This is a special excerpt from my soon to be published book. If you would like to see more stories like this, please go to my website and scroll down to the bottom and enter your email in the box on the Texas flag…………. truetexantales.com Ron
When I started to Junior High School we moved out to this heavily wooded area about 5 miles west of Waco. It was called Rainbow Lake, for there was a beautiful blue mile long lake together with a little smaller lake just next to it. Our home looked right down onto the larger lake. There was a very large area surrounding the lakes, and it was all owned in common by a private club. There were only 5 homes scattered on both sides of the larger lake. It was such a large area, that the homes were separated from each other by many acres between them. You did not hear anyone else or even have anyone else close to you at all.
Actually, we had a big rustic log house there for years, even before I started to Junior High School where we lived each summer. At the end of each summer it became harder and harder to move back into town and leave this beautiful place with such great swimming in that deep blue water and with its fantastic fishing, and its total privacy. So, my parents decided to build a much larger home and just live there year-round.
My mother loved fireplaces with real wood fires. This home had several fireplaces, even one in the kitchen for her. Another interesting thing about that lovely new home was that it had no gypsum wall board or wall paper inside like most homes in the US. Every single room was paneled with a different kind of wood…..like the kitchen had wide vertical boards of white pine with each separated by narrower strips of rich colored red wood.
About 60 yards south of the kitchen was what was called the boat house. It was way up from the lake, but it had large garage doors along the front where we kept the boats on their trailers for fishing in the other many large lakes across Texas. At the south end of the “boat house” was a workshop and on the north end was a large, chest type freezer where we kept not only the regular meat for the kitchen and for barbeques, but it was also filled with deer meat, and deer sausage, and antelope meat, and elk meat.
Then on beyond the “boat house” was another green structure. (Everything was painted pale green.) That was the pigeon house. The pigeons did not fly out, for we raised those giant White King pigeons who don’t much fly. See, my mother loved squabs. Thus, those big white pigeons.
On the other side of the house from the lake were thousands of acres of virgin wooded land. Much of it has white lime stone on the surface. The whole area had been inhabited by Indians long ago, for there were flint arrowheads all over the whole place. Out in those woods there were beautiful, perfect arrowheads just laying right on top of the white limestone out in the open. That showed that no one went into those woods, for they would surely have picked up those arrowheads. I accumulated quite a collection of them.
In the early pioneer day’s the people had some beef and pork, but in the earliest days they mostly lived off of wild game for meat. They ate ducks, geese, doves, wild pigeons, rabbits, deer, bear; all manner of wild game. However, their favorite tasting meat out of all those was squirrel.
Davey Crockett and his friends would divide-up into two groups and hunt squirrels for two weeks or more. The meat would keep well with the insides cleaned out, the skin left on, and hung in the shade, in the open air. Then they would have a grand squirrel feast. The group who got the most squirrels was the winner. The loser had to skin and cook all the squirrels.
They would first parboil the meat for a short time in boiling water, then either barbeque it or, their favorite, deep fry it in an iron kettle in pig fat. They would spend two days or more feasting on squirrel.
Since my father was president of that big freight line, he traveled much of the time on weekdays. He lived off restaurant food, but when he got back home, his favorite meat was squirrel, also.
Other boys, like my peers at school, had the luxury of sleeping late on Saturday mornings; but I had to get up before daylight on Saturday mornings and get my father at least two squirrels. My semi-automatic Browning 22 rifle held 11 shells. I would take it and go across the fence into those deep, dense woods. They stretched for miles and miles. I would sit very still for as long as it took for a squirrel to come across the trees overhead. So that I would not mess-up the meat, I was required to hit them only through the rib cage or preferably in the head. I eventually became such a good shot that when I got into Baylor, I qualified to be on their intercollegiate rifle team and travel to rifle meets all over the country.
After several years, my squirrel hunting job got easier. My mother had two old maid aunts who still lived in the backwoods in Tennessee in the log house that their brothers had been born in before they came to Texas. We would visit them sometimes in the summertime. It was very enjoyable. They still lived in that subsistence lifestyle. They grew all their own vegetables, and fruits. They slopped and killed their own hogs and smoked the hams in a tall smoke house by the barns. One of the barns still had the spinning wheels and looms from which they had make the clothes that their brothers wore when they came to Texas. And everything was made of wood……fences, gates, barn doors, locks, everything. They didn’t have an outhouse. You just went out behind one of the barns and used corn cobs.
I had never slept in a real feather bed. Wow, you dived into those and sunk way down and “just died” asleep. Those breakfasts they cooked on the wood burning stove in the kitchen were fantastic. When they found out that I loved fried pies, they would make me big flat ones from their apples and apricots out of their orchards in big cast-iron skillets.
Anyway, on one trip my father told the locals there that he wanted to buy the best squirrel dog in that whole part of Tennessee. They all acknowledged that “Toby”, a ¾ cross Bull Terrier, was the best squirrel dog there. Since no one had ever been willing to pay a whole $35 for a hunting dog in that part of Tennessee. We were able to take Toby back to Texas.
We were anxious to try him out when we got back. I had a little black and brown Manchester Terrier that my mother’s friend had given me named “Toy”. Toy went with us as we all headed into those woods with our guns and Toby. In only a little while Toby had treed a squirrel on the edge of this creek. We all went rushing there and sure enough there was a big squirrel up in the trees. Since my father had a shotgun, he brought the squirrel down first. As it came crashing down, Toy, not Toby, grabbed it before it even hit the ground. It didn’t take Toy long to figure out what this was all about. She became as good a squirrel dog as Toby, if not better.
Toby had the most interesting habit. When a person comes up, the squirrel will always slip around to the other side of the tree so you can’t see it. When you were by yourself as I most always was, the squirrel would move back to the first side of the tree when I would go around to the back side of the tree. But every time, Toby would go around to the other side of the tree from me and grab a little bush and just violently shake it in his teeth. He would scare the squirrel back around to my side of the tree so that I could shoot it. He greatly improved my hunting success. I have no idea how he learned this.
I know that I am probably boring you with all of this but let me tell you about one morning in the late Fall. When I would bring out the gun, the dogs would just go “nuts”, jumping and turning flips. They just loved to go hunting. By this time Toby had gotten killed, so I took Toy and three half grown pups that I was trying to train.
We had gotten at least a mile down in those wild woods before Toy treed. I was down in a dry creek bed with steep sides at least 12 feet high. It was very strange, because it would sound like Toy was way off, and then sound like she was up close. Finally, I heard her just above us. I was able to go around a little bend in the creek where the creek sides were not as steep. The pups and I scrambled up onto the flat ground. Then we saw why her sounds were different. She had something in a big, hollow log that she was after. She would bark with her head just inside the log and sound way off. Then would bark outside the log and sound close; but she would not go into the log.
However, when those boisterous pups got there they just bolted straight into the log. All of a sudden big ringed-tailed civet cats just started pouring out of several places from the log. Most people never see those cats because they are totally nocturnal. They are tan and grey like a fox, but they have this really long black and white ringed tail. They can be very aggressive, especially when surprised and disturbed.
One of them grabbed one of the pups by the leg and they went round and round. This big female came running right at me, but just before she reached me, Toy bolted forward and grabbed her by the throat. They went rolling over and over and both fell off down into the dry creek, but Toy never let go of her throat.
Then out the far end of the log came this huge male civet cat. He was not about to run away. He ran right at me and ripped my blue jeans with his claw, but never stopped. I was so startled and he was so close that I could not get a shot at him. I really needed a shotgun; not that little Browning 22 semi-automatic. He went straight up this little tree next to us and out onto one of its limbs. I shot two or three times, but he was going so fast and so close that I missed. At this point he was just even with my head. Then, “so help me” he bolted through the air, right at my throat. I threw the gun up in self defense and just started pulling that trigger. I must have been lucky or the Lord just intervened, for I hit him right down the throat through his open mouth. He fell dead right at my feet. I had heard about it but had never experienced it. For my legs just gave way and I sank right down onto that log.
What I remember at that point was this awful screaming of the big female civet cat down in the creek with blood in her throat; just a chilling sound. Toy had never let go of her throat and finally choked her to death. And the pup had gotten away from his adversary. It was quite a violent scene. I took the big male home to show my father.
You can say that I was just lucky, but you will never get me to admit it. I just know that God had some tough angel direct that bullet into that cats open mouth as it was right in mid-air, almost to my throat!!!
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