The Squirrel Chronicles: Letters to the city

©Dean Torges/The Bowyer's Edge™


Had another great night tonight, Adkins. Three shots. A young man in fourth grade accompanied me on the hunt. Last time I was at his father's farm hunting, he rode an electric golf cart back into the woods looking for me. I told him not to do that again, but that I welcomed him to walk back looking for me, or to come hunting with me if he so chose.

He ran over to me when I pulled up tonight, so I invited him to tag along. He was enthusiastic. I taught him how to walk quietly, toes first and weight back, just as I'd learned from a Howard Hill article in our St. C. library in the 50's. I told him not to point when he saw something, but to hiss and whisper, to avoid quick movements.

Pretty soon we were tooling along hunting in earnest. Little booger had good eyes. Saw two squirrels before I saw any. The first may have been a phantom, but not the second one. I was looking way up high into a tree top to uncover a squirrel pitching out acorns. The boy saw one down low on the same tree. He nodded, gave with a tiny point in close to his body, and whispered, "There's one right on the tree." Sure enough, its head and shoulders were poking around looking at us. I loosed an arrow and it passed where his head had been. The boy was amazed at the squirrel's reflexes and I was pleased with the shot, though I didn't say anything.

We hunted a while longer. I found it impossible to keep him behind me and maintain a slow pace, such was his enthusiasm, so we had more than one squirrel start barking at us before we knew they were around. I shot and barely missed one that stayed behind to scold us. Boy spotted it first, its tail spazzing with each bark. Dodged me again, I think. They are lightening quick, and if they are aware of you, you don't have much chance of striking a good shot.

On the way back to the truck, I made a long shot on one and knocked him out of his tree. Looked like a perfect hit. The arrow fell with him. Ran to the spot immediately, but found nothing more than my arrow. No blood on it. I didn't have the banding steel bleeder sharp enough on the pointy end, and it failed to cut the skin. Looked and looked. The boy and I got on either side of trees and searched, figuring he had climbed up and away. We looked under every snarl and snag on the ground. No squirrel to be found. Can't figure it. He looked unconscious on the way down. Fell like a dishrag and hit with a thud. Never saw any movement away from the spot where he hit. Perhaps the gods lifted him to Mt. Olympus for living a virtuous squirrel life, I dunno.

Point is that the boy helped look long and hard. Did not take the squirrel's life lightly. We finally quit the search, and on the way out I was hitting just about every leaf and tuft of grass I had a mind to. The boy wants a bow.

Good night. Much love.


P.S., Do you remember the time I took you with me squirrel hunting back in high school? That was to one of my favorite beech woods, in the wilder parts of Belmont County. Huge mature trees in a wilderness I never fully explored, and full of squirrels. Nothing like it around here any more. Probably nothing like it there either, now. Do you remember the humongous snapping turtle I found working its way up through a dry ravine bottom. I took him to Linda Polinsky's house to shuck him from his shell. Thought to impress her parents with my prowess. Didn't. Not even when I roasted a young groundhog for them on their charcoal grill earlier that summer. I chuckle now remembering how desperate they were to break up that romance.

Your passion is sailing upon the ocean in little boats, and I can see the comparisons you've pointed out to hunting with the bow and arrow—the layers of awareness required to be a good sailor. But hunting is more than finding your way through the world. It's more than discovering the extent to which modern life has distorted our perceptions or required us to deaden our senses; and it's also more than awakening to a natural world more alive and vital than ours in every manifestation. Hunting with the bow and arrow involves earning your way by making meat, getting your hands messy in the process and then recognizing your own reflection upon them. Ironically, this same process creates the friendliest, cleanest path we've ever found, one that covers up its own wake, provides us close acquaintanceships with everything around us, prepares us for our own inevitability, and feeds our spirit in the bargain. Perhaps when you've gathered some vacation time from your new commitments, we can head for the Millston swamps in South Carolina once again, and in that ancient place you'll have another chance to stalk along this path.