The Wick Sectional – The American Cooner Magazine
When you look at the picture below, what do you think it represents? Well read on and you’ll get more info and details. If you look at the picture (that I took without using the flash of my camera) and instantly know what it is, well . . . congratulations! You are a person who knows how to enjoy outdoor life. Enjoyment, fun, and time with friends are extremely important parts of a happy life. A few years ago during our Missouri coon season, a couple of out-of-state friends wanted to come and hunt with me for a night. I wanted it to be a little more than just going out and treeing a couple of coons, so I called around and invited about ten other friends to join us that evening about dark-thirty at a certain place that we all knew.
I mentioned to each of them that we’re going to have lots of firewood and plan to burn most of it. So they should bring one hound, a few hotdogs, and a lawn chair. We’ll visit and eat and tree some coons and visit and eat and watch sparks and smoke go toward the sky and tree some coons and eat and visit. That fire was located in the middle of a large hunting area where we could turn dogs loose and point them in all directions from the fire. As the night went on, that’s exactly what we did. Two dogs at time in all different directions, and it was one of those magical nights when everything worked perfectly. Each set of dogs treed coons without needing to go ridiculously far. A really fun night, and everyone greatly enjoyed the whole shebang. We’d tree a coon or two, sit around the fire and tell a few true stories, burn another hotdog, reluctantly get ourselves out of the chairs, and go chase another prime coon or two. Some of the guys never left the fire. They figured somebody needed to keep it going and try to use up that truckload of firewood. Plus, they could hear the dogs as well from the fire as anywhere else so they really got to relax and enjoy the coon hunting without ever leaving the comfort of the warming fire. Others of us walked to every tree. It was a cool night in late November or maybe it was December (can’t remember for sure). Anyways, toward the end of this night of adventure and pleasure, it started to rain lightly and then that rain turned to snow. As we returned to the fire for the last time, it started getting a little more interesting so we quickly gathered up our stuff and hastily threw everything into our trucks. We all mentioned to one another how much we had enjoyed the night, and then we hurriedly skedaddled. In the days that followed, it became clear that everyone thought that night was kinda special, enjoyable, and created more feel-good feelings than mere words could quite express. I’ve had the pleasure of sitting around many fires, and they’re always enjoyable. However, I also agreed that this one had some bits of flavoring and pleasure that was hard to explain but easy for all of us to look forward to doing again. Even though it was kinda talked about several times, the following year it never quite happened. Nobody really did the organizing or set a date. The following fall it wasn’t going to slide by again. A couple of the fellas shur’nuf ram-rodded the deal, and this time I was one of the people getting an invitation to the fire. The guys did an awesome job of keeping the great friendly flavor, and they invited at least 20 more people. It was in late fall so the weather was more mild, coon season was not in, and it was awesome. Lots more food. Lots more folks. This time I brought a heaping pickup load of firewood so the big fire never weakened. Part of what was so great about this fun occasion was that all of us got to see, visit, and enjoy time with people who we had known well but in several cases had not seen for years. Every one of these invited guys had been (and in a few cases still were) really hard, serious, dedicated coon hunters. We were all veterans of one, or two, or three coon hunting clubs where we had worked together to put on some good hunts and other types of events. What we all most fondly recall about our coon club experiences was the youth events we put on years before any of us ever heard of putting on youth events. Man, were they ever fun deals; and all of us have great memories of those days. Age and living a bit recklessly will take its toll. A couple of the guys were on crutches, one or two using canes, and a couple others recuperating from recent hospital stays and repair work. I think it’s fair to say that all of us gathered together that night had learned many life lessons. One of them being that the fun, camaraderie, and friendship we shared with each other is much more enjoyable and lasting than our individual coon hunting adventures or our competition hunting victories. You’ve, no doubt, figured out that there was a lot of grey hair in the bunch; and to be honest, 30 or 40 years ago what we were doing on that night probably would not have seemed interesting to us. Now we know better, and we’re much more appreciative of everything, including each other. Smiles. These night-time gatherings of lots of former and also several present, serious hound followers were so much enjoyed that early this spring Bob and Bob decided that once a year isn’t enough, and they would ram-rod a spring gathering. And they did. And they invited even more people. Early April around here will usually offer very pleasant weather and mild nights. That’s what we were planning on. Instead, it was unusually cold and rained the night before and most of the morning. It was also quite blustery, but through the afternoon, the skies cleared somewhat. The temperature kept dropping with the forecast to be slightly below freezing for the night. The weather kept several of the invited from attending. It also caused quite a few who did show up to head home earlier than normal. All of us who made it had another mighty fine time! My main hunting buddy brought a pickup load of firewood. One guy brought a crockpot filled with delicious chili. Boy was that the perfect food for the night! Another guy had a large bowl of his pride and joy special baked beans. There were hamburgers and hotdogs, several kinds of tator chips, and cookies. Lots of marshmallows to roast. One fellow’s wife made a big and good cake. I showed up with a store-bought Orange Crush cake and one 300 pound stick of firewood. By the way, most of the wood and most of the food disappeared, including both cakes. Smiles. Several folks dropped by for an hour or so and then left. As they were leaving, others would arrive so it was a steady flow of coming and going. Most of us pretty much knew one another, had hunted together, and worked together over a lot of years. Although some no longer hunted, they sure had many precious memories. In most cases, no longer hunting was not a choice that they made willingly. Several of ’em had been eyeballing that one large stick of firewood in the back of my truck. Didn’t know what to make of it––even some of them who are expert fire builders and tenders. Remember it was quite cool and blustery so fire felt mighty good. Anybody who wasn’t dressed pretty warmly besides seemed like they found a need to leave early. Smiles. After we had a regular and really dandy fire going for an hour or more, I asked for some help to roll my stick of firewood to the fire, which was about 100 feet from the back of my pickup.
This chunk of unusually durable wood had been setting on the edge of one of my cow pastures where it joins a woods. It’s been there for at least 20 years. It’s the stump of a once fairly large tree that was probably cut off by a logger, or for firewood, or to clear more pasture area by someone before I bought the farm. The bottom end was the part that actually came out of the ground so it was kind of flared larger at the bottom.
The beautiful thing about it for my purposes, though certainly not for a long ago logger’s purposes, was that the stump was hollow. A hole a little smaller than a basketball was right down through the middle of it from top to bottom. Now we professional bonfire folks usually call a chunk of wood like this a “chimney.” I was a bit surprised to realize that a bunch of my friends at this party did not know about this kind of chimney, or the fun of watching it work. After removing my dog hauling box, I had loaded this hollow stump onto my pickup using my tractor and the bale forks on the front loader. Now it took about six of us to shove it out of the truck and roll it to the fire; with several of the people completely uncertain what in the world was Wick up to now. Smiles. We got it to the edge of the fire. With a united heave-ho, we stood it up in the middle of the fire. In about 30 seconds, there were several oooohs and awes as flames started shooting out of the top of the “chimney.” It was lively, mildly amazing, and added a lot of beauty and light to the night. I don’t quite understand how this works, but somehow air is sucked in at the bottom (some bottom ventilation is needed) and really turns into a flame thrower that shoots flames about three feet into the air. You could not do this unless the surrounding area was wet, and in this case it certainly was. Safety was not a needed concern. Something is really neat about these dandy deals. They can be just an ordinary piece of an average log with a hole in it. That can turn any ordinary, dandy fire into an interesting event. It’s mesmerizing to watch. In these pictures, it had been burning for at least an hour. It took at least another hour to start burning a few small holes in the outer edge so that depending on where you were standing or sitting, you could see fire through the stump. It’s fascinating to watch and wonder what will happen when it starts to get weaker. Will it fall? If so, which way? Will it just collapse into the middle of the fire? Meanwhile, marshmallows and hotdogs can still be heated or burnt very well around the base of the stump. By the way, one of the guys even brought 8 or 10 world champion, fresh-cut hotdog roasting sticks. Some were 8 or 10 feet long, which to me is ideal. Smiles. Well, that’s the story. I would strongly recommend that you and your club or group of buddies do something like this occasionally. Some of the folks will bring their grandkids or great grandkids and that’s always neat to see. For sure there will be lots of pleasant conversation reminiscing about dogs and hunts of the past . . . and hunters of the past who have now passed on. All kinds of hunting adventures and happenings both wonderful and not can be pleasantly chatted about. Future plans and pedigrees too! Without any type of competition to get in the way of pure pleasure, that day or night will be enjoyable for everyone! These deals are almost as fun in daylight as in darkness. Wish I could introduce you to all these fine folks! And I gladly will if you gather around the next fire with us. There’s Charlie, Bill, Les, Mike, Howard, David, Kenny, and others not pictured. One you might recognize is eating a bowl of that awesome hot chili. That’s long-time good friend Mark Davis who has been a hard-working president of two or three coon hunting clubs. Closest to you on the right is big Butch Fisher, a real good guy, complete outdoorsman, and long-time Wick Outdoor Works employee. At least hundreds of you reading this have spoken to him on the phone while placing your order. With that, I’m putting this camera down. You see that dark tan chair sitting there empty? It’s mine, and I’m gonna move it a foot closer to that rock, prop my feet on it, watch that fire, and listen to some happy chatting, and the dogs, and relax, and enjoy. And I’m gonna be one of the last two or three to leave. Smiles.