By Stinky Jinks
When Deke and I started out to make our own homemade deer stand out in Loughman’s Swamp, we had no idea that we would never visit that swamp again after that fateful day.
We started out that fine late summer day with our path planned, straight and true. We had lumber, nails, paint, hammers, all the fixins we thought we would need to set up a nice deer stand out on this long and wide strand of high land that rose out of the center of the swamp.
We finally got Deke’s old truck to start after loading her up. It was a good thing that hill was so steep and by grabbing the bumper and crawling up on the bed I was able to eventually squeeze into the cab although I wish the window was rolled all the way down. It would have saved me considerable embarrassment and that poor old lady a world class mooning.
As we drove out, Deke and I argued about who would carry what through the swamp on the roughly 2 mile hike from where we planned on parking the truck. Deke had four wheel drive, but he did not have scuba equipment. That Swamp gets awful deep in places. We decided to drive as close to the water’s edge as we could and we would use the plywood and two by fours lashed together as a raft of sorts for all the raw materials so he and I could just take turns dragging it out to the strand. Wood floats right?
Well, we finally made it to the strand. Both of us are soaked to the bone and we lost quite a bit of timber and tools during our journey thanks to the current, the logs, a few water moccasins, and some awful fast skiing thanks to Deke’s inventive use of a two by four to paddle past those last few gators. We grounded so quick on the strand it threw both Deke and I off the raft and several yards ashore!
With what was left of our materials, we headed to a clearing, sweating and breathing like we had run a marathon. I could understand why Deke was exhausted. The way he paddled out here, it had to have taken its toll. I was impressed he still had any energy at all. I still had energy, but adrenaline will do that for you. It truly was an exhilarating ride.
As we reached the clearing, we began examining trees with a thoughtful eye towards line of site, strength, and cover ability. Our plan was to build the Deer Stand at the very bottom of the canopy of leaves. Natural camouflage if you will. Deke, being much heavier than I am, played ladder for me as we went around inspecting trees. I was climbing on his shoulders and looking up in the trees to see if they had an ample crotch or limb we could use as the base for our Deer Stand.
We reached a big old Oak tree as old or older than Deke or I and decided it would be perfect. It had a strong limb that was perfectly level and would serve as an excellent base for our stand and had a branch running parallel behind it to act as the rear brace. The limb was about ten feet off the ground and was a little higher than we wanted, but it was the best we could find.
As we gathered the materials and drug them over to the tree, Deke was complaining about being tired. I told him to take it easy as he had the hard part coming up and I needed him well rested. After I got the rest of the tools and everything staged, Deke took up his position and I climbed him while trying to balance a two by four, hammer, nails, and a hand saw. My plan was to hammer up the main two by four and then create steps with the remaining lumber to ease our climb and make construction easier. As I slid the two by four between the two large branches, I felt something spongy at the other end and being in my predicament, I was unable to see what I was bumping against. Getting frustrated, I used the end of the hammer to give it a good solid whack!!
Within seconds I could hear the faint hum of something moving in concerted anger in our general direction! My alarm grew, but there was nothing I could say before the cloud hit us! Deke let out a squall that would wake a ghost and seemingly forgetting about being my ladder, he took off at a pace that would make a sprinter jealous!!
I was in awe, although somewhat painfully as the hornets were laying into me pretty good. I have never seen a human move that fast! Deke was jumping logjams like they were nothing more than speed bumps! He ran over the water. It was almost a religious experience! I don’t think those gators knew what whizzed by them because they did not have time to react. Any snake that may have been in the way would have died from the heat and friction coming off of Deke’s shoes! I have never seen a man run so fast while balancing on cypress stumps in my life!
Within a few minutes Deke stopped when he reached the truck! I did the only thing a reasonable man could have done. I let go of his hair, climbed off his shoulders and thanked him for saving me from the predicament. We both had a couple of dozen or so stings but were generally alright. When I asked Deke about his tools and our Deer Stand, the look he gave me told me he had no further want or desire for them.
As we loaded into the truck, I noticed Deke was twitching quite a bit and offered to drive. Deke said he did not have the energy left to push the truck to get it started, so decided to be nice and got out to push. I reckon Deke was a bit worn out after all he had done that day, but I know he was disappointed our Deer Stand wasn’t finished.