Country boys, of every age, look forward to the fall and winter months with eager anticipation. It signals the beginning of hunting season which is what most of them live and breathe for.
A centuries old tradition in my own family that goes back to before my great great grandfather’s family lived next to Daniel Boone when they were boys; and beyond. It was necessary for survival.
My grandson’s perpetuate this tradition. Not trophy hunters—they eat what they kill, sharing with others in need. Nothing is wasted.
They are teaching their own boys to hunt and be very grateful for the life the animal gave to help feed them. It’s a sacred experience.
There are dozens of hunting tales in my mind but this one warms my heart. It was late September following Kelly’s fourth birthday and squirrel season opened. Submitting to our young son’s incessant pleas, hubby promised to take him along.
Hastily I made up a mock hunting license like his daddy’s and fastened it to the back of his coat. Hubby carried his .22 rifle and Kelly lugged his cork gun.
Instructions to the would-be hunter were explicit. “Be quiet. Don’t even whisper and watch where you step so you don’t make any noise.”
Wide-eyed with excitement and high hopes, Kelly clung to every word, nodding to acknowledge his comprehension of the rules.
“You walk behind me. I’ll walk slow so you can keep up. I’ll stop every little bit and when I do, you to stop, too. Okay?”
Ever so serious, Kelly nodded again and intently listened.
“If I hear even a tiny sound I will stop. You have to listen really, really carefully and never make a sound. Okay?”
Again he nodded.
“When I stop, we’ll look high up into the trees to try to spot a squirrel. If you see one, don’t make a peep, okay?”
Like a bobble head doll, he agreed.
“Just point and I will do the same. Don’t ask questions but keep watching real close and sooner or later, the squirrel will move and you will see him then, okay?”
Another nod and they were ready to go. I got kisses from both, wished them luck and watched intently as they trudged across the fertile black dirt toward the copse in the center of the field. Kelly lagged behind a bit so Bob waited for him to catch up and they proceeded—repeated a few times.
The next time Kelly caught up, his daddy lifted him and his cork gun with one arm, nestling him into his shoulder and toting his rifle in his dominant hand. Upon reaching the edge of the thick timber, Kelly dismounted and traipsed behind his daddy out of sight into the deep, mossy darkness of the woods.
Eagerly, I anticipated their return. Both beamed as they stomped dirt and leaves from their boots when they came in the back door.
“Well, how was your first hunting trip?” beseeching my young son busily wrestling to free himself from his outer clothing.
“Go ahead. Tell Mommy that a squirrel got you!” hubby piped in.
“What?” I inquired with exaggerated drama.
Kelly rubbed his forehead and said, “He got me right here.”
My furrowed brow puzzled but they were obviously amused. Hubby proceeded to rehearse the story.
“I heard a noise and chatter up in a big hickory tree. I stopped to look for the squirrel. Kelly did real good. He stopped dead in his tracks and tried to see what I pointed at. He looked and looked but didn’t spot him right away.
“I continued to point at the squirrel but I didn’t want to take aim ‘til Kelly saw what I was shootin’ at. You’ll never guess what happened next!”
About half agitated at the dragging out of his story I retorted, “No I won’t so go ahead and tell me!”
“Kelly was lookin’ right at him but wasn’t seein’ him. That squirrel musta been about 50 feet up in the top of that tree, almost directly over his head. All of a sudden, the squirrel musta spotted us ‘cause he took off and dropped his hickory nut in the process. Kelly kept cranin’ his neck to see him and here comes the hickory nut, bouncing’ off limbs and fallin’ fast. It landed square in the middle of his forehead. I about died laughing!” He chortled.
Kelly, not upset in the least, added, “Yeah, I didn’t even get to shoot and he got me!”
He grew into an expert hunter, his favorite game being deer because of his deep love for venison. What a fond memory of this choice event—Kelly’s first hunting trip—the day he got bagged by a squirrel.
— A coal miner’s daughter born in Appalachia and schooled in Michigan, she currently lives in rural Athens. Hill describes herself as a cook and cookbook author, jack of all trades and master of none, a Christian wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She shares her home with her husband, Bob, and their spoiled-beyond-belief dog, Molly.