I received a call recently from Chuck Puckett, a lifelong friend who lived beside me growing up in McRoberts and made every move that I did. Chuck had read our Struttin’ Time story about how everyone went squirrel hunting downstate and what a big deal it was back in the day. He wanted me to write about another type of hunting we use to do — groundhogs.
I guess when we get the miles and years on these bodies that we now have, your mind seems to wander to those simpler days of childhood. Groundhogs were one of my favorite things to hunt. I doubt that you can find one hunter in a thousand who hunts groundhogs today. In those days we did things like that to stay out of trouble.
One of my favorite people growing up was Mr. Henry Sword, and we have written about him often. Mr. Sword owned a little feisty dog named Scotty, and Scotty bore the marks of many fights with groundhogs. You couldn’t keep him out of the woods when we went. It was as if he knew we were going after his favorite quarry. Scotty had the use of three legs, as the other was almost bitten off by going into a hole after a mother groundhog that had three little ones with her.
Hunting groundhogs was easy to do. You went to the top of the ridge, sat down until the dogs “holed,” went to them and started digging. We never dug more that an hour or so. If we hadn’t got the groundhogs within that time, we smoked them out, a maneuver we learned from watching Westerns on television, although they smoked out the bad guys.
Mr. Sword came over one evening and asked if I would tie Scotty up the next time when we went groundhog hunting. I said sure. Mr. Sword said Scotty was just too old and crippled to handle those groundhogs anymore. The next morning as we were ready to leave, I tied Scotty to his doghouse myself. Within 30 minutes we heard his voice join the other dogs in chase. I never did figure that one out.
You have read in Struttin’ Time, I am sure, that there is a law against nearly everything. Just a few years ago I learned there is a law against smoking animals out of their holes. We would have been arrested for sure. I guess there just aren’t anymore old Westerns around to teach young people how it is done, and people Chuck Puckett’s age and mine don’t have the time.
For the ones of you wondering who Chuck Puckett is, we knew him as Junior. But when you grow up, I guess you don’t want people calling you Junior anymore.