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Growing Up Country

Big Timber Made For Good Squirrel Hunting

Daddy had a brown and black feist dog named, “Trotter” who was a squirrel treeing machine. I wasn’t big enough to keep up but, if David wasn’t along, I would get to go with Daddy to turn the squirrels. I did this by going to the opposite side of the tree and shaking a bush and making a lot of racket until daddy would say, “hold it.”

The next thing you would hear was a .22 shot hollow point go “wop” and out would come the squirrel. Daddy had a .22 Savage automatic that would only shoot shorts. He very rarely missed a squirrel lying still, and I have seen him cut some down running wide open.

I loved those trips down to Miller’s Lake or up the bottom to the Big Bend. There was big timber then, with lots of acorns and hickory nuts, and Trotter was in his glory. There would be squirrel stew for the old tough squirrels, and mama would fry up the young tender ones to have with biscuits and gravy for breakfast.

  In the summer months, Trotter would use his energy  killing snakes, preferably the biggest, meanest ones he could find. He didn’t let one get by. He had been bitten so many times, that he had almost immunized himself from the bites. Sometimes you would miss him for a while—you could  usually find him lying in the cold, spring fed Camp Ground Creek. Daddy would say that he was doing what nature had told him to do to combat the fever from a bad bite. When he came to the  house, Daddy would give him a piece of fat meat and in a day or two, this little man would be good as new, and looking for action. 

Trotter had a system on killing snakes. He would go in, grab a snake, backing up and shaking him furiously and the snake didn’t have a chance to strike until Trotter had weakened him. When the snake finally did strike, temporarily straightening out his body, Trotter would nail him right behind the head, crunching him through and through until he was lifeless. He would sometimes stand back and bark at the edge of a slough as if he wanted an audience. Daddy would only have to say, “Bring him out boy”—and the  show was on.

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I know David and his friends and cousins got awfully tired of me hanging around them, trying to hear every word they said. The number one hangout in the summer, especially at or near laying-by time, was the deep hole in Camp Ground Creek, which was about 200 yards south of our  house. This deep hole had been a natural phenomenon over the years. It appeared to have happened because the creek had a slate bottom to this point, whereas, it suddenly turned to solid sand. We actually had a little waterfall in our ice cold, spring fed, pool. All the boys in the country knew about this hole,  but it was rare when I had a contemporary present. 

  My brothers and his cronies had started smoking. They cautioned me on a daily basis about telling Mama and Daddy about this. I believe I remember some pretty strong threats in addition to the cautions. As the summer grew older, further precautions were taken—they had me take a “draw” occasionally. 

“Now remember, if you tell on us, we’ll tell on you.” It didn’t work, though, because when I got real mad at David about something, I spilled my guts to daddy about the whole bunch. This did not turn out to my liking, as Daddy gave David a “talking to”, and gave  me the razor strap to the rear. Even though I like to think justice had been served, the big boys were really on my case then. 

  In the upper end of our swimming hole, the water was about eight feet deep, and then it became shallow at the lower end where I  hung out. I would pretend to swim, but I would always have my feet safely touching the bottom. One day my brother grabbed me and threw me into the deep water. To my total surprise, I swam out. After taking in water, and blowing water out of all my my exits I finally got  my breath. As soon as I got my breath, he threw me in again, and again. I left the swimming hole mad and crying, and told daddy what had happened. I wanted him to kill David, but he didn’t and it wasn’t long before I would just walk up on the high bank and jump  into the deep water just like the big boys.

One afternoon when we were swimming at the hole, someone saw my cousin, Robbie, coming down the levee road carrying a big bag of apples. Since we were skinny dipping, we  had to put our pants on right quick, to run out and ask Robbie for an apple. Robbie was always a sweet girl, and she gave each of us an apple. 

As soon as Robbie was down the road a ways, David grabbed my apple, ran and dived into the deep hole with an apple in each hand. With nothing to guide  him, except two balled up fist holding apples, he hit bottom, breaking his wrist. The cotton still needed to be cultivated one more time, and by now Daddy had bought an Allis Chalmers tractor. David could drive the tractor with his left hand, but I had to sit on the right side fender so I could raise the cultivators at the end of the row. He was a real grouch about this. If I hadn’t had to ride with him, I would have probably thought justice had finally been served, but this was pretty boring, and I had things I needed to do, such as slipping off to the swimming hole. He told Daddy, “Well, I guess  if I’d brokenly neck you’d have Baxter holding my head up and keep me plowing.”

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