10 September 2009

Fire at Will

In 1970 my family and I were living in the city of Greenville , Alabama and I was working with the Walnut Street congregation. I became good friends with Max Autrey and asked if I could hunt squirrels on the family plantation that was located in the Butler-Lowndes County area, and that contained some 3,500 acres. The area consisted of beautiful ridges and fertile valleys with a couple of streams of water. It reminded me so much of where I grew up in northwest Georgia except the ridges were not as tall. When I began hunting squirrels I noticed that there were turkey and deer tracks everywhere and I had never hunted either one. So I laid down my father’s old Excel single shot 16 gauge shotgun and bought me a Winchester 12 gauge shotgun. To say that I was a novice would be an understatement of the fact. But I did see the wild game. Some turkeys were black and others were bronze. I saw two varieties of quail and even small herds of deer. I finally killed a wild turkey one morning during the fall season and that lit a flame in my heart. The area at that time was a virtual game preserve. I was in ‘hog heaven’. I would leave before daylight and spend the entire day hunting. The only noise I heard besides the sounds of nature was an airplane that would occasionally pass over the area. I remember that one morning while I sitting at the base of a tree that a squirrel came down and barked at me like it was going to attack me. There were squirrels everywhere with hardwood trees in abundance.

My two oldest sons, Tim and Joel, really wanted me to take them hunting and so one Saturday morning I took them. It was a very cold frosty morning. We parked on a ridge, walked across the valley and crossed a stream of water and it was there on the side of a ridge, where I saw so many squirrels, that I instructed them to sit very still and listen very carefully for these pesky rodents. In the distance and across a beautiful green field that was now white with frost I heard loud noises being made by turkeys. I told the boys that I was going to walk around the bottom of the ridge and try to find out what all the noise was about. I also told them if they had a shot at a squirrel to go ahead and shoot. While I wanted them to have a successful hunt I did not know at that time the full consequences of my instructions to them and how it would affect my hunting. So I left them and began walking slowing around the beautiful frost covered field when in my peripheral vision I caught movement and I thought it was perhaps large birds flying across that field. It was then that I looked and what I saw startled me. It was a large herd of deer running and what a beautiful sight that was to behold. I could not begin to tell how many antlers I saw. It was like a dream come true. I had never seen such a sight before in my life. My heart was racing and the adrenalin was flowing freely. Will they come near enough for me to get a shot? Which one will I shoot? These thoughts flooded my mind. But in an instant, the answer came. It was then that my oldest son shot twice and my dream came to an abrupt end. That herd of deer turned on the afterburners and I saw them no more. Soon after, the boys came and in their hands were two dead squirrels. They said, “Look what we killed.” What could I do but brag on their accomplishment. I did say to them, “you should have seen what I saw”. Of course I had to take a picture of the boys with their very dead squirrels to give credence to their story telling about how on a frosty morn they became great hunters.

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