Rabbit Huntin’ Hijinks: Who Needs a Gun Anyway?

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Rabbit Huntin’ Hijinks: Who Needs a Gun Anyway?

 James R. Aist

I was about 17 years old and living in Elm Springs, Arkansas. My daddy was the Pastor of the local Methodist Church. It so happened that the Majorette of the local high School marching band attended that church too. She was very attractive, to say the least, and very popular. I wanted nothing more than to get to know her better. But, how could I manage to even appear on her dating radar?

Well, one day her 14-year-old brother, Danny, having found out that the men in my family like to hunt, asked me if I would take him rabbit hunting. Thinking that this might just be the break I was looking for to get me on his big sister’s dating radar (yes, I was that naïve back then), I eagerly agreed to introduce him to the sport. So, a few days later, we set out with our shotguns and my beagle dogs to hunt an old, abandoned farm place nearby that I knew was almost sure to provide rabbits for us to “harvest.” We pulled into the dirt driveway, exited the car, loaded our shotguns and followed the dogs as they sniffed here and there for the scent of a cottontail. It didn’t take long.

The dogs were “working” the area around a broken-down, wooden shed when suddenly a rabbit sprang from the rubbish and ran for his life through a field out back and into the woods. The dogs were in hot pursuit, baying beautifully as they followed the invisible scent trail left by the rabbit. Now, the success of the hunt depends largely on where you position yourself in anticipation of the rabbit doubling back toward where he started from. So, hoping to make a good impression on Danny, I recommended that he position himself where I anticipated the rabbit would surely return, so that he would get the best shot at it. I took up my post in the middle of an old, dirt farm road that ran straight through the field to the woods, the alternative course that I reckoned the rabbit might take on his return trip.

Well, it didn’t turn out as I had expected, to say the least. The rabbit finally made his turn, alright, but was headed straight for me instead of Danny! Out of the woods he came, loping along just fast enough to stay a safe distance ahead of the dogs. He was running right down one of the two dirt tracks of the farm road, and I had positioned myself between the two tracks. I could hardly believe that he kept running right at me, because surely he could see me standing out in the middle of the open field, right where he was headed. Trying not to divert him away from his death course, I slowly raised my shotgun to take him out. When he got to just the right distance for a perfect shot, I pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. I pulled again, and still no “BANG”; the gun had “jammed.” By this time, Danny had turned and was watching this spectacle from a side angle. I began to panic, because failing to bag this rabbit with Danny looking on was not an option. So, I did the only thing a manly hunter could do in such a dilemma. I waited until the running rabbit was almost beside me on the farm road and made a desperate attempt to take him out with a swift kick to the head.

Believe it or not, my timing could not have been more precise, as the toe of my boot struck the poor creature just behind the head and broke his neck; he rolled over, “dead as a door nail!” I was shocked, but I had to keep my cool so as to maximize the positive impression on Danny, who had witnessed the entire encounter. So, I calmly and nonchalantly stepped over to the dead rabbit, raised him up by the hind feet, and displayed him to Danny as if this were just another routine kill for me. And it worked. Danny had no idea that my gun had jammed and was more than duly impressed by my athletic, though unorthodox, hunting prowess.

I would like to report that because of my magnificent hunting maneuver, Danny put in a good word for me with his big sister, and we began dating, much to my delight. But, alas and alack, that was not the case. I was left with only the reward of knowing that I had, indeed, made a good impression on Danny, albeit with a fortuitous combination of dumb luck and fast thinking (and kicking!).

(For more of my TRUE TALES, click HERE)

What Kind of Rabbit Is that, Jack?

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What Kind of Rabbit Is that, Jack?

James R. Aist

When I was growing up in Arkansas, we always had beagle dogs, and we always hunted rabbits with them. At that time we (the dogs and us, that is) had never seen any kind of rabbits except cottontails and, rarely, the oversized version of them, swamp rabbits. But, the cottontails were by far the most common and easily accessible, because we had to drive to a distant swamp to hunt the big ones. Little did we know at the time that there was another kind of rabbit slowly making its way eastward into Arkansas from Oklahoma and Texas, the jackrabbit. And, for sure, we had never, ever seen one, until one day…

My family was living in Elm Springs, about 6 miles from Springdale, where I was attending high School. My oldest brother, Art, was visiting us, and we decided to go rabbit hunting. I knew of a good place within walking distance, so we let the dogs out of the pen and started down the road to a nearby field that had a mixture of grass and brush, with a small woods on the back side. Off we went into the edge of the field with shotguns loaded and dogs in a frenzy, as they always were when we took them hunting.

Now our trained beagles would automatically begin hunting for cottontail rabbits once they saw us heading into a field or woods, guns in hand. With noses to the ground, they would search feverishly and anxiously here and there in hopes of “jumping” a rabbit that was hunkered down somewhere, hoping that we would just pass it by. When the dogs would begin to pick up the scent of a cottontail, they would get highly agitated and begin to making little yipping noises as they got closer and closer to the rabbit. Then, suddenly, the rabbit would make a run for it, hopping away lickety-split with short, rapid leaps, the dogs running at top speed after them and baying loudly with each breath. The chase was on! Now, a cottontail can always run faster than a beagle at first, but if the dogs can stay on their scent trail long enough, the rabbit will tire and the dogs will catch up with it. Note that all during the chase, the dogs are baying as they continue to get the scent of the fleeing rabbit. And when we would shoot a cottontail that was on the run, the dogs would run up to it, smell and “mouth” it for a moment, and, when they could not get it to get up and run any more, they would lose interest in it and set out to find a fresh rabbit that would run. That’s how it usually goes with beagles and cottontails.

But, this time it was strangely different. The dogs began to behave like they had picked up the scent of a rabbit alright, but they weren’t yipping. They continued to follow the scent cautiously until a rabbit “jumped” and began to run away. They gave chase, but running at about half speed, not making even a peep. Right away, we knew this was no ordinary rabbit, and a kind that we had never seen before. It was much larger than even a swamp rabbit, had oversize hind legs that launched it on very long, relatively slow strides, and had huge, long ears that flopped back and forth with every leap. The dogs followed this rabbit silently and at a distance, like they weren’t really sure that they wanted to catch up with it. Normally, we would raise and fire on a rabbit as soon as we had a clear shot, but this time we just stood there for a moment, watching this spectacular, alien creature run and the dogs follow along silently at a safe distance. It was an amazing sight to see.

Then, this jackrabbit made a fatal mistake, turning slightly to his left in his haste to get away, giving Art just enough separation from the trailing dogs to make a safe shot. His aim was true, and the jackrabbit rolled to the ground, dead in its tracks as it were. Uncharacteristically, the dogs stopped about ten feet from the fallen jackrabbit, afraid to get any closer to this strange-smelling beast. They circled around it with their eyes fixed on it, just in case. The entire scenario was, to us, bizarre, to say the least, yet very exciting and memorable.

So, we carried this odd creature home and proudly showed it off to the rest of the family. They were duly impressed. Then we “cleaned” the jackrabbit, cut it into pieces and cooked it in the usual fashion: rolled in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and then fried with Crisco in a cast-iron skillet. And guess what it tasted like…wait for it…wait for it… It tasted like…rabbit. Now, why in the world would you assume that I was going to say it tasted like chicken? A rabbit is a rabbit is a rabbit, after all. And, uh-THA, uh-THA, uh-THAT’S all, folks, because that was the first and only jackrabbit we ever ran across in all our years of hunting in Arkansas. And we killed it.

(For more stories and tales by Dr. Aist, click HERE.)

Plumpin’ the Puppies

Beagle de 60 dias

Plumpin’ the Puppies

James R. Aist

[DISCLAIMER: I meant no harm, no one really got hurt bad, I am opposed to cruelty to animals and I provide the answer to the big “research” question at the end (so that you will have no excuse for trying this at home; shame on you, in advance, for even thinking of it!)]

When I was growing up in central Arkansas, we had Beagle dogs for rabbit hunting and, of course, for instant affection and validation anytime, whether we wanted it or not. When I was 10 years old, my family re-located from our dairy farm in Cypress Valley to an equally rural area in the vicinity of Naylor, where we moved into a parsonage, located at the end of a dirt road off a dirt road; Daddy had received his very first assignment as a newly ordained Methodist minister. During our first Spring there, one of our Beagles gave birth to a litter of puppies, and we kept two of them for ourselves. I luuuuuv Beagle puppies! They are so soft, so cute and so affectionate; and, so much fun to play with.

Every school-day afternoon while the puppies were still quite small, I could hardly wait for the school bus to get to the end of our dirt road. I would spring off of the school bus and run all the way to our house so that I could spend the next half hour or so just playing with “my” precious little puppies. Of course, these little darlings seemed to always be hungry when I got home, and I liked nothing more than to bring out a small pitcher of milk and a couple of cereal bowls and settle down with the puppies in a patch of fresh green lawn beside the house. They would eagerly lap up all the milk in the bowl, and I would just as eagerly give them “seconds” just to watch them do it all over again. What fun!

Well, one day I got an idea for what would turn out to be the very first of many biological experiments I would conduct over a long and successful career in biological research. I was pondering the gusto with which these innocent little biological units would scarf down all the milk in their bowls, including the “seconds”, and it occurred to me that it would be interesting to find out just how much milk they would drink if I provided an unending supply of it. Would they drink only until they were full, or would they just keep on drinking until they just couldn’t keep any more milk down? With an innocent curiosity and no malicious intent whatsoever (keep in mind that I was just an 11 year old boy and I really loved those little puppies), I resolved to find the answer to this monumental question.

So, the next day I filled up the milk bowls once and then twice, and then I went where no boy had gone before (at least not to my knowledge); I filled the bowls yet a third time! To my surprise, these valiant troopers just kept on lapping up the milk and wagging their tails for more. After the third round of refills, I began to get a little worried, because now, the puppies were visibly swollen in the middle. Yet, they weren’t whining or whimpering yet, so I filled their bowls for a fourth time, determined to get the final answer to my seemingly innocent research question, but without inflicting any harm on the little guys. This time, I noticed that they were slowing down but still lapping and swallowing eagerly, and so I decided to take some additional, preliminary data on the progress of the experiment. With no little trepidation, I reached down and very gently squeezed their swollen bellies between my thumb and index finger to assess the degree of danger I might just possibly be exposing the thoroughly plumped puppies to. Their bellies were now tight as a drum, and this put a serious scare into me. Had I gone too far, already? Will they bust open right before my eyes? If they do bust open, how can I explain it to my parents so as to escape the punishment I so richly deserve for heartlessly murdering these tiny little helpless bundles of life just to conduct a silly scientific experiment? So, like a flash, I jerked away the milk bowls to minimize any further potential damage, and I was not prepared at all for what happened next.

I observed that these two little puppies turned, in unison, to walk away, still lapping and swallowing as fast as they could, but now just to try and keep down the last of the milk that was dribbling out of their mouths. I observed also that they were breathing heavily and with great difficulty, because there was no room left in their little bodies for a lungful of air, thanks to their excessive intake of cow’s milk. And finally, I observed that their now-bloated bellies were actually dragging along the ground as they waddled slowly away. In some sort of sick way I suppose, this scene was to me both humorous to watch and scary to contemplate, at one and the same time. But, as I continued to keep my eye on them, it became apparent that they were, indeed, way too full, but not to the point of bodily harm. This realization enabled me to take a deep sigh of relief and get an, albeit somewhat sinister, little chuckle out of the entire affair, especially the ending.

So, what is the answer to the big question: how much milk will Beagle puppies drink if they are given an unending supply? The answer is… just as much as they can possibly keep down with constant lapping and swallowing, once it starts to come back out as fast as it goes back in! Oh, and by the way, my parents never found out about this experiment. Hey, what they don’t know won’t hurt me, right?

(For more articles on TRUE TALES, click HERE)

The Hound and the Hare (Redneck version)

English: Pharaoh Hound trying to get trought t...The Hound and the Hare (Redneck version)

by James R. Aist

This true story happened when I was a young boy growing up in central Arkansas. We lived in a rural area and had two beagle dogs that we used for rabbit hunting. One fall day a large, red-bone hound dog showed up at our doorstep, and we sort of adopted him. Now mind you, these larger hounds are not particularly good for rabbit hunting, because they tend to try and outrun a freshly “jumped” rabbit instead of slowing down and tracking its scent (trail) with their nose, like beagles do. Consequently, after a very brief burst of speed, they usually will lose track of thebounding bunny and that will be the end of that.

Well anyway, we decided to go rabbit hunting one morning, and we let the red-bone hound tag along with us and the two beagles. Right away we got to a small brush pile at the edge of a small wood, next to some open fields. Well, the fields weren’t entirely open, as there was a woven wire fence down the middle. This was one of those wire fences with open rectangles about 4 inches by 6 inches, you know the kind. Suddenly, the beagles began to act excited and nervous, like they do when they can smell the scent of a rabbit in the air (the scent was in the air, not the rabbit, silly!).  Anyway, with a rustle and a ruckus, a cottontail rabbit suddenly burst forth from the brush pile and raced lickety-split across the field. All three dogs lit out after him, the beagles with their noses to the ground tracking the scent, and the red-bone hound with his head held high racing 90 miles an hour to try and catch him on the run. Now the rabbit was just small enough to dive through the fence without losing stride, while the red-bone hound was not. He was so intent on catching up with the rabbit that he didn’t notice the fence, so he just kept on going at full speed. And here we are watching this whole scene unfold before our eyes, knowing full well what was about to happen. We were already about to crack up laughing when the rabbit cleared the fence cleanly. Then came the red-bone hound, seeing only the terrified rabbit ahead of him. He promptly plowed into the fence, rolled up into a ball from the counterforce of the now-sagging fence, paused for a moment as the fence reached its maximum extension and prepared to fling him back in the opposite direction, and then went shooting backwards about 15-20 feet.

By this time we were howling and bent over with laughter, as the scene had unfolded exactly as we had anticipated. Not to worry, though, as the red-bone hound regained his composure after finally coming to a stop, picked himself up off the ground, shook himself off and carried on as though nothing unusual had just happened. It took a little longer than that for us to regain our composure!

(For more articles on TRUE TALES, click HERE)