A Week in Hunting Camp: The Night Everyone Had to Hold It
Getting up in the night to answer nature's call is as common as snoring at camp—unless there's a Rhodesian Ridgeback in the house
Editor’s Note: All this week, through Sunday, we are bringing you a series called A Week In Hunting Camp—seven stories in total, each one about a single day (or night) in camp, featuring both original works and a few modern classics from the archives. You can read the first three stories here: Day One, Day Two, and Day Three.
Day Four: The Night Everyone Had to Hold It
Anyone could feel a bit vulnerable walking around in their skivvies, in the dark, in a backwoods cabin full of strangers. Still, a person ought to be able to get up and pee at night without worry of molestation, especially at hunting camp. But not at my hunting camp. Not on this night. The place is tucked back in West Virginia’s Hampshire County wilderness, near the South Branch of the Potomac River. You need four-wheel drive to get there, and when you do, you’ll probably find mouse turds in the kitchen and a pile of bear poop in the back yard.
Still, when a friend who builds custom rifles asked to use my camp to host an event to promote his latest creation, I agreed—partly because I’m not ashamed of my camp or its one-star rating, but mostly because I need no excuse to spend time in the wilderness with friends and my dog. Representatives from a couple of rifle-sight manufacturers, along with a big-time magazine editor and his photographer, joined us. We shot rifles, cooked out, and stayed way too late at the campfire telling stories and drinking beer.
When it was time to turn in, I sent my guests to bed, upstairs, where all the beds are. Then I banked the fire, and my dog and I crashed on the downstairs couch. Everyone was tired from the traveling, the shooting, and the drinking, and when the lights went out, the snoring rattled the walls. At about two in the morning, the beer apparently caught up with my friend, and he slipped quietly down the stairs to take a leak. His sneakiness was his undoing.
Now, to fully appreciate what happened next, I need to introduce you to my dog, Whiskey. She is a 90-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback, a breed that originated in Africa for hunting lions. Genuine ridgebacks—not the puppy-mill variety—are instinctively and obsessively protective. They’re great social animals, but they look after their person the way a wolverine looks after a meal. This characteristic, and their lack of a need for constant affection, is what attracted me to the breed.
When my friend’s foot hit the bottom step, Whiskey sprang into action. I can’t say for sure whether it was her machine-gun barking or malicious growls, or if it was my friend’s shrieks for help that woke everyone up. But even in the pitch dark and in my semi-conscious stupor, I knew something bad was going down. When I finally found the light, my friend, now howling for help even more desperately, was on top the cookstove. Whiskey was fully committed to keeping him there, or on eating him if he tried to get down. I called her off, laughed until I had to pee—my friend didn’t need to anymore—and then we all went back to bed.
At breakfast, we all laughed at my friend who thought he’d encountered the Hound of Baskervilles during the night. Then, about halfway through his biscuits and gravy, one of the rifle-sight reps spoke up, somewhat embarrassingly admitting that he’d had to pee during the night too but decided to just lay awake and hold it until daybreak. Everyone laughed at him, until I mentioned that they were all standing in line at the bathroom as soon as I’d put Whiskey out at sunrise.
There was not as much beer drinking the second night, and those who made the vulnerable midnight trek, wisely and politely called out to Whiskey before starting down the stairs. My friend? He hasn’t been back to my camp since, and that’s O.K. I don’t think Whiskey liked him much anyway.