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Time honored traditions

It’s that time of year again. The mid-November mornings crisp and cold. Exhaled breaths can be seen as vapor. Leaves that had turned crimson and gold now carpet the forest floor. A long-awaited reunion for we Rounders of Riga, initially founded in 1954 by six WWII veterans, later expanding to eight and finally 12, intent to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday civilian life.

Original dues were $1 per week per member. The history of this camp is unusual and unique as is the area we hunt. Stage coaches once traversed the steep mountain trails from Boston Corners and Millerton to Salisbury, Conn., and Egremont, Mass. The trails are now long overgrown and mostly obscure, but the old timers knew these trails as did the wildlife. 

 

Fast forward to 2019 (65 years). The Rounders still exist although relocated in 1981 to the opposite west side of the valley due to differing landowner acquisitions and disputes. We limit our senior membership to 12. Recently we have voted in and embraced select junior members who have taken an interest in the camp and its history. We spend two weeks during deer season in a 16-by-32 foot squad tent purchased from military surplus. Propane lights the inside and is connected to a grill and oven; heat comes from Porkey, our wood-burning barrel stove.  

We veterans and subsequent members anxiously await this event each year. It’s a time to reminisce, to banter about the present and past. We vets discuss subjects never heard by civilian ears. We are a close-knit unit and have one another’s backs. We prepare our own meals and invite close friends. Our purpose is to enjoy the camaraderie and solitude at camp and afield — to witness the glory of a slow awakening new day, to savor the sights and movements of various birds and wildlife. 

 

Sometimes we get to experience once in a lifetime events. Example: A couple of years back, before pre-dawn, I heard a sound similar to one nailing shingles on a roof. As daylight progressed I saw a huge mink-like animal barking at me in a nearby tree. It was an incredible sound I had never heard before. It just didn’t compute. As dawn and daylight increased this animal climbed to the upper branches into the sunlight, dropped itself on a branch and fell asleep. It was a gorgeous golden colored fisher. I couldn’t stop staring back at it. My neck suffered. It roused itself briefly then departed at 11 a.m. WOW — it made my day. I wish I could have stayed in that position all day. Years ago, I did just that. Today these old bones have experienced a lot of wear and tear and need an occasional break. 

Back to camp: lunch, reminiscing, enjoying friendly banter, perhaps a nap, perhaps a shower. We were all looking forward to the evening hunt and contact with nature. Out there it’s often uncomfortable, but it’s worth every minute. In early December when the tent is struck, we usually barbecue hot dogs and burgers, toast to those past and present. A proper ending to another deer season as we all eagerly await next year. 

A special thank you to the owners of this land who allow us this privilege.

 

Millerton resident Larry Conklin is a Vietnam veteran,  a member of Millerton American Legion Post 178 and VFW Post 6851 in North Canaan, Conn.