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The Fence Post
“As a kid growing up on a small farm in rural Kansas, my dad and I spent a lot of time together hunting, fishing and just hanging out like a father and son will do. When he wanted to tell me something he didn’t wanted repeated, he would say “that’s just between you and me and the fence post”. That damn fence post heard a lot over the years. Everybody has a past filled with experiences from growing up. Mine was probably not much different than anyone else’s, maybe just a different time and a different place. I’ve never really written much about my early years and how we were raised but I’ve always wanted to tell the story of my early years and the outdoors. There are some things in our upbringing that will remain personal and private but there are some things that are worth sharing. This is a journal of some of those experiences”.
*All of these ingredients and the amounts are subject to your own taste so by all means make adjustments, additions or subtractions to make it to your own liking. This is just a basic potato salad recipe that I created while I lived in New Orleans. I needed a good side dish for fried fish.
2-3 pounds of medium red potatoes, boiled soft and peeled, cut into 1” cubes
4 large hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup of chopped Vidalia onion
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup sour cream (optional)
2TBS Dijon mustard
1/3 cup of dill pickle salad cubes with 3 TBS of dill juice
salt to taste
course black pepper to taste
lemon pepper to taste
paprika for garnish
Directions: 1. Place potato pieces in a large pot of hot water andBring to a boil. Then simmer until potatoes are just tender. Drain in a colander and give them a quick rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. I included my 4 eggs for the last 15 minutes of boiling time on the potatoes. I let the eggs and potato’s cool for 10-15 minutes before peeling the potatoes and shelling the eggs.
2. I like to hand cut my potato’s into pieces and chop the egg as well while they are still warm. Some folks like to use a potato masher but I like my potato salad with chunks. After chopping the potato’s and eggs I add the chopped onion and I place them in a big glass mixing bowl and place them in the refrigerator for at least an hour to cool and solidify the potato pieces. *This helps hold the potato’s together when you fold in the rest of the ingredients.
3. Next I start adding the remaining ingredients starting with the Mayo and working my way down the list of remaining ingredients stirring after each addition. Season with salt, pepper and lemon pepper to taste. Garnish the top with paprika.
4. I like to cover the bowl with clear plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. As the mixture cools the ingredients tend to blend together and give it more taste.
A few months back I discovered a new resource for frozen peeled Louisiana crawfish tails so I’ve been stockpiling the deep freeze in the garage with bag after bag for cooking all kinds of delicious recipes with crawfish. Back when I lived south of New Orleans on the West Bank I immersed myself in the local culture and a local favorite comfort food of mine was gumbo. Everyone that was local had their own special style and gumbo recipes were passed down from generation to generation. I was fortunate enough to eat a few bowls of gumbo and taste a lot of different flavors while I was there. This gumbo recipe is one that I came up with after I discovered that making a roux wasn’t my thing so I was looking for the easy button. I started using a box of gumbo base instead of creating a roux on my own. I found that my gumbo was just as tasty with a good boxed base like “Zatarain’s Gumbo Base” or “Louisiana Fish Fry Products Gumbo Base”. Those are my two favorites. Gumbo is something that I like to serve as a appetizer if we are having a seafood dish for dinner or I like a hot bowl of gumbo if I’ve been fishing on a cold winter day and l’m looking for something to warm my core. Lisa and I can make a meal out of gumbo and sliced French bread.
******Here are a few different brands that really give my gumbo that Louisiana taste*******.
Thomas brand Ragin Cajun Andouille Sausage in either medium or hot flavored.
Riceland brand Louisiana crawfish tails
I like to add Gumbo File’ for flavor and thickening
One of my favorites for making my base
2 boneless skinless breasts or 3-4 boneless skinless thighs (about 1 1/4 pounds) cooked and cut into small pieces
16 ounces of peeled crawfish tails or peeled and deveined shrimp
1 pack Cajun-style andouille sausage (680g; about 8 links), sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
6 cups water
2 tbsp cooking oil
1 package Zatarain’s Gumbo Base
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 cup fresh or frozen sliced okra,
1/2 teaspoon filé powder, plus more as needed for serving
Here is how easy it is to make my Louisiana Gumbo… Bring water, Gumbo Base and oil to boil in large saucepot on medium heat, stirring to dissolve any lumps. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in crawfish and/or shrimp, chicken, sausage, celery, bell pepper and onion; cover. Simmer additional 30 minutes or until desired thickness. Add File’ as needed for thickness.
I’m pretty simple when it comes to a rice bed. Here’s my favorite rice for keeping it simple. You just add a bag to boiling water and wait about 10 minutes until the rice is done and ready to drain and serve.
I prefer sliced French bread and butter as something to go with the gumbo and often times the gumbo winds up on top of the bread. Enjoy!!
“This is a recipe that Lisa and I came up with after a recent visit to the Bourgeois Fishing Lodge in Louisiana. We came up with the idea after talking with one of the local cooks that prepared our food for us while we were staying at the lodge. She made a delicious French bread pudding with a bourbon sauce one night and while chatting with her, she gave us some good ideas for our own personal recipe”.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50-55 minutes
Soaking Time overnight if possible
Total Time 1 hour
Bread Pudding Ingredients
1 loaf French bread, broken into pieces (approximately 9 cups)
3 cups whole milk
2 ripe bananas (optional)
3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup (1 stick) butter melted
2 tablespoons spoons ground cinnamon
Bourbon Sauce Ingredients
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons whipping cream or whole milk
4 tablespoons bourbon or 2 teaspoons brandy extract
Bread and Egg Mixture Prep
Pinch bread into 2 inch cubes and place in a large mixing bowl Pour milk over bread, stirring to allow bread to soak up the milk. Make sure to have enough milk to just cover the bread, being careful not to add too much milk or it will be too soupy. Thinly slice 2 bananas and fold into bread mixture.
In a separate bowl whisk the eggs then slowly whisk in the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and melted butter.
When thoroughly blended, pour this mixture over the bread mixture and gently fold together.
Pour combined mixture in a metal 13×9 baking pan.
Cover and refrigerate 2 hours minimum but preferably overnight.
Bake at 350F degrees for 50-55 minutes or until the liquid has set and the top and sides begin to brown.
The outside should be a little crisp and the inside will be soft and delicious.
I like to let it cool uncovered for a few minutes before serving.
Over low heat, melt the ¼ cup of butter in a small saucepan.
Whisk in 1/2 cup of brown sugar and whipping cream and continue stirring while you heat the mixture over low heat for 3 minutes.
Whisk in 1/4 cup Bourbon and continue cooking over low heat for about 2 minutes. Serve immediately. The sauce should be thickened, but thin enough to pour over the bread pudding when serving.
Serve warm, drizzled with the warm Bourbon Sauce.
Jim also likes to add a scoop of French vanilla ice cream
It’s been about ten years now, ten years of watching nature at it’s best and at it’s worst. It all started several years ago when we purchased a little doublewide trailer on the lake and started using it for a weekend getaway from our main home which was 10 minutes away. My wife and I really enjoy fishing so buying a lake house with a dock for our boat was a no brainer and a mutual goal of ours to make it easier to fish and enjoy the lake. We really enjoyed the lake life and started making plans to live on the lake full time by building our dream home on the property. One of the main reasons we decided to live on the lake full time was due to the peaceful serenity of our little cove, appropriately named “Cast Away Cove”. Since making our purchase and spending time at the lake we’ve gotten to know our surroundings and our neighbors as well. Our little place is tucked back into a private little pocket that is out of the way of all the boat traffic and is only visited by the occasional fisherman if the water level is high enough to provide cover for the bass around our docks. Also, since making our purchase, we removed the old doublewide and built our permanent full time home on the property. Since our home is above the cove we made the best of the lake views and positioned our large living area bay windows to face the lake. We have an un obstructed view of the cove and the shoreline as well as 4 or 5 of the neighbors docks. Right away when we started making fishing trips from our dock to the creek we started noticing a few Canadian geese that seemed to be hanging around one of our neighbors dock like maybe the dock was their home. They were either on the dock or out in the water swimming around but always making the dock their focus while swimming about. Sometimes they would disappear for months at a time but they would always return sometime in late winter and stay until late spring. During the time that they stay around a neighbors dock we started noticing one particular goose sitting atop one of the large flower pots that the neighbors had sitting on a corner of the dock. At first we thought that the goose had taken ownership of the pot for territorial purposes but we soon realized that the goose was sitting atop a pile of eggs. We were baffled at first because our neighbors have a boat in their slip and occasionally use the boat but the mother goose never really seemed bothered by the neighbors comings and goings, she just kept right on sitting on the eggs. We’ve gotten to be good friends with our neighbors and they are of a mind to let nature take it’s course so they go on about their business of launching their boat around the pot and the nesting goose. She hasn’t been too fond of the neighbors comings and goings on the dock while she sits in the pot but she tolerates the traffic with an occasional squawk.
The remarkable thing about the whole process of nesting and hatching eggs is really ‘the whole process’. In the 9-10 years we’ve been here at the lake, we’ve watched it play out year after year, no two years have ever been the same when it comes to the outcome. What has been constant in the hatching of the eggs is the devotion of mother and father geese and not one year has gone by without mother goose sitting on those eggs through rain or shine for more than a month. She rarely leaves the pot and the male mate is always patrolling the area around the dock for intruders…. and there are intruders. Other geese would try and move in on the territory but the male mate is pretty big and usually takes care of business in short order, running any other geese out of the area. These geese don’t play either, they can fight to the death if one doesn’t relinquish and leave the area. From time to time a big Blue Heron might show up but is promptly run off by the male. I’ve also seen him go after our little Rat Terrier a few times when our terrier got close to the waters edge next to the dock.
The male that hangs around the female has a large neck and he gives me the big stink eye with those big black eyes every time I idle by their dock. They communicate through honking sounds and the male usually has a few low groining sounds when I go by. I’m sure it’s some kind of obscenity in goose language but I politely move on and he goes on about his day without incident. I’ve really been impressed over the years because out of all the years of watching these geese, they have never left the eggs until they either hatched or didn’t. There were years that they didn’t hatch, mostly because of the weather. If we got a real cold spell during the process there was a chance the eggs would get to cold and not hatch at all or in the case of last year, the eggs hatched but the goslings died shortly there after because the mother had smothered them during a bad storm. While she spends hour after hour and day after day on the pot she passes her time pecking away at the edge of the pot and slowly making the pot shorter. Over the last 10 years she has managed to chew the sides down a good 4-5 inches and if this keeps up the pot will dwindle to nothing in the next 4-5 years.
Two years ago we placed a small towel in the bottom of the pot to help with insulation the bottom of the pot and five of the eggs hatched after the mother removed one of the eggs from the pot and left it on the wood stained deck of the dock right next to the pot. I assumed the sixth egg was just too much for the pot so she removed it. It was pretty cool because all five eggs hatched the year and we had a group of seven geese around here for a while before five of the seven left the area, assuming they may have migrated with other geese during the migration periods here on the lake. This year she successfully hatched 4 out of five goslings and they are cruising around here as we speak.
The tragic part about this years hatching is that four of the five eggs hatched this spring but a fifth didn’t. We’re not for certain why the fifth didn’t hatch but I can say that the four that did hatch left the pot while she was still sitting on the fifth egg off and on waiting for it to hatch. Occasionally she would get off the pot and the four little hatchlings would try and jump out of the pot as we could see their little heads bobbing up and down inside the pot. Finally, three of the four vacated the pot while mom was walking around the pot but the fourth was smaller and really struggling to get out while mom was on and off the pot. We could tell the mother wanted to be with her new hatchlings but there was still one egg unhatched and one small hatchling that was really struggling inside the pot to get out. Finally the fourth made it out and left the dock to join the other three. Later we found out that another neighbor who was watching everything unfold with binoculars from her house said a small prayer for the fourth gosling to make it out and by golly the little one finally made it out and joined the rest of the little ones.
Once the little ones left the pot and entered the water for the first time, daddy goose quickly rounded them up and they swam away to another neighbors half submerged gangway that was directly in the warm sun. There the father goose and the four goslings rested at the waters edge of the gangway. Momma goose was still on the pot waiting for the fifth egg to hatch while she helplessly watched the other four of of her hatchlings on the gangway with daddy from afar. Perhaps she knew the fifth egg wasn’t going to hatch or perhaps she couldn’t stand watching the newborn goslings from afar anymore but whatever the reason she chose to leave the pot to be with her newborn goslings and leave the fifth egg unhatched in the cold morning air.
We watched to see if she would come back to the pot after joining the rest of her family but she never returned. Her, daddy and the four babies moved to another neighbors shoreline where mom and dad have spent the bulk of their time coddling the young ones. The goslings have a hearty appetite and eat constantly. The family wanders around the grass and weedy areas of our shoreline while the little ones graze on new grass and weed tops. As in past years I’m sure we’ll be visited by the family from time to time throughout the remainder of the spring and summer as we watch the small goslings grow into adulthood and leave the area by next winter only to see two geese reappear around the dock next February ready to start the cycle all over again.
About 10 years ago Lisa and I put a steam sauna in our last house and we enjoyed it so much were going to install another one. When we built the Cast Away Cove house a few years back we had the builder add a small room off of the man cave bath and leave it unfinished. (I also knew that a lot of the sauna heaters are 220vac heaters so I had our electrical install a dedicated 220vac and a switch box in a little utility room under the stairs and will be access to the heater control as well as Bluetooth for tunes when the sauna is complete). Our plan was to install the sauna later. Well. now it’s later and we ordered everything we need from Superior Sauna out of Wisconsin. We received the shipment yesterday so now we can get started with our winter project 2021. I’ll be posting pictures of the progress until it’s complete.
I have finally gotten to the age where politics is something I pay closer attention to. I’m not sure why but maybe it’s because so many people in our circle of friends are into politics or maybe it’s because we are in an election year, nonetheless I can’t spend a day without politics being shoved in my face in some shape or form. When I think about politics and the different beliefs people have concerning politics I think about Yuma, Arizona in the mid 80’s and a large bar with a big dance floor and a billboard out front that said “The Buzz Fink Hypnotist Show” tonight only! Yea buddy, I expected a night of drinking, dancing and shenanigans with about a dozen or so of my closest Navy buddies while we were in Yuma for a few weeks playing with the Marine Corps and as a bonus we were all going to be treated to a hypnotist show. How about that! I had never been to anything like that in the past but a $20 cover charge paid for old Buzz Finks night in town and my entertainment. I’m going to leave out a few names here because I’m friends with a shipmate that was hypnotized by Mr. Fink and our friend provided us with some much needed entertainment after a long week of work. Let’s just call him “Bill” for the sake of anonymity and questions that could arise if I used his real name. I don’t have any solid proof of this happening other than my word and maybe a few witnesses willing to talk as cameras were not allowed during the show and taking photographs in a nightclub in the 80’s was a little different than it is today. It didn’t happen a lot.
We arrived at the club a little early and as we were paying the cover charge the doorman asked if any of us were interested in being in the show. I thought that was kind of odd but one of the guys in our group piped up and volunteered for the show. His name was Bill and he was no different than the rest of us, a beer drinking Navy guy looking for a good time and a place to hang out for the evening. We made our way in and found a few tables to pull together for all of us. I don’t recall the name of the bar but they had a few pool tables in a different area of the club so I wandered into the billiard area to see if anyone was a decent player that I could hustle for a beer or a few dollars while waiting on the show to start. One thing that was pretty cool about hustling pool while at the club was that I usually had a few friends within shouting distance if I needed backup but 99% of the time everything was fine. I remembered that the 9 foot tables in the billiard area were all covered in black felt vs the typical green felt which took me some getting used to. I shot pool with some of the locals and a few Navy friends before we went back into the dance floor area for the show. When we all sat down for the show to began the lights dimmed and there were about 25 chairs lined up on the dance floor facing the opposite direction as the tables and where we were located. On the wall in the direction the line of chairs were facing was a large screen tv mounted on the wall which really wasn’t very big for the size of tv’s in the late 80’s. The only thing playing on the tv was a round black and white rotating swirl. As the show began Buzz Fink introduced himself and rattled off some credentials before calling all of his volunteers to the dance floor to be seated. Our buddy Bill from our group made his way to the floor and his seat facing the swirling tv screen. We were all laughing at the fact that Bill was going to be hypnotized right before our very eyes. Old Buzz started talking fast and telling the group of volunteers that they were going to relax and let all of their thoughts fade away clearing your mind of every distraction. Buzz continued to relax the group and then said that the group was getting very tired and sleepy. Very relaxed and very sleepy..very sleepy now as you doze off to sleep. At that point most of the group had fallen into some kind of deep sleep with heads down and eyes closed. Not everyone was hypnotized though. There were a few that were wide awake and excused themselves from the group as Buzz had instructed them. This was the small group that didn’t get hypnotized. Out of 25 people, probably 5 got up and returned to their seat in the audience. At that point Buzz had the group that was hypnotized do all sorts of crazy things. They were acting like farm animals, making funny sounds and sitting on each others laps. Our buddy Bill was the highlight of the show as Buzz had Bill doing all kinds of stuff, from acting like a chicken to acting like a male stripper. It was very very entertaining to say the least. Bill was the topic of discussion for weeks to come in the squadron. It was very interesting to see these individuals under complete control of ole Buzz. I asked Bill what he remembered after it was over and he said it was like being in a dream where everything was kind of hazy and cloudy and he didn’t remember a lot about what he had done.
When I see politics on tv and I think of our differences in opinions when it comes to politics and our beliefs, I think of ole Buzz and the show. It’s like this; some folks believe whole heartedly that their political beliefs are righteous and the true path for our nation while others see it completely differently to the point of violence and aggression. They have been conditioned to believe this by what they see and hear in the media. The media is able to hit those buttons by continuous disinformation or skewed information to form your political opinions. I have friends that have completely different views from me and my beliefs and sometimes I wonder how they could possibly be in favor of something I don’t believe in but just like in the hypnotist show they were conditioned into their beliefs. It’s not like I blame them, I’m just as guilty at times because I have been conditioned by my media. Basically, you don’t need a swirling screen on a tv to put into some kind of trance so you can form a solid political opinion, you just need to turn on a news outlet and continue to watch that one news outlet.
Now, there’s one thing old Buzz told us folks in the audience when the show started, he said that if you didn’t want to be hypnotized like the folks in the chairs, look away from the tv screen….and that has been my choice. I rely on my faith to guide me through the tough times and I don’t get caught up in all the shenanigans of politics on that swirling tv screen.
It was the Christmas of 1970 and all I wanted for Christmas was a Daisy BB gun. I’d been hunting with my dad for a few years without a gun and I was ready to go it on my own and get my first gun. By the time I was 10 my dad had taught me about gun safety and I had learned a lot about hunting. Whether it was dove, quail, pheasant, ducks, geese, rabbit, squirrel or deer I had learned a lot from my dad when it came to guns and hunting. I watched, learned and mimicked his every move when it came to hunting. I could work our bird dogs and I knew exactly what to do when a dog went down on point and I had good training in gun muzzle awareness and how to handle and care for guns. My dad spent several years in the Army and Army reserve so he knew a good bit about firearms. We usually loaded our own shells and I spent many days as a kid reloading 410, 12 gauge and 20 gauge shells for a winter of hunting. My dad especially liked bird hunting and working with bird dogs so I helped my dad train our Brittney Spaniels so I was used to dogs and I knew what we required of them on a hunt. I was a little too young for our towns hunter safety course but I knew exactly what I could and couldn’t do when it came to firearms and hunting at a very early age.
Christmas finally arrived and we had a white Christmas in 1970. There was at least a foot of snow on the ground that year and I knew I was going to get that BB gun. Of course I played along with my parents when they told me I may or may not get a BB gun depending on what Santa thought but I was way past that Santa stuff. I planned it out in my head and I was ready to take myself, my new BB gun and 2 of our best bird dogs out for my first solo hunt. When I unwrapped my Daisy my grandparents were there and I can still remember it like it was this Christmas. I can remember the ouuu’s and the ahhh’s from my family as I tore the wrapping paper off to expose the long rectangular Daisy box and I was ready to start another chapter in hunting. My dad and I went out in the back yard and my dad helped me load and cock the gun. We both sighted and shot the BB gun at some makeshift targets and my dad made sure I knew what I was doing before he turned me loose with the gun and the dogs. He quizzed me on a few safety items and made sure I was confident in handling the dogs. He knew that I could handle the dogs and he was aware that I would mimic everything he did when it came to commands for the dogs. I had already planned everything in my mind months in advance and myself and the dogs were headed to Baker’s Hedgerow.
Baker’s Hedgerow was a mile long row of hedge apple trees and briars that lined two large crop fields about two miles from our farm. I had to cross a few big fields and climb through a couple of barbed wire fences to get to Baker’s hedgerow. My dad and I hunted the hedgerow frequently and there was generally a few coveys of quail somewhere along the hedgerow. Our dogs knew the area well and our Brittney’s knew exactly what to do when hunting the tree line and adjacent fields. The great thing about Brittney dogs was that their tails were bobbed and they would work in heavy cover and briars when other dogs wouldn’t. Our dogs were trained to work close to the hunter and not range out too far ahead and spook the birds, whether it was quail or pheasant. Our dogs were taught to be obedient but to them hunting was a job and a job they did well. Our best dog was a large male named Prince. Prince was a breeding male and sired several litters of Brittney pups over the course of his life. I had a little female Brittney named Buttons and she was a great hunter also, just like Prince. Buttons was a breeder dog and provided us with some fine litters from her and Prince. Another female we used for hunting was Princess. She was another female we used for breeding but not as bird savvy as Prince and Buttons but she did well enough to take on hunts as long as Prince was there to lead the way. On my first hunt I chose to take Prince and Buttons because they worked well together and they were easy to handle. Prince was the boss and looked at hunting as his job and he knew exactly what to do. The only problem we ever had with Prince was that he didn’t ever want to quit. If he knew we were quitting and heading for the truck or the house he would do his best to drag it out and keep hunting. Although Prince bit my sister once while she was trying to play with him while he was eating, we never had a problem with him and he seemed to understand that I was an extension of my dad and he always adhered to my commands. My job was always feeding the dogs and I think that’s another reason he respected me, I was the guy the brought the hot food on a cold winter night.
Shortly after feeding Prince and Buttons a hot meal of dry dog food with warm water poured in, which we always did before taking them on a hunt, I bundled up and got final instructions from everyone in the family including a laughable warning not to shoot my eye out. I was ready and let the dogs out for the hunt. We headed southwest out across our pasture and the nearest neighbors field, the Peaks, covered with snow. We had to cross our neighbors field to the south to get to Baker’s hedgerow. The Peaks pasture was used for their cattle to graze and included two watering ponds in which I frequently fished during the summer months. The dogs knew the way to the hedgerow and all I had to do was try and keep up. Prince would stop at every little clump of grass to sniff it out for any evidence of bird activity. Buttons was always in tow of Prince and they worked their way across the fields. Just before we reached the hedgerow there was a little draw with thickets and a small creek. As we approached the thickets I cocked my BB gun and got ready for action. I knew that their could be a covey of quail anywhere around the draw and my suspicions were confirmed when Prince started getting birdy. When the dogs would get birdy they would seem more serious and more pronounced in there movements. Their bobbed tails would start working back and forth with excitement and they would be nose to the ground working the area with a serious intent. If their keen noses caught a whiff of a bird or birds they would stop suddenly, frozen it time and a front paw would come off the ground, bent at the knee. This is what is referred to as “on point”. Prince didn’t exactly go down on point in this case but before he could I saw what was making him birdy. It was a Prairie Chicken and one of the only ones I had ever seen in my life. Prairie Chickens were very rare in our neck of the woods but I knew they existed from our years of hunting and listening to my dad speak of them in my younger years. I knew exactly what they looked like from the numerous books and magazines I had on upland gamebirds and the stories I read of bird hunting. Compared to a Bobwhite quail, the Prairie Chicken is much larger and would rather run from danger than hold tight in the snow or fly away. Both Prince and Buttons finally got a good whiff of the bird and went down on a hard point. I held the dogs point with a “whoa” command. A “whoa” or “whoa back” command was a command we used for the dogs when we wanted them to hold point and not move. This command would be given to the dogs over and over until we got into position to flush the bird and got ready to take a shot.This Prairie Chicken chose to run while the dogs held point from my command and I got a close look at the large bird. I don’t know if me or the bird was more shocked but as the big bird ran out away from us I didn’t take a shot and the bird didn’t fly until it was way out in front of us. The dogs finally broke point when they realized the bird had ran and after they saw that the bird had taken flight they went back to scouring the ground for more birds.
We worked our way to the hedgerow and started down the edge with the dogs working in and out of the thickets. They never strayed to far ahead and I could usually see them of hear the ID tags on there collars clinking as they ran. They would zig zag back and forth and in and out of the hedges. I saw a few single quail kick up and fly ahead of the dogs but we just couldn’t find a nice covey over the course of walking the tree line. I never got to fire a shot at a bird with my new Daisy. We were just about to leave the hedgerow for home when I heard a faint crying noise from inside the tree lie and it sounded like a baby crying off in the distance. I saw Prince stop and listen, ears up and straining to hear the noise. We heard it again and Prince took off through the trees with Buttons in tow. They were gone for a while and I started thinking it may have been a Bobcat but soon Prince came out in a clearing carrying a small kitten in his mouth. The kitten was crying and Prince dropped the kitten at my feet. To this day I don’t know how that kitten wound up out there in the middle of nowhere but there it was, a little male tomcat cold and squalling. I picked the kitten up and put it inside my heavy coat and headed for home. Prince and Buttons were jumping around all the way home wanting to get a look at the little kitten in my coat. When I got back to the house I put the dogs up and walked in the back door to show everyone what I had found. When Kay saw the little kitten she went and got some milk from the fridge to warm and feed him. My dad wasn’t to keen on the idea of another mouth to feed but Kay had a soft spot for animals, especially a stray left out in the cold so we decided to keep the tomcat and I would add him to my chores to take care of. I named that cat Tommy and he spent the next several years hanging out around the farm catching rats, mice, snakes and any other small varmint that was around the house or barn. We made several trips back to Baker’s Hedgerow over the years but I’ll never forget my first hunting trip with my new BB gun and finding ole Tommy out there on Christmas day 1970.
I can’t really go back any further than 1966-67 but my earliest recollection starts on a little 5 acre farm on the outskirts of a little rural farming town in southeast Kansas. At the time the population of Girard, Ks. was around 3000 including the surrounding farms and the town was not much more than a bunch of grain elevator towers along the railroad tracks that held the grain from the massive crop farms around the town. My granddad worked at the grain mill and his job mainly consisted of filling 100lb burlap bags with soybeans to move on down the tracks. I remember his hands were big round hands that were as hard as granite rock from holding the ears of the burlap bags as the beans came down the bean chute and filled the bags. His forearms were gigantic, much like Popeye’s forearms, minus the tattoo’s. Later on when I was a teenager I got to feel the wrath of those big hands when he caught me smoking for the first time. Those hands also doubled as a club up side my head after ripping a pack of cigarettes out of my shirt pocket when he saw them in my front pocket of my t-shirt. He wanted to make his point stick and to this day I still remember those hands, both in a grandfathers loving way and also to teach me a lesson in life.
Our little town had a town square with a 3 story stone courthouse in the middle with a diner, a five and dime, a drugstore, an old bar called “The Long Branch” a clothing store as well as a little grocery store called “Farmers Food Center” owned by my dad and my dads brother, my uncle Richard. There were a few other businesses on the square surrounding the court house but it was just a small farm town like any other that dotted the Midwest. We had a small school system and I think there were no more than about 60 if that many in my graduating class. At the time the town was booming with a homecoming every fall when the square would be shut down with carnival rides and a homecoming parade, a homecoming football game in which the whole town attended and everyone took a lot of pride in our little town.
Since my dad worked a full time job as a half owner and butcher at the grocery store my stepmother Kay and us kids were responsible for taking care of the farm. It’s safe to say that I started working about the time I was strong enough to carry a bucket. My brother Steve was just a couple of years older than me and my little sister Debbie was a couple years younger. We each had our chores which consisted of feeding cattle, slopping and watering pigs, feeding chickens, gathering eggs and taking care of our Brittney Spaniel dogs that we bred, trained and sold for bird hunting. All this had to be done, rain or shine, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. It was a team effort and my dad usually didn’t get home till after 5pm to help out. Although my dad owned a grocery store we drank fresh milk we received for free from our neighbor’s Jersey milk cows in trade for letting them graze in our pasture. Our eggs came from the chickens we raised and our meat came from the cattle and pigs we raised and took to slaughter. The slaughter house was right behind my dads store and I used to watch my dad slaughter the cows and pigs and then cut them up for the freezer. The chickens were decapitated and feathered 10 at a time and we shared some with my grandparents and put a few in the freezer. My dad and I hunted and fished every year but hunting and fishing wasn’t for sport but it was to supplement our food supply. We never ever hunted or fished for sport when I was growing up. My dad didn’t believe in killing anything for sport and it was only out of necessity that we killed anything. With the exception of a pack of coyotes, desperate raccoons or a hungry bobcat looking to raid the chicken house, everything we killed we ate. Everything else we shot or caught came home and was cleaned, plucked, skinned or scaled and put to good use as food for the table. Our little farm was a mile west of town and surrounded by crop and cattle fields on all sides with an old dirt/gravel lane from where the pavement ended at the west end of West Walnut street. That was the layout of where I was raised until my dad sold the farm and we moved away after I graduated from High School.