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Golden memories of golden days

Every fall when pheasant hunting season comes around, I feel a tug of nostalgia about those good old days as a kid on the farm. Folks might think it unusual for me to have a sentimental feeling for the days when I used to hunt pheasants, since I'...

Terry Woster

Every fall when pheasant hunting season comes around, I feel a tug of nostalgia about those good old days as a kid on the farm.

Folks might think it unusual for me to have a sentimental feeling for the days when I used to hunt pheasants, since I've not done it for half a century or so. The tug of the past may seem odd, too, because I have no desire to go out and tromp the fields again, not even on a Saturday as weather-perfect as the forecasters say this one should turn out to be. Been there, done that. Got the memories.

I never hunted for the meat, you know. I never much cared for pheasant, no matter how it was fixed. I didn't like biting into bits of birdshot, and there was never enough meat there to make it worth chipping a tooth. I didn't mind a bit of duck breast now and then, but I never hunted ducks enough to become proficient at bringing home a mallard or two. Besides, we raised chickens and cattle, and every now and then we caught some bullheads. What more does a kid need?

I suppose I like to remember how it felt to be kicking around on a fall afternoon waiting for a rooster to break cover and half scare me into an early grave. I'm not interested in doing it again, but I like remembering when I did.

Because I gave up hunting after my dad died and we sold the farm, my kids didn't get a chance to inherit any hunting traditions from me. When they were old enough to hunt (which was 14 or 15, not the eight or nine I was when I started going along), we were living in town and all the land we might have hunted was controlled by someone else. Each of our boys tried his hand at hunting for a time. Each of them seemed to enjoy it for a while, but each of them soon gave it up in favor of other ways to spend their time on a weekend afternoon. That was fine with me. It would have been equally fine had they continued to hunt. It was their experience and their decision.

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When I did hunt, back when we lived on the land, it was a natural part of the changes of seasons. At some point, it was time to plant, at another it was time to combine wheat, at another it was time to brand calves. On a crisp, soft-sun day in October it was time to hunt. I always remember the first days of pheasant season as being warm and sunny, with a mild breeze to rustle dead leaves on the stalks of corn missed by the cutter. I remember kicking through stubble fields and shelterbelts and overgrown lake beds, pushing through thick stand of cattails in low spots in a pasture, walking fence rows chocked with fireweed. I remember that being fun. Much of the fun came because I was with my dad or my big brother or my cousin.

I know in my head that we had a lot of cold hunting days, a lot of wet hunting days and a lot of miserably windy hunting days when clouds the color of lead blew across the sky and a rooster wouldn't fly if you stepped on the end of its tail feathers. But when I remember, every hunting day was pure gold.

I suppose I quit hunting because I didn't want to ask for permission. We never had to ask when I was a kid. If we didn't own the property, a neighbor did. If anyone asked that neighbor if these kids had permission to hunt the property, the neighbor would say, of course they do, because he knew we'd shut gates and stay away from his cattle and his buildings and because if we didn't do those things, he knew who are parents were.

It wasn't so much that we owned land back then as that we lived on the land. I like to remember that part on a nice October day.

Related Topics: TERRY WOSTER
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