Squirrel hunting a family tradition
“We need to try to get somebody to watch the kids during the last weekend in September,” I shouted to my husbandJason, as I walked into his office.
“Why,” he asked, looking up from his computer. “What’s going on?”
“Squirrel season starts,” I said, with a twinkle in my eye.
While my eyes were twinkling, Jason’s eyes were rolling.
“You’re funny,” he said, as I made my way out of his office.
But I continued to daydream about the experience.I tried squirrel hunting for the first time in my life last year. Granted, I missed everything I tried to shoot. But I loved every minute of it.
With September in full swing now, I am ready to get back to the woods and show Jason how it’s done.
Hopefully, this year I will get at least one of those critters.
Squirrel hunting is a family tradition that I want to carry on and pass down to my own children, James and Elsie.
My grandfather, James Jackson, was the best squirrel hunter in three counties. He lived and breathed squirrel hunting.
According to one family legend, he killed one by throwing a rock at its head.
During squirrel season, Paw Paw was hardly ever at home. And when he was, he was dressing squirrels and making supper with his prize.
“Fire up the stove,” he yelled, holding two hands full of squirrels.
I am sure there was a bag limit, but it wasn’t always “acknowledged” on Jackson family land. Paw Paw looked at as he was providing for his family. If the whole Jackson clan came overfor supper, eight just wouldn’t be enough.
It truly was a family event. All the men would come to our house and drink about a gallon of coffee. Then they would take off before the sun was good and up.
Then they would all return with more squirrels than I had ever seen in my life. Setting up tables under the carport, the men would get to cleaning their game.
I wasn’t often allowed outside during that time.
“They are liquored up on their pride and Lord knows what else,” Maw Maw said, shutting the screen door.
But I would sneak out ever so often to see what was going on.
Then the men would barge into the kitchen, and Paw Paw would usher Maw Maw out of her territory. The kitchen was Maw Maw’s land, but not on “squirrel day.”
Paw Paw would roll his sleeves up and get to work. The other men would gather around the kitchen table, ready to get started on their second pot of coffee.
Paw Paw was an excellent cook. He wouldn’t admit it, but I think he enjoyed being in the kitchen.
“You know why I am a good cook,” he asked. “Because in the Army, they would send you to the mess hall to work when you got in trouble.”
As I raised my eyebrows, he would start to grin.
“I got in trouble a lot,” he smiled.
Paw Paw could fry, roast or just about anything else he wanted with squirrel. But what he really liked to do with his squirrel was cook it in a pressure cooker.
Maw Maw would make a batch of biscuits, and everybody would fill up on tender meat, gravy and biscuits. We’d top it off with a piece of red velvet cake and a cup of coffee.
It truly was a fun time in my life during squirrel season. The house was filled with laughter, food and life.
It almost killed Paw Paw when the doctor told him he had a tumor on his spine. In order to remove it, he would be paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair.
It was a hard pill to swallow for Paw Paw, whose life revolved around family, hunting and fishing.
During the last years of his life, Paw Paw and I would take a stroll down our road every morning. I would ride my bike alongside his wheelchair.
There was a spot by the road that had a clearing on the side. You could sit in the clearing, by the edge of the woods, and watch nature in all her glory.
Leaving my bike on the ground, I would sit crosslegged next to Paw Paw...and listen.
We wouldn’t speak, just listen to the woods.
But every now and then, I would see him pull his arms up like he was holding a shotgun. He would making a firing noise towards a tree in the distance.
Then a squirrel would take off running up the tree.
Even with an imaginary gun, those critters knew he was there.
The guns that my Paw Paw used in his life were passed down to me, every one of them. I am proud to own the ones that he used particularly for squirrel hunting.
I plan on using them this season when I try my hand at squirrel hunting once more. And I will pass them down to my son, Paw Paw’s namesake.
I didn’t have any luck last year, but I didn’t have Paw Paw’s gun either.
Maybe he will take a minute to look down from Heaven and help me aim just right.