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Dances with Camp Robbers

October 12, 1979. Opening Day of deer season, with Wanda working and no babysitter. I took the kids up the West Fork Road. They got up in the dark a lot easier than they do to go to the babysitter’s.

Bill Burkett
3 min readApr 1, 2024


Beau spotted people in a Forest Service woodcutting area and I glimpsed of two men bent, toiling, carrying something between them. I stopped to talk to a guy who had been sitting on a bedding ground. He told me a Dodge pickup came by, the occupants piled out and one of them shot a spike below after they tried to point it out to him because he was there first, a sporting gesture. The luckless hunter reciprocated by hauling the deer out for the shooter, an old-timer facing hip surgery.

The men working on the deer in the woodcutting area said it was okay for Beau and Heather to look at it and touch the fur. Beau said okay now I know what a whole deer looks like; I already know what a head looks like because there’s one on the wall.

Heather announced to the men that it was nice, but not nearly as big as the one on the wall at home. That got a laugh. I explained it was my father-in-law’s buck, not mine. We were about four minutes too late to see the deer easing back toward its bed, though Heather said she thought she saw it as we went by, but didn’t know to say anything.

We cruised narrow timber roads up high, ate lunch at the base of a wide clear-cut, and Beau and Heather discovered camp robbers. They fed them half a package of fig newtons. When one of them perched on the toe of Heather’s boot to peck cookies out of her hand, her chortle of glee echoed off the canyons. She also spotted a place she thought”dee” (no R) should be; and it was a well-used game trail with water right there.

One place high in the hills, a big tree was down across the road. I got out and walked toward it eating a sandwich. I will be damned if one of those camp robbers, shadowing us since the fig newton feast, didn’t dive-bomb my sandwich right out of my hand — to the vast delight of my children. It flew off to a big tree with its base far below and sat there eating my sandwich. I was boiling mad until I heard the kids laughing so hard in the truck, and had to laugh too. Then the damn birds tried to come inside the truck cab to panhandle more goodies. They were high point of the trip for the kids.

Low point: I high-centered the truck diagonally on a buried log in tall grass. I jacked the truck up and winched the log out with my come-along, but could not get traction; the gear knob popped out of 4WD and I failed to notice. When I couldn’t go up, I winched another big deadfall to clear the way down to turn. I put a dent in the underside of the fender well. Wanda was furious. I was just disappointed; the truck’s only a year old. She went on and on about insurance rates going up if we put it in for repairs.

At home, looking out the kitchen window at dusk, I saw a big deer in the neighbor’s overgrown apple orchard. The neighbor kid says the woman there won’t let anybody take a bow into her orchard. I took Beau and Heather outside. We saw three walking single file. As the third sauntered across the yard, I saw eight or ten mallards cruise above the White River behind the house. It was a nice moment, erasing disappointment at the truck and not being able to take my bow across the street.



Bill Burkett

Professional writer, Pacific Northwest. 20 Books: “Sleeping Planet” 1964 to “Venus Mons Iliad” 2018–19. Most on Amazon for sale. Il faut d’abord durer.