Along The Trail 2-20-14

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Editor’s Note: This is a column written by Switzerland County’s David Hewitt. The articles center on all things ‘outdoors’, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

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I’m always gleaning through articles and stories on-line about hunting and fishing and the outdoors in general.

I recently read a blurb written by a friend of my from Jeffersonville in which he talked about the “good old days” of growing up along the Ohio and catching just about every species of fish that swam in its muddy water. His story continued about his outdoor adventures as a youngster, not a lot different from mine and I’d guess most boys from my generation that grew up in rural southeast Indiana.

As is often the case, words and stories make me think. Sometimes too much, but I enjoy a good tale that brings a memory to the surface, one that makes me pause for a moment. As I thought about my pal’s story, it brought me back to my time as a youth.

I thought about my own stories, my own adventures growing up. I thought about how different times are today for a kid. I thought about had sad it is that my own son will never get to experience the freedom of just being a boy, doing what boys were intended to do.

What boys were made to do.

There wasn’t a kid in my circle of 10- to 12-year olds that didn’t own a BB gun of some sort. On any given Saturday afternoon or an evening after school, you would find a posse of us stalking the neighborhoods for grackles and our primary target, starlings. Most the time the feathered foes evaded our shots, but every once in a while, the invading birds would fall to a well placed BB.

Protected birds were strictly off limits and if one of them would’ve been harmed, chances our we’d have been blistered by our parents. Our neighbors loved the fact that we kept the unwanted birds from their feeders and away from the songbirds. No police were called, no one wanted to put us in therapy, no one thought we had violent tendencies.

We were boys being boys.

As we got a little older, our BB guns were traded up for .22’s and single shot shotguns. The starlings were safe, but now the squirrels and rabbits within a bicycle ride from Rising Sun were in trouble. We hunted places with names like the “old dump”, “the bottoms”, “Elliot’s”, Turner’s” and “the Douglas Farm” – places that we all knew and shared. Places that we respected. The places where we cut our teeth and started honing our love for the outdoors.

We graduated from bicycles to rusty, old 4×4’s. Driver’s license opened up a whole new world of freedom, new found independence. Now all of Ohio and Switzerland Counties became our playground as long as we could gain permission, which back then, a handshake and a request would gain you access to just about anything your outdoor heart desired.

Back then, you were known by your parents and grandparents: “So your Paul and Rosie’s son” or “Is Russel your grandpa?” were the common responses that I heard so many times when asking for permission to hunt or fish.

The squirrel hunting in the late summer gradually gave way to our new passion of chasing whitetails. My buddies and I were hooked on deer hunting. None of us had mentors, none of us had dad’s that were expert deer hunters. Most of our fathers grew up when there were very few deer here and even fewer deer hunters.

We were on our own, tasked with finding our own way in the deer woods. Left to figure out how to hunt the confounding critters through trial and error. Most of the time, the deer won our battles, but when one of us scored, it was something to be celebrated.

Like most teens, high school and all that goes along with it came and went. Some of us went on to college, some the military and some into the work force. We drifted apart and some left the outdoors behind them and moved on to other pursuits and pass times.

But some of us hung on, some of us stoked the flame that burns for the wildness.

That flame continued to burn bright in me and does to this day. I could fill a book with stories of being a nimrod in the outdoors and the path that has gotten me where I am today. Lots of failures, a little success, but good memories all the same.

Words can be a powerful thing, they can conjure up all sorts of feelings and emotions. I hope the words in this week’s edition of ‘Along the Trail’ has made you stop for a moment and remember and smile about something in your past.

- David Hewitt