WOSTER: A-hunting we did go
A warm spell like the one predicted for the next seven or 10 days would have shut down the rabbit hunting for me and my cousin back on the farm. We were teenagers, so we didn't care if it was hot or cold most of the time. Well, we cared, but it c...
A warm spell like the one predicted for the next seven or 10 days would have shut down the rabbit hunting for me and my cousin back on the farm.
We were teenagers, so we didn't care if it was hot or cold most of the time. Well, we cared, but it certainly didn't stop us from doing whatever we were planning to do outside. We did prefer the cold weather for rabbit hunting, sure. That was because the pastures were frozen solid, and we could bounce over them in a rattle-trap pickup without worrying about getting stuck five miles from a good road or friendly farmhouse at 10 o'clock at night.
That's how and when we hunted jackrabbits. Looking back, I suppose it was kind of goofy, but I'll bet we weren't the only farm kids who tried it. We'd grab a couple of shotguns and a box of shells and head to the country in the pickup, driving loops and crazy eights around a pasture until the high beams caught a leaping jackrabbit. Then we'd chase the critter around the field, one of us driving, the other leaning out the passenger-side window, trying to draw a bead on a high-tailing, zigzagging jumper as the pickup bounced over ruts and wallows and crusted drifts of snow. It wasn't a high-percentage endeavor.
The locker plant in town paid for jackrabbit pelts in those days. I don't know if it was $2 a pelt or $5 or what. We never cashed in enough of them to become familiar with the finer points of the operation. Two, maybe three times in our lives we came back with something other than frozen fingers, watering eyes and a bump on the forehead from window frame. We sure weren't getting rich. I know we never covered the cost of the wasted shells. And we weren't any threat to wipe out the species. It was just something to do on a winter evening after finishing homework.
I can't imagine to this day how my mother let me go out there. She was a worrier. Two kids with weapons and a bouncing pickup and a dark night? What could go wrong, right? But I don't remember a struggle over it. And I don't think we fibbed about where we were going, as in:
"What's up tonight?'' "Just going up to the armory to help clean the basketball court, Mom.'' "Why are you wearing every piece of winter clothing you own? Is the furnace out?''
But I also can't imagine: "What's up tonight?'' "Just running out to the farm to do some rabbit hunting, Ma.'' "Great. Have a good time.''
Neither scenario rings a bell. Maybe my mother figured if I was with my older cousin, no harm could come to me.
The reason I said this anticipated warm spell would have stopped our hunting trips is because we didn't use a four-wheel drive pickup. We had a pickup with a big engine. We had a bunch of weight in the back end. And we had a set of tire chains. Those are all great for busting snow, but if the pastures started to thaw and we really smacked a soft spot, we were probably stuck for the duration. When you have a full-sized pickup buried to its axles, it isn't going anywhere soon. And it's too late to chain up at that point. Get stuck in a drift, you can dig out, eventually. Buried in mud, not so fast.
We knew we'd have been walking, in the dark to a neighbor's place to borrow a phone to call a parent. There was no way either of us wanted to make that kind of call. We weren't the brightest two guys in the county, especially when we were together. But we were bright enough not to get stuck in the middle of the field in the middle of the night.
Even if we'd had four-wheel, we probably would have been careful, anyway. As my dad always said when I'd ask him why we didn't get a bunch of four-wheel drive vehicles, "Four wheel works best when you avoid situations that make you use it.''