Ricky Harpole column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Harpole: Sidearms and Jeeps best swapped with kin

This will be my last hunting reminiscence of this season. I promise, it’s gonna hurt, but fishing season is just around the corner and fresh water is the mother lode for liars and journalists so bear (no pun intended) with me.

Back in 1978 deer were just getting prolific enough in the Delta area I was raised in to make the expense and trouble worthwhile. They bred and fed by night in formerly unpopulated thickets and canebrakes and sloughs that were considered to be unprofitable for crops. The economy of the day (faced with the tonnage of missing crop vegetation) decreed that some of the heard excess be pastured in a freezer or on a grill somewhere.

In those days there were more horses than four wheelers unless you counted an occasional Willys Jeep. In reality there were more gum booted boys strong and willful enough to be considered gumbo proof carrying single or double 12 or 20 gage shotguns who wanted to bring more meat to the table with one shot than their fathers had in several seasons of rabbit, squirrel and duck regimen.

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It’s just a natural fact boys like to outdo their daddies (and on foot). It’s also a fact that there are more things than a deer out there that you might have to deal with. All us ol’ country boys that had come up hunting coons and canecutters and squirrels, copperheads, etc., know this cause our daddies and uncles and sometimes grandmothers and aunts pounded it into our gourds with vigor. Their first  concern was that we didn’t shoot ourselves or one another, and property damage ran a close second (a neighbor’s cow for instance).

 Our daddies and uncles were veterans of one war or another and well knew the damage that a high powered rifle could avail itself of several miles away. So by the time we were in our teens we were allowed to accumulate a .3030 or a surplus Mauser to be used under strict supervision. All this worked pretty good.

We did all right and I never went against my daddy’s raisin’ except on two points. They were the issues of side arms and Jeeps.

My daddy drove an ambulance for the duration of the war and beyond. After all, it was impossible to get all them boys home all the way from Europe the next day, just because the war was over. Logistics wouldn’t allow it or mathematics either.

In the meantime there were counted thousands of casualties accumulating from strange newly confiscated pistols and excess of liberated booze enhanced by a surplus of readily available Jeeps (which were notorious for their unique handling characteristics).

In other words his case load intensified after the war was over hence:

No booze, no Jeep, no pistol for Ricky.

Til I was grown and gone at least.

Of course I shot my uncle’s pistols at every opportunity. Uncle Jay pointed out what appeared to be a pile of scrap iron behind his shop and hinted that there was at least one Jeep in it if  a young fellow was of a mind to put it together. Well, I did, (over two years) and was pretty determined I wouldn’t ever have to put it together again so, aside from getting it stuck in the gumbo a few times and a few brush scrapes and stumpbumps, it was still mostly together when I traded it back into the family in 1995. The pistol was different story. In typical redneck fashion I traded an old shotgun and a knife collection to a cousin.

For a leaky camper with three flats on it.

By the next year I’d patched the leaks and fixed the flats and the year after got a first beloved ex who told me we couldn’t live like the savages we were and remain or get into polite society and must necessarily go into debt like everybody else and live with mortgages and I could sell the camper so the lawn of our new unbought property wouldn’t look like our neighbors.

Well, I was young and weak minded concerning the whims of new brides so I traded the restored travel home to Uncle Ottis so he would have a decent dog house to live in next time Aunt Marie got riled up.
I got half interest in a Jeep he kept for parts and a 1911 model Colt pistol. That was 30 years ago, but one of his trading points on the gun was that there’s things in them thickets that a long gun might not have time to cure.

I found myself looking face to face with another hog this year. I was thinking about how many of his kinfolks I’d eaten over the years and wondering if it wasn’t about to be my turn. That ol’ hog just looked at me for a minute and spoke. He said “huh” and rattled back into the brush. The .45 govt. pistol was in the Jeep and so was the bourbon. At least one of ‘em got put to use that evening.

Breakin Rules,
Ricky Harpole