Grenoble: Writer’s home a wealth of hunting keepsakes
A man-cave is a space where a person – usually male – keeps his mementos, programs, souvenirs, bowling trophies and whatever else defines his hobbies and interests.
There’s a big-screen TV, of course, and a beat-up recliner and whatever else makes him comfortable.
When I came to Altoona 28 years ago, I bought an old house and began turning it into my own personal “man-cave.” There are few women on the planet who would want my house because the walls are full of wildlife prints and mounts of gobblers, deer and bear that I have taken.
Every knick-knack is something I have gotten on the places where I have hunted: a stone from northern Quebec taken on a caribou/bear hunt, box calls personally autographed to me by the manufacturer that I have had the utter pleasure of hunting with somewhere.
Recently I had my kitchen remodeled. The contractor built my cabinets, and the cabinet pulls are antlers from bucks I have harvested myself over these many years.
On my bed upstairs is a unique quilt that was hand-made years ago by a relative of a friend. She wanted to sell it but there was no way I could afford to buy it.
Months later, at a Christmas party, the folks in the Bible class that I teach on Sundays handed me a box, and there was that gorgeous quilt! They had secretly collected the money among themselves and purchased that quilt for me.
Do I have to tell you how special that is to me?
The border on my kitchen ceiling was one that was designed by an artist I know. In the scene on the border’s design is a book written by Bob Bell, then-editor of the Pennsylvana Game News. Not only do I have a copy of that book, Bell bought the first two outdoor articles I ever wrote some 40 plus years ago. That border has very special meaning for me.
My coffee table is a varnished log, hand-made and I got it at a yard sale in Hollidaysburg so many years ago. A lot of people have tried to talk me out of that table, but it epitomizes what much of my life has been about for over 60 years now.
The shelves full of outdoor books, many of which were given to me by the authors and others which I found for a song at yard sales and received as gifts are all precious treasures to me. The hornet’s nest that my colleague Walt Young once climbed a tree to get for me when we were hunting together occupies a prominent place in my kitchen.
Some folks are horrified at mounts preserved by taxidermists. They are living pictures of special events. In my living room, I have a mount of a very special gobbler. I chased him for a couple years. I once saw this magnificent bird march down a plowed field and I told my buddy, Joanie Haidle, that he looked like a tank rolling down that hillside field. So we nicknamed him “The Tank.”
Joanie kept tabs on that bird and one morning in the spring of 2006 we heard him sounding off from his roost on a point of a mountain a valley away from us. We had to do some fast hiking to get anywhere near him. Off we went. Before we could get quite into the right position, it was beginning to get daylight and we were much afraid we would be spotted by that old monarch.
Then a stroke of luck came to our rescue. We heard a train approaching on the tracks than ran at the bottom of the mountain on which the bird was roosted.
“Shirley, when that train gets right to us, we can use it for cover. We’ll run beside it as far as we can. “
Two camouflaged figures racing a train through the woods to fool a turkey is understandable only to other turkey hunters. When that train finally passed us up, Joanie and I dropped in front of trees right where we were. Joanie wafted her superb yelps and clucks into the morning mist and the gobbler nearly strangled himself in an effort to make sure we heard him. So we just waited and after what seemed an endless eternity of waiting, I spotted him sneaking down the mountainside.
He came to the edge of a small creek ands topped, as I had figured he would. Did he want to cross that creek or would he wait there for the hen? Well, it didn’t matter because my 12 gauge barked and he became my trophy.
I took him to Marc Jordan’s taxidermy in Punxsutawney and had him mounted sitting on top of a curly log that Joanie had found in the mountains years before and given to me. He sits proudly now in my living room on that unique curly log and I see him every day. Better than looking at pictures is looking at that mount.
A rug from a bear I took in Canada adorns the love seat nest to my fireplace.
There are few women on the planet who would want to live in my house or who understand why I want to. Surrounded by visual, vivid mementos of a wonderful, exciting outdoor life is something for which I am daily and always thankful.
And then to get to write about it is a blessing unexplainable.