On the last day of twenty-thirteen, I slipped into a small stand of trees atop a steep bluff overlooking the Red River. As light slowly began to make the wiry, leafless trees visible, I noticed two large hawks perched in the treetop above me – poaching my hunting spot!
I clenched every muscle in my body trying to take the bite out of a twenty-three degree morning, but I put aside the discomfort of the cold when I heard nails scratching on bark above me. As squirrels began to stir, excitement filled my body. Soon it was light enough to make out shapes and then a shape became a squirrel. I took steady aim, controlled my breathing, squeezed the trigger and squirrels began popping off limbs like popcorn.
Dawn revealed a crisp blanket of frost on the farmland to the east. The image transported me back in time to the hills of Ranger – a precious memory kept deep within the canyons of my mind. A young blond headed boy sat shoulder-to-shoulder in a cedar thicket with his buddy, Jeff Sanford. We wore out boot leather walking mile after mile along lonesome ridges until I, the younger one, complained about the cold. Jeff found us the perfect spot under a big cedar to sit and warm ourselves. Despite the cold, we never considered going home. The thought never entered our minds. We were in a place where we always found joy – the woods.
A slight twitching movement in a tree fifty yards away caught my eye and I returned to the Red River. We ate squirrels for supper and I told stories of my childhood – fun that can’t be bought in a store or ordered online.