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Saturday, December 27, 2008

The F-Troop Camp Chronicles, by Don Feigert

Reviewed by Steve Sorensen
Published by Shenango River Books, Hermitage, PA., 2008; 213 pages, 27 chapters. Paperback.
Feigert’s prose is a treat to read. His paragraphs are
like potato chips -- you can’t stop with one.

Most hunting camps are buttoned up for a long winter, mothballed until the approach of trout season or spring gobbler season. But memories of camp continue to live as those who hunt or fish from them reminisce about camp camaraderie.

Hunting camps are a living paradox. Collectively they’re a breed that has a zillion things in common, but the paradox is that each camp is unique to itself. When camp owners maintain a logbook of their adventures, it reveals that camps are as unique as the individuals that make up the roster.

Such a logbook is behind a new volume by a writer you’ll take a liking to. Don Feigert writes about his camp and his comrades along the west bank of the Allegheny River in Warren County, PA, between Irvine and Tidioute -- a place called Althom.

Whenever you drive through hunting camp country you’ll note that every camp seems to have a name. In compliance with this unwritten rule of owning a hunting camp, Feigert named his camp “F-Troop Camp,” not for the antics of the 1960s TV sitcom, but for the antics of the Feigert family and friends. And of course, books need names, too, so his book is called The F-Troop Camp Chronicles -- A Life in the Pennsylvania Outdoors.

Feigert is the outdoor scribe for the Sharon, PA Herald, and as a writer he’s no amateur. During the past 25 years he has been published in more than 75 magazines -- including high-flying literary magazines -- and he has won numerous awards putting pen to paper.

Most importantly, with both feet firmly planted on the steep hillsides of western Pennsylvania, he knows how to connect with his readers. F-Troop Camp Chronicles recalls incidents from 22 years of camp life, complete with pranks and pratfalls that would otherwise be forgotten. Feigert’s prose is a treat to read. His paragraphs are like potato chips -- you can’t stop with one.

Along the way you’ll meet lots of Feigert’s cohorts, including “Miss Kentucky,” an able trout fisherperson in her own right, along with a host of other nicknamed associates: Pieman, Pigpen, Pocahontas, Decibel, Millimeter Matt, Wildflower and many others who have enjoyed the hospitality of F-Troop. You’ll also meet some of the guys who’ve written the stories you’ve read in Pennsylvania Game News and other magazines.

One of the great things about hunting camp is that no one is ever ordinary. People’s lives might seem mundane to an observer, but camp life somehow pulls them together and transforms them into something extraordinary. They might reveal themselves as first-class cooks and handymen, world-class fireside philosophers, or buffoons who claim no class at all.

Whether you’re the owner of a camp or a guest in one, there’s a good chance that camp owns a part of you -- which is why The F-Troop Camp Chronicles is proof that the days of hunting camps are far from over.

Two of Feigert’s previous three books are already sold out, including one with the bold title Trucks are Better Than Women. This book is likely headed for the same happy fate, so get your hands on it while you can. To order an autographed copy, send a check or money order for $16.75 per paperback copy (includes postage.) A limited edition signed and numbered hardcover is also available for $36.75. Send to Don Feigert, P.O. Box 1381, Hermitage, PA, 16148.

If you’re just starting a camp, or are a camp veteran of 50 years, you know that camp is a place where some of your fondest memories happened. And you’ll know that the memories have only just begun.