Monday, September 29, 2014

Bass Wallering in the Evening

We only had a few hours to fish so we took the boat and headed for the river a few miles away. I took only one lure, an old Hula-popper with a white skirt dangling behind it. I don’t know when they made the first Hula-popper, but it was a long time ago because when I was a kid in the fifties and early sixties, I had a couple of them and used them on my Uncle Roy’s farm pond, where fat little two-pound bass slurped them readily from the surface.

I write often about fishing with topwater lures because it absolutely enthralls me to see a huge fish smash a lure on the surface of the water. If you have fished much, you know the thrill of it. He is there and gone in the blink of an eye, and he can suck it under with just the slightest wrinkle of the water around the lure, or he can throw water three feet in the air with the energy of his strike.

The size of a fish cannot be readily determined by the commotion he creates, unless you are a grizzled old veteran fisherman like me. A greenhorn fisherman can have his eyes bugged out and his jaw dropped open with the splash created by an extra frisky one-pound bass.

At times, a bass actually clears the water and comes down on top of the lure, and that’s what happened a day or so ago with that hula-popper. I saw a smallmouth bass slash at it and miss, and honest to goodness, I didn’t even have time to react. He just decided that my Hula-popper was something he wanted to eat, and he came out of the water a few inches and smashed it from the upper side, carrying it deep as he did so. He was a nice one, and he made me feel very happy for a few minutes. 

I made him feel very happy too, by removing the treble hook from his jaw, and returning him to the water. Only a worthless no-account would keep a smallmouth bass from an Ozark stream and while I may be a worthless no-account at other times, I certainly am not one when I am fishing.

The Hula-popper had caught two nice big bass for me on one of the Missouri lakes I fish often, only a day or so before. I realized that I had written about Zara Spooks and Buzz-baits and Rapalas and Jitterbugs in the past year, but had failed to mention how effective a Hula-Popper can be. It isn’t that I do not use them. With my casting gear, I use one that is about three or four inches long, not counting the white skirt that extends from the back. It is colored like a frog, with a yellow belly.

But truthfully, I think that white skirt does a lot for its fish-catching ability. I don’t think a big bass looks up to see it splashing along above him and says, ‘oh, there’s a frog with a mess of white stuff sticking out behind it”. I think he just figures it is dessert, with whipped cream, after a meal of crawdads or shad or minnows.

Rich Abdoler had on a Buzz-bait of some sort, and truthfully he caught more bass than I did. We must have landed a dozen or so really big ones, up to about 4 pounds. He almost hooked one about 6 and ¾ pounds, but it missed the lure just a little.

I never actually saw the bass but I heard it ‘wallering’ around on the surface and I have fished so long, and missed so many good fish that I can pretty accurately guess how big one is when I hear it miss a lure on the surface.

Two different times, we caught fish around a log-jam at the same time. Once I let my Hula-popper sit on the surface while I maneuvered the boat to help Rich retrieve his lure, hung on a snag. His lure pulled loose finally, and a nice largemouth nailed it. As that happened, I heard a big splash and turned to see a ring of disturbed water where my lure had been. My fish wasn’t as big as the one Rich caught, but at least I caught mine on purpose and not by accident.

We came in about dark, empty handed, with all our bass returned to the water. I can’t tell you why we do such a thing. I guess it is the satisfaction of being off away from the crowd, where God’s creation is all around, undisturbed at least for awhile by man’s conquering, greedy hand. It is seeing so much that doesn’t even hint of this awful day and time, making me feel like I am some angler from the 1930’s using a Hula-popper just after it was invented.

And for some reason, a topwater lure and a big bass excites me still. It isn’t that way when I look down the sights of my rifle at a buck deer, and it isn’t that way when I flop another crappie in the boat with my ultra-lite outfit.

There is something about seeing a big hard-fighting fish, like a bass or a northern pike or a muskie or a brown trout, or one of those ten-pound hybrids, come up and slash a lure on the surface, only a few feet away from my rod tip. And in this modern time, it is really something to have that happen while I use a lure made long before I was born.

A reader sent me an article published on the outdoor page of a big city newspaper where a writer expounded on the catching of two fish on one lure at one time. One was a small sunfish and the other is a bass. There is nothing unusual about such a thing. In the many years of fishing and guiding fishermen I am sure I have seen that happen a couple of hundred times.

Once, floating the Arkansas portion of the Eleven Point River, a friend and I caught two fish at once a total of five times. In each case, the fish were small bass. But once on Crooked Creek in north Arkansas, I hooked two smallmouth, which clobbered a Rapala lure as it hit the water. One was better than three pounds.

If you use a lure with two treble hooks, you will see it happen a lot. Fish are aggressive and competitive. In Canada I have hooked two northern pike at once, and in the Ozarks on twenty or thirty occasions I have hooked two white bass at once, usually small ones. Green sunfish also double up on topwater lures often, along Ozark streams. But the greatest thrill you can get from double on one lure is when a big muskie in some Canadian backwaters comes along and nails a smallmouth you are fighting, and you actually land them both. I have seen that happen too, more than once.

At night on Ozark streams in the summer, when you float through a shallow shoal with headlamps on at the head or foot of that shoal, bass seem to panic as your paddle clacks against the rocks and gravel. They will jump high out of the water, and often come down in your boat.

One night on the Kings River in Arkansas in mid-July, I had two smallmouth jump into my boat at once, and both were better than two pounds. One of those two fish hit me right smack in the chest as I was paddling the boat through the shoal. Old time rivermen saw that happen quite often.

I know many people will never believe that, but it is the truth. I had a witness that night. But you pay a price when you are a writer who tells tall stories at times just to get a laugh. What I wrote about seeing the flying saucer on a duck hunt… and that time I swore I saw a mermaid in Bull Shoals Lake, well…

Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at lightninridge@windstream. net. My website is

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pelicans and Waspers

I didn't get close enough to determine the exact species of the wasps along the bluff.   In my younger days I would have dubbed them 'black waspers'.

If you have never watched a giant flock of pelicans in flight you have missed, uh, well, seeing pelicans in flight! Nothing flies like that. They are kind of pretty, because they soar and twist so slowly, and turn and reflect their snow-white plumage in the sun as they do so. Every year about this time they frequent the upper reaches of Truman Lake by the thousands and thousands.

Nothing I know of has a similar flight, as they don’t flap their wings much, they just soar on those big wings, with their heads drawn back, not extended like geese or cranes. They are, like most large birds today, very overpopulated and growing in number each year. That’s because they really have no predators, and men don’t seek them as a game bird because they are fish-eaters and taste awful. I will never eat another one!

Twenty or thirty years ago you saw none, or few of them, on Truman Lake in September and October and now there are thousands. In Canada in the summer it is the same, thousands of them and growing in number. I don’t know what we are going to do about these burgeoning numbers of large birds; snow geese, pelicans, black vultures, cormorants, even eagles. I wish we could say the same about ducks and pheasants and quail. 

Laws protecting those species are silly nowadays, although I cannot see killing anything you have no use for. It may come to that sometime. In some areas of north Arkansas those black vultures are so thick the Conservation department allows certain docks and resorts along the White River to kill them.  And we just about allow hunters to harvest all the snow geese they want because they are so over populated, and fairly good to eat.

Anyways, pelicans in flight are unusual in that you see dark bodies against the sky, and as they turn they suddenly reflect the snow-white backs. That goes on for a long, long time, as they seem effortless in soaring flight, gliding more than they actually fly.

I caught a nice big bass a day or so ago, and as I landed him I looked up to see a doe watching me. I quickly grabbed the camera and snapped a picture of the doe as the bass flopped around in the boat. If I do say so myself it is a beautiful photo, with the sun backlighting the deer and bright water before her.  I have sent it to all the newspapers that use this column, but you can see it on my website, www.larrydablemontoutdoors.

A couple of weeks ago, I was fishing on a river in northwest Oklahoma when we drifted past a beautiful rock bluff with unusual layers of rock. Along that bluff for about 150 yards there were more wasp nests than you could count. 

Surely there were more than 200 active nests covered with black wasps. I couldn’t, or didn’t care to, get close enough to really tell what kind they might be, but they were not the common red wasps we have building their nests inside our sheds and under porches here in my area.

There were also hundreds of empty nests, likely from last year, which is surprising. Wasps do not reuse a nest like you would think they might do. Each summer they build new ones.

But I got to thinking, with likely 30 or 40 wasps to each active nest, there likely were eight to ten thousand of them along that bluff, the most wasps I ever saw in one place.  There is a bluff on the Osage River, which has a number of wasp nests each summer, but nothing like that.

As a kid, my cousins and I used old badminton rackets to kill wasps. We called them ‘waspers’, and we would find a big nest of them on my grandparents’ farm and throw rocks at the nest until we destroyed it and really got them riled, then whacked them in flight as they swarmed us, seeking revenge. On occasion, one of us would get stung, and we would run for Grandma’s garden to cut open a green tomato and slap it on the throbbing sting. 

There is nothing that soothes and heals a wasper sting like a green tomato. It was great fun clobbering wasps with a badminton racket, and of course it demonstrated your toughness to get stung and act like it didn’t bother you. I had some tough cousins, Scotch-Irish descendants, the McNews. I figure some of my cousins were wasper-stung at least 50 times by the age of 15.

As a naturalist today, I regret what we did. We should have allowed them to exist as part of nature’s plan. And if we do indeed urge folks to coexist with copperheads and make it illegal to kill them, we should do the same thing with waspers. After all, “they never are aggressive and seldom sting”... and no one has ever been killed by a wasp sting, I don’t think. Well maybe a few people but not many!

You know there are a surprising number of people who have never seen my magazines, and the fall issues of both are on newsstands this week. The distributor tells me that readers can find copies on the magazine racks at Walmart stores and large grocery chains. One is an outdoor magazine, the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, and the other is a magazine of Ozark history and culture, entitled, The Journal of the Ozarks. 

If you are a writer or artist who might want to contribute to either, we would be very interested in seeing your work. But as I have said often, we sometimes get great stories from those who are not writers, and yet have great articles to send us. If you want to submit something to either magazine, just mail it to us at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email it to me at We need good Ozark stories, and one thing I really look for is stories about World War II, Korean War or Viet Nam War veterans from the Ozarks. 

Another thing I am looking for is a nice winter photo for our cover. Deadline for the upcoming winter issues of both magazines is mid-October. If you’d like to get more information, or would like to obtain sample copies of either magazine, you can also call our office out here in the woods on Lightnin’ Ridge at 417 777 5227.

One other thing: I think we will take a day-long trip over to our wilderness area on Truman Lake via pontoon boat, and have a big fish-fry and two three-hour hikes. We can take up to 15 people, and those of you who fancy yourselves Master Naturalists, and those who just like to learn more about Ozarks’ nature, will have a great day. Naturalist and long-time Corps of Engineers Ranger Rich Abdoler will be along, so you can learn a great deal if you don’t already know everything. On this trip you will see some of the biggest trees you ever saw, including the largest white oak tree I ever came across, and an 1800’s cabin site, and an eagle’s nest where the eagles reside year-round, and likely the perfect timing for the best of fall colors and migrating lake birds. Write or call for more information.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dove Hunting be Danged

Remember a couple of weeks ago, when in this very column I said that I had decided not to hunt doves anymore. I think that was a very good idea. But I went anyway, on opening day, after my old friend Rich Abdoler said he was going by himself.

I got to thinking he would probably need me so I said I would bring my young Labrador, Bolt, and help him get a limit. What a dumb idea that was. It ended up being a great day to go fishing, and instead I went dove hunting, in a sunflower field on Truman Lake.

Just as I anticipated, there were hunters everywhere that afternoon, the first day of September. It sounded like it might have sounded at Wilson’s Creek during the Civil War.

Dove hunting has become a social thing, and I don’t care for that. I like to hunt alone, or with a friend, off somewhere in the woods or marshes or fields where solitude is part of the ambience and mosquitoes aren’t. But if a hunter in this day and time wants to take a boy out to learn to shoot a shotgun and hunt doves, I think he should be able to do that, even if there is a crowd out there, without any interference from me.

I have had my day. I remember great dove hunts in that very same area 25 years ago when you couldn’t hear or see another hunter. It was a different day and time, and it is over. Dove hunting won’t ever be that way again. So I had decided to step aside and concentrate on fishing off somewhere in the solitude I crave, and never hunt doves again.

But what the heck, I went anyway. Poor old Bolt, the third or fourth greatest Labrador in the whole country, went with me. It had rained much of the morning, and when we got out there, about 2 p.m., it was cloudy, with thunder rumbling in the distance.

It was 79 degrees and because I can’t remember September very well, I thought that was going to make for a nice cool day. But the humidity was up there right near 100 percent if I guess right. My camouflaged T-shirt was soaked by the time I locked the pickup beside three or four other pick-ups, and Bolt kept looking back at it like he wanted me to bring the air-conditioner with us.

Surely the two of us could go without water for a couple of hours, I thought. If you bring a gallon of water, which Bolt can drink in less than a minute, it weighs 8 pounds. When you add that to the shotgun and shells and camera I was carrying, that makes more weight than a 21-year-old marine totes in boot camp. And I am not 21.

It was a mile to the dove field, situated a few hundred yards past all the other hunters, who were blasting away. Rich said there were a lot of doves, and I guessed he was right. I closed my eyes and envisioned Wilson’s Creek… or Gettysburg. The thunder even sounded a lot like distant cannons.

My glasses were so fogged over by the time I crouched down in the weeds I couldn’t see a darn thing. Why hadn’t I worn contact lenses? Why hadn’t I brought water and left the camera? Why hadn’t I left the shotgun, now weighing about 30 pounds?

I shot two doves, and couldn’t find either of them. Bolt found both of them, picked them up and dropped them, trying to get the feathers out of his mouth, looking at me as if to say… “I am a duck dog, stupid, and these ain’t ducks!”

He found one more dove before he left. Then he was just gone. Rich said he figured he went looking for water. I panicked. If Bolt was lost, Gloria Jean would lock me out of the house until I found him. While she doesn’t hunt, she loves that big old chocolate Lab. That’s part of the reason he isn’t a better hunting dog.

Spoiled dogs are like spoiled children, they give you lots of trouble at times, and despite my calling and whistling, which he and everyone for a mile around could hear, he wasn’t coming back until he filled up with water. My yelling for him was destroying the ambience.

Rich was yelling at me to shoot, and I couldn’t see anything because of my fogged up glasses. My boots were filling up with sweat! If I could have rung the sweat out of my clothes, I would have lost six or seven pounds. The sunflowers and weeds began to make me itch.

I walked most of the way back to the pick-up and found Bolt in the only mud hole I remembered passing. He was laying in it. I would have given anything to have jumped in there with him. We walked back to the pickup where I retrieved the leash I had forgotten. I drank a bottle of water and left my glasses.

 I walked back to where Rich was banging away and tied Bolt to a tree, which provided shade, and killed a couple more doves. Finally it came to me that I wasn’t enjoying this much. The humidity rose, thunder filled the sky to the west and I saw a streak of lightning. Over the years I have learned not to sit anywhere and watch it lightning when I could run for the pickup.

Rich stayed… Bolt and I left. On the way back he lay down in the mud hole again, and I was thankful I brought an old blanket for him to lay on in the back seat of my pickup. I had killed four doves and walked four miles!

I will never hunt doves again, I don’t think. If I do, I won’t take Bolt until he is older and it is cooler and the humidity is somewhere around 20 percent and all the hunters have gone back to work.

I let the motor run, turned the air conditioner on full blast and waited for Rich. Some hunter came by on the way to his pickup and I rolled down the window and asked if he had a good hunt. He said it was all right, he had bagged several doves. “But there are too many hunters,” he said, “and some of them are real amateurs.

 One old boy not far away was yelling for his dog the whole time… it just ruined the ambience!”

And that’s what I have against dove hunting… it has become a social event rather than a hunting trip. And there ain’t no ambience. I gave Rich my mangled, sweat-drenched doves and drove home in the darndest thunderstorm I have ever seen! But I might try it one more time about the first week of October.

I have 50 acres and a secluded cabin on a little Ozark creek off away from everyone where I take refuge on occasion to forget the world. I have decided not to hunt deer this year either, as it coincides with some good duck hunting and the fishing might be really good about then.

If you are looking for your own deer-hunting lease, I have one. Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. The email address is You can talk to my secretary, Ms. Wiggins about getting a sample of our fall outdoor magazine mailed to you.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Buzz-birds of Two Kinds

Someone asked me recently when hummingbird feeders should be taken down, to insure that hummingbirds would migrate on time and not be caught in a winter snap of some sort. I once believed that was important, but I realize now that leaving feeders filled with liquid has nothing to do with delaying the little bird’s migration flight. It doesn’t.

Migration is triggered by dwindling light, and the change of many factors as fall moves closer. Hummingbirds may indeed die at any stage of their migration, as thousands of birds will, through natural causes due to age more than anything else, but they aren’t going to stay too late because feeders are left up. 

If you don’t believe me, just leave feeders full and watch what happens. The hummingbirds will leave anyway. I am not sure that they aren’t made stronger for their migration flight by the existence of such feeders, as natural food dwindles with the absence of blossoms they seek. So don’t worry about causing a problem for the little buzz-birds. That theory has been spread mostly by the master naturalists who spend more time in books than they do outdoors.

I saw a good indication of that recently when one of the state’s newspapers carried a story about teal hunting. Blue-winged teal migrate earlier than other ducks, and so there is a special hunting season for them in mid-September. The newspaper’s outdoor page showed two photos of blue-winged teal, but they were both drakes in spring plumage.

In the spring, the males are indeed a beautiful bird, but in September they look NOTHING like those pictures. I doubt if anyone associated with city newspapers would know that. In September, there are none of those markings, and teal are as drab as most other marsh birds. Only the wing panels have any color.

Beginning hunters who do not know what they are looking at need to know that hen wood ducks and hen pintails and gadwalls might look a little like teal in September, but once you have a knowledge of waterfowl species and how they fly, you won’t mistake them.

I have hunted teal since I was a teenager, when that special season was first instigated, and I enjoy it tremendously, but there are problems with wood ducks being confused with teal, even though in general their habitats and habits are far different.

The early flights of teal are likely 90 percent blue-wings, but there are always a few green-winged teal in September hunts. That is strange because green wings are one of the latest migrators, coming through our area in December with the late flocks of northern mallards. Both species are very small, but the meat is as good as that of any wild ducks. I usually skin my teal, cut the breasts in strips about the size of my little finger and fry them with some onions and Lawry’s seasoned salt. The legs and wings are just about too small to eat, but there’s a little meat on them too.

In my latter years of college, I was determined to be a waterfowl biologist, because I have always been so fascinated with wild ducks and geese. My dad and grandfather and I hunted them when I was only ten or eleven years old.

For a time, I was the waterfowl editor for Gun Dog Magazine, and I hunted with many knowledgeable and experienced waterfowl hunters. Most all of them could tell at a glance any species flying past within 50 yards.

But if you are a real expert, you can look at a flock of ducks a couple of hundred yards away and pretty much know what species they are, from size, shape and speed, and wing beat, even when you can’t see their colors. If you hunt blue-winged teal the next week or so, remember that they will look nothing like the photos shown on outdoor pages of larger newspapers. Those are spring plumage photos, and nothing similar to what a

September teal is. It is a bad situation when young duck hunters go out to hunt ducks and aren’t sure which species are which. It’s even worse when young conservation agents don’t know a mallard hen from a drake gadwall. A year or so ago a couple of my friends were checked by a young female agent on the James River to whom they had to give a crash course in duck identification. She had a book to tell her what the bag limits were but they had four species of ducks and she didn’t know what any of them were.

Folks expect conservation agents to know a great deal about the outdoors, and the older ones did. Many of the younger ones do not. A reader called me this week to tell me that he had heard a conservation agent on a Texas County radio station telling folks that while bullfrogs were indeed good to eat, they were also great bait for “troutlines”. In all my years of trotlining for flathead catfish or blues or channels, I never ever heard of any trotliners using bullfrogs for bait.

I can’t even imagine that. It would be comparable to using ripe red tomatoes to throw at squirrels and rabbits in place of regular ammunition. Comparable to using pecan pies for deer bait! Big flatheads sought after by trotline, or what he referred to as ‘troutline’ fishermen, seldom take dead bait. You catch them on live bait and live frogs held under water for a short period of time will be dead.

I cannot imagine someone doing that to any living creature, even a mouse. Any catfish caught on a bullfrog would be just as easy to catch on any of a dozen other kinds of bait. In fact, I will have to check the laws, but I think it might be illegal to use bullfrogs on trotlines if you look through the fine print. It is illegal to use any gamefish for trotline bait, and even sunfish, one of the best baits for flatheads and other species, must be under a certain length.

If bullfrogs are legal as bait, it is a bad situation, because year after they become scarcer and scarcer. On streams where I found bullfrogs in abundance as a boy in late summer, there are perhaps about twenty percent of the bullfrogs in most of them that there were forty years ago. In another column, I will go into some of the many reasons why bullfrog numbers are declining, but while I understand why any of us would love to have a skillet full of bullfrogs, please don’t use them for ‘troutline’ bait.

You might be interested in knowing that the first frost is only 38 days away, so it might be a good idea to go down to the pond or creek and take one last swim. One of my old friends was sitting on his porch last week with tears running down his face. I asked if there had been a death in the family or something of that sort. He told me he was crying because he had just eaten the last tomato out of his garden.

These are tough times for those of us who have gardens and love garden produce, but you have to remember that winter has good times too. Thanksgiving and Christmas are ahead, rabbit hunting in the snow, and walking woodland trails with no snakes, no spider webs and no ticks. God has given us six or seven seasons to enjoy for their variety, not just four. And the best of them all, as I see it, is the one we have now, and all those we are going to have.

Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at lightninridge To see what our new fall magazines look like, go to my website…

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Excerpt from "Little Home on the Piney"

This is a story my father, Farrel Dablemont told me. It is part of a book I have written about his childhood entitled, “Little Home on the Piney”. This is a true story which took place in 1940, when he was about 14 years old.

We started going to the ‘Methadess Church’ in Houston in August, and the preacher just zeroed in on me. He told me I was going to hell just as sure as God turned green apples red, if I was to die. I didn’t figure I was going to die, but I didn’t want to take any chances so I went up to the front of the church with some other sinners to be ‘saved’. Truthfully, I don’t think that I was near the sinner, at my age, that some of them folks were.

But in order not to go to hell, you had to do that, and let the preacher pray hard over you and pronounce you good enough to go. Then if you died you would go to heaven and float around in the clouds and live in a house made of gold. The clincher though, what you had to do first, was to go out some Sunday afternoon and get babtized. I did, and the Piney was really cold that October afternoon when the preacher pushed me under.

I never knew what was going on much, but it made Mom and Zodie happy. They both cried and cried. I wondered at the time why they would cry so much about me escaping the devil. It looked to me like they ought to really be happy. I reckon maybe they was thinking about my brother Norten!

So what it came down to was me all confused about everything. Somehow, there was a God who took care of us and he had sent his son who was killed but didn’t die, to show us that if we are killed we don’t die either.

I thought and thought about it, and tried to read the Bible Mom had but I couldn’t hardly make heads nor tails out of it. I had seen some stuff wrote by a guy named Shakespeare in school and it was a lot like that. Some folks must have known what it meant, but I didn’t.

The afternoon in late October that I went out to try to get a squirrel after I got home from school was one of the biggest turning points in my young life. We had three squirrels and Mom wanted to make squirrel and dumplings because Jim Adey was going to have supper with us. She wanted another squirrel to make sure we had enough. Pop and Jim were sitting trotlines, and Norten was up there on the Meramec River so I was the one the job was left up to.

I didn’t mind that, I loved hunting squirrels. But we didn’t have one shotgun shell in the whole house, so I had to take a little Stevens Marksman .22 rifle, something Pop had took in for a trade for a boat paddle. It had a bent barrel enough to where you had to aim about a foot to the right of what you were shooting at to hit the target, at 25 or 30 yards. Pop was going to straighten it but he hadn’t gotten around to it. Somebody had painted the stock and forearm yellow!

I can’t remember ever seeing a day more beautiful. The trees were turning red and gold and orange, and the fields were full of bright sumac bushes. I wondered if heaven could possibly be as pretty as the Big Piney. I hunted for an hour up the river, in the woods bordering the fields, and then I crossed the shoal above the Paw-Paw Bottoms and found about the most perfect woods you could ask for.

Sitting there waiting for a squirrel, I got to talking to God. I told Him that I was awfully confused about what I had been told, but I was willing to do my best if He would just show me He knew who I was and wanted to help me be less of a sinner. I just flat told Him right then and there I wanted to see some proof of things. Asking for a squirrel wasn’t much of a request.

I sat on that fallen log beneath big oaks and hickories, watching colored leaves drift down around me while the late afternoon sun sent bright shafts into the shadows between the tree trunks, “God,” I said beneath my breath, “if you are real, just show me, by letting me get a squirrel for Mom.”

About five-thirty that afternoon I headed back to the old mill, squirrel-less. I hadn’t seen one, I hadn’t heard one. I was pretty disappointed. There I had went up to be saved and had been dipped in cold water to show how much faith I had, and God wouldn’t even let me have a squirrel. My fragile faith was being tried, my beliefs strained.

There are going to be folks who won’t believe this, but I had left the woods only about 200 yards from the mill-house and I wasn’t paying much attention as I grumbled along. And suddenly I looked up to the old broken down fence I would have to cross and there was a fox squirrel sitting on a post, eating something. I can’t say I thought about aiming, I just cocked the hammer, shouldered that little short rifle and pulled the trigger. The fox squirrel, thirty-five yards away, tumbled from the fence post, shot through the head.

When I picked it up, I was expecting to hear God scold me, but I heard nothing. I just sort of got weak-kneed and it hit me that wherever God was and whatever He was, I was important to Him. He knew about me. And finally I knew a little bit about Him.

I looked up into the fading blue and grey skies blue over the high bluff above the Mill Pond Eddy and I said, rather meekly… “Thank you God for this here squirrel.” And then I said agin.. “Thank you.” Somehow I knew it wouldn’t be the last time I would be saying it. He was real and we’d have enough squirrels for supper just to prove it.