The story of the Owl’s Nest

Recently I had the good fortune of being invited to a rustic camp in the Green Mountains in Hancock, VT. The camp, named the Owl’s Nest, has an interesting history:

It was designed and built board by board in 1967/68 by two brothers (Homer Ouellette of Pittsfield and Paul Ouellette of Lanesborough) and their brother-in-law, the late Bill Brighenti of Lee.

They used to deer hunt the White River valley in the 1950’s and liked it so much that they wanted to build a deer camp there. Fortune would have it that they were able to secure an 11 acre parcel of land surrounded by the Green Mountain National Forest.

Tapping Paul’s knowledge learned from the Boy Scouts and several books on the subject, they designed the cabin. Homer spent nights in his cellar working on the drawings, having them approved by Bill and Paul, and then making them into actual blueprints where he worked.

Then came the “scrounge list”, a list of things that they needed and would accept any source that was cheap. Things like concrete blocks, lumber, pots and pans, windows, doors, sinks, etc.  The only restriction was that they wanted to keep the camp free of modern items like chrome plated kitchen cabinets, plastic furniture, steel chairs, etc.

Paul’s previous research proved valuable. For example, the size and placement of windows was determined only after figuring out where the bunk beds, stoves and furniture would be placed.  The windows and doors were not placed in the center of a wall but in areas where they would not be blocked by such items.

Nothing was left to chance, the height of the windows were measured from Homer’s elbow to the floor while he was sitting. The bunk beds were spaced in such a way that you did not bump your head while sitting up in the lower berth.  The railings on the porch were the height of Homer’s “gluteus maximus” to the floor, thus making it easier to sit on the porch railing.

They spent all of their weekends during that time working on the camp. They had a deal with a small saw mill up there and they would arrange to buy only enough lumber that they could use that weekend.  Since they were using green spruce, and knowing how it would warp, they nailed it in position immediately before it dried.  They carried the lumber to the sight board by board, crossing a brook on the way until a neighbor took pity on them and allowed them to cut across his property.

They advertised to take away people’s old coal when they converted to other forms of heat. They obtained a lot of coal that way and carried it up the mountain bag by bag.  It was covered there and available when needed during the cold deer hunting season.

They dug a hole for the required toilet facilities and one day, while Homer and Bill were working on the roof of the cabin, Paul built the outhouse. It was 5 x 7 feet square with two windows, a door and a comfortable seat.  It was big enough to use as a combined tool shed and outhouse.  Usually, they call it the “Stool Shed”, but sometimes they call it the “Shed House”.  In later years, they installed a propane heating system, carpeted it and installed solar lights that went on when the door was closed.

Instead of hopping from rock to rock while crossing the nearby brook to get to the cabin, they built a bridge across it. Their source of water came from that brook and a smaller one nearby.

One can imagine the effort that went into building that camp. There was no electricity so the sawing and carpentry work had to be done by hand.  With the left over pieces of wood, Paul built a table, two long benches, two short benches, and a wood box.  Later on, they added a kitchen and bunkroom to the original cabin.  The heating is still provided by wood and coal in a kitchen stove and an old parlor stove.

The only source of lighting is propane. No portable radios or other modern gadgets are allowed and you will not find a newspaper there.  Each piece of furniture and adornment has a story of its own and many items were donated by friends or relatives, such as rugs, pitcher pump, ice box, stools, kitchen supplies, pillows, etc.

As you can see by the attached photo, the Owl’s Nest has its own logo. Signs on two paths which lead up to the cabin display this logo.  It features an owl sitting on a piece of property (which is the actual shape of the 11 acre land plot).  The owl’s head has two circles for its eyes representing the two Ouelletes and the beak has the letter B, representing the Bill Brighenti.

Unfortunately, we will have to leave the Owl’s Nest for a while. In the next week or so this column will focus on the ongoing hunting seasons, forest accesses, and other time sensitive articles.  But we will revisit it shortly to cover my recent trip and hopefully provide a picture of it. *****

The Berkshire County Chapter of Whitetails Unlimited will hold a banquet at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club, Route 102, Stockbridge, on Saturday, October 24.  Games/raffles and social hour begins at 5:00 PM with a buffet dinner at 6:30 PM.  Tickets cost $45 for single, $35 for spouse and $25 for juniors 15 and under. For ticket information, contact Bill Bailey at 413-244-2304.

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