We walk an abandoned railroad bed, guns cradled in our arms. The boy next to me is my nephew, Zane, an unusual name for northern Michigan. Blame that on his mother. If he had been my boy, I would’ve called him Seth. He’s just started the fourth grade and is too young to carry anything larger than my old break-barrel pellet gun. I let him hold the gun to feel more involved, but I don’t think it’s working.

The bed’s rails are gone. So are the timber ties, pulled up and ground into mulch years ago. After the white pines were logged from the valley, the East Jordan & Southern line had no reason to come down here anymore. Hunters now use the railroad bed to drive deep into state land, far away from two-lanes, cell phones, and work. It’s cold, and a light drizzle clings to our clothes and faces and guns. Zane sniffles constantly. He wipes his nose on the hunting coat I lent him. It looks like it’s going to swallow him whole.

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