As youthful hunters we were always on the lookout for new adventures and we found an opportunity when goose season opened one cold winter day the year of which escapes me. It seems that it was about 1975. I’m able to put an approximate date on the proceedings because I was about halfway through college, quite full of myself and remember that I had discovered the manliness of a big chaw of tobacco which is crucial to the story.
The ambush point was a swamp on the backside of our farm and I called it Moonshine Swamp because in my ramblings around it over the years I had found several areas that seemed to be the former haunt of those producers of illegal liquor. Old bottles piled up here and there and rusted out pieces of big canisters that could have been moonshine stills. I don’t know, maybe there was just a lot of drinking going on out there.
Anyway the first clue that there was wild game afoot was the strange noises coming out of the swamp. Upon closer inspection it was decided that the swamp was slap full of honkers of the Canadian variety and although we had never hunted for them before, a plan was formulated to waylay them.
It was not a scientific plan.
Our brilliant and creative minds decided that the youngest brother, who was still young and immature or immanure as we labeled him, would go to the far end of the swamp, walk, wade or swim up the middle of the icy water and scare the birds into a panic induced flight toward the rest of us lying slyly in wait. We would then proceed to take them down with laser like accuracy. The plan was dazzling in its simplicity.
On the business end of the hunt was my daddy plus Quick Draw Eddie McGraw (a local deviant), Reverend Jim (my boyhood friend who would later become a man of the cloth) and yours truly. We intended to form a barrier through which not one goose would escape.
We positioned ourselves in a skirmish line across the gap through which the birds would have to come and I immediately realized that a rip in my waders was going to create a couple of problems, both of which were aggravating.
My feet and legs were going to soon freeze and my water laden waders limited my mobility. In fact I immediately got stuck in the mud and couldn’t budge. No matter, the birds would soon be upon us.
Right on cue we heard the geese start honking nervously as young Terry (aforementioned little brother) made his way bravely up the breach. When the birds broke and came over the trees it was a sight to behold. The sky was black with bodacious 20 pound giants and the firefight was on.
There was one coming right down Main Street toward me and my first shot from an anchored position crumpled the big bird. I sighted in on another one trailing just behind him.
Just before I pulled the trigger an unfortunate event took place. The first goose fell right on top of my shotgun barrel and kicked the stock up into my lower jaw.
I probably would have survived it except the jolt knocked a large wad of chewing tobacco down my throat. That was the end of my exploits for the morning. I could hear shots continue to ring out for a few more seconds before passing out from severe gastric difficulties.
I was able to remain in a standing position due to the stabilizing effect of 40 pounds of ice water in my waders and the fact that I was thigh deep in mud.
In the meantime other birds fell and daddy, in a moment of battle lust, mistakenly killed a heron.
Then all of a sudden the shooting was over and I, having regained consciousness, began to squall for help.
The boys towed me ashore and the hunt was officially over except to secure transportation for me back to the house.
As I examined the morning’s events in retrospect I decided that: 1) I did not like goose hunting – 2) I did not like chewing tobacco and 3) I would take Terry’s place as the flushing dog if the geese were ever stupid enough to return.
As you might imagine, Moonshine Swamp never had the same allure for me again.
(E-mail stories of your youthful adventures to firstname.lastname@example.org)