Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Going on a Skunk Hunt

Living in the country you encounter all sorts of critters that roam the fields, like rabbits, opossums, armadillos or skunks. These are harmless enough in small numbers, but occasionally it is necessary to rid the farm of an excess of these critters. Skunks, for instance, are helpful in many ways but only in limited numbers. They are not so bad to have around the farm. They will keep mice out of the barns as well as any cat. But, skunks seem to rival rabbits for prolific breeding and reproducing. So out of necessity, we would have skunk hunting parties on dark moonless nights. It is called survival of the fittest. 

We didn't just go hunting skunks, like some good ole' boys just because it's fun and we wanted to shoot up the place. First of all, there must be a reason for the hunt. For instance, when too many skunks are roaming too close to the house, or when the rascals are having their own party, next to the hunting dog pen, causing the dogs to howl at the top of their lungs most of the night making the little critters visit us with their aroma therapy. These are legitimate reasons for having a hunt. My parents had hunts at those times, but, occasionally they took the hunt to different extremes. They loved having a skunk hunt when someone was visiting that they wanted to discourage from visiting again, or when company had overstayed their welcome, or just to get a reaction. When Daddy had had enough, say around 10 or 11 o'clock in the evening, he would usually stand and say, “Well, who wants to go skunk hunting?” The first reaction was, “Go ahead, finish your story.” Then dead silence when they realized he was serious as he started getting out the guns. I'm sure, about this time, they either decided we were perfectly nuts and it was high time to hit the road or we really were insane and they needed to stick around and look after us until someone had us all committed. As Mama often said, “To be considered a bit off beat has its advantages. It relieves the mind of the plague of constantly conforming to the average. To be a bit eccentric lets you find out who your real friends are.” Those “overstayed company guest” hunts I enjoyed a lot, but the best were the hunts with our “old shoe” friends, like Mama used to say. You know, the friends that fit like an old shoe who knew we were nuts and didn't care. Those were the best parties, full of silliness and laughter. We'd stay up all night at those parties.

Having a skunk hunt is tricky business because timing has to be perfect. To be successful you need, besides the pick-up truck, a flashlight, like the miners wear as they look for coal, and someone who is a crack shot from a slow moving vehicle, usually my brother, with good balance, in case the slow moving vehicle accelerated with a jerk and a jolt or a jet propelled lurch. You also needed a good driver and one to ride “shotgun”. I frequently rode shotgun.
At first Daddy would go slowly down the pasture lane with the lights off. While everyone else was instructed to remain very quiet so the quarry was undisturbed. I would be sitting on top of the hood, using my flashlight to search for pairs of gleaming eyes. Now the trick was to tell if you were about to shoot your prize stallion or a rabbit. It is illegal to shoot rabbits at night because they are a game animal, but skunks are just varmints. When it was clear it was a skunk, I'd signal daddy and he would turn on the truck lights which signaled my brother, the shooter. Then a quick shot, right between the eyes, like a deer in the headlights. A quick flash, the instant shot and all is well. But a second's hesitation or a poorly aimed shot can really louse up the whole deal which would result in ending he hunt early and sleeping outside for a month washing with peroxide, baking soda and tomato juice. After that, the party would drive elsewhere around the property to begin the hunt again. If this seems cruel and heartless, it really isn't. They never knew what hit them. This is the reality of dealing with nature in the raw. 

If the company was spending the night, Daddy would upset the apple cart even more. The next morning, in the clear light of day, around breakfast, the argument would be around who would retrieve the bodies and haul them off to the deep woods. Often while the argument was going on concerning pick-up detail, the company would depart. But occasionally, there would be that rare guest that loved the entire experience and couldn't wait to share more of the work. We gladly let them.
Gotta love those parents.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Hog Almost Ate my Little Brother

We frequently had a collection of unusual livestock on our farm growing up, but pigs were not among them.
 However, there was an interval each year when we did have them for a while. Their visit was short lived. Pigs arouse no feeling whatsoever in me. A pig is a pig, and the only way I really like to see one is on a plate in the form of breakfast bacon, lean baked ham, or a breaded pork chop.

In Louisiana in the 1950's hogs and cattle could roam free on the open range. This was before Daddy authored the bill to fence the highways to keep cattle off the roads.

In Catahoula Parish, in the swamps, where the sluggish bayous wind through the oak trees dripping with moss and water moccasins, the acorns are thick upon the ground. Here the small farmers let their hogs run wild to feed on whatever they could find. Each hog bore their owner's brand. These hogs became wary, wild and ferocious, some of the boars sprouting tusks that would make an elephant green with envy. Once a year, they needed rounding up, for identification or to be penned and fed corn to fatten up for the slaughter. One of daddy's friends always invited us for the round-up and each year brought us some hogs to fatten out on corn. These were our annual visitors.

We went on horseback to help round up the free range hogs roaming the swamps. 

Riding through these areas on horseback can be dangerous. Once, during a round-up I was attacked by one of those fierce creatures who tried to gouge off the legs of my horse. Luckily, the Catahoula curs attacked the hog while my horse outran the old bugger I hate to think of the outcome had I been thrown.

After the round-up, Daddy went to Baton Rouge for the regular session of the legislature. Our barn was still being built and had boards slanting down to the ground from the loft, but Daddy's friend brought us his annual offering of a hog anyway. Mother being mother always worried what disaster would befall while he was away. She explained to him that the small slatted house on raised supports with a slatted bottom, just large enough to fit in a hog one way, was not built. Note* :Since they were wild and ferocious the houses were built so they could not turn around and could stand there eating the corn, like the pigs they were, while they gained weight like an unhappy society matron with nothing better to do than read novels and eat chocolates.

The friend thought the hog would be fine in the barn lot with the horses until Daddy returned. He backed his trailer up to the fence and unloaded the hog. Our job of feeding the animals became a challenge. I would distract the hog while Bobby ran to the barn, and then he would distract it so I could cross the lot and quickly climb into the hay loft. It was quite difficult to carry a large bucket full of corn up the loft ladder but we managed. Then our plan was to throw several ears of corn at a time down to the greedy hog. 

Bobby, instead, decided that he could throw the whole heavy bucket of corn down by himself. He had not reckoned with the weight of the pail and his own small size.

 Out he went, bouncing down the boards like the baby thrown out with the bath water, landing right on the back of that wild hog. 

Bobby hung on for dear life and rode round and round the barn lot with his arms around the old bugger's neck, until that fool hog hit the fence with a grunt and a bellow that sounded like a bull elephant on a rampage. He pitched my little brother onto the fence where Bobby hung his pants on the barbed wire as he went hurling over. Turning around and discovering the corn scattered in every direction, the hog began eating again ignoring my brother.

I sat in the loft, laughing and crying at the same time. There was the hog quietly eating corn and there was my brother suspended by the seat of his britches on the barbed wire fence.
Mama was not amused. Her imagined disaster had become a reality.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Friday, January 15, 2016

At this time of year, when everyone is making New Year's Resolutions, I thought it would be fun to share a parody on Count Your Blessings (music by Edwin O. Excel) that my mother wrote many years ago (no date was given in her notes). It is called:

Count Your Calories

Words by Susie Blair                                                                                     Music by Edwin O. Excel
When upon your scales you're weighing every ounce
When you're stepping off and feel your belly bounce
Count your many calories, name them one by one
And it will surprise you what your food has done.
Count your calories, don't forget a one
Dough nuts, cakes and cookies seem like fun
Count your French fries, Did you eat a ton?
Count your many calories see what food has done.
When you think of others who are lean and slim,
Does your heart grow heavy as you think of them?
Count your Mister Goodbar, every single bite
And you'll know the reason that your clothes fit tight.
Count your Hershey's, count them every one
Extra cheese and chili on your hot dog bun
Count your Snickers, don't forget the Mars,
Count your Milky Ways and other candy bars.
So amid the dress shop as you try on clothes
Polyester stretches every body knows.
Searching in your closet, garments hanging there,
All those pretty dresses that you used to wear.
Count your blouses, how your wardrobe grows
Count your dollars spent on queen size hose.
Was it chocolate? Was it jelly beans?
Count your many reasons you can't wear your jeans.
Are you ever burdened with a load of guilt?
Looking at your body that your food has built?
Scrounging in the kitchen, see the foods you chose,
And you'll know the reason you can't see your toes.
Count your calories, praying as you eat,
Veg tables and milk and lean fresh meat.
Count your calories! You'll start feeling great.
Keep on counting calories soon you'll lose some weight.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Monday, January 4, 2016


My daddy was the compulsive sort. Whatever idea he had in mind needed to be acted upon and acted upon immediately. When the spirit moved him, it was best to just get out of the way and let him be because nothing would stop him.  

Most of these ideas had to do with the farm. 
 This time it was peacocks.
 He decided we needed peacocks to roam about the farm for their beauty. I visualized him fantasizing about being some European gentry on his estate with exotic fauna. Mother just rolled her eyes and shook her head with that “I've been through this before” glazed look upon her face. Daddy's retort was the need to have something else for the school children, who visited the animals, to enjoy. 

After researching zoos and many telephone calls, across several states, he managed to purchase two males and their matching peahens. We kept them in cages in the barn, for a few weeks, to get them used to the area before giving them free rein to roam the farm.  When released the males paraded about the place showing off like ten year old boys in front of a gaggle of giggling girls. 
 The peahen, on the other hand, is a drab sort of creature lacking the finery of her distinguished mate. 
These drab ladies followed the males about the barnyard with admiring glances, obviously adoring every move made by these cocky show-offs. 
 The males loved the audience and spent endless hours turning and preening and spreading their fan shaped tails for their mates to admire. 

Peacocks are an expensive play toy. They are also a thing of beauty as they strut around the estate and a joy to hear their caterwaul from barn roof tops or around the grounds, except when the caterwaul is in the middle of the night on the roof above our heads.

Visiting school children adored the addition of peacocks to the goats, ponies, geese, deer and lamas. We began having more school trips of adoring children having free reign of the farm while the tired teachers tried to control the enthusiasm. Daddy loved the visits which was easy for him to say since he usually went somewhere else leaving me in charge of crowd control. This went well until one weaselly little boy left the gates open. Hearing some noise, I looked up to see the peacocks parading down the middle of the busy highway. Right behind them, like a pair of dutiful squaws, walked their little mousy mates. I struck out at a gallop while the teachers practiced crowd control on the squealing children .

Peacocks, for all their beauty, are lacking in brains, and impossible to herd. They went everywhere except the right way. Finally a kindly truck driver helped me retrieve the running amuck fowls.

Life went well for awhile after that until one bright moonlit night.
 We suddenly realized something was missing. 
There were no screams of “help, help”, like some PBS murder mystery.
  It was too quiet. 
 They were gone. 
Early the next morning, I went searching for these wanderers. The peacocks were found desolate, sitting in the tall grasses of a ditch dragging their beautiful feathers, like playboys with a hangover. They were alone. The mousy peahens were missing. I found no traces of them. Subdued and repentant the peacocks were silent all the way home, and spent the rest of the day sitting on the barn roof searching for their missing mates. There was silence all day, until the moon came out. Suddenly the peacocks sounded like a couple of drunks, sobering up, and set off the most persistent cries of their entire lives. They screamed night after night for weeks. Still we couldn't find the peahens. Mother was outdone with the whole situation and furious that the money daddy had spent on those noisy birds and their mousy mates was lost.

Weeks later, mother heard, quite by accident, that an old codger down the road, who shoots anything with wings, except buzzards, to eat, had bragged how he just happened to find sitting on his back tree two of the nicest wild turkey hens he had ever seen.
  “I fattened them up on that corn I got from Mr. Blair and they sure was tasty,” he said.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.