By Edward J. Lewetag, Jr., P.M.
The smells and sounds that permeate the big woods of Pennsylvania in the fall of each year would convince anyone that there had to be a highly intelligent being existing in this world to be able to create such a beautiful place. The leaves of the trees are now in full blazing glory, the squirrels are scampering about gathering food for the winter months ahead, the birds all seem to be practicing for a magnificent concert somewhere, and in the hearts and minds of many men there exists the thought of the upcoming deer hunting season.
One begins to hear the plans and designs being formulated in the late summer months. Gatherings of family members becomes a natural event this time of year, so much so, that one would think a major holiday was in the making. And to many families, this yearly event could be considered the highlight of the year. Because my father is a hunter and a fisherman, not only the men of our family, but also the women, experience the excitement of this yearly get together and play a major role in its planning.
The weeks prior to the Thanksgiving Holiday are filled with the traditional gathering at Dad's house on Sundays. My brother, his wife, son and daughter are the hunters in the family these days. Dad and I simply fish. But the excitement is still the same. Remembering days long gone, when the camp Dad had built in the 1940's was filled with men of the family and Dad's best friends, I can still recall those wonder-ful smells of a hunting camp. Bacon and eggs in the morning, being cooked by men who were brick and block masons, always fascinated me as a young man. I could never understand why food tasted so much better this one time of the year. What is considered junk food these days was always present at the hunting camp. Peanuts of various sorts, potato chips, jerky, sausages of various flavors, all were present in vast profusion. It is no wonder then, that fathers and sons looked forward to this yearly event with eager anticipation!
At the age of forty one I feel very fortunate to have a father who loved me enough to have given me these wonderful memories to reflect upon. Over the years, as the sons grew into manhood and began the task of raising their own families, the traditional gatherings dwindled to a point where the old camp sat idle for many years. When my brother encouraged his wife to take up the sport of hunting, the old camp which had provided my Brother and me with such fond memories of hunting seasons gone by, experienced a new awakening.
Now that Dad is approaching the twilight years of his life, the time that I spend with him becomes increasingly precious. This man has very carefully provided me with the examples by which to live my own life. To appreciate nature with respect and admiration; to treat your fellow man as you would want to be treated.
How wonderful it is for us to be able to look into each others eyes and without saying a word experience a mutual feeling of love. Is it not understandable how I look-ed forward to spending a few days with this man, at the old camp, this particular hunting season?
We arrived at camp the day before the rest of the family, so it became our chore to open up and prepare for their arrival. As I put the bass boat away, Dad started the fire. Hunting camps always provide you with that smell which exists nowhere else. Wood burning in the old potbelly stove always seems to take forever to bring warmth to the old place. Being satisfied the fire would last until we returned from obtaining water we loaded the old Blazer with empty water cans and headed down to the spring near Tionesta Creek.
The big woods are so magnificent this time of year that we couldn't help but experience the awe of such a beautiful ride. Having arrived at the spring we just stood and listened. The sounds emanating from Tionesta Creek to our right, the trickle of pure mountain spring water to our left, the birds singing high above us, and the smell of hemlock all around provided Dad and me with the experience of what heaven must be like.
Having filled the containers with water, we loaded the old Blazer and headed down the road towards our camp. This area of Forest County is void of camps and quite a few miles from help of any kind. Although one of the most pristine places we know of, it is also one of the most desolate. And if trouble should happen, it would definitely provide one with an unpleasant experience!
As we drove along enjoying the scenery, an approaching vehicle made it necessary for me to use a little extra power to move the old Blazer off the road, the road being quite narrow. Realizing the engine had stall-ed, I tried to restart it with absolutely no response. Not becoming excited at this point, I coasted as far off the road as possible and parked.
Dad and I fiddled around with the various parts of the engine which we thought had malfunctioned, but to no avail. Now was the time for some very serious contemplation. There were a few cars which had passed us but never stopped to inquire as to our dilemma. At this point we looked at each other, father to son and son to father, and without uttering a word, decided that since I was the youngest of the two, the ten mile walk to the nearest place which could provide help, was my responsibility.
As I was about to leave my father with the old Blazer, three individuals from Ohio pulled their vehicle off the road in front of us and asked if they could be of any assistance. Dad and I could have hugged them for their thoughtfulness. As one of the sons of the older gentleman was look-ing at the engine, we all introduced our-selves and began a conversation which Dad and I will remember for many years to come. As it turned out, these men were a father and two sons who also spent time with each other as our family did.
Having decided that the old Blazer needed repairs beyond our present capabilities our new friends offered to tow us to one of their neighbors farms. Having arrived at the farm after dark and too late to accomplish anything with regard to the vehicle in tow, these three men offered their assistance in driving us back to our camp. It was at this time that I thought I recognized a ring on one of their fingers as being Masonic. My heart began to race, for my father and I were also Masons and I found myself wondering what a wonderful experience this would be if my observation was correct. I kept this observation to myself long after we arrived at camp.
Having offered our new friends a bit of refreshment, we began a conversation which revealed to Dad and me that these three men had been hunting the same area of Forest County as we had for approximately the same number of years. They were even familiar with the same local residents. Was this coincidence or perhaps an event which the good Lord provided for our mutual benefit?
Not being able to contain my excitement about the ring any longer, I finally asked a question which all Masons ask of each other to determine Masonic membership. Lo and behold, my excitement was well founded! Again Dad and I looked into each others eyes and experienced that knowledge obtained without uttering a word and a feeling of love permeated the old camp. How wonderful this experience was! Our friends are Ohio Masons; Dad and I are Pennsylvania Masons!
Now as I reflect back upon the events of last November, I become increasingly proud of being a member of our beloved fraternity. Is it no wonder that we have existed for so many years?
No matter what jurisdiction, state, or country each of us calls home, the love, respect, and admiration which exists between Masons will forever bond this fraternity and sustain its presence tor all time.
The events of the 1990 hunting season went beyond the actual planned purpose and once again the old hunting camp on German Hill has provided me with memories which I will be able to reflect upon when I enter the twilight years of my own life.
O who will walk a mile with me
Along life's merry way?
A comrade blithe and full of glee, Who dares to laugh out loud and free, And let his frolic fancy play, Like a happy child, through the flowers gay That fill the field and fringe the way Where he walks a mile with me.
And who will walk a mile with me
Along life's weary way?
A friend whose heart has eyes to see The stars shine out o'er the darkening lea, And the quiet rest at the end o' the day,--
A friend who knows, and dares to say, The brave, sweet words that cheer the way Where he walks a mile with me.
With such a comrade, such a friend, I fain would walk till journey's end, Through summer sunshine, winter rain, And then?--Farewell, we shall meet again!
Bro Edward Lewetag, Jr. is a Past Master of' Plum Creek Samuel Hamliton Lodge799 of Plum Boro, Pennsylvania.
There are many personal stories that could be told concerning the Masonic Fraternity. Every now and then we learn of one that truly has a special meaning of its own. The following story is just such an example.
We chose to use it as the November Short Talk Bulletin because that is the month in which many states permit a deer hunting season. This story talks about a family, an old hunting camp, of love, warmth, affection and a wonderful Masonic experience.
We at MSA felt that the message reflected in this story should be shared with Masons everywhere. It is a wonderful story and we hope vou enjoy it as much as we did.