was not uncommon in the winter of 1971 in the woods of New Hampshire. I was twenty-one.
How I came to be there is a story I’ll not recount here, at this time.
So for me, here now in the winter of 2022 on the north eastern plain of Colorado, at the age of seventy-three – This ain’t nothing! I’m referring to the present cold snap everyone’s howling about.
is something that surviving in winter under those conditions instilled in me. I was alone with just my two dogs, Korak and his pup Frog. The squatter shack I lived in had no electricity nor plumbing. It was heated with a sheep herders wood burning stove. To keep the stove fired was my work. There was no laid-up wood supply. I had to first locate standing-dead trees, preferably oak. I did this on snowshoes. All said trees close to the shack had already been used up by the previous squatters, my friends. They had built the camp in the north woods to evade the draft; but by the time I got there were gone.
To fell the trees I used a 30 inch bow saw. Once down, I’d then buck the tree into four-foot logs. These I’d load onto a travois I’d fashioned for that purpose. Then I’d pull the loaded travois back to the camp where I’d saw the logs into threes. After that, I’d split the 16 inch rounds into suitable fuel for the stove. One tree might last tree days.
I might snowshoe into town for food for the dogs and me. Somedays, I’d do nothing but read and write. Water I got from a small creek. Whenever I needed some, all I had to do was trek down to the creek and hack a hole in the ice, fill my canteen and walk back up. The shit-house was a forked tree. It’s hard to describe so I won’t try.
It was an uncomplicated life. Needless to say – I had no phone, just a P.O. box in town. Or maybe simply “General delivery”?
My 1954 Dodge Panel truck was parked in a pull-out on the county road. To drive it, for whatever reason, I’d first have to heat the engine block by way of a kerosene heater. The truck was parked maybe a half-mile from the camp. If I was planning to drive that day, first I’d have to carry the small portable heater down to the truck. There I’d light it and place it next to engine, walk back to the cabin, maybe read for a couple hours, then go back to the truck. Only then would the engine turn over.
Like I said, simple. I did have a shotgun, but never occasion to use it.
were from college in Colorado. Several of them had gone out to New Hampshire in the summer to set the camp in the woods. The property was … whose I am not sure? I had gotten a high draft number and wasn’t at risk to be drafted, so I remained for a while in Fort Collins. However, come winter, I’d gotten fed up with the whole scene and decided to head east. With a girl, of course. But she left me for the Hare Krishna temple in Boston.
My friends? The “draft dodgers”? They all returned to their real homes. I was all alone in the woods and it was cold!
Nevertheless, I dug it. I can’t tell you why. But I know this: Surviving that forged me into the man I am today. Mostly confident and unafraid of anything. Moreover, so too are those friends who had that experience. Maybe it was like war? A bonding thing that lasts forever? I know my father’s forever friends were his war buddies – the 491st Bomb Group (H).
This Cold Snap
ain’t nothing. Did I ever tell you about the time … . Say pass that bottle over here, will ya? It’s not too early, is it?