By Dirk Thayer
The Star Herald
My son and I went on our annual opening day of squirrel season hunt.
We didn't set the woods on fire, as a matter of fact, I didn't even fire a shot and he got one young squirrel.
The older I get the more I respect the hunt and the numbers and size don't matter as much anymore.
I reckon that is a good thing because we are not quite as good as we once were.
I think as we become more seasoned we look at things in a whole different light; we start to feel things deeper and more magnified.
Towards the end of the hunt we met a father and son who only had one squirrel between them also.
The boy was thirteen or fourteen years old, maybe a tad older, but it was good to see another father and son team in the woods.
The father even joked that his son 'walked like an elephant'.
I thought to myself, give it time, it won't be long and he will be beating you in the woods.
A few minutes later, the oldest member of our hunting club rolled up on a 4-wheeler.
He will soon be eighty years old and had bagged three squirrels.
My son had decided to hunt with an old .410 shotgun that belonged to my brother and thus that one young squirrel was even more special.
I am fifty-eight and my brother is fifty-seven and we got those .410's for Christmas when we were thirteen of fourteen, so you do the math.
I know those guns are forty-some-odd-years old, and I further know they were well used through our younger years.
The only reason my son was not using my old gun was that I had the stock cut down for my youngest son, who turned out to be the biggest boy of the bunch--go figure.
Anyway, the day uncovered some long lost memories.
I remembered finally getting old enough to hunt with an old single barrel 12-gauge that would kick you into next Sunday but would kill a squirrel from the highest hickory or oak.
The old gun's stock was partially burnt and had a story in itself.
It belonged to a great uncle of mine who had acquired it from a bootlegger that was kin to me as well.
He was known for his fast driving and could get a load of moonshine to its destination without being caught.
One of these fast drives apparently caught the vehicle on fire and the old shotgun was rescued at the last minute.
I'm sure the accelerants of moonshine and gas caused a mighty hot fire. So rescuing that gun from the fire put even more value on it, at least in my mind.
I own that old gun now and it probably isn't worth much in today's market but I wouldn't take a ‘pretty penny’ for it.
One particular hunt with that gun sticks out the most in my mind.
I had to cross a hundred-acre pasture and a wide creek--which I had to find a log to cross--just to get to the swamp I wanted to hunt.
Plus, there was a bull in this pasture that would give you a run for your money. As the sun started sinking behind the tree line, my great aunt would start hollering, "Dirky, Dirky you better get home, it’s getting dark."
This would go on over and over until she saw me coming across that pasture. This would grate my nerves to no end and as any good squirrel hunter knows, most squirrels come out late in the evening.
On this hunt, I had only one squirrel when that awful hollering started.
I was just about to pull the trigger on another fat fox squirrel.
I must have jerked and pulled my aim as the squirrel fell but regained it's posture and ran into the bottom of a den tree hole.
I was aggravated to say the least and the persistent calling continued on.
I started out of the woods with my one squirrel and wounded spirit when I decided to check that den hole one more time before I left.
Sure enough at the base of that hole laid the fox squirrel, ‘grave yard dead’.
I was tickled to death and felt a little better with at least two squirrels and, of course, the calling continued from the porch of my great aunt.
Darkness was closing in fast as well as the dread of the log crossing, which was tricky enough in broad daylight.
Just as I was crossing that old log a big cane cutter rabbit jumped up.
As I shot that gun, I ended up in Bear Creek with water over my boots, but there on the other side lay that big ol’ cane cutter.
I crossed that pasture with my load, grinning ear to ear.
Yes, I got some more scolding because I was wet, but I was able to fill the pot full of meat, that big ol’ shotgun and me.
You know, that hollering back then aggravated me to no end, but she’s gone on now, beyond that pasture, creek and woods.
I would give anything now to hear that once aggravating call--'Dirky, Dirky, get home, it's getting dark'--but this time I would come back smiling anyway, and hopefully dry, regardless of my haul.
On the Porch with Dirk is a recurring article written by Dirk Thayer, an avid outdoorsman and stroyteller.