OF THE MANY things I love about elk hunting, it’s the nightly buffet at the elk hunting camp that I enjoy most.
By elk hunting, I don’t mean driving around in the suburbs hunting someone’s pet elk.
That’s some of the toughest hunting there is.
Those tame elk are smart enough to live in towns like Sequim, full of people who are liable to shoot back.
No, I do my elk hunting out in the rain forest, where the elk are wild and so is the country.
It can rain several inches every day.
Throw in some wind, hail and lightning, and your camping trip becomes a survival mission.
After the first day in elk camp, you don’t care what you eat.
Whether it’s a chili dog rolled in gravel, bear-knuckle stew or a burnt-on-the-outside, raw-on-the-inside hamburger between two pieces of moldy bread, fine dining in the elk camp can be an interesting experience.
Camp cooks are chosen by a time-tested tradition.
Whoever complains about the food becomes the new camp cook.
Sometimes, though rarely, a cook can be fired for unbecoming behavior such as adding the wrong wild mushrooms to the chili or testing the punch to the point where dinnertime finds our chef passed out by the fire in a light rain-forest sprinkle.
When one side of the cook starts steaming from the heat of the fire, we roll him over to heat the other side.
That’s what I enjoy most about elk hunting — the camaraderie — unless you are talking about Grandma’s apple pie.
Grandma had given me a pie to take out to the elk camp.
It had something to do with one of the hunters fixing her car.
It was sort of payback with interest, really.
The value of a Grandma pie in a wilderness full of elk camps would soar beyond belief, especially if you had some vanilla ice cream to go with it.
Not that I would ever sell a Grandma Pie. No way.
It was beyond price.
That’s why it was too bad the muzzle of my rifle accidentally punched a hole in the top crust of the pie.
Imagine dropping a broken bottle through the smile of the Mona Lisa.
That’s how I felt after crushing the Grandma pie.
There was only one thing to do . . . I mean two.
Sure, I had to clean the pie out of my rifle before opening morning, but I had to take care of the pie first.
I cut a wedge from around the imprint of the rifle barrel.
It was a little slice of heaven.
I made a real mess of cutting that first wedge, so I cut another one trying to do a proper job of it.
Grandma’s pies don’t grow on trees.
Then it was lunchtime, and how could I not have a piece of pie for lunch?
Later, I noticed the pie was still out of alignment, so I made a perfect cut straight across the pan. Half the pie was gone.
I imagined the abuse I’d take for eating half a pie by myself, especially from the poor sucker who’d worked on Grandma’s car.
There was nothing left to do but eat the rest of the pie.
When it was gone, I decided to bake another pie in Grandma’s now empty pie pan.
I soaked some dried apples in beer and put the mixture between two tortillas, baked the mess and announced the pie was ready.
Everyone seemed to like it.
There were no complaints.
But then nobody wanted to be the camp new cook.
Pat Neal is a North Olympic Peninsula fishing guide and tourist. His column appears every Wednesday.
Pat can be reached at 360-683-9867 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or read his blog at patnealwildlife.blogspot.com.The Pat Neal Wildlife Show is on radio station KSQM 91.5 FM (www.ksqmfm.com) at 9 a.m. Saturdays, repeated at 6 p.m. Tuesdays.