I was four or five years of age when I was taken out for my every first squirrel hunt. My dad was in the Air Force, and we were living in Russellville, Arkansas, at this time. Dad was home for the weekend, and Grandpa Hahn had called to see if dad would like to go hunt some squirrels. I pestered my dad until he said yes. We were up and out of the house early, going by grandpa's to get his hunting dogs and gear loaded up in his the truck.
The morning was crisp and the sun was just coming up. The dogs were excited to be out in the woods. I was in charge of the old ruck sack that was loaded with extra shot shells for grandpa's shot gun, and my dad had tossed in a few extra boxes of .22 rounds. The ruck also carried a mid morning snack of fried egg sandwiches, a thermos of coffee, and a smaller thermos of hot chocolate for me. It also had some dog treats, and a jug of water for the dogs and with which to wash our hands after cleaning the squirrels.
The ruck sack was heavy. I was very determined to carry it. It was almost as big as I was. It would drag now and then on the ground if I took too big of a step. It would also keep me on my back if I fell down, which happened a few times. Dad and grandpa would laugh as they helped me get back on my feet. As we walked, I was in the middle so they wouldn't lose me. I picked wild blackberries and stuffed them in my mouth.
There was the smell of the berries, and of the dirt, and dead leaves as we walked. There was also the smell of the dogs as they ran around us, and the smell of grandpa's pipe as he puffed on it as he walked. I could smell the crisp, clean air, and see my breath and their's as we walked. There was the smell of that old ruck sack also.The musty smell of many hunting trips, dogs, coffee, pipe tobacco, and of grass, weeds, and wild flowers. Even the smell of puppies, from one of grandpa's dogs giving birth out in the field as they hunted years ago. There was even a little bit of the smell of grandma's perfume.
We walked and walked. The dogs were running and jumping and sniffing, and then chasing a squirrel up into the pecan and walnut trees. Grandpa took aim and -- BOOM!!! The silence was broken. Then the forest was all quiet. The squirrel that grandpa shot fell to the ground. One of his dogs picked it up, ever so gently, and brought it to grandpa. The rest of the dogs started to bark at the base of that tree. Squirrels scattered among the branches. My dad took aim with his .22 -- pop, pop, pop! We had three more squirrels to put in a gunny sack that we pulled form the ruck sack.
We walked, hunted, and added more squirrels to the bag. Mid morning, grandpa decided that it was time to take a break. We sat on a little hill that gave us a view of the surrounding woods -- there were walnut, pecan, maple, and all kinds of other trees. There were wild grape vines, black berry bushes, and all sorts of brush and weeds. And the colors! Oh the colors. . . reds, yellows, oranges, purples, greens, and browns. And sorts of smells that made your head spin.
We sat on that hill, the three of us. . . my grandpa, my Dad, and me. They drank coffee and I drank my hot chocolate. The fried egg sandwiches were on homemade bread, with mustard, mayo, bacon, lettuce, and tomato. Boy, I can still taste it!
The dogs lounged around us. I was petting any of them that came up to lick mustard off my face. Dad and grandpa talked of hunting, fishing, cars, and other things. Me? I was listening to everything they said. I was also trying to listen to all of the sounds from the forest.
We headed back towards grandpa's truck. They were still hunting. I was trying to keep up and carry the ruck sack. It seemed to get heavier as we went. We had gotten at least a dozen squirrels. I could smell them through the old ruck sack. Grandpa and my dad talked about how good it was to get out in the woods together, to be able to spend time together. All three of us picked more berries on our way to the truck.
That night at grandma's and grandpa's house we had dinner: fried squirrel, with biscuits and gravy from the drippin's. We had some fried okra, tomato slices, and mashed potatoes. Dessert was blackberry cobbler, with homemade ice cream.
Dad had to head back to the base in Little Rock on Sunday night, but we got to spend time with him in the yard as he raked up a rainbow of fallen leaves. After, he jumped in them with us and rolled with us in the yard.
I had a hard time waiting for the next weekend. We were all going to go pick berries and apples!