Through a Glass Darkly: Hunting camps don’t need refinement

By Bob Anderson

Advocate staff writer

Trying to find two cups or dishes that match would be a challenge.

Nobody cares.

Chipping a cup or breaking a dish wouldn’t cause angst here.

William Faulkner would be comfortable once he figured out how to operate the microwave.

A kitchen that sprawls into a dining and lounging area dominates the building.

Over-and-under bunks topped with sleeping bags fill the other rooms.

It’s a hunting camp, but could be a fishing camp or a combination of the two. The quickest way to tell from inside would be to look at the photographs hanging on the walls.

No floral prints or impressionist paintings try to compete with pictures of men, sons, grandsons and their trophies

The furniture is as mismatched as the dinnerware. Nothing seems to have been bought new to fit the rooms.

A coffee spill would be wiped up but would be no cause for concern unless it landed on the poker table.

The men who gather here and the boys who watch them are comfortable.

The rules — such as no loaded guns or muddy boots inside — are few, simple, sensible.

The men might be a little louder than they would be in most places.

Their stories flow freely.

The aroma of corn bread, soup and roast fills the great room.

Outside jambalaya simmers in a black pot, the subject of regular stirring by the cook as others drift by to smell, comment and ask about the recipe’s secrets.

Nobody will go hungry tonight.

One group gathers by a wood fire, just close enough to admire it without singeing the front of their britches, and later the backs, as they might on a colder night.

Somehow all the food ends up ready at roughly the same time.

Men and boys heap it on the mismatched plates and gather at tables or find stuffed chairs.

Food becomes the focus of conversation.

After a sampling of desserts, each person washes his own dish in the big, stainless steel sink which may have come out of a defunct restaurant or been donated from some member’s wholesale house.

The sound of cards being shuffled draws six or seven guys to a green-topped table. Some have bags of quarters brought for the game or wads of singles picked up at the bank in some city that now seems far away.

They make change for the others during a discussion of the house rules.

Others break into groups inside or drift back to the campfire to discuss politics or the sport of the coming day.

The site is in the Tunica Hills. It’s repeated in similar form along winding bayous off Lake Veret, on ridges in the coastal marsh and down any of thousands of gravel roads that cut deep into a woods or swamp and lead temporarily away from the weekdays of life.

Contact Advocate Florida Parishes bureau chief Bob Anderson by email at banderson@theadvocate.com.