I f we weren’t hunting quail with Uncle in November, Cousin and I were out with our BB guns. It was just such a day when we finished breakfast in Grandma’s kitchen and picked up our Daisy airguns.
“Where are y’all going?”
Thus began the rote.
“Gonna go shoot our guns.”
“Up at the barn probably.”
“Well, y’all stay in our pasture.”
“And be careful around that pool.”
“And don’t get on the highway.”
“Can we hunt down by the slough?”
Two pastures over.
“Well, okay, but don’t fall in.”
Cousin pointed across the highway at Granddad’s two acres on the other side. “I want to hunt over there, too.”
“Well, I guess that’s all right. Look both ways before you cross the road. Why do y’all want to go over there?”
“There’s quail, and we might want to hunt down on Center Springs Branch.”
She looked to the south. “You know, Indians used to camp on that branch.”
“We’re gonna look for arrowheads while we’re there.”
“Well, don’t fall in.”
“It ain’t but ankle deep.”
“You’ll get your shoes wet.”
With permission to roam at will, Cousin and I stepped off the porch and crossed the fence into the only pasture we hadn’t mentioned, because a covey of quail flushed from behind the house and scattered over there.
They disappeared into the grass, and with BB guns at the ready we began our Phantom Stalk. The first bird that came up almost hit me in the face and I swatted at it with my air gun. Cousin fired a shot and then I tried leading the little rooster with the same dismal results.
“They’re fast!” I cocked my gun.
“I wish we could see them sitting on the ground. I’d hit one then.”
A squirrel scampered up a bois d’arc tree and chattered at us from a low limb. Cousin aimed and adjusting his elevation for the BB drop, pulled the trigger. The BB bounced off the squirrel’s head.
That squirrel puffed up like a coon and cut loose with a sound like I’d never heard. “I think you made it mad.”
The squirrel charged out on the limb, chattering and fluffing its tail, making it look the size of a beaver. It chattered and chuffed, eyes blazing that we’d dared to hit it with a BB.
Cousin retreated a couple of feet and cocked his gun. “I think it’s coming after us.”
“Don’t run. If you run from a mad dog, it’ll chase you.”
“It ain’t no dog.”
“It’s big as one. Be still!”
Cousin shot again, this time bouncing the BB off the squirrel’s chest. The boar squirrel charged even farther out on the limb, gaining a couple more feet on us. Cousin turned to run.
“Don’t! That thing’s gonna catch us if we run.”
“I ain’t gonna stand here and be et by no squirrel!”
“You’re the one keeps shooting him. Ain’t no BB gonna kill a squirrel.”
“A pellet gun will.”
I gaped at him. “Well that ain’t no pellet gun. Look out, here he comes!”
The squirrel leaped off the limb and charged, all the time chattering.
I shot and missed, throwing up sand in front of him. Cousin shot to the side. Neither round turned the infuriated rodent. Tail high and flickering, it continued toward us and time slowed as it will when ten-year-olds are in danger.
Those yellow front teeth rivaled a wild boar’s tusks, and the fight or flight response took control. Fighting hadn’t worked.
We turned and ran, screaming in terror with the little beast right on our heels. We fled across the highway without looking either way The squirrel did the same, but with less success. A car flattened it like a pancake.
“See, a BB gun will kill a squirrel!”
I thought about knocking him in the head, but it seemed like too much trouble. Anyway, we had a lot more adventuring to do before dinnertime.
Back then kids could adventure all they wanted without adult intervention.
We learned things—like never shoot a big boar squirrel with an underpowered BB gun. Applying that lesson in life, in varying situations, got me through.
Turn your kids loose in the outdoors and let them learn something.
Email Reavis Wortham at [email protected]