January 2009
Happy Hunting Ground

Happy Hunting Ground

At this writing, another new year is on the horizon and 2009 is significant for me. I will reach the half-century mark in May and, sometime between now and then, I intend to take some time to reflect on both my life and the world in general. Many things have happened since I was born at the end of the fifties. I remember watching America’s first astronauts blast into space on our state-of-the-art black and white television. I remember watching them walk on the moon in 1969 in black and white on our new color television.

I remember living in Wyoming in the sixties and having people stare at our Alabama license plates. I remember when my mom asked dad for permission to get a part-time job.

I grew up in the age of Mayberry (I always wanted to live there when I was a kid), Captain Kangaroo, playing outside till dark, walking to school by ourselves, unlocked doors, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, old beat-up bikes instead of brand new ones, tinker toys, Lincoln Logs, erector sets and model airplanes.

We grew up in a neighborhood where there were dozens of kids to play with and our bicycles were horses, airplanes or race cars depending on whether the game was cowboys and Indians, fighter planes or racing down hill. Dirt clods were hand grenades (if you were playing army) and a stick was your gun (if you didn’t get one for Christmas). I always got some sort of toy gun for Christmas.

One year in particular, I got a "Magumba Big Game Rifle" complete with plastic Monte Carlo stock, an imitation inlay in fake ivory of a bull elephant in the butt, plastic scope and three bullets that loaded into the magazine. The bullets were spring-loaded and would fire a projectile and eject the "empty cartridge." You then had to go and find the plastic bullet after firing. It came with safety instructions, targets and almost everything you needed to hunt big game.

On that Christmas day, it was too cold to go outside and our hallway became my jungle in which to shoot my targets. The day progressed and mom had our Christmas pheasants ready (I didn’t eat turkey until we moved back home to Alabama) and we sat down to our feast. I finished eating before everyone else did and asked to be excused. I sat down in my dad’s recliner holding my new rifle. I remember imagining how much fun it would be when I was able to take my new gun outside, shoot it and show it off to my friends.

It was then I noticed our family cat investigating the underside of our now empty Christmas tree; empty because we had all opened our presents. She didn’t know it but dear "Fluff," the faithful companion, had turned into a marauding leopard needing to be taken care of and I intended to do just that. I shouldered my faithful "Magumba Big Game Rifle" (with genuine imitation ivory inlay) and drew a bead on this terrible nuisance killer as she climbed the tree looking for an escape. As my finger grazed the trigger, I was thinking that for her there was no escape. The spring-loaded bullet went off zinging into the branches of the tree toward the cat. I don’t know if I hit her or not, but she came zinging out the other side. I could see my bullet lying in the corner and crawled under the tree to retrieve it in case the beast dared to come back to within gun range. I remember the bullet being just out of my reach and when I tried to "skoush" a little closer, down came the tree. Of course I hollered and the whole family jumped up from the table to see what had happened. I would have loved to seen what it looked like as they rounded the corner from the kitchen to the living room and saw my dad’s beautiful snow covered tree (covered in the fake snow my dad loved) down in the middle of the room with my feet sticking out of the branches. The whopping I received must not have been a bad one because I don’t remember it.

My point is when was the last time you ever heard of someone knocking down a Christmas tree?

When was the last time you "played army"?

When was the last time you got in a green pecan fight?

When was the last time you heard of any one playing cowboys and Indians?

When was the last time you played with a set of tinker toys? (Hint: Most of us are now able to get the big set where we can really make something good!)

I know it has been said before, but now it’s my turn, we need to get back to simpler times or maybe just simpler things.

I want to know the following things:

- When did deer hunting get high tech?

- When did bass fishing get higher tech?

- What happened to squirrel hunting?

- When did "…inches of bone" enter our deer hunting vocabulary?

- When did hunting clothes get high tech?

- When did the good old cane pole get high tech?

- What happened to digging your own worms and going fishing?

- When did antler size get to be so important?

- When did catch and release become the "thing"?

- When did the harvest of a big game animal stop being a private affair between the hunter and the animal he just killed?

I could keep going on and on for days so I guess it just means I’m getting older and when you look back the road looks easier and nicer than it did when you were concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other trying to get home —- like the time a friend of mine and I went swimming on Christmas day in our new wet suits, but that’s another story.

Happy New Year!

Ralph Ricks is the manager of Quality Cooperative, Inc. in Greenville.