My first hunting camp was a small space under the stairs leading to the basement of the house I grew up in.
With a wall on one side and my father’s desk on the other, there was just enough room to spread out my camouflage G.I. Joe sleeping bag next to a gun cabinet I built with scraps collected from a garbage pile at a house being built. I pulled the wood home in a wagon.
Sitting on the front porch of my cabin, starring down at the creek flowing by, with nothing else in view but a vast expanse of Ozark Mountains forest canopy, it is hard to believe how far my camps have come. The vision was always there. I’ve dreamed of this since I was a boy.
The other day, during the opening week of turkey season, I was sitting on my porch in a rocking chair holding a cup of coffee enjoying contentment. My mind drifted to an old pellet gun and how the effort to acquire a single shot, break action biathlon trainer, is directly connected to why I have the porch to sit on.
I’m filled with pride in my parents for working so hard to instill in me a strong work ethic. I bought the pellet rifle on layaway with my own money. Making $10 and $20 payments during a couple months of summer.
I was 9 or 10 years old. My favorite store in the world was Fetla’s Trading Post in Valparaiso, Ind. A friend of my father once described Fetla’s as the only place you could pick up a gallon of milk and an M-16 rifle in a single stop. Grandpa and I frequented the store as regulars, and when I laid eyes on that pellet rifle I begged for it. Grandpa turned the appeal over to dad, who said I could have it, but would have to purchase it myself. So I went to work.
I was fortunate to grow up in an entrepreneurial family. My great-grandfather opened a floor covering business from his Gary, Ind., garage in 1948. My grandfather went on to own the shop before selling Lake Shore Floors to his own two sons, my father and uncle. I was five, and earned wages picking up scraps of tile and carpet. He paid me $1.50. I still have the check, signed by my grandfather. The summer I bought the pellet rifle, I spent many days on job sites with a broom and shovel in my hand, and earned what I needed to make every payment.
During my first senior year of college, my cousin Derek and I bought a 1972 Scotty Sportsman camper for $500. We split it $250 each. And her name was Delilah Jones. That trailer became a roving hunting camp. Our friends and family came to our camps. Sitting around campfires and telling stories, built a deep affection for these sorts of gatherings. I knew then, someday I’d build a dream cabin on a beautiful piece of land with a river running through it.
My dream has come true, Driftwood Acres is a reality. Friends and family are again gathering. The fact it took 30 years to accomplish this dream, with so many twists and turns, makes every opportunity to sit on my porch and stare at that river more intensely gratifying than I ever imagined.
Dreams come true in many ways, but I wholeheartedly believe, the harder you work to earn what you desire, the more rewarding it is when it becomes reality.
In his landmark work, A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean wrote, “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”
See you down the trail…