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SQUIRREL OPENER WAS ONCE TENNESSEE TRADITION
By Steve McCadams
Squirrels seem to be everywhere in town, darting across
streets wherever you go. Yet itís just not the same as a quiet walk deep
in the dark confines of tall timber where the bushy tails bark and
fumble acorns like a freshman receiver on the football team.
Walking down the sand ditches of yesteryear I used to pride myself at
slipping up on illusive gray squirrels that were too busy cutting high
in the hickories to know I was even around. It was a bonus when a rusty
fox squirrel bounced into sight.
Thereís a little bit of Lewis and Clark in all of us and I still have
dreams of finding the ridges where it looked like someone had been
running a chainsaw. The fresh chips of green acorns covering the ground
meant the scouting expedition had discovered the place to be when
daylight broke the next morning.
A morning after a heavy rain with no wind meant you could hear the bushy
brigade navigating their limber lanes to the breakfast buffet. Sometimes
you attempted to slip up on them; other times you just had to sit and
wait. Young legs yearned to roam but it was a good lesson in patience
Old hunting coats pulled from hibernation deep in the garage closet with
a few forgotten shells left in pockets signaled another year had passed
quickly since the last outing. And, there was nothing like the roaring
first shot that pierced the silence and the smell of that blue Peters
paper shell from the 410-gauge double barrel.
The first shot officially opened season and told the blue jays you had
invaded their rural hideouts.
Smelling gun powder from the swollen paper shells was the Chanel Number
Five for outdoorsmen.
While I seldom ate squirrels growing up, I made sure I gave them to
someone who did and they often boasted of the delicacy when combined
with a few homemade biscuits.
The bulging game bag on my old sleeveless vest confirmed success on the
walk back out of the shaded bottoms and steep hardwood ridges. Back then
the daily limit was six and the first five werenít nearly as challenging
as number six. Bagging the limit was a goal.
Funny how almost fifty years of memories return in vivid detail every
year about this time. I canít remember yesterday but yesteryear is as
clear as a cold winter morning when a northeast wind slapped loose tin
on a barnís roof.
Every few years I return to my Carroll County roots and stroll down the
path near Shiloh Church where a towering white oak yielded my first
encounter. I guess the analogy is like that first kiss; you never seemed
to forget where and when.
As the aging process hits high gear you yearn to return and, if only for
a moment in time, feel the rush of youth just once more. There arenít
many things you can do the same way you did them 45 years ago but
squirrel hunting is one of them.
Sound nostalgic? I plead guilty.
Tomorrow morning I will be listening for distant shots across the
countryside and reminisce, wondering if a youngster is taking his Maiden
Voyage. Traveling down silent paths, avoiding dry sticks with carefully
planted steps while dodging spider webs whose presence has been revealed
by a heavy dew.
Set the alarm clock. Rise and shine. Itís squirrel hunting time in