Only One Left

Crossing the open hay field and peering down at camp, I sat down and shed a somber tear.

For most of the world, it was just another Saturday in December 2019. For Pennsylvania deer hunters, it was the last day of the state’s annual rifle season.

Most of the guys at camp had already packed up and left for the year. Myself, not having harvested a deer yet, decided I was going to spend every minute of daylight in pursuit of the illusive whitetail. As the last glimmers of light settled behind the western mountains, I headed out of the woods and back towards camp. Cresting the last hill on my walk back, revealed a scene straight out of a hunting magazine.

Situated in the next valley was our camp of 35 years. Camp in and of itself is not special, it is just like most other camps. On this particular evening, there were two trucks sitting in front of it. Mine and my 81-year-old father’s, Dad is the only charter member surviving at camp. You see that’s the thing, he was the only one left.

It was cold, roughly 30 degrees. For someone 81-years old, you might say it was even miserable, but dad was determined to stick it out and see the season end with me.

As I peered down across the hay field towards camp, the warm orange glow from the propane lights cast their shadows across the tufts of snow scattered around. Just then, it hit me right in the feels.

I sat down there, in the middle of the hay field, looking out over camp and the surrounding hills. I needed a minute to collect my thoughts, regain my composure and most of all soak in the occasion.

We’ve all been there, that moment where time seems to stand still and be irrelevant. I do not know how many more hunting seasons dad will see. He did make it up to camp for at least one evening every year since, but with the 2022 season on our doorstep, this year seems questionable.

Back to 2019, after collecting my thoughts, I stood up and finished the 200 yard walk down to camp. Stepping through the front door I said, “you didn’t have to wait for me.” To which he responded, “I know, but I didn’t want you to be the only one left.”

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