Camp Shack Marching Band opens deer season

Forrest Johnson

The Shack Marching Band dusted off the tubas and trombones and got out into the Lake County woods last weekend, visiting all the hunters in their stands for miles around. With a rousing rendition of their signature Deer Kill Polka, the 100-plus unit band will emerge from the woods, resplendent in their spit-and-polish uniforms with the blaze orange sash and cummerbund, form themselves into a fiery image of the universe and blast out a song for the enjoyment of the lone hunter in his stand.

At that, the Exalted Shack Master, acting as drum major, will ask for quiet.

“Have you seen any deer, my good man?” the drum major will query.

At that, most hunters will respond with a smile and a hearty yes or no, thankful for the visit.

Most hunters, but not all.


Bob the Prophet has been working on another worthwhile project. Non-alcoholic booze. Rum Boy was skeptical but admitted that marketing is what rules the world.


We had finished another dinner cooked in the perfect oven. Green beans and pine needles, cookies and rum.

“Sure is a nice combination,” one of the boys said. “You wouldn’t think so, but it is.”

With adventurous culinary spirits, the cooks at Camp Shack have always been on the cutting edge of haute cuisine. Lichen stew, motor oil pancakes, deer toes, all prepared in or near the perfect oven. The oven has its own spirit, we know it does, and it never fails us. Potatoes, yams, electrical circuits, enriched bratwurst fuel cores, it bakes them all to evolutionary perfection.

We bow to the oven every day and leave the newspaper at its feet. It especially enjoys reading the local news and doing the crossword puzzles.


We are a responsible shack. If you have a drinking problem and you come to visit, don’t worry. All of our drinks have a small governor on them and can’t be gulped too quickly. We think it’s a nice safety feature for those battling the demon rum.


Unusual tracks I have seen:

Elephants have been moving through the area again, what with climate change and all. They seem to follow the ridgelines and appear to move with a carefree “...let’s see what happens” attitude. They have few natural predators other than ore trains. The ever-changing landscape near the shack had been taking on an equatorial savanna-like look lately and I was wondering what the chances were to see a hippo ...only at the shack. Tarzan swung by recently and we asked for the appropriate elephant call that could effectively pull the large beasts into view. He thought a bit and then admitted he and the elephants weren't getting along too well at the moment. He didn't offer any further info and we poured him a cup of rum and didn't ask.

I checked my pocket Tracking Guide to Worldwide Mammals and knew right away I’d found an elephant track.

A week later I saw and ad in the local paper. “Missing--one large elephant. If found, please contact Jose Cole’s Traveling Circus. Small reward.” After a little sleuthing, I found an entry in the Sheriff’s Report indicating that high schoolers on a prank had released the elephant known as Clyde when the circus stopped in Silver Bay to repair a flat tire. The boys admitted to taking Clyde for a stroll through town but said the elephant vanished when one of them went home to make him a peanut butter sandwich. A neighbor made the call when he noticed an elephant looking in his front window as he was watching television.

The neighbor told police he tried to lure the elephant into his garage with a banana, what else do you lure an elephant with, he supposed, but the elephant dashed off when a dog started barking.

“I’ve had bears look in my window, the old lady down the street and, well, I haven’t told too many people this, but once I think sasquatch was messing around with my bird feeder in the backyard. Nope, I’ve never had an elephant in my yard before.”

It's likely we'll see a rhinoceros in the near future as well, which pleases our friend the Professor immensely. He's lugged his rhino gun out to the shack for years just for show but he's been waiting for his chance to use it in the wilds. The thing shoots a bullet as big as your thumb. We reminded him that there is no hunting season for rhinos yet in Minnesota and they are a bit endangered in their natural African habitats. He agreed that we have to be friendly to them, not hostile.