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I grew up hunting, at least since about the 7th Grade. I greatly benefited from Grandpa Rogers’s farm being located just five minutes outside our small town, offering me the opportunity to roam the acres long before I was trusted with a gun. 

In this way I was exposed to the great variety of small game that existed at that time in rural America. Usually gray but sometimes fox squirrels, cottontail rabbits, groundhogs, and from time to time skunks, red foxes, raccoons, and a wide variety of snakes. And, of course, birds, including quail, grouse, pheasant, ducks, and very few turkeys.

One of my best farm memories is awakening there in the summer with the windows open. Birds sang loudly in an incredible cacophony that to me was a symphony. Music to my ears and in fact to this day birds are my favorite music.

Later, in the farmhouse’s front yard, Dad set me up with Grandpa’s double-barreled 12-guage shotgun and I shot it into a bush about 30 feet away. Needless to say the recoil rammed my shoulder hard enough to rock me back into Dad’s arms. It was the first time I fired a shotgun. I learned then that guns, particularly shotguns, were not to be trifled with for any reason. Unfortunately, this shotgun somehow escaped the family when Grandpa eventually sold it to a fellow passing through.

Then I was introduced to Grandpa’s single-shot, bolt action .22 caliber rifle. That gun is still in my possession, or rather now in the possession of one of our sons. It featured a scope through which I was able to hunt groundhogs and otherwise enjoy the pastime called “plinking.” 

Along about 8th Grade Dad took me to the next town where he’d located a shotgun for sale, one he thought might work for me. It was perfect in that it had a modified shorter stalk that fit my then not full-grown stature. The gun was a single-shot 16-guage with a lever action. Dad thought a single-shot was safer for a beginner—less likely I’d get so excited while hunting I’d forget what I was carrying and fire off another undirected round that could hurt me or others. That gun sits in my gun rack above my head as I write. It’s a revered family heirloom, at least to me because it brings back so many warm memories of hunting squirrel and rabbit, sometimes grouse or pheasant, over several seasons during my teenage years. 

I remember a time when Dad and I went hunting for squirrel on the family farm.  We got up early, really early for me, and were in the damp, cold woods by 4:30 am. I was freezing in the fall weather. Dad had brought along a thermos of coffee. As an eighth grader I’d never drank coffee at that point but there’s a first time for everything and this was it. Dad poured me a half-cup and I sipped away. I remember the bitter taste, scorching hot, but man was did that coffee hit the spot.

My Grandma Davis, Mom’s mother, grew up in an era when local farm and field small game were very much a staple of the American family’s diet. She loved the taste of “wild meat.” Since Mom didn’t particularly care for cooking squirrel or rabbit, Grandma Davis was next on the hit parade. She loved it and loved the game each of us grandsons brought her during season. 

My junior high, high school, church friend, Ed, virtually lived in the field and woods. That guy loved hunting like no one I knew then or have met since. Not sure if he continued this in adult life, but I enjoyed many hours tramping over hillsides with him trying to scare up rabbits.

Hunting back then was something nearly every boy did at some point in his upbringing. We didn’t needless harm or act cruelly toward animals, but we weren’t squeamish and didn’t treat animals like they were human beings either. Hunting was something you did with respect for the animal, the weapons, and the experience. For me, hunting small game in small town USA is nothing but good memories.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

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