Editor’s Note: This is a series of articles written by Switzerland County’s David Hewitt. The articles center on all things ‘outdoors’, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship. Look for more articles coming in future editions.
Change – like time – is a fact of life.
Just think how much things change.
I can only imagine what my grandparents saw and experienced in their lifetimes and how much change occurred. I still hear from my parents about how different things are today compared to their youth. I’m not exactly what you’d call “long in the tooth”, but I’ve been around long enough to see my far share of change: Satellite TV, Internet, cell phones, technology run a muck – and I’m still either too dense or stubborn to grasp on.
Most of the time, change can be good. But, as things change, move forward and advance, we lose things. We lose parts of our past. We lose how things used to be. We lose our history.
On a recent trip that I took from tip to tip of our State, I noticed something as I glanced out across the fields covered in soybeans and corn as the miles ticked by – no fence rows. It’s the same here in our corner of Indiana.
Farming practices have changed and evolved to keep up with the times and the economy. More efficient methods of land use are the norm today and no one can blame the farmer as he eeks out his living and tries to get the most out of his soil. It’s row to row and ditch to ditch and – in doing so – the old fence rows are gone.
A thing of the past.
Growing up as a budding hunter, I spent many an afternoon with pals trodding along overgrown fence rows hoping to scare out a rabbit for a waiting shotgun.
If we were lucky, someone would have a willing beagle to work the rows; but most of the time, we chucked rocks, dirt clods or whatever else we could find into the brush. Occasionally, a covey of quail would bust from the cover and a hail of No. 6 shot would fill the air…
I’ve spent hours tucked back in the vines and cedars that grew up between the rusted barbed wire along a well used deer trail. I’d wait in ambush in hopes for a shot at a deer, sometimes sitting on an old five-gallon bucket, but most of the time sidled up against a weathered locust or hedge apple post sitting Indian-style until my legs were numb.
I can still remember the fence rows covered in blackberries and which ones seemed to ripen early and the best place to pick without ticks and chiggers and filling up sherbet containers or cool whip bowls with our prizes.
One fence row in particular stands out – it was a hold out and managed to survive until a few years ago.
I spent countless hours hidden there in the fall and a few deer fell to my slugs and arrows. It was choked with cedars and it’s locust posts were worn gray and I’ve ripped more than several pairs of pants as I crossed its barbed wire strands on my trips to the woods.
A cool, damp spring morning a few years ago, found my son and I stashed away along the fence row, almost invisible as we melted into our surroundings. Daylight broke and with it, turkeys gobbling on the roost up and down the valley behind us…
A few minutes later, I had somehow managed to fool one of the birds with my calls and a tom sounded off directly behind us. My boy’s eyes wide as my heart pounded and hair on the back of my neck raised on full alert. To our left, the fire engine red head of the tom as he poked out of the fence row and made a “B” line towards our decoy…The boy’s 20-gauge barked and the big bird fell in his tracks as we leap to our feet and ran to his trophy.
The smile across the nine year old’s face said all that needed to be said…
The old fence row has long since been bulldozed and all that remains is the heap of bleached white bones of the cedar trees and some tangled woven wire and broken strands of barbwire; but, each time I walk past the pile trees and fence posts, my mind races back to that morning years ago and I can still hear the turkeys thundering their calls, the blast of the shotgun and see the excitement of a young hunter and it brings a grin to my face and raises a lump in my throat.
The fence row might have changed, but the memory hasn’t.
– David Hewitt