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.
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
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.