Rain rattled on the camper’s tin roof. The world outside was awash on our first day in deer camp. It was one of those hunts that went sideways from the outset. Wrong Willie’s bumper-pull trailer was at his house with an electrical problem.

Thinking that we would have two campers, Doc rode with Jerry Wayne and brought only their sleeping bags. I pulled mine with Willie and Woodrow in the truck with me. Five grown men and all their gear packed into a 24’ rig was a little tight.

The trailer’s moist air smelled like the sausage I’d cooked that morning, along with the heady aroma of damp hunting boots, coffee and something I couldn’t identify. The night was cold, but the heat from cooking breakfast warmed things nicely.

Sitting on one end of the U-shaped booth, Willie sniffed.

“What’s that smell? It stinks.”

In true psychological misfires, we all breathed deeply, trying to identify the odor’s source. I took another deep inhalation.

“Well, the camper is fairly new. We took it out a couple of weeks ago.”

Fore-finger in the handle of his cup, Doc took a sip and leaned forward on his elbows. “Somebody light a candle. Maybe that’ll make things smell better.”

I slipped out of the booth where I’d been drinking coffee that rainy morning and squeezed by Jerry Wayne who was making a sausage and biscuit sandwich. He sucked his stomach in enough for me to get to the tiny pantry and I opened the door. The War Department loaded everything from pots and pans to blankets and pillows when we bought the trailer, so I didn’t know where anything was.

“I don’t know if she put any candles in here.” I found a decorative plate and display stand, though. There was a mason jar full of wooden spoons and ladles. “Hey, here’s the lighter we were looking for last night.” I located one of her candles and lit it. The vanilla scent helped some.

Stuffed into a small corner of the booth, Woodrow held up his coffee cup.

“As long as you’re up, top me off, will you.”

Wrong Willie sniffed again.

“That smell’s getting stronger.”

“It’s probably all of us stuffed into this trailer like sardines.” Doc nudged an open sleeping bag out of the way with his foot. “When you said you’d downsized, I didn’t know it would be this small.”

Five guys take up a lot of room, then you add duffle bags, sleeping bags, extra pillows, boots, hats, guns, gun cases, hats, coats, ammo, two coolers, bags of chips, bread and other groceries that hadn’t yet found a home, and all the Big People Yuck bottles on the little counter, our shirt sleeves were polished from passing one another.

Big People Yuck is what the War Department called adult beverages when the girls were little.

“At least we’re not in tents anymore,” I answered.

“I need to use the bathroom,” Woodrow announced.

“You have my permission.”

“Thanks Rev, but I need someone to move so I can get past.”

For a moment, it looked like one of those little square sliding number puzzles where a single player has to move little tiles around a single piece to put them in proper order. Jerry Wayne shifted in front of Doc to allow Woodrow to move, then we relocated ourselves into the vacant space so Woodrow could move.

To give us a little more breathing room, I moved a couple of gun cases to the lone bed full of guns and bedding. Woodrow kicked a pair of wet hunting boots out of the way and finally made it to the bathroom and closed the door, allowing us a brief respite with room to move.

I sat on a cooler, and the odor returned. “It smells like King Tut’s grave in here.”

Once again, we exercised our olfactory senses with less than pleasing results. Doc sniffed his coffee, but I wasn’t sure if it was to see if the coffee was the source, or to clear his sinuses.

Jerry Wayne squeezed into the booth.

“This is a lot tighter than the booth at Doreen’s.”

“The trailer wasn’t designed for five men. It’s just the right size for two adults, me and the War Department, and a couple of little kids who sleep in those little bunk bed cubicles.”

The table also makes down into a bed, where the little ones thrash about until they go to sleep. It’s better than having them in the bed with us.

We’d wedged ourselves into whatever space we could find during the night and it was taking its toll that morning. Rain increased on the roof and I opened the door to watch. Air circulated inside and distributed the odor.

“That’s it. I have to find out what stinks.” I launched an exploratory expedition throughout the trailer, crawling over bodies as everyone made room. I pulled back one of the booth’s cushions to find a kid’s leaking sippy cup full of curds.

It went out the door, but there was something else…I glanced down to see Jerry Wayne was barefoot. His moldering hunting boots were under the table, socks stuffed inside. I picked one up and sniffed.

“Good lord! This is it. Do you have gangrene?”

The odiferous boots and damp socks went outside into the rain, joining the cup

“Hey! I’ll need those.”

“We’ll dry them over a fire later, but I’m burning those socks.”

Jerry Wayne looked sad as the bathroom door opened and Woodrow emerged.

“Hey, it smells better out here, but I wouldn’t go in there for a while.”

The guys smiled and nodded as I struck a few matches and prayed for sunshine.

Reavis Z. Wortham is an award-winning outdoor writer with family ties to Lamar County. He is the author of “Hawke’s Target.”

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