I woke up before sunrise tening to sleet rattle on the roof of the pop-up trailer. I could see my breath.
My nose was cold, but the wool cap kept my head and ears warm. My sleeping bag is rated down to zero, and I’d slept in my thermals, so I was nice and warm.
Someone shifted on the other side, and the trailer moved. I listened, but through my tinnitus (ringing ears damaged years ago by shooting without ear protection) and the fitted ear plugs I wear when sleeping near the guys, I couldn’t hear anything.
I slid one hand out of the warm bag and pulled out one of the plugs. It didn’t change the tone of the constant ringing, but it answered a significant question.
I was in a frigid trailer with the temperature hovering somewhere in the low twenties, with Doc, Wrong Willie, and Jerry Wayne, and no one was snoring. I pulled out the other ear plug.
A particularly heavy rattle of sleet blew into the trailer’s canvas side.
I finally broke the interior silence. “I know you guys are awake.”
For a long beat, I wondered if I was wrong.
Then, “Yes.” It was Doc.
“Jerry Wayne, you aren’t snoring, so you’re awake. And so are you Woodrow.”
I heard a noise. “That’s you Willie. You’re awake, too.”
“You’ve all been lying there in those nice warm sleeping bags, waiting for me to get up and start the generator.”
“Good. You’re awake now.” Woodrow hacked for a moment, suffering from sinus issues. “Go start the generator.”
“I’m not doing it.” I pulled the bag closer to my neck to block a trickle of frigid air. “I did it yesterday. It’s someone else’s turn.”
Willie snickered. “It’s your generator.”
“Yep, and it’s my trailer too. As King, I declare it’s someone else’s turn to get us some heat.”
We lay there in the thin gray light. The trailer shuddered in the wind, making it seem even colder.
Doc cleared his throat. “Didn’t you say the generator was a little contrary yesterday?”
I sighed. “Yeah, it didn’t want to start.”
“And we’ve established it’s your machine?”
“So you know its little idiosyncrasies.”
“Such as they are.”
“Then it should be you. If it was one of us, it might take too long and we’d probably get pneumonia or hypothermia or yaws, and you’d feel bad if that happened.”
We pondered Doc’s argument.
“But,” I said. “I can instruct you from here, through the canvas. All you do is turn it to the ‘on’ switch, choke it, and pull three times. If it doesn’t start, move the choke halfway and pull again. After that, you pull like a monkey until it starts. It isn’t rocket science.”
“Why don’t you get it fixed?” Woodrow asked.
“I don’t run it enough. I really should start it at least every couple of weeks, but I don’t.”
“If I had a generator, I’d keep it running right so my friends wouldn’t be cold when they’re deer hunting.”
“You guys just want me to get up first so y’all can lie there until the heat comes on.”
“Yep.” Wrong Willie snorted.
I thought for a moment. “Ha! I bet one of you has to go to the bathroom. Whoever needs to go should start the generator.”
The trailer was silent for a long time.
Another gust of wind.
Sleet rattled in a continuous onslaught.
Jerry Wayne’s voice cut through the trailer. “Is the generator covered?”
“I put a tarp over it.”
“It’s out in the wind,” Woodrow said.
Wrong Willie thrashed in exasperation. “All right! I’m about to pop anyway.”
It seemed to take hours to free himself from the confines of his sleeping bag. He stood in all this glory, dressed in camouflage thermals. “I think I can start it on one pull.” He threw a coat over his shoulders, stuffed his feet into chilly boots, and flew out the door, allowing a gust of icy wind into the trailer.
“Yeeeaaahhh! It’s cold!”
We giggled, knowing the difficulties of his morning ablutions on such a frigid morning. The sound of his boots crunching on the ice told us he was on to the next duty.
“The tarp blew off the generator!”
“It won’t start!”
“Choke!” Doc yelled.
More grunts. Frantic mechanical sounds. Then the engine buzzed to life, and the heaters immediately glowed, pushing warm air into the trailer.
Willie blew back inside along with a rush of icy air.
“Close the door,” Woodrow said. “You’re letting all the heat out.”
Willie stopped inside, grabbed a rifle, and aimed out the door. He squeezed the trigger, and we all jumped.
“You shot a deer!!!???”
“A buck stood there and watched me fight that generator. I think the sight stunned him. Who wants to help me clean him?”
We settled back into our sleeping bags like turtles. “It’s too cold.”
Willie sighed. “Dang it. I wish I’d thought of that.”
While we luxuriated in the warmth, he dressed and grumbled about deer hunting.
It was the perfect morning.
Email Reavis Wortham at [email protected]