Friday, November 23, 2012

Hunting With Dad - Part 3 - Rats !!!!

Crossing The Rubicon...

My father kept his guns in a homemade gun cabinet that was located in the "den", which was really just a room that was over our small attached, barn. He had a homemade fly tying desk, a couch, an overstuffed chair, a record player and a small portable black & white TV, and this room was where he would tie his flies and clean his guns. But that was about it for him but to me though it was filled with wonders and I would spend many hours in there, doing homework, listening to records and imagining the day when I would be allowed to use one of his guns. In the cabinet there were shotguns of various guages as well as deer hunting rifles. Among these was his semi .308, a lever action .32 Special with a scope that Dad bought for my big brother Dennis and with which I fantasized using in the Old West with my pals Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. There was also an old octagon barreled .32 Special that was my grandfather's farm gun and which was used for deer hunting and also to dispatch old and broken down work horses, a bolt action .22 and then my "gun", a Red Ryder BB gun...
Don't get me wrong I loved that BB gun with it's leather tassel hanging from a ring and I got  into plenty of trouble with it in the years that I used it. wasn't the real thing and I really wanted the chance to throw some real lead at a real target.  
RATS !!!!
Back then there were several places that men would gather to talk over the important issues of the day and one of those special places was our city dump.  Every Saturday morning Dad and our next door neighbor Uncle Oscar would load up the pickup with our weekly accumulation of garbage and refuse and the three of us would go to the dump. I really looked forward to the dump run. There were all sorts of treasures , new ones every week, and Dad or Oscar would bring back home some of these to be added to our household necessities.  But the best reason to go was all of the wildlife that could be observed..seagulls, crows, dogs, hogs, and of course rats! They were everywhere under the piles and would scurry around if the trash was disturbed in any way.
And it was those little demons that were my first quarry. In a time honored tradition we would spend a few warm summer nights standing among the fragrant mounds of trash, headlights blazing, beholding a spectacle of Biblical proportion. In the high beams was a writhing, slithering, carpet of rats, their glowing, beady eyes glaring back at us for a split second before they turned tail and tried to return to the Netherworld from whence they came. But we were ready..locked and loaded and with itchy trigger fingers. Finally my chance had come to send some of these little devils back to Hades.
Of course Dad, not really wanting to take a chance with a crazed 9 year old whose eyes were glowing red with blood lust and with a fully loaded firearm, took a precaution.  Even though the 22 had a clip, he would only allow me one chambered round but that was good enough for me. I don't remember if I even aimed or just pointed and pulled the trigger but in the course of the evening I got my share of rats..maybe one or two. And driving home with my clothes and hair bathed in the perfume of burning paper, wood and rubber, I knew that I had crossed a rubicon...
Next..Final Act

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Deer Hunting With Dad - Part Two - The Wall

Part Two – The Wall
There was no sign of the late afternoon sun and the sky was an unbroken blanket of gray that seemed to meld with bare limbs of the skeletal trees.  This kind of gloomy November day was perfect for hunting but we would be short on time and Dad tried to waste as little of it as possible with a heavy dose of foot on the gas since picking me up after school.  Reaching the end of the dirt driveway we parked the pickup next to the old barn and quickly checked in with the owners, an old couple who were sitting in their kitchen, cozied up to the wood stove.
Getting back to the truck, Dad retrieved his semi-automatic .308, removing the the 5 round clip from a pocket in his old red and black plaid hunting coat and jammed it into the belly of the rifle.  After chambering a round, checking to make sure the safety was on and the gun secure, we hiked up the farm road that led to the fields.  Probably because it would get dark early Dad chose a spot for us to sit on a tumbled down stone wall that cut the big field in two.  In the old wall there were alders growing up through the lichen covered  stones , and even though the leaves were long gone, they offered enough cover for us to sit undetected.
It was dead silent with only a slight breeze but not overly cold. The conditions seemed perfect, at least to me but I wasn't about to offer my opinion!  Dad was dialed in, on high alert, and I didn’t dare to move, even to breathe.  This was a great spot, prime territory and Heaven forbid that I make any sound that might destroy this special moment that Dad was allowing me to share with him.  But what if I have to go pee?  When was the last time? Please God……
The slight breeze would occasionally gust up making one of the old apple trees creak or rustle the dead leaves lying on the ground.  And with each one of those sounds I was positive that a deer would emerge from the shadows.  Anticipating the same reaction from Dad, I looked up at him, nothing.  He was attentive but cool and collected and not easily fooled by false alarms.
Calm down I kept telling myself. The ol' man had everything under control.
 Next – Part Three – The Gun

Monday, November 5, 2012

Deer Hunting With Dad - Part 1 - Coming Of Age

Deer Hunting With Dad
Part One
Coming Of Age

“We’ll get our deer  today”, Dad said.  Even though I had no proof that this monumental  feat, at least in my 12 year old eyes would happen, but I knew it to be true.  Just the mere fact that the ol’ man said it, made it so.
Dad had picked me up in his yellow F-100 Ford pickup just after the dismissal bell had rung at the George Robertson School in Belfast where I attended seventh grade.  And we were heading out to Monroe, Dad’s favorite hunting grounds. A short drive from school, Monroe was where he was born and raised and he knew the territory well.  So we were heading up to the Robinson farm that had three lovely fields on top of a hill, surrounded by stonewalls and apple trees. And he had dragged out many a deer down from the hill. 
 I was new to this, the actual hunt.  But not new to the results.  I’d seen deer come home, lying in the bed of the F-100. Belly splayed open and tongue drooping out of the mouth, with it's white fur tinged with pink.  I’d run my hands over the thick, coarse coat and over each point of the rack
(mostly Dad wanted a buck but if hunting season ran short...)
and look for the bullet hole, made by the .308,  that brought down this magnificent beast.  Shortly It would be hanging by its hind legs from the rafters of our small barn. On display for a short time, waiting for the trip to the Bi-Rite Market and Bryon the butcher.
And now, finally, it was my turn to actually join him in the hunt. And participate in the long awaited rite of passage that adolescent boys of that day dreamed of.  I was on my way, bumping up the long gravel driveway to the farm with Dad, in the cab of that beat up pickup, enveloped in a cloud of Prince Albert pipe tobacco smoke.
It was heaven..