The moment I laid eyes on that worn out old camper, I knew she had to be mine. Her beauty surely wasn’t apparent to most passers by, but without taking a second look I knew she was exactly what I had been looking for. Her potential was endless and her price was affordable.
She was a 1972 16-foot Scotty Sportsman with flaking paint and a number of noticeable dents. Half the windows didn’t work and the interior was worn, at best. She hadn’t moved in years. Then one day, the old farmer who’d owned her finally decided to drag her out from behind the barn and slap a for sale sign in the front window. His timing was perfect. My cousin, Derek, and I split the $500. It was one of the greatest buys of my life.
We named her Delilah Jones. It stemmed from the lyrics of the song “Brown-Eyed Women” by the Grateful Dead; “Delilah Jones was the mother of twins…” At the time, Derek and I were both students at Purdue University. We had grown up hunting together with Derek’s dad, my Uncle Tom, serving as our shared mentor
We mostly hunted on a small farm just east of Winamac, Indiana right off Highway 14. It was about an hour drive from West Lafayette where Purdue is located. Derek and I had been burning up too much precious gas money driving back and forth. We decided it was time to establish our own hunting camp. We went searching for a camper and fortuitously found Delilah just a few miles from our farm.
She really wasn’t much to look at. In fact, my dad wouldn’t let us store her at his house. He said something along the lines of your not keeping that piece of junk in my driveway. But what she lacked in looks she more than made up for in character. She gave us what we needed but nothing more.
At only 16-feet, Delilah didn’t offer much room. There was a bed in the back and booth in the front that folded into another bed. We added a bunk above the back bed, so we could sleep four. The unluckiest camper slept on the floor. There was barely enough storage for our clothes and gear. None of the appliances worked, but the lights did when we remembered to charge the battery. We used propane heaters to stay warm, but that didn’t always work out. There were plenty of mornings when we woke up with dead heaters and frost on our sleeping bags.
Delilah gave us a sense of place, a mobile hunting camp. When friends came to visit and join us on a hunt, they immediately understood. We weren’t kids mooching anymore off the adults. Derek and I had our own hunting camp. We had incredible times sitting around a fire rarely discussing anything more complex than where we were going to hunt and if Purdue’s football team would notch another victory on Saturday. For two cousins who grew up in the woods together, having a hunt camp made our college years more memorable.
All across Missouri, for the next few weeks, friends and families will be gathering in their annual hunting camps. To me, this is the pinnacle of outdoor experiences. To once again be with those who you probably don’t see enough of but share a bond built in the woods. Many camps will have additions, and some will certainly have losses. But as time marches on, and another fall quickly slips away, memories will be made that’ll last a lifetime.
None of us know how many hunting seasons we have left, so I hope you make the most of yours. Focus on what matters, the people and places that are special to you. Hunting isn’t only about filling your tag. It’s the memories made, like those from my too few days with a cousin and uncle in old camper named Delilah Jones.