In the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, seven miles or more from the nearest utility pole, rests Neimer Camp, perched on a bluff overlooking a small, inland lake. The remote hunting camp is lit by gas lamps and heated by a wood stove on which all the meals are cooked. Running water comes from a reservoir which sits atop the roof of the main cabin. It was to this secluded retreat that my brother Andy–along with our cousins–twice had the privilege of visiting when, in the springtime of my Junior and Senior years of high school, our fathers pulled us out of school–our alma maters–and brought us for an extended weekend to this rustic, undomesticated hide-away.

My cousins, brother, and I spent our days fishing, building fires, and shooting bee bee guns at pop cans. It was there that I caught my first Pike, an almost pre-historic fish with sharp, jagged teeth; there, that we turned 12 and 10-gauage shotguns on clay pigeons. In the twilight of the day, we would strip down in the communal shower house to examine each other for any deer ticks, carriers of Lyme Disease, seeking to burrow into our flesh. In the evening hours, the older men enthralled us with stories–some humorous, some mythical.

Of all the gifts my father bestowed on me, I am most grateful this Father’s Day for Neimer Camp. It instilled in me a love for the outdoors, conservation, and authentic masculinity.

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