OPEN SEASON by Reavis Z. Wortham

UPPER COAST FOCUS Sabine November/December 2023
October 24, 2023
TEXAS TACTICAL by Dustin Ellermann
October 24, 2023

The Cold and Wet

LISTEN: (6 minutes, 44 seconds)

“THESE STEPS DON’T look safe.”

Dawn was half an hour away as I peered through the darkness at Wrong Willie who was standing on the wooden steps a few feet below the door to my three-person deer stand. Sleet mixed with rain rattled off the tin roof. “They’re fine. I used five-inch screws through the side to make sure they’re stable.”

He squinted upward, painting the homemade stand with his flashlight beam. “Looks like you patched a hole in the side.”

“Had to. Pterodactyls were flying in and out. You’re pretty observant for this time of the morning.” I opened the door and stepped inside. It felt good to be out of the cold rain.

Willie sounded like a Shetland pony stomping up the steps. He slammed the door behind him and banged the plywood wall with the butt of his rifle.

I squeezed to the side to give him more room. “Are you trying to make noise?”

“I’m trying to get in out of this cold.”

“It isn’t much warmer in here.” I settled into an old office chair someone had provided years earlier.

Willie snapped on his flashlight and waved the beam like Darth Vader’s light saber. “Dang. Is this new carpet on the floor?”

“Yessir. Had some in the attic.”

“Man, this is uptown.” He paused, probing the interior with his light. “It’s so cold in here though all the wasps froze to death.”

“That’s for sure. A couple of days ago I brought out a generator and the War Department’s vacuum cleaner. Filled up half of the container by the time everything was clean. I bet there were a thousand dead bugs in here. A couple of freeze-dried animal carcasses, too.”

Ignoring my satire, he settled into the other chair and flicked off his landing light. “This is nicer than that lease out in Hamlin.”

“You talking about the ground stand that looked like an outhouse?”

“I think it was an old outhouse someone moved and turned into a deer stand. Remember, we had to share that plank seat neither of us wanted to investigate and then all of a sudden, a rattlesnake was right there?”

We both shivered at the recollection of a two-foot rattler that slithered through a crack in under our seat and crawled around while we could do nothing but hold our breath until it left of its own accord.

“I don’t know which was worse, the original use, or the snake. At least they left half a Sears Christmas catalog nailed to the wall.”

Willie nodded as if I’d made a profound statement. “Gave me something to look at when there weren’t any deer around. Hard to believe what a Davy Crockett camping tent cost in nineteen fifty-five.”

To keep from frosting up, I fired up a little heater and blessed warmth flowed out. A thump beside me vibrated the stand. “Now what’re you doing?”

“This chair is too low for me to see out the window.” He worked at the lever on the side like a man jacking up a car, thumping the wall with his elbow with every pump. The chair and both his knees creaked as he adjusted the height.

I thought he was finished making noise until he reached out and slid open the aluminum windows directly in front of where we sat. Still not through, he opened the window to his side and adjusted his position.

Cold air flowed in neutralized my heater as he pulled on a pair of wool gloves.

Fascinated by the antics of someone I’ve hunted with for over forty years, I watched as he produced a thermos from his daypack and positioned it and two insulated cups on the shelf in front of us.

It was light enough by then to see the wintery mix falling outside, and the barrel feeder a hundred yards away. He poured two cups of coffee, handed me one without a word, and swiveled to the right to peer out the window. Seeing nothing, he added cream, sugar, and some kind of foo-foo flavoring to his steaming coffee.

He took a sip. “You want a bagel?”

“No. I’ll just drink this.”

He unwrapped the baked good, separated the two pieces and dug around in his pack. “I have butter and cream cheese.”

“I bet you do.”

Finished with his comforts, he took a bite and gave me a grin. “I think I’m ready.”

“For someone to serve bacon and eggs?”

Completely missing my sarcasm, he sat the thermos closer to me. “No, ready to see a deer or hog come walking out. Do you realize this is the first time we’ve hunted on land that one of us owns? We’ve been on leases for decades, but now we can fix this stand of yours up the way we want.”

Instead of making the obvious crack about having to buy the place, I took a sip of black coffee. “You thinking about adding pictures to the walls?”

He raised an eyebrow. “Maybe. I have a couple of old hunting prints somewhere.” He jerked a thumb. “We could hang ‘em there. It’d be kinda homey.”

Silence filled the air as we looked across the frosty landscape.

Willie turned up the heat. “The one thing we could use in here is electricity. Then we could make a pot of Folgers that’d stay hot and have an electric heater that’s nice and quiet.”

Again, I held my tongue about his nesting habits. “Feel free to run a power line out here if you want.”

Missing the sarcasm, he grunted as sleet rattled on the stand’s corrugated tin roof. “Yep, here we are all dry, toasty and warm.”

I shivered as the ground turned white from accumulating sleet. “I have an idea for tomorrow morning.”

“What’s that?”

“About daylight, we go out to the shop beside the cabin, plug in a coffee pot and turn on the heat. I set up other feeder a hundred yards away.”

“You didn’t tell me about that.” He frowned. “So why are we out in this weather?”

“Old times sake. It’s called tradition.”

“The heck with tradition. We can walk sixty seconds from the house to the shop with heat and electricity.”

Willie paused. “And a bathroom. That was one benefit of the Hamlin stand.”


He sighed. “All this coffee. I’ll be right back.”

I sat back and grinned as he stepped out into the cold.

“Jeeze!” He’d found the rubber snake I’d left out there.


Email Reavis Wortham at


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