There were three of them. There were four of us, and April lay on the campsite and on the river, a mixture of dawn at a damp extreme and the sun in the leaves at cajole. This was Deer Lodge1 on the Pine River in Ossipee, New Hampshire, though the lodge was naught2 but a foundation remnant in the earth. Brother Bentley's father, Oren, had found this place sometime after the First World War, a foreign affair that had seriously done him no good but he found solitude3 abounding4 here. Now we were here, post World War II, post Korean War, Vietnam War on the brink5. So much learned, so much yet to learn.
Peace then was everywhere about us, in the riot of young leaves, in the spree of bird confusion and chatter6, in the struggle of pre-dawn animals for the start of a new day, a Cooper Hawk7 that had smashed down through trees for a squealing8 rabbit, yap of a fox at a youngster, a skunk9 at rooting.
We had pitched camp in the near darkness, Ed LeBlanc, Brother Bentley, Walter Ruszkowski, myself. A dozen or more years we had been here, and seen no one. Now, into our campsite deep in the forest, so deep that at times we had to rebuild sections of narrow road (more a logger's path) flushed out by earlier rains, deep enough where we thought we'd again have no traffic, came a growling10 engine, an old solid body van, a Chevy, the kind I had driven for Frankie Pike and the Lobster11 Pound in Lynn delivering lobsters12 throughout the Merrimack Valley. It had pre-WW II high fenders, a faded black paint on a body you'd swear had been hammered out of corrugated13 steel, and an engine that made sounds too angry and too early for the start of day. Two elderly men, we supposed in their seventies, sat the front seat; felt hats at the slouch and decorated with an assortment14 of tied flies like a miniature bandoleer of ammunition15 on the band. They could have been conscripts for Emilano Zappata, so loaded their hats and their vests as they climbed out of the truck.
"Mornin', been yet?" one of them said as he pulled his boots up from the folds at his knees, the tops of them as wide as a big mouth bass16 coming up from the bottom for a frog sitting on a lily pad. His hands were large, the fingers long and I could picture them in a shop barn working a primal17 plane across the face of a maple18 board. Custom-made, old elegance19, those hands said.