplishment. It is rock-solid; my attempts to shake it produced only the slightest movement. It’s 12-18” taller than the old stand, but that little bit of height offers greatly improved views. We still have to put railings, side skirting, and a roof on (new luxury), and it’ll be done. And be set to last for 20 to 30 years. Can’t wait to hunt it!
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