Once again our springtime gathering of comrades at the cabin in the Ozark woods is complete.
One of the group is from an island just off the Seattle coast. Two are from Indiana and two from Florida. One is a city friend who joined our party just two or three years ago, and another is a longtime farm pal from a small town a few miles west on the country road.
The declared purpose of these reunions is the hunting of wild turkeys — sly beasts whose brains are smaller than a peanut in the shell, but whose assets of eyesight and hearing give powerful protection against predators like ourselves.
The season for hunting them opened two weeks ago — two weeks of 4 a.m. risings, followed by stumblings in darkness through clawing berry thickets and tick-infested brush country.
Never miss a local story.
Typically, also, weeks of considerable frustration, for often as not the turkeys win.
But there are rich compensations: The nourishing of friendships that go back half a lifetime or more, and whose richness cannot be diminished by separation.
Sweet afternoons and early evenings spent fishing on the lake, an extravagance created 10 years or more ago and named Lake Katie, for my wonderfully indulgent wife.
And of course, as in every previous season of these gatherings, there’ll be the journey — or likely more than one — a dozen miles or so along our country road, then another dozen down the highway to the little town of Collins and Smith’s restaurant, surely the purveyor of the best country cooking to which any traveler ever lifted a fork.
Wild turkeys and fine dining are not the only attractions in this season.
After successive years of dry springs, the rainfall in this April has been more generous. It gives promise of a reasonable bloom of mushrooms.
There is a woodland place we know — but whose location I would not be willing to share, even at gunpoint — where one past year we gathered 1,752 of the most prized variety, the glorious morels.
So abundant were they that it wasn’t necessary to actually hunt them. One only had to bend and pick them up.
The prospect of another such harvest this season is exciting. But less attractive are the reports I have heard from country friends about the year’s stupendous plenitude of ticks.
But isn’t that the way of luck?
Great promise, then painful disappointment.