Fondly remembering the great squirrel hunt of 1967
By Bob Maciulis For Sun-Times Media August 25, 2013 4:20PM
Updated: September 27, 2013 6:17AM
Soon, another dove season will open but the township will be quiet. There’s no place left to hunt and, while I understand that most of our neighbors moved here for the same reasons we did so long ago, it’s still a bittersweet time.
There was a magic during the fall hunting seasons, such as hearing the quick pop-pop-pop as a dove dived and darted and avoided the string of pellets.
Memories from the summer of 1967 are becoming a little hazy, now, but one Saturday morning stands as clearly as graduation from high school a few years prior.
It was a quiet morning. A soft, warm and dry late summer day starting, with a breeze blowing in from the southwest. The sun was already up behind the large, lush green canopy of the oaks. I had parked behind the barn and walked through behind the vacant house and settled beneath one of the old, gnarled oak trees with the .22 cradled in my arms.
A quartet of crows caw-cawed and tree-hopped at the edge of the grove. A woodpecker was beating its rhythm somewhere high in the trees. An endless stream of honey and bumblebees and bugs were flitting from wildflower to wildflower and from blossom to blossom, probing and gathering, then abruptly tearing off in a beeline to some unknown destination.
Once in a while, an acorn dropped like a rock through the leaves, hitting the ground like a well-struck golf ball.
It was just warm enough in the shade to break a little sweat, while sitting motionless, nervously scanning the tree tops for squirrels, occasionally tapping the gum rubber call, waiting for the telltale echo.
It was the first time I had hunted squirrels, and my heart was thumping wildly.
Later, after an hour (maybe more) had lapsed, I brushed the tails and felt their soft, sun-warmed fur and took a pair out of the woods and cleaned them and salted the hides and put them in a waxed paper bag among my fly tying feathers and furs.
I gave the squirrel meat to Suzy’s dad. He soaked it in red wine, later rolled it in flour and pan fried it. It was a simple thing to share with an old hunter no longer able to get out into the woods.
It was as delicious as the memory of that morning in the wood lot. It’s a memory that resurrects every year about this time, when the first cottonwood leaves begin to yellow and dry and the banana spiders stand sentry among the blue legumes in the field behind the house.
Those oak trees are a beautiful reminder of what this countryside was like before we began to gouge the land in earnest. Those oaks and countryside could serve most township schools well as a living museum. There still are groves of them along the length of the river.
Instead, the topic at most township board meetings is about what’s been slated for another mini mall. The retirees and a few others who may have read Aldo Leopold instead of Batman when growing up step to the podium and quietly explain that it’s a lousy place to build a strip mall but the township’s been drooling for too long and has its sights set on expanding the tax base.
And, maybe it should. That’s why we hire them.
I wonder where the time’s gone since that wondrous afternoon. There is no place left to hunt squirrels along the river. Another era has passed.