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His Indian name was Tenderfoot

An old dirt road once snaked its way through the forest between North Hudson and Keene, unrolling through the Adirondack forest like a crooked streambed. The road was well traveled by the local citizenry trappers, loggers, merchants and the like, but eventually vanished, giving way to pavement that nearly doubled the trip. But a handful of old timers could still picture it in their minds eye. One of those people was my uncle Ed, who swore he could feel the difference on the sole of his heavy rubber boots as he crossed the path where the road once existed. Here it is, hed say, standing on what looked to me like undisturbed forest. Its quite easy to feel the difference, hed add, stepping on and off the imaginary hardpan and looking inquisitively in your direction to make sure you were paying close attention. The camp bottom is right over there, hed continue, pointing in the direction of another long defunct landmark known only to those who lived to see it. Thats the way back to camp. My uncle would often refer to that road in tales of hunts long gone by. As a young lad, hed offer it to me as a natural boundary along one of our favorite deer drives. Stay to the right of the road, or its next stop Keene, hed say with one of his famous grins. Oh how that ghostly road intrigued me. Problem was I had absolutely no idea what Ed was talking about. I could dance barefoot on the thing and not feel it beneath my toes. Eventually, through years and years of hunting the country, I came to recognize where the old road ran mostly through picturing Eds weathered hand pointing through the woods at the contour of the land there. For years I kept that secret, not wanting Ed to know I hadnt the woods sense to figure out where a hardpan road had once run. Until one evening after a long days hunt and a bit too much bubbly. Ive never been able to feel that freaking road with my feet, I blurted to Ed, interrupting a deer story he was halfway through, the focal point of which was the old road. Ed looked dazed. You must have tender feet or something, I said, causing a smattering of chuckles from my fellow camp goers. I think your Indian name should be Tenderfoot, I added as Ed let out a long laugh. Before long the rest of the crew had fessed to the fact that they, too, could not feel the road beneath their feet. So the name stuck. Ed would forever be referred to by his Indian name Tenderfoot. John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at johng@denpubs.com.

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