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Lessons In Hunting

“Thwack,” my long-legged brother leaned back and kicked the gray trunk of a small gum tree down in the bottom behind the house.

“Thwack.” He arched back a second time and kicked it again as I, a mere teen at the time, looked on several yards away.

Lessons come in all shapes and forms and what I learned on Dry Creek that night on a father and sons hunt proved to be invaluable.

Even before I was a teen, Dad would take his two boys with him to the woods to share in his passion. Dad has never been much of a deer hunter. He was a night owl who enjoyed hooking a red battery to his hip attached to a beaming hand-held light. Throw in some fold-down thigh-high rubber boots sufficient to cross moderately deep muddy creeks and he was ready to go.

Coon hunting.

Personally, I like sleep a bit too much to tromp around through the woods after the illusive raccoon nowadays. But the creature, which can be destructive in a farmer's cornfield, is a wily challenge for both man and dog.

Dad, of course, had many a good hound. And “good” meant he wouldn't chase a possum, deer or any other game when he was on the hunt. Dad used the rotating quarterback roster system for training. Keep an old dog that knows how to do the job, a dog in his prime, and a young one coming along-so the next generation was always in training. It was a cycle that seemed to work well.

Jack, the first hound of my recollection, was a beautiful black and tan. What made Jack unusual is that, without any training from an older dog, he was a natural hunter-tracking and treeing the critters on his own.

Old Mike, a bloodhound-looking droopy sort with a white tip on his tale, was a cagy veteran. He had no pedigree to speak of; no papers to attest to his bloodline, but he outscored them all on one particularly special night at a competitive hunt.

There was Hobo, with the long bawl of a voice; Jake was the excitable one with the short choppy bark.

Dad has a tale to tell on each of them.

But back to that night down in the bottom. The evening chase to the gum tree had taken only a few minutes and Dad, surveying that it was too easy, directed my brother to put his foot to its trunk.

After only a few strikes, the raccoon popped out of the tree, landed a few feet away from me, scrambled to his four feet and took off for parts unknown.

And the chase was on again.

It's funny, but the things we work so hard for, give our valuable time to, seem to matter the most.

A carpentry project.

An earned trophy.

Term paper.

These are personal milestones.

Think about it: if it only took five minutes to write an A-plus term paper, it wouldn't mean much. If it took weeks of work and study to earn a “mere” B, it would mean a lot more.

It's a lesson I can now appreciate.

If the coming too easy thing wasn't enough for one night, the critter had his own lesson to share: If plan “A” doesn't work, try something else-learn from your mistakes.

Even with the hounds close behind on his heels when he hit the ground, the bandit was wise enough not to run up another tree. And, while I may never know what his plan “B” was-lose the scent in the creek, jump from treetop to treetop, blast off in a rocket ship-it sure worked.

He got away.

It's always good to learn, reflect on and remember the lessons of life.