A Day at the Farm

By Jim Force

It looked to be a beautiful Saturday. The morning started out sunny and crisp with temperatures predicated to rise into the low 50�s. John and I left for the Farm around 7:00am and arrived around 8:30 with our loaded truck. The Dantz boys & Doc Ritter appeared shortly thereafter.

We un-loaded the truck in preparation for building a railing at the back door of the farmhouse. Mrs. Crawford (John�s mom) was recently diagnosed with Parkinson�s disease (very early) and the rear steps to the door were a little treacherous. I laid out two postholes and while Doc Ritter & Sammy started digging John got the two four wheelers started. John and Dave spent a half hour traversing the back lots and trails of the property.

It is an old 60-acre farmstead with some abandoned buildings dating back to the 19th Century. The current farmhouse sits out by the road and dates from the 40�s. It was once active as a tobacco farm, but has lay fallow for over 30 years. Mr. Crawford bought it about 10 years ago. Although the Crawford�s do not live there, they visit frequently. We use the two fields and surrounding wooded acreage for hunting and target practice.

Sammy and Doc Ritter took a turn on the four wheelers and John and Dave finished the holes. It was Doc Ritter�s first tour of the property and Sammy showed him all the deer stands, tails and shooting stations. By about 10:30 I was ready to start assembling the railing and everyone gathered for the carpentry phase. At some point Dave and I had motored three 4x4�s out to the new deer stand in the NE corner and secured them to the scaffolding base.

Out came the level, hammers, cordless drills, nails, saws, tape measure, extension cord and speed square. Being appointed the �engineer of record,� I took measurements and scribed lines while the boys held things in place. Doc Ritter knows his way around a circular saw and did the cutting with the boys doing one or two for practice. While the railing is a simple design, anything well built can be elegant. Everyone helped and by 11:30, the entire structure was cut, trimmed and screwed together. The last step was to place the assembly plum & true in the holes, shore and brace, mix concrete by hand and cast-in-place. We then walked away to let the concrete set for at least 24 hours.

Towards the end of our construction project, I had Sammy take two pieces of scrap 2x4 and nail them to a large tree so we could mount a paper target. As he is now old enough to drive, we then gave him our lunch orders and sent him into town to pick-up some sandwiches, chips and drinks. John, Dave, Doc Ritter and I got out the .22�s (pistols and rifles) and proceeded to do some target practice while waiting for lunch. Everyone did well with the rifles from 50 yards, although I am the only one to consistently hit the 2� circle with my Ruger MKII Target pistol at 50 feet.

Sammy returned with John�s parents and sister in tow. They admired the new railing and ate lunch with us under the overhang at the old shed. John and I chatted with Mr. and Mrs. Crawford and sister. Dave listened while Sammy and Doc Ritter drifted off to get in a little more target practice. Around 3:00 PM, we gathered to go squirrel hunting. Everyone picked a spot, talked about safety and walked to our stations. I went down in the woods below the old barn, across a stream cut and sat on a stump.

It was suddenly different. I sat amongst the trees and 2011 was another universe. The forest was sun and shadow, wind and quiet, movement and noise. I listened for the distinctive rustle of leaves that squirrels make as they scurry around and, sure enough, a pair made their appearance. I un-holstered my Ruger, moved the safety off and, sitting very still, waited until the quarry got to within about 25 feet. I aimed carefully and fired a single CCI Mini-Mag HP. The squirrel flipped and was dead. Sitting awhile longer, I marveled at the beauty of my setting. Then, gathering my trophy, I moved a way down the stream cut and sat on a log as the sun set.

I had spent the day in the company of friends: building, shooting, breaking bread and hunting. The boys handled the cordless drills fairly well, after years of trying. Doc Ritter is a willing worker, diligent hunter and received an invitation to return with the fall seasons. We were all pleased we could help build Mrs. Crawford's new railing. Driving home John and I noticed we were stiff. I didn�t care and it felt good to sit in the bucket seat.

Can I remember other days like this at the farm; blazing trails, building deer stands, shooting and hunting? Many. Will there be more in the future? I certainly hope so. However, for the moment, this day stands out as an absolute gem.

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