By Charles Towne
When I was just about seven years old and the size of a skinny wart on a runty toad’s behind I was hired out to some friends of my father as a retriever.
So you will better understand I was not a hound dog retriever, I was a little boy retriever. Please allow me to explain.
I would also be sent into those nasty bramble thickets, dense patches of weeds and thorny berry patches to flush out the rabbits and pheasants for the hunters. That was my job.
After the bunnies and birds committed suicide by running and flying within range of the shotgun-wielding horde that awaited them I retrieved the deceased from where they had crash-landed back into those same thick, nasty and thorny patches of blackberry bushes and brambles. Yes, that was my job.
Finally, after retrieving them I carried all of the deceased animals my hunters had shot that day. That was also my job.
I am here to tell you that it sure is nice to be needed.
I was paid a dollar a day, and what I was told was a delicious free lunch. The delicious free lunch was what Mr. Bill called a pepper “sanmich” which was composed of two slices of white bread with hot green peppers in between.
Strange as it might seem I was never able to develop an appetite for those delicious hot pepper “sanmiches.”
The first day that I went with my group of hunters I was excited. I mean, what 7-year-old kid wouldn’t dearly love to accompany a bunch of vulgar, profane and smelly hunters into the woods to hunt rabbits and pheasants?
What an opportunity for an education!
And those men, my teachers; I could surely admire!
I am not sure this is the education my mama wanted for me.
There I was, tromping through the woods and fields with real men! Men who had lived life as hunters and fishermen and who would joke with a boy and treat him as an equal!
It wasn’t until some time later that I learned what the word “equal” meant.
I became accustomed to request performances such as, “Hey boy, that there big patch of thorny brambles looks like real good rabbit cover to me. Why don’t you run through there and see what you can kick up? And don’t you be worryin’ none about them thorns, thorns don’t bother real men”
It wasn’t until some time later that I asked one of the hunters about this, “real men” comment. Reaching back into the nether regions of my rememberer my question went something like this. “If thorns don’t bother real men none, why ain’t you guys trompin’ around in them big patches of nasty brambles and thorny berry bushes?”
As I remember it he looked at me with sort of a pained expression on his face, and for a minute there I thought he was going to cry before he said, “Son,” (I also was about to learn that when adults use the title, “son” it usually is not a good sign.) “Son, here we are out here in the woods teachin’ you how to hunt and all, and you ast me a darned question like that? Why you should be ‘shamed of yersef.”
Just then there was the blast of a shotgun and one of the hunters exclaimed, “Dingblame it, would ya look at that? That big ol’ pheasant splashed down right in the middle o’ the river! Hey boy, go get that pheasant will ya? An’ make it quick before he disappears around that bend in the river, and don’t you be concerned about that icy cold river water!”
One thing you should know about my hunters, they were real kind and considerate. So you understand better why I say that you should know that they had them as nice a pack of rabbit dogs as you ever saw, beagles they were and they were real good hunters, at least that is what I was told.
Mr. Bill owned the dogs and he was always lovin’ on them and petting them, but as I remember there was two things those dogs didn’t like, thorny bramble bushes and cold water, and seeing as we were hunting on islands where thick thorn bushes grew in profusion, and the islands being surrounded by water as is usually the case with islands, well, and it was winter, you get the picture, and I got the job.
I would come back from those hunting trips with a runny nose and all covered with dried blood from the thorn bushes poking holes in my sorry seven-year-old hide, and soaking wet from wading in the river, and tired from carrying all the rabbits and pheasants the hunters had shot that day, but do you know what? I was happy. I had spent the day with a bunch of profane, boozing, smelly, vulgar hunters, and I had even earned a whole dollar!
I never was able to develop an appetite for those hot pepper sandwiches though, but how much fun can a little kid have anyhow?
AN OUTDOORSMAN’S PRAYER
Dear Papa God, thanks for answering mama’s prayers and protecting me and keeping me from getting shot by one of those drunken hunters instead of the rabbits! And Lord, for the most part, thanks for protecting me from the bad habits that those profane, boozing, smelly, and vulgar hunters endeavored to teach me, Amen
Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.