Spring is coming after a long winter's wallow. Time to stir ourselves for the coming days of mild weather. That means readying the yard for new plantings, taking off the snow tires and storm windows, and getting things ready for more time spent out of doors.
BACK TO GRANDPA AUGUSTUS INDEX
It was the same way a century ago when my great Grandpa Augustus was a lad. Of course back then it was plowing and planting in farm country and in the logging country it was setting aside winter clothes and readying the for the spring melt when the rivers overflow their banks to take the logs stored in high stacks in a tumbling stew to the salt water, there to raft up and drift them to the mill ponds at Port Gamble and Port Townsend and Port Orchard.
In spring comes the rains and thaws that turns the ground to soup. The oxen and logging donkeys if taken out would instantly mire. The loggers instead spent the enforced idleness sharpening saws and axes, sewing up new clothes and boots for the summer and talking of manly things like women, beer, and hunting.
Women and beer were easily discussed. Women were a mystery and beer was eternally in short supply - or was it the other way around? Once these topics were raised and these two points were brought up it was agreed that the discussion was complete and no more needed to be said. Hunting was a different matter.
There was much debate in the camps while the men worked in companionable groups on their equipment of the best way to hunt, one that doesn't bestir the game yet fulfills a man's need to bring home the meat. Great Grandpa Augustus had a lot to say on the subject. He was for hunting fair meaning it was gentlemanly to give the quarry a fair chance at escape. He was against guns and dogs in the woods but for aesthetic reasons: too noisy.
He had this to say about hunting in one of his earlier diaries:
I see people in gun shops and wonder why they bother. I don't like to shoot game and anyway shooting requires too much practice. Besides all that fooling around with firearms isn't needed. Man has gifts handed down from his cave-dwelling forebears that, when developed, make it possible to hunt without complicated noisy implements.
I always wondered if I wasn't a chip off the old block. For one thing I inherited a talent for singing that seems to affect the fish. One chorus of "Let It Be" along Alaskan Way is enough to put the Seattle Aquarium out of business. And turn Elliot Bay silver with overwhelmed herring.
The easiest approach for big game is to sneak up on the quarry and bulldog it. Deer and elk and antelope are pretty jumpy. About half the time I reveal the stalk and have to chase my quarry on foot.
I always preferred the thrill of the chase. It was fair to the animal who was used to evading his enemies by escaping. If I fail to catch a deer or an elk I chase, he gets away to breed stronger progeny.
There's nothing like a thrilling foot race across rough country to catch an elk on a cold morning. If I can't catch them with my first sprint I have to run my quarry into exhaustion. I dispatch them either by breaking their necks with the violence of my tackle or I might have to use my knife on a big strong animal. I think the meat from a chased kill is better anyway.
Of course it's hard to run back to camp while packing a 700 elk carcass but it does give you a fine appetite for breakfast.
Ducks and geese pose problems for me. They are vigilant and post sentries on land so I have to stalk them from underwater holding my breath for ten to fifteen minutes. I'm not that fond of waterfowl anyway and hours in cold water make my joints ache.
Pheasants are much easier. I just slip up behind one and hood it with a sock. Like chickens, pheasants are docile when they can't see. If you're clever and can line them up just right you can hood five at once with an old work glove but you have to cut off the wrist band.
The only way to get a bear if you have a taste for its flesh is to wrestle it. Wrestling bear, especially large bear can be very difficult because of their claws and teeth. I found that if you bring along a pair of boxing gloves and a roll of sticking plaster the job of wrestling a bear into exhaustion is a lot easier on the complexion. Early in the wrestle you slip the boxing gloves on the bear's paws and muzzle his jaws shut with a length of rope. After that, it's all muscle and determination easily supplied by a hunter with grit.
On my first couple of hunts I got scratched up because I tried to lace the boxing gloves on the bear. Then I hit on using the sticking plaster. It pays to practice first on a Brahma bull getting all the moves just right, immobilizing the animal with one hand and ripping the sticking plaster in convenient strips with the other. This takes coordination.
Oh, don't forget to take along a leash so you can lead your captured bear back to camp.
Fishing is easy. My singing really turns heads in church. If your singing is of suitable quality you don't need fishing tackle.
All I have to do is sing my high "G" with my face in the water and in a minutes the surface is paved with stunned fish. With the plenty arrayed before me I can make my selection like picking cucumbers. In a few minutes the other fish recover and swim away. I have to be careful. If I over-do it I rupture the air bladders of larger fish and they don't rise.
Fish are not tone deaf. If any of you want to try this be sure the note you sing is a "G" above middle "C".
As for running well, I never participated in sports because I'm a bit knock-kneed and in sports you have to run around in those suits that look like underwear. The very idea make be shudder with embarrassment.
We descendants of Great Grandpa Augustus are as sensitive and shy as we are modest, so because of my defect, the US Olympic teams of '60, '64, and '68 were probably denied a few medals.
I must be a fair runner. At age 61 I still retain the family talent. Just the other day, I sprinted a full block to catch a bus and got a ticket for going 45 in a 20-mph zone. I thought it was for jaywalking.
Don't you have to be driving something to get a traffic ticket? Maybe it was that school bus I hurdled.
. . . Forrest Addy