White Oak Mountain Ranger: Winter Rain

  • Tuesday, December 6, 2022

“You pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too.” - Denzel Washington

“Thank you Dear God, for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough. Thank you for the rain. And for the chance to wake up in three hours and go fishing: I thank you for that now, because I won’t be so thankful then.” - Garrison Keillor

It’s been raining now for what seems like more than just a few days. This stretch of rain is the kind of challenge where you may find yourself, with less than decent rain gear; in a situation where you can easily find your body flirting with a shivering, cold case of near hypothermia.

This is the kind of rain that splats on your windshield and makes you debate if those splats are really weak ice flakes that your rotten wiper blades are battling. Splats make you ask; is it snowing up in the mountains?

When we get this kind of rain, it’s the sort of weather experience that somehow forces you to hunker down by the fire. A downpour like this, if you’re caught out in it unprepared; makes building a fire, some kind of desperate, and often very serious business.

Thawing out in this kind of torrent can be a true test of your ability at keeping fire starters operable. Locating enough dry wood to keep a fire going long enough to make it to any kind of dry shelter, or for that matter, through the night can be, Olympic in scope.

Weather like this stretch tends to bring to mind the rugged people that trudged into this neck of woods with flint, steel and handmade gun powder for starting fires in the rain. People that habited caves, who never saw steel or gun powder, initiates a sense of awe in the type of weather December exhibits.

When it rains like it has the past few days, I have a tendency to huddle by the fireplace and hit the rewind button on all of the past expeditions spent out in these ‘elements’. Wet trips, very soggy days and nights, accompanied by some strange urge to satisfy an overly ‘bad’ itch lingers. It’s sort of like being afflicted with an irritating rash that somehow just won’t leave you be.

The rewind button of the memories of rainy trips, indicate not enough deer harvested in December downpours. Not nearly enough to make me leave this fire. The rewind brings back memories of leaky tents, long, wet, sleepless nights and seriously damp, down filled sleeping bags. Replays demonstrate roaring campfires that were sadly saturated overnight. A cold, minimal breakfast and a lack of dry clothes show up often in these replays.

The deer hunting will just have to wait until it stops raining. It took too many years to come to this sort of difficult decision, but the past repeats itself. The fire is simply too warm, dry and inviting. Drowning in a tree stand is thankfully, all but gone. Hunched in a in a dry ‘shooting house,’ even if the time was taken to build such a static monstrosity, doesn’t appeal. Wet memories of deer hunts in the rain, linger in the foggy mountainside mist.

There is some amount of solace in the rain that December seems to inevitably offer. The Good Lord obviously has a plan. A grand plan that fills the tangled swamps and low dry spots in big corn fields. He surcharges these marginal areas for the ducks to hide in from the deranged. You tell yourself that the ducks deserve good food and decent hiding places as they migrate south. You tell yourself this when sitting in the mud, trying to keep your outlook positive, under the cover of some greasy tarp, all the while, trying to look like a drowned stump.

It took a while, but after youthful decades of tramping down slippery creek banks and sneaking into thick and torturous swamps, or flooded corn fields, after wood ducks, or the occasional mallard. In a rain like this, even the ducks, need to, and ultimately deserve, a day of rest.

Near hypothermia is apparently worth it to some souls. But, I’ve managed to reconcile myself with the thought that a decent dry shelter and a roaring fire is just about as good as sitting in the mud. Wet and worrying about whether the old pump 12 gauge will pump when it’s called for. After it’s been doused with rust from December’s deluges is somehow strangely no longer as much fun as a good fire.

It took an unusually long while to come to the conclusion that a roof of some kind, on any duck blind, was a necessity. It’s worth the extra effort on days like this. A makeshift roof didn’t seem to help with the incessant wet sand and mud, or make the dog any more comfortable. But, a half way decent roof on a duck hiding spot, seems to keep me coming back. Returning, no matter the foulness of the weather report. I wish it was somehow possible to explain this to my wife, but I still struggle with any sort of decent or succinct explanation. Especially on rainy days like this.

Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch of a statement; the good roof statement, when sitting in the rain overlooking a random splattering of inanimate decoys, when you’re actually sitting by a good fire. OK, maybe the ducks, what few have actually shown up lately, deserve a day off, in a rain like this. Let’s all just summon up a little more patience and allow the Good Lord to finish filling up the thirsty low spots and the swamps. The ducks deserve it after a long trip south.

After the swamps freeze, we can float the creeks in small, leaky boats and shoot at the big northern ducks. When they’re frozen out of the swamps and they can’t hide in places that are too tangled, ice covered, or remote to accommodate wannabe duck shooters.

There is obviously some kind of a master plan at work here. Stay near the dry wood. Dream by the fire. Let a December rain unfold as it should. Dryer days will surely follow. Colder days will surely follow. The ducks will come (maybe). Maybe they will come now that they have the watery refuge they need. The master plan has been this way for a long while.

The fireplace needs another log. Hit the rewind button one more time. Welcome to another December. Wet Decembers should be considered as an early Christmas present.

----

WOMR notes: Send your (DRY) comments to whiteoakmtnranger@gmail.com

I recently received some extremely kind and heartfelt comments from a young gentleman in North Georgia who told of the passing of his father. He said his father took him fishing and hunting from the time he could carry a canteen. He expressed how his dad always put him in the best spots and how he didn’t notice it at the time, but he was sure that his dad was wanting him to be successful. He told of long shots on western game and of pheasant hunts where they slept in their van because they weren’t ‘wealthy’ and how the memories of those trips were strong and forever. There was the last turkey hunt, “Probably one of my favorite hunts,” and how he used to share WOMR articles with his dad. How they laughed at some of the things they had been through or seen in their adventures together. It’s a very humbling experience when I get heartfelt comments like this from any reader. People that have loving memories of adventure and family. I pray to high heaven above that they all realize how these memories and life experiences make them “rich” beyond belief. Thanks.

Outdoors
White Oak Mountain Ranger: January And Woodpeckers
White Oak Mountain Ranger: January And Woodpeckers
  • 1/29/2023

“Whenever I hear the sparrow chirping, watch the woodpecker chirp, catch a chirping trout, or listen to the sad howl of the chirp rat, I think; Oh boy! I’m going insane again.” - Jack Handey ... more

Walker County Commission Makes First New Public Trail Commitment In Years
  • 1/24/2023

The Tennessee office of the Trust For Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit organization that connects people to the benefits and joys of the outdoors, is working closely with the local government ... more

Service Seeks Comment On Proposed Critical Habitat For Sickle Darter
  • 1/23/2023

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to designate critical habitat in parts of Tennessee and Virginia for the sickle darter, a species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species ... more