Fall is hunting season. Airports from Bozeman to San Antonio are filled with men in camouflage suits carrying gun cases out of baggage claim. They are here to stalk the fleeting deer and the wiley elk. And, they bring with them millions in revenue, part of which winds up in the pockets of outfitters and guides.
Good hunting camps do much to attract hunters, often year after year. Some camps are elaborate, others spartan but all boast a good cook.
Hank’s brother Dan ran a guide service in the Big Hole. He enjoyed much repeat business due, according to other outfitters, to his reputation of having the most entertaining camp in western Montana.
The star of the Big Hole Wilderness Experience and Wildlife Procurement Extravagance was Big Eddie, a puppy-hearted pit bull/Power Wagon cross. At 6 foot 6, 280, with a full beard, he took up a lot of room in a two-man tent. He was, officially, the camp cook.
There was a natural hot spring near the camp. Dan had tapped this resource by installing an 8-foot stock tank in the spring thus creating the only hot tub on the mountain. One twilight, a member of the hunting party came in dog tired. He swung up the trail to the hot tub anticipating a good soak before supper.
Unknownst to him, Big Eddie was basking in a little hot-water therapy. As the hunter stumbled into the clearing, Big Eddie rose to his full height, shedding water like a 300-pound buffalo robe and covered himself in surprise. The frightened hunter wheeled and ran into camp screaming there was a grizzly bear in the hot tub!
On another occasion, Big Eddie had stayed in camp during the day to watch the sourdough rise. From his tent that morning, he spotted a nice cow elk ease into a clearing near camp. Eddie grabbed his gun, chambered a shell and stepped through the flaps. His dangling suspenders caught on the upright and jerked him over backwards. A shot rang out. The propane tank exploded! The supply tent caught on fire disintegrating a pack train full of expensive, down-filled, waterproof, brand-name, guaranteed, color-coordinated, Davy Crockett-recommended, eco-approved, nothing under $300, stuff. Not to mention a couple of Weatherbys.
But despite his frequent Boone and Crockett screw ups, Eddie had a way about him that reminded the visiting hunter that they were in the presence of a primitive force.
Eddie served stew one night. The whiner of the group stirred it with a spoon and then griped, “I don’t like carrots.” Big Eddie bent over the petulant hunter. He took the plaintiff’s fork and picked the carrots out of his
bowl one at a time and ate them.
“There,” he said.
Baxter Black is a cowboy, veterinarian, poet and humorist. His website is www.baxterblack.com.