Rabbit Huntin’ Hijinks: Perfect Aim…Not!

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Rabbit Huntin’ Hijinks: Perfect Aim…Not!

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.” But wait, I told that story in an earlier post (click HERE). This is the sequel.

Danny asked me to take him hunting again, and after failing to make his big sister’s dating radar following the first hunting excursion – even though I had slain a running rabbit without firing a shot on the first trip – I eagerly agreed to give it another “shot” (pun intended). But, this time, Danny wanted to vary it up a bit by leaving the dogs at home and hunting for squirrels instead of rabbits. That was fine with me; I knew just the place.

When we arrived at the large, squirrel-infested patch of woods, we exited our vehicle, this time with rifles in hand. I was thinking “What better way to impress Danny’s big sister than to exhibit my superior marksmanship by plinking a stationary squirrel out of a tall oak tree with a single bullet from my trusty Mossberg 22-caliber, semi-automatic rifle?” I had done it before and was confident that nothing could possibly go wrong.

So, we split up to cover more ground and began sneaking stealthily through the woods, Danny on one ridge and me on the one next to it (about 40 yards from Danny), so we would not lose sight of each other. As we walked along, we scoured the tree tops for squirrel nests and suspicious, furry “knots” on the tree limbs. We were about 10 minutes into the hunt, having seen neither “hide nor hair” of a squirrel, when suddenly Danny inadvertently “flushed” a rabbit from a small brush pile. The frightened rabbit loped lazily along the side of the ridge next to me, presenting himself for an open shot each time he passed between trees. Now please understand that, normally, one would have a much better likelihood of “harvesting” a rabbit on the run by firing a shotgun at him, especially at 40 yards. On the other hand, to harvest said running rabbit with a single shot from a rifle would make a much bigger impression on Danny, and consequently on his big sister (or, so I hoped), than would merely plinking a stationary squirrel on the side of a tree with one shot. So, with nothing to lose, really, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. Taking aim and timing my shot for when the rabbit was between trees and about to execute his next leap, I pulled the trigger.

And wouldn’t you know it? My aim was “dead on”, so to speak; the rabbit was mortally wounded and rolled immediately to a stop, his limp carcass lying lifeless on the ground! Well now, Danny had witnessed the entire episode and was duly dumbfounded, trust me. At that point, to complete the ruse, I had only to pretend that such masterful marksmanship was merely routine for me. So I nonchalantly walked over to the rabbit, picked it up by the “behind feet” and lifted it, matter-of-factly, skyward to show it off to Danny. He was speechless, and I was surely “in” with his big sister!

Well, we continued hunting for squirrels and spotted several, but for some mysterious reason, neither of us was able to hit any of them; the unfortunate rabbit turned out to be our only trophy that day. Danny was disappointed, but I was proud of my hunting trophy and hopeful that I had made a good enough impression on Danny that a date with his big sister would be my next “trophy.”

However, for some mysterious reason, the date never materialized. The story gets worse, though. A few days later, still puzzled as to why I was unable to harvest any squirrels that day – especially after having bagged a rabbit on the run at 40 yards with a 22 rifle – I decided to test the rifle with a paper, bull’s-eye target to see if it was properly “sighted in.” Alas and alack, the rifle was off about a foot to the upper left, meaning that even my “miraculous” shot that felled the fleeing rabbit was, unarguably, nothing more than pure, dumb luck!

With spirit crushed, I decided, right then and there, to cut my losses and stop hunting with Danny. And, of course, I never told Danny that the rifle was way off. After all, what he didn’t know couldn’t hurt me.

(To read more of my True Tales, click HERE)

Robbing the Bee Tree

Robbing the Bee Tree

by Angie Brown, Guest Author

Ken found a bee tree and asked us if we wanted them to cut the tree up for honey.  It’s an old tree, gnarled and lying on its side, so Ken felt justified in cutting it and taking some of the honey.  This opportunity was too inviting to turn down, so we agreed to go along. We were told to wear warm clothing and heavy shoes.  This was November in upstate New York, and the woods are chilly this time of year. Ken’s wife, Doris, had supper ready when we got to our rendezvous, their house.  After supper chores were finished, we began to layer our sweats and jackets on, putting on warm mittens too.

The three men walked ahead of us with a large lantern.  The two 12-year-old boys also carried a lantern, and the three teenage girls and three women trailed behind, grasping a shared lantern.  Watching our footing carefully, we walked through the grazing meadow – about a quarter of a mile – into the dark woods.  How quiet the woods were after dark.  I remember hearing the sound of a small animal scurrying through the leaves now and then.  Once, we were startled by the hoot of an owl.  And the pleasant smell of evergreens, moss, and old logs wafted through the air, completing the sensory experience as we walked along.

Reaching the old bee tree, the men prepared to get the sulfur going to calm the bees.  When the axe split the hard trunk, opening up the hive, we were amazed at the quantity of honey inside it.  This tree must have been home to the bees for many years.  Some of the bees moved around in a stupor, even crawling on the men’s clothing, but they were too lethargic to sting.  The inside of the tree was carpeted with layers of honey comb, a dark color near the wood and a gradually lighter color near the entrance to the hive.  We filled three pails with the combs, enough for each family.  And Ken made sure that there was plenty of honey left for the bees to survive the winter.

While the men worked on the cleanup, the girls began to feel cold, so the women decided we would go back to the house.  It was slow walking.  To make matters worse, the lantern carrier tripped, extinguishing the light.  Since we had no way of re-lighting the lantern, Doris said, “We’d better head for the road.” Almost everything was pitch dark, but looking up at the sky, we could distinguish between the tree line and the dim light of the sky.  That helped us to get our bearings. While we were making our way to the road, one of the bolder ones mentioned something about animals passing in the dark, inspiring us to walk faster. Before long, we had made it safely back to our rendezvous.

Doris made hot chocolate and brought out some cookies to go with it. Before long, we began to warm up.  The men finally came in with the pails of honey.  It is amazing how such small honeybees can amass such a bountiful delight.  (So it is with us, as we work together, how much we can accomplish.)  After our snack, we drove away exhilarated.  A walk in the woods at night can be an eventful and memorable experience, indeed!

After we got back home, I strained the honey and filled several jars to use in making cookies, breads, and desserts.  Wild honey has a unique taste, much different from clover honey, and stronger too.  If you would like to try your hand at making something with wild honey, I recommend the following:

Recipe for Honey Drops:

1 c. soft shortening (partly butter)

1 c. brown sugar

3 Tbsp. wild honey

3 Tbsp. white sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

3-1/2 c. flour

2 tsp. soda

2 eggs

Mix and chill thoroughly.  Form into balls the size of walnuts.  Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  This makes about 40 cookies.

(For more articles by Angie Brown, click HERE)

Smells: Like Windows to a Wonderful World

English: Ocean Isle Beach, North CarolinaSmells:  Like Windows to a Wonderful World

by Angie Brown, Guest Author

We look ahead as we walk forward.  We look to the right and to the left when we cross the street.  We gaze at store windows and shelves to shop for merchandise.  We notice people rushing here and there, always looking.  Whether we’re bathing, playing or working, we use our eyes to recognize familiar things and faces.  Truly, our eyes are very important and necessary to our everyday lives.

But the sense of smell is also important and necessary; it can give us the feeling of both the past and the present. Oceans and sandy beaches, with their fishy smells, bring back memories of visiting Myrtle Beach or North Carolina Beaches with our southern relatives.  My granddaughter once commented, “It’s the smell of the south.” The musty moss and evergreen smells take me back to when, as children, we walked through the woods picking ground pine.  On our way to class, we often noticed the tantalizing smell of fresh bread coming from a nearby bakery.  The smell of chlorine greeted us when entered the YMCA pool area. And every classroom and locker room in school had their own distinctive smell.  You wouldn’t need to see it, because the smell would give it away!

The smells of the present are just as characteristic. A barnyard can be either pleasant or not so pleasant, but, either way, it’s a mighty homey smell to the farmer!  City streets have a different smell.  It’s a combination of several odors all mingled together: car exhaust pipes, trucks loaded with building supplies and dump trucks filled with debris all produce odors that are compounded into one strange mixture. Then there’s the smell of oil or gas as you pass a refinery or fill your car’s gas tank.  Stopping suddenly brings a smell of burning rubber. When lawns are mowed, there’s a sweet smell of clover blossoms and grasses in the air. Tightly closed houses in the winter may develop a stuffy smell, until Fido or your pussycat lingers at the open door before venturing out. After a heavy rain, the outdoors has a damp fungus smell for a day or so, but, eventually, the sunshine dries things out and removes it.

We all have our favorite smells, of course. One of the most pleasant smells I can think of is that of a home-cooked family meal on the stove, when everyone looks forward to dinner at the end of the day. But the best smell — one that can only be described as heavenly — is the soft, cuddly, precious newborn baby smell.

We need smells, along with our seeing eyes, to fully experience and appreciate the wonderful world around us!  What are you smelling right now?

(For more articles by Angie Brown, click HERE)