Since I was a youngster growing up in very rural Red River County in Northeast Texas, I’ve felt a need to have a “camp,” someplace away from home where I could occasionally go and retreat to what substitutes for “the wild.”
A couple of neighborhood kids and I constructed our first “cabin” on a woodlot not 300 yards from the home I grew up in.
We were out of sight of the house and to us, this was wilderness.
We were all about 10 to 12-years-old when I constructed the idea of building a log cabin.
My dad gave us permission to “chop down” some dead hickory trees on our place. We labored for several weeks with hatchets that were dull most of the time, hacking away at those dead trees.
I truly cannot remember learning how to notch the logs so that they fit together in a crude fashion, but after a couple weeks of chopping and dragging logs in the afternoons and weekends after school, we had our “cabin” built. It had a dirt floor and we chinked the cracks between the logs with burlap feed sacks.
We even drug in an old wood-burning stove, although I don’t remember us ever actually connecting stovepipe so that it could be used, which was probably a good thing! To us, this little five by eight foot structure was our wilderness cabin, a headquarters from which we could venture forth on our trapping and hunting excursions. To the best of my memory, we only “camped” in it a couple of times during the summer months when it was warmer but regardless, the little structure was a sanctuary of sorts for three county boys that dreamed of one day spending time “up north” in the real wilderness country of Canada or Alaska.
As I grew up and acquired my first hunting lease when I was in my early 30s, I never lost the desire for having a “get away.”
I remember my buddy James Petty and I constructed a “sure nuff” hunting cabin on some very rough land in a remote section of ranchland in Jack County. This cabin, although plenty rough, had built in bunks, a wood-burning stove and a propane cook stove.
When we finished nailing the sheet metal roof on our cabin, I remember how proud we were of our hunting cabin. I also remember spending some great times in that crudely built structure with my young family back in the early 80s.
During the Christmas holidays, my wife and our daughter would often spend a few days with her mother, our son and I would head to our camp and spend a few days hunting deer, turkey and running a short trapline where we usually caught and sold enough fur to pay for our expenses. These were the good old days when, looking back, times were good but extra dollars limited.
I always somehow managed to set enough aside in order to keep this connection with the outdoor lifestyle.
For several years, our “camp” became a couple of older camper trailers set up on a lake lot on an East Texas lake. As soon as the whistle blew on Friday and I was “free” from the work a day world of the Metroplex, we loaded up and were off to our camp away from home. Many great times were spent here during the years our kids were growing up. Looking back, those years were filled with many fishing trips, fish fries, boating and swimming.
Our “camp” was the hub that all this revolved around.
Next, we bought a few acres in East Texas and set up an old single wide trailer house on the property. This gave us a bit more room but the timing was when our older children had reached the age where they wanted to be around their friends more than “stuck out in the sticks” with their parents every weekend.
About this time, I was becoming established as an outdoors writer and more opportunities were opening up for me to travel and visit some parts of the world that I had always dreamed of.
I finally got to visit a true wilderness camp up in Northern Canada and fish for walleye, pike and grayling that had never seen a hook.
I hunted deer down in Mexico and fished some of the big bass-lakes in their glory days. This was back when it was actually safe to travel south of the border.
On assignment in Japan back in the late 80s, I learned that there were some great bass-fishing lakes in a country known for crowded airports and subways. I remember fishing in a great bass-lake with two writers from a Tokyo newspaper. The only language we used to communicate was fishing. They spoke no English and I no Japanese.
A couple years ago, a good friend who is an expert carpenter and hunting and fishing guide, built a small hunters cabin on some property where we were doing guided wild hog hunts. When we lost the use of the property, we moved the cabin to my place and there it became my “new” camp, nestled in the trees less than 100 yards from my home.
If you were to walk up on my little retreat and be facing away from my house, you would swear you were looking at a hunter’s cabin in the back country somewhere. I have built a fire pit out front, complete with a grill where I do a good bit of campfire cooking.
My wife kids me that I have reverted back to my childhood. Maybe she’s right, but I’m loving every minute of it!
Listen to “Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Friends” weekends on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas or anytime online at www.catfishradio.com.