By Alvin Richardson
Author’s note: In my youth November always meant quail season was close at hand. This is a story about some of those memories.
You may remember the story from Uncle Remus of American folklore literature. Brer Fox laid a trap for Brer Rabbit by inducing him to get stuck in a Tar Baby and thus had finally captured his long time nemesis. Had him right where he wanted him and began to debate with the trapped rabbit about how he was going to bring about his demise. The wily rabbit however tricked the fox by entreating him to punish or torture him in any way except one. “Just please don’t throw me in that briar patch,” he said. Of course that was exactly what the rabbit wanted and eventually what he was able to get. Since the briar thickets were his normal stomping grounds he had successfully tricked his enemy and once more and scampered out of harm’s way.
My middle brother, Alan has also uttered this very phrase but his request was in earnest. You see we ruined his desire to go hunting at an early age when he went along with us on a quail hunting trip and was swallowed up by a succession of hefty briar patches.
The basic problem was that he was short and the thorny bushes were tall. Those razor-sharp briars covered him up and he was ill prepared from a clothing standpoint. Short sleeves plus some thin britches made up his hunting attire and it was a recipe for disaster.
Quail hunting is more or less a thing of the past now but in the 1960s we could load up the dogs and dump them out at any of several locations with a realistic expectation of finding a covey or two. We, along with my Uncle Bennie, had some really good pointers and setters. Bennie’s dogs were outstanding because they were held to an exceptionally high standard. Woe be unto the dog that ran up a bird or didn’t perform to Bennie’s expectations. I won’t go there because the Humane Society might get alarmed.
Anyway, Alan had heard his dad and older brother talk of this adventure and decided he wanted to go along. We tried to dissuade him because his young body had yet to start growing upward and it was obvious to us that he’d have trouble navigating the terrain. But alas, he insisted.
Off we went and upon reaching the first site unleashed the dogs to do their thing. As I said those were some good hounds. They had been to these places so often that they knew right where the birds would be. Of course getting to those spots required a trek through the aforementioned briar patches and young Alan stomped right off into them without hesitation.
Soon he was lagging behind the rest of us and a few minutes later all I could see were the bushes moving where he was slowly trying to make some headway. Noises then began to emanate from the moving bushes and those sounds confirmed his extreme discomfort. We continued on but my boy was steadily losing ground. A few minutes later the dogs pointed and our group – minus one – moved in to flush the birds.
Now there’s nothing like the thrill of kicking up a covey of wild quail. You cannot believe how much noise they make and how fast they can skedaddle. It’s nothing like shooting at the pen-raised quail you see today. Those little bob-whites could motor. Anyway shotguns began to bang away and a few birds fell.
A few moments later another shotgun report from back in the depths of the briar patch was heard sounding off. I don’t know if Alan was shooting a stray or just trying to clear himself a path to walk but he was firing away. I doubt if he saw a bird unless it was straight above him because he was swallowed up by the briar patch.
After several more prickly encounters with sticker bushes during that afternoon young Alan emerged from the final thorn patch physically and mentally scarred for life. He had not bagged a bird nor even gotten off a legitimate shot. He miserably climbed back up in the truck with blood trickling off his body from various pin holes and declared, in the immortal words of Brer Rabbit, “Please don’t throw me back in that briar patch.”
Needless to say, Alan has not been hunting again to this day. Not dove hunting, not deer hunting, not duck hunting and certainly not quail hunting. He wouldn’t even hunt eggs at Easter unless Mama said we were going to pursue Easter eggs. If I mention hunting he goes into a delusional state and begins scratching his old scars and muttering obscure quotes from Uncle Remus stories. He has opted to pursue outdoor activities in which he can participate without venturing into heavily forested areas.
From that moment he became an avid fisherman and has missed out on the joys of being in the woods.
I told him he shouldn’t have gone in the first place.
Email Alvin at email@example.com.