SI Vault
Where Nothing But Good Happens
T.H. Kelly
December 22, 1980
There's a spot for each man, a place he guards as his though he holds no deed, a spot like Forty Crook Branch
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December 22, 1980

Where Nothing But Good Happens

There's a spot for each man, a place he guards as his though he holds no deed, a spot like Forty Crook Branch

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If you happen to hunt a great deal or if you spend a lot of time in the woods for any other reason, there always seems to be a half section of land somewhere that fits you better than it fits anybody else.

Any number of things can attract you to a certain place. It may be that you killed a particularly difficult turkey there, or you may find a specific bend in a creek to be unusually attractive. It could be an outcropping of rock, maybe a special view or perhaps a stand of trees, but it seems that you never go to that place without the distinct feeling that you are coming home, that every tree and rock and fold in the ground is an old friend and that nothing but good things are ever going to happen to you while you are there.

Almost invariably you keep quiet about it. If, by design, you have hunted with the same man for a number of years, he will be aware of this flaw in your character—though he will never discuss it—and will respect your idiosyncrasy. If you are not a wholly insensitive and barbaric clod, you will very likely detect a similar flaw in him and return the favor.

I know, for example, a man who gets distinctly uneasy whenever the area just north of Whetstone Creek in Alabama creeps into the discussion. He does not fidget particularly, or shift his eyes rapidly from side to side, or anything quite so obvious, but his face takes on that carefully expressionless look you use when you are being fulsomely introduced as an afterdinner speaker or when you fill an inside straight. Anytime we hunt near Whetstone Creek, I am as careful to go in the direction he suggests—and stay there—as I am to listen when the location of the guest bathroom in a strange house is given, so I can refrain from opening any other doors on my way down the hall.

I open no strange doors whatever along Whetstone Creek. I do it to be polite. But even if I were impolite and opened them, whatever I saw might not particularly strike my fancy. I only know that somewhere in there something strikes his. Somewhere in there is something he considers private and wants to keep to himself. Obviously he has found a combination of associations that soothe his soul, and it would be as inappropriate for me to pry into it as it would be to ask to see the love letters he wrote his wife when they were courting. Besides, I am not all that interested, anyway, so long as he leaves Forty Crook Branch alone.

I am not really the sole owner of Forty Crook Branch. To be perfectly honest about it, I hold no color of title whatsoever. I pay no taxes on it, run no lines and have no fences. I know that other people go there. I even know that somebody else hunts it. Some bastard killed a hen turkey in there last fall and plucked her at the head of the hollow before he smuggled her out. I found the feathers.

But I have never seen anyone there, and if I am lucky I never will. And on those sleepless nights when I prowl around the house, I take a power of comfort in the hope that perhaps the hen murderer has died of leprosy, or maybe of some infinitely more loathsome disease I have never even heard of.

The fact that unknown people may go there doesn't really matter. My lack of proprietorship does not really get to the quick. The core of the matter is that while I am there, I own it, and that is enough.

I cannot, now that I have committed the impropriety of discussing the place at all, tell you exactly what it is that makes it so appealing. God knows I have looked at enough land and timber during my life to be selective, and I have the added advantage of knowing precisely and exactly what my limits are in this respect.

I found this out a good many years ago when my job as a timber manager required me to assess the value of a tract of nearly a quarter-million acres that was to be divided into five equal parts.

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