Pennsylvania Game News - February 2012 - 28
Remembering Uncle Mark’s Place
By William James Lamont Jr.
artwork by doug pifer
HE THOUGHT of Uncle Mark’s place triggers a flood of memories of the late 1950s to mid-’60s, of a young boy coming of age during the “Golden Years” of pheasant hunting in southcentral Pennsylvania. The opening day of small game season at Uncle Mark’s was, indeed, very special, a time of renewing old friendships, enjoying some of the best food I have ever eaten anywhere, and even putting a few pheasants and rabbits in the game bag. The opportunity to eventually join the hunt on opening day at Uncle Mark’s place became a sort of “right of passage” for me, and the memory is as vivid today as it was more than 50 years ago. Uncle Mark is one of those special individuals who isn’t really listed in the “official” family tree, but by virtue of his special relationship, he’s regarded as a family member. It’s like I have known Uncle Mark my entire life. I had heard my dad tell stories about Uncle Mark’s place for as long as I can remember. As I was growing up, Uncle Mark’s place became a ShangriLa, a heaven on earth that took on epic proportions in my imagination. Every fall I listened intently to all the stories of past opening day hunts at Uncle Mark’s farm. My dad would regale me with stories as he carefully cleaned and readied his favorite, wellworn, 16-gauge, double barrel Lefever shotgun the night before every opening day. Even today, if I close my eyes,
I can still smell the aroma of Hoppes #9 cleaning solvent, gun oil, residue of burnt gunpowder, and maybe a touch of sauerkraut from the evening meal that pervaded our kitchen during those sessions. The faded red shade on the wall light provided a soft glow over the entire kitchen that reinforced the mystical power of Uncle Mark’s place. The stories about hunting the long-tailed, rising cockbirds in the tall corn on a beautiful October morning added fuel to my already overloaded imagination. Eventually the warmth of the kitchen and the time of night would catch up to me and I would slide off into a world full of fast flying pheasants and racing rabbits. Before I was old enough to go along to Uncle Mark’s for opening day, I would spend the entire day anxiously anticipating the return of my dad and his uncle, Walt, from Uncle Mark’s place. That night they would come into the kitchen and show me the pheasants and rabbits and tell me the stories of the day’s hunt. As I grew older, the whole family went up to Uncle Mark’s farm for opening day. It was always quite dark out as we loaded the car and headed out to pick up my great Uncle Walt, and then headed west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Uncle Mark’s place. The sun was usually just rising when we arrived, painting the entire countryside with a warm, pink glow. The clean, white clapboard farmhouse was busy as a beehive, as Aunt Ruthie prepared coffee, pastries and hot chocolate for the arriving hunters and their family members. The large kitchen table was buzzing with conversaGAME NEWS