As he rowed up to the giant cypress he swung the boat down wind and eased up to the weathered gangplank leading from the nest of cypress knees to the far shore. The walkway had been built right into the tree, over the years the dead timbers slowly consumed by the living trunk and knees. With the boat tied off securely he unloaded his gun, shell box and decoys onto the thick planks then fought his way into an uncooperative pair of thick canvas waders, buttoned the suspenders and cinched the waist with a doubled length of rope.
The weight of the decoys in the musty canvas sack slung over his shoulder made him a bit uneasy as he “walked the plank” the short distance to the dry ground of the far shore. Setting the decoys down he returned to the boat for his gun and shell box. Half out of breath and sweating under the heavy coat and wool shirt he paused at the foot of the walkway and sized up the labor that lay ahead.
From here the oak woods lay a quarter-mile across the low ridge that divided the cypress lake from the river bottoms. The path was usually simple, and he was more than a little temped to cheat just a bit and fire up on of the four-wheelers that rested under the leaning roof that was the remains of the old cook’s quarters.
Long before his name was entered into the camp ledger, an old farm family had lived on this piece of ground. Mrs. Lurlean and he husband Duke had “come with the property the old members had joked. Truth was, when the men of the camp had bought the land from an old farmer, who had tired of loosing crop after crop to the annual flooding, Lurlean and Duke had been prepared to move on. But though there wasn’t going to be much in the way of farm work for them the couple to do, the men of the camp asked them to stay on, keep an eye on the property and in the bargain the camp would build them a new house, let Duke hunt and fish as he pleased and hire Lurlean to take care of the meals and keeping the camp house in order. It was a match made in heaven.
Lurlean and Duke had no living relatives; they had planted the last of their children in the high ridge by the road when scarlet fever had swept through the county. Together they knew more about the woods and waters around the camp than the farmer and all his kin ever had. They had dreaded the thought of leaving.
Papaw and the other members of the club built “L” and Dukes house first. Sparing no expense and signing over to them a note on the house and five acres, “For so long as your good souls should stay on this earth.” the paper read. “L” and Duke became and lived til their last days as the adoptive parents of the men of the camp and the generation that came after. But their shadows had ceased to move about the lake and woods long ago. Lurlean had gone first, and was buried by the men of the camp in the plot with her children. Duke followed within a week, and was laid to rest beside his wife. The men of the camp bought fine stone markers for the whole family, and more than a few grown men cried like children as the covered the last of these fine folks with the rich soil of the river bottoms.