Rabbit Huntin’ Hijinks: Who Needs a Gun Anyway?

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!).

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A Harrowing Experience

English: Harrowing to incorporate straw near T...A Harrowing Experience

James R. Aist

We were living on a dairy farm in Cypress Valley, a very rural, unofficial community in central Arkansas. It was 1955, and I was 10 years old. My two oldest brothers had been allowed to do real farm work – i.e., working a field with serious farm equipment attached to a farm tractor – for several years. I, however, being only 10 years old, was allowed to do only lesser tasks that don’t really qualify one for manhood, as defined on a working farm. I could drive the family’s Farmall tractor down the dirt road to the General Store and back to pick up a few groceries, I could hitch a small, two-wheeled trailer to the tractor and distribute hay to the cows in the winter time, and I could help out in the milking parlor, “cleaning” the floor, mixing and “serving” dairy feed and operating the milking machines. But all of that is what makes you a farm boy, not a man, like Daddy and my two oldest brothers.

For some time I had been asking Daddy to let me work a field. I’m not sure that he knew why I was so eager to move up to field work, but I wanted to complete the “right of passage” to manhood, and it meant a great deal to me at that time. So, finally, Daddy agreed that I was ready, and he assigned me an entry level task to get started. I was to drive the tractor across the pasture to the woods, where I would find an “undeveloped” farm road leading to a small field nestled in the edge of the woods. This field had been plowed recently by one of the farm “men.” My task was, more specifically, to connect the two-wheeled “field harrow”, which had been left at the edge of the field, to the tractor, lower the tines of the harrow, pull the harrow across the field to reduce the large clods and clumps of soil left by the plow to a fine consistency suitable for planting, raise the tines and then pull the harrow back out of the field and across the pasture field to the main barn for storage. That sounded simple and straight forward to me, and so I set out to “git ‘er dun.” Finally, I was going to become a man!

Or so I thought. Everything was going according to plan until it was time for me to pull the harrow out of the field and between the two trees that defined the path to the farm road leading to the pasture field. Oh, wait, did I fail to mention that the harrow was ever so slightly wider than the tractor? Well, I found that out as I was trying to clear the two trees guarding the exit to the farm road. Apparently, I did not take the perfect angle in my approach to the opening between the two trees, and, sure enough, I managed to get the harrow lodged between the two trees as I attempted my get-away. Upon realizing what I had done, panic set in immediately. Can I manage to get the harrow dislodged and pull it triumphantly back to the barn as if nothing had gone wrong, thus sealing my membership into the coveted manhood fraternity, or would I have to leave the harrow stuck between the two trees and slink back to the barn with only the tractor, like a defeated dog with his tail between his legs? Well, try as I may, I could not free the harrow. After all, I was only 10 years old, and the harrow was definitely in the category of “heavy equipment.”

My return to the main barn was, to say the least, deflating and embarrassing. Daddy had to retrieve the harrow, and I was still not a man. And the worst part of it was that I had proven to the whole family that I was still only a farm boy! Then, to make matters worse, Daddy had just received his first assignment as an ordained Methodist Minister, and we moved away from the farm before I could get another chance to earn my manhood badge. But then, with time, I managed to get over it…or did I?

Postscript: I’ll bet that when you read the title, you didn’t see this coming!

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Mamma Makes a Mohawk Mistake….Or Does She?

Mamma Makes a Mohawk Mistake….Or Does She?

James R. Aist

On our way from Maryland, where I was born, to Arkansas, where I grew up, my family lived three years in central Indiana, near Marion, because Mamma had relatives in the area. Daddy had sold his share of the tobacco and dairy farm in Maryland to his brother, and in Indiana he worked three different farms that were owned by others, and we lived on them. Daddy was hoping to use the money from the Maryland deal to buy a new farm and get a fresh start. But, in the meantime, we were trying to get by on a shoestring, so to speak. The first of these farms was where this true story took place.

My brother, Johnny and I were about six and five years old, respectively, and a couple of cute little towheads we were, if I do say so myself.  Summer came, and it was time to have our hair cut shorter to coincide with the warmer weather in store. To save money, Mamma was the family barber, cropping off our hair with a pair of mechanical hand-held clippers. She did a right good job of it too, if I may say so. That is, until this particular haircut.

Mamma said that she would cut it any way we wanted it, and asked how we wanted it done. Now, somehow, Johnny and I had found out about a new haircut called a “Mohawk”, and, in our opinion, that was the haircut to have. So, we told her we wanted a “Mohawk.” She looked puzzled, and asked “What’s a Mohawk?” We explained that a Mohawk is the hair style worn by Mohawk Indian warriors, and it looks really neat. You just cut off all the hair as close to the scalp as possible, except for a two-inch strip right in the middle where you leave it about an inch or two long, running from the forehead, over the top of the head and all the way to the back of the neck. The strip of longer hair in the middle is then trained to stand straight up, like a Mohawk warrior’s. To make sure there was no confusion, we used hand gestures to illustrate: leave a strip of long hair right in the middle and cut the hair on both sides as short as possible. Mamma repeated it back to us, and everything seemed to be in order; we were going to get Mohawk haircuts!

Or so we thought. She started with me first, and her first cut was right down the middle, instead of anywhere but the middle! I yelled “What did you do? I wanted it cut just the opposite of that!” She seemed confused and surprised that she had gotten it exactly backwards, but there was nothing she could do to make it right, now. After Johnny and I had finished objecting loudly, Mamma asked “Well, what do you want me to do with it now?” Having been left with no attractive alternative, I grudgingly replied, “There’s only one thing you can do now: just cut it all off as short as the middle, and we’ll have to go around looking bald-headed all Summer!” So, that’s what she did, looking a bit too self-satisfied to suit me. Now Johnny and I were only 17 months apart in age, and we were used to doing things together. So, when Mamma was finished “shaving” my head, he opted to have her do the same with his, so that, at least, we would look alike. Needless to say, Johnny and I both went around all summer looking like bowling balls instead of Mohawk warriors!

We never did find out for sure whether or not Mamma really did misunderstand our instructions for a Mohawk, or if she was, instead, thinking it would be a clever trick to play on us to make the first cut down the middle just to see our reaction. What was clear, though, was that she didn’t share our chagrin when her “mistake” was discovered. But I must confess, in retrospect, that before long Johnny and I grew to like the shaved-head look; we thought it made us look even cuter than ever! And maybe, just maybe, that’s what Mamma had in mind all along.

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