Saturday, March 1, 2008


Boy, February is finally over, that extra post just about dipped into the posting reserves. We have talked about eating squirrel and perhaps mentioned hunting them, but never about some of the dangers faced by squirrel hunters. I spent a lot of time in the woods in my youth. And, on occasion I smelled the sweet aroma of souring mash. I was warned not to venture too close. From time to time, I would meet people in the woods who did not seem to be hunting, or anything else for that matter. As an adult, I just couldn't stand it any longer so I took a job looking for and destroying moonshine whiskey stills. I don't think all my relatives were thrilled with my new occupation, but I wasn't living near them at the time, so I saw no conflict of interest. I wrote a short/short fiction piece for a contest once and I think it conveys the symbiotic relationship that once existed (and may still) in some rural areas of the South.

White “Lightnin’” Christmas

The thermometer read 29 degrees when fourteen year old David Rains left the warmth of his grandparents’ home. White puffs of breath lead him into the early morning half light.
“You be careful out there today. Bring me some squirrels and I’ll fix dumplings when you get in”, his grandmother yelled from the front porch.
David gripped the big 12 gauge tightly as he walked into the dark woods and headed for the swamp. He wore his dad’s old green canvas hunting coat.
Soon he heard the chatter of squirrels and started to follow the shadowy movements in the hardwood canopy. He paid little attention to his direction of travel. After crossing the creek several times, David lost his sense of direction. A feeling of panic crept into his mind. He thought about running.
It might have been the smell that first alerted him, but then he definitely heard voices.
“Put a little more wood on that fire and bring me another bucket of mash.”
David leaned his shotgun against the trunk of a nearby oak and tried to see through the tangle of limbs. A large copper pot sat atop a wood fire. A coil of copper tubing snaked out from the top of the pot and ran into a nearby metal drum. David eased closer. Crack! A large limb broke beneath his boot. The men in the clearing stopped their activity and turned toward the sound.
“Somebody’s out there. Get him”, yelled a huge man in bib overalls.
David turned and ran as fast as he could through the underbrush. His lungs burned as he sucked in big gasps of cold December air. After a while he came across a familiar path. He stopped to catch his breath and then realized that he had left the shotgun leaning against a tree.
Back at the whiskey still, one of the men found the old Winchester shotgun leaning against a tree trunk. The big man in the bib overalls looked at the gun and grinned.
“That’s Elmer Rains’ old Model 97. I’ve hunted with him a hundred times. We called that thing the cannon because Elmer could hit a quail as far as you could see one. He got killed on that oil rig last year. I’ll bet that was his boy we scared off.”
David made it home but felt very little comfort. His stomach churned as he told his grandmother that he couldn’t find any squirrels.
“That’s all right, it’s Christmas Eve and I’m cooking up a real feast for tomorrow.”
David awoke to the smell of bacon cooking and coffee brewing. As he ambled toward the kitchen, he passed the Christmas tree and saw his old shotgun lying there with a big red bow on it.
“Where did that come from?” he asked his grandfather.
“Well, I don’t really know, but I found it on the front porch along with this.”
Grandpa smiled with a knowing grin as he held up the gallon jug of clear liquid.

Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum (I think that I think, therefore I think that I am.) - Ambrose Bierce