Take me not to the city’s throng,
Where asphalt grows and men go wrong.
Just leave me here in this wooded pew,
Where fish swim free in the waters blue.
Take me not from this land that I love;
Just leave me here til God’s call from above.
Don C. Carey
Nov. 18, 1990
Standing at a table, “Mikey” Carey points to a sheet of paper, held safe in the plastic of a thick album containing hand-written listings, photographs and drawings.
As she read it, her eyes sparkled and she began to read, animating with her voice and face each word and phrase that was a part of a poem husband Don Carey had written. The poem, among many, were written while sitting on deer stands sometime during the past 40 or so hunting seasons at the family’s hunting cabin.
Mikey smiled as she described how the albums, and a book recently published containing his poetry and short stories, came to be. But first, she pulled another of the nine albums normally kept at the cabin from the large canvas bag she’d had to drag across the floor to the table to help tell the story.
Don Carey died Aug. 23, just a month and a couple days before the book he’d been working on was published.
“Take Me To Your Hunting Cabin” is a collection of poems and short stories mostly written while Don sat in a tree stand during hunting seasons. The 196-page book also includes illustrations by Mikey, as well as photos of the hunting cabin life and times of the Carey family.
“Dad was an artist in words — he knew how to use them,” Mikey said recently about her husband of 57 1/2 years. “He could get the feeling across. It didn’t need to be pictures, words give you the picture. And maybe you might not see the same way as he did. Didn’t matter as long as it made you think.”
Carey grew up in Harlingen, Texas, where he deer hunted as a kid with a gun he earned by trapping. At about age 3, his dad died and missionaries connected through letters his mother and a farmer in Motley. They married and with Don headed north.
Hunting there was much different than in the north, where hunters remained in stands. When in the early 1980s Don got a lease for a hunting cabin near Birchdale, he was more than encouraged by his son, Tom, and others to sit quietly to avoid being shot and to stop scaring the deer away from the stands.
“He had to sit still and he can’t sit still,” she recalled, explaining that wasn’t easy for a man whose mind and body are busy at all times.
To help quiet him, Mikey said he began taking a flip-page notebook with him to the stand and write about everything he saw: “A leaf on a tree, hanging on the wind, and he wrote a poem about it,” she said.
And while poetry written from the tree stand is the focus of the book, Carey’s been writing all his life.
The idea for the book also came from the albums, which got their start from the log books Don kept at the hunting cabin. When people came in at night, came in at lunchtime, he quizzed them about what they’d seen.
Carey, his grandchildren Mikayla (Carey) Christian and Courtney (Carey) Bruzik, and daughter Shawn (Carey) Mason began compiling the book and had hoped it would be published to celebrate his 88th birthday. He saw the cover shot and first seven pages, Mason said.
Mason notes that several of her mom’s poems are included in the book. “Only because he insisted,” Mikey protests, noting that she wrote one while sitting on the deer stand.
The cabin albums are just a few of the family’s maybe 90 prized and detailed “Carey life” albums, Mikey and daughter Shawn Mason said.
Carey was well known for his writings on outdoors issues. He wrote letters to the editor and to officials about a variety of statewide issues, explaining the common sense side of things, and was considered an activist.
Carey shared a love of life, family, hunting and the outdoors with Mikey since they started the lease, she said, noting she’d grouse hunted her whole life, but did not grow up in a deer-hunting family. So she learned.
The cabin albums contained statistics about each season since the 1980s: information on the deer harvested, the weather conditions, how many deer each hunter saw, etc. Mason said Carey asked her son, Myles, to take on the responsibility.
And, it was a big deal who was selected for the “cover shot” on the coming album.
“We compare notes from each year day to day,” said Mikey. “It was pretty handy.”
It’s the detail and history in the albums that is remarkable, but expected by the family, because that’s the way he was about life.
Each photo in the albums he created was labeled, with each photo described and dated, including names of friends and family that could have someday been forgotten.
“He was amazing,” Mikey said. “Everything is there, it is wonderful he was so interested and meticulous about his writing. He would correct, re-correct, he would read to me, and I never could find anything wrong.”
Carey retired after 30 years of teaching English, drama, and debate among other topics. After Mikey, also a teacher, retired they spent time at the cabin, in the south part of the nation, and traveled three times to Alaska, where Don had served as a skiing instructor while serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Mikey said there was fear the Soviets would come that way.
“Dad is very interesting, but he was more interested than he was interesting,” Mason said. “He was more interested in other people, he captured their stories, captured their images, documented it. That made him fascinating.”
This hunting season will likely be an emotional one for the family, as it’s the first since Carey died. He didn’t feel well enough to hunt in 2018, but shot his largest deer ever at age 86 in 2017.
Mikey smiles as she relates the last hunt: He was on a deer stand, very high, ... facing away from the trail. Saw something moving behind him. Couldn’t slide the window without spooking him, so he hung over the banister and shot the deer behind him. He got it.”
This year, Mason, who does not hunt, said she’ll be sitting in her dad’s stand this season. She’s bringing a new camera, pen and notebook, she said.
“I am going to document every movement, and I am going to write and might even cry a little, but also will laugh,” she said. “Plus, I am the cook.”
Mikey said she won’t go to the cabin this season, but probably will next year.
“It’s a little too raw yet,” she said. “I said I take one day at time, but really one hour at time. It’s OK. I know it will be alright, I have a lot of faith.”
Carey had many adventures at the hunting cabin with family and by himself. Mikey describes the area this way:
“It’s beautiful out in the swamp. You think of the crystals on the snow, beauty you can’t imagine. It’s a cathedral out there. No prints, nothing, just white glistening (and she whispers) silence.”a
But it wasn’t always that way in the cabin, she noted: “We’d take grandkids sometimes, put up a tree for Christmas. They’d made decorations for it, and we had a flying squirrel come in through the door and the dogs are barking. I am on a chair, and the kids are hollering. How much fun can you have?”
Mikey got her name when she was born on the same day the cat, Mike, died, and her older brother suggested she be named Mike. However, her legal name is Dorothy, named after an aunt. But Mikey stuck, she said.