Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

January 1, 1898. Forest and Stream 50(1): 6.

Game Bag and Gun.

A Nebraska Day.

Wymore, Nebraska, December 10.—Editor Forest and Stream: I take pleasure in reporting the fact that my old friend Dr. H.A. Given has got his second sight. And as this subject must interest all sportsmen, I am going to tell the story as it was told to me by the Doctor, and as corrected and vouched for by disinterested witnesses.

When I got home from court last Saturday evening I found the following note from the Doctor, which had just arrived:

"Dear Mac: Now that you are too old to shoot game for yourself, I know you will appreciate having a friend who can shoot it for you. I was out hunting to-day and got thirty-eight quail, forty-six cottontails and one jack rabbit. You and Aunty come down in the morning and stay all day and we will have a feast, and I will tell you all about it.—Doc."

Now I had planned to spend that particular Sunday with Nessmuk and Kego-e-kay. Besides, I felt a little hurt because Doc had gone hunting without me. But I remembered that he always liked best to go hunting with some one that he could beat shooting, and that made me feel a little better; and I could not have gone if he had invited me, because I was in court defending a young man who had promised to marry a young lady on the first Monday after Lent and then had changed his mind. Ordinarily a man who never changes his mind is a fool. But the man who promises to marry a young woman on the first Monday after Lent, and then changes is mind, is a fool, too. And then I thought of the dinner, and then that I should hear Doc tell how it was done. That settled it; we would go.

Sunday came, and this is the story: We had a week of unusually rough weather, and the ground was covered with 5 or 6 inches of snow; but on Friday the weather had begun to moderate, and the prospect was good for a fine day on Saturday. On Friday afternoon Ben Skinner, a young farmer living about four miles from town, had called at the Doctor's office with a box of loaded shells, and it had been arranged that Doc and his son Fred should drive out in the morning and hunt on Ben's farm. They reached the farm about 9 o'clock the next morning. Ben had put the wagon box on the bobsled and had filled the box with hay, and Doc mounted on top. Now, as Doc is about the size and shape of Col. A.G. Courtney, this way of hunting just suited him, and away they went for the fields. Then the fun commenced. They first struck a little patch of unmowed land in a draw, and it was alive with rabbits.

Fred walked to handle the dog Tommy. Ben drove the team. Doc got on his knees so as to handle the gun to advantage, and commenced operations, and in a few minutes twelve rabbits were retrieved and in the sled. Doc allowed his gun to cool; then the team followed a flock of quail that had flushed and scattered in the snow, Tommy worked them up, and Doc saved thirteen of them. Then he rested and let his gun cool again, and they started for another rabbit patch. And to make a long story short, these performances were repeated until the hundred shells that Doc had taken and Ben's twenty-five were exhausted, and Doc was just getting warmed up to his work. They had thirty-eight quail, forty-six rabbits and one jack rabbit. The ammunition being gone, there was nothing left to do but retreat in good order.

Ben announced that he had killed his winter's pork a couple of days before, and that they would go to the house and have dinner. And as they drove along Doc was heard humming an old darky song which sounded something like this:

  • "You can talk about yer wahtermelon, red as any rose,
  • With the black seeds a-stickin' in the sides like crows,
  • With the core a-comin' clean out to de rine,
  • But oh, I'm longing for de hog-killin' time.

When they arrived at the house dinner was ready, and in the center of the table was a large platter well filled with pork spare ribs and backbone. Mrs. Skinner told them that the one that could eat the most backbone should have a piece of pumpkin pie, and Ben says Doc ate so much backbone that he didn't want any pie.

Two or three times during the story Doc had said, "I thought of you every minute, Mac, and would have given a dollar if you had been along;" and I said as calmly as I could, "Don't mention it; go on with the story."

When dinner was over they hitched up and drove home. The rabbits and quail were all skinned and dressed, and hung in the smokehouse to freeze over night.

Now I hope no one will get the idea that Doc is a game hog, just because he got a well-filled game bag or bobsled; for he is not, and those rabbits and quail, with the exception of enough for our dinner, were all tied up in little bundles and sent where they would do the most good and be appreciated.

A man who will get up at all hours of the night and visit the sick, and furnish the medicine to those not able to buy it, without any prospect or hope of ever being repaid, will never be a game hog nor any other kind of a hog.

The story had been told, and the Doctor's wife called us to dinner. I will not attempt to describe the dinner in detail, but to give a general idea of it may note that we had celery, pickles and cold slaw, quail and rabbits and quail in all the latest styles, from raw on the half-shell to the common every-day fry, and we had mashed potatoes, milk gravy, sweet corn, and coffee and cake and pumpkin pie. There is no other country on earth where the pumpkin pie grows to the size or has the fine flavor that it does in Nebraska.

After dinner we had the story with variations and more in detail; how sometimes he got two quail at one shot and than one quail at two shots; and how the quail looked as large as turkeys to him, and how all his misses were due to Ben's careless driving, or his gun having a bunch of hay on the end of it, or the quail getting up at the wrong time and the gun shooting too close; how many somersaults some of the rabbits turned when the gun cracked, and how some of the jack rabbits that he did not get ran so fast that the shot just played along behind them; and how in one or two instances he could hear them whiz long after they were out of sight.

Just before starting for home I said to Doc: "I suppose, now that you have your eye again, that you will take part in the Grand American Handicap next spring?"

But Doc said: "No, I will not put my skill against brute force. I saw that shell, 3 1/4inch long, that the U. M. C. Co. sent you as a sample of the shell used by Tom Marshall when he won the championship last spring. That shell is the outgrowth of the rule that allows the shooter to put his gun to his eye before he calls 'pull.' First came the rule, then the recoil pad, and then the long shell, and skill don't count for anything now. It is no wonder they find it hard to keep up the interest in trap-shooting. Then, how would I look with my gun to my eye and trying to twist myself up like Fred Gilbert or make a face such as Frank Parmalee makes? No, I shall buy me a new gun with rifle sights, and content myself shooting game for my friends who are too old to shoot it themselves. Take two or three of these tablets with you, in case you should have a touch of indigestion to-night."

And so we said good-night, and noted another red-letter day in memory's calendar.

A.D. McCandless.