About 31 years ago, my husband and I decided to get married. Within a few days of that momentous occasion of our official “engagement,” we put our relationship to its first true test – a four-hour canoe trip on the Meramec River. He knew how I should paddle the canoe, and I knew how I thought a canoe should be paddled. We still got married, even though we came off the river slightly peeved with each other. By the time the wedding rolled around, we were laughing about our circuitous trip down the river.
Later, our marriage survived hanging wallpaper in our first home, traveling by train in Europe with four children and 21 pieces of luggage (including two car seats), getting caught in a blizzard on a highway in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, 10 military moves in 18 years, my working as a managing editor of a weekly newspaper and his getting a PhD. Now, we are working through renovating a ranch house that’s been in the family for years and as many of you already know, it’s had a squirrel problem in the attic.
It’s time for yet another test of our marriage. It’s time to assemble the tree stands again for the upcoming deer hunting (rifle) season.
We did the dirty deed together a few years ago and it’s one of those stories we’re saving for our grandkids.
I blame the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association for putting this double-barrel tree stand idea in our heads. On a conference trip a few years ago to Decatur, Ala., we took a side trip to the Summit Tree Stand plant. We had never entertained the idea of using tree stands for hunting on his dad’s property, in Wright County. But, after going on a plant tour and after seeing the height of the brush in the fields at the ranch, we decided to buy a few of the stands. The writer’s special deal enticed my husband to say, “Order two double-barrel stands and one single!”
The stands are of welded steel, very well-made and relatively light in weight, particularly for structures that can safely hold up to 500 pounds 18 feet in the air. I say relatively light, but the double stands weigh about 115 pounds each and the single one about 95 pounds.
About the construction effort, all I can say is that at least the instructions were in English – unlike the Korean directions that caused my husband to take a large gin and tonic when he took the kit for the kids’ riding horse (on springs) to the garage on Christmas Eve several years ago.
Back to the tree stands: almost all of the bolts slipped through intended holes. It took us almost three hours to put together a single and a double stand. Then again, it was 40 degrees with sleety stuff flying in at us in the tractor shed where we worked. We dropped some nuts that mixed in quite well with the leaves and dirt, but managed to find all of the errant ones.
We decided to leave the stands in two parts and to finish assembling each one onsite in the woods, so that we could haul them on the tractor’s platform without snagging on brush.
Did I mention that the fields had not been brush hogged? The tractor’s brush guard knocked down the tall weeds and small trees, which managed to thwack up again at different angles around the platform.
Did I mention that I was standing on the platform, holding on to the tree stand? With brush flying all around me, after we finished I looked like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards.
We finished assembling the two ladder sections, and then the fun began. I whipped the instructions out of my pocket and my husband said, “It says here that you have to have three men to put this stand up.” If you’re a representative from Summit Tree Stands, stop reading here, please.
“Let’s just do it,” I said, hoping that he’d hear the conviction somewhere in my voice.
We had come too far to disassemble the thing and return, defeated, to the shed. The stand was supposed to be upright and leaning against this particular tree. The tree stood proudly in the middle of a thicket of briars and multiflora roses and sported a thick poison ivy vine that curled around it. I held the two straps that were attached to the second rung near the top of the stand. Within five seconds of starting to right the stand, a rose stem reached up and nearly scalped me. Fortunately, it only caught my stocking cap and slammed it to the ground.
My husband grunted and groaned while the stand swayed and then, he unleashed a string of words that made me think that he’d served in the Navy instead of the Air Force. This happened while the tree stand decided to veer to the left and almost missed the tree completely. There I was – holding two straps and hoping that I could either stop the fall, or not go with the stand sideways into the briars.
Somehow, we managed to get the durn thing up and against the tree. We secured it, and went back to get the other tree stand. We finally finished putting that one up under cover of darkness with the help of tractor headlights.
One of our sons helped my husband disassemble the stands last year and put them away. Now, we just need to repeat the efforts, sans briar bush scalping and maybe, by getting one of those big, strapping boys to be the third “man” in the effort this year. Stay tuned …
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