I hope everyone had as nice of a Thanksgiving as we did. That used to be an event held at our house, now our kids do it. But years ago it was held at my in-laws’ farm over in Madison County on Bohannon Mountain. My three brothers-in-law and I use to rabbit hunt every Thanksgiving. We’d turn some beagles loose, climb over fences and circle briar patches. The environment for rabbits on the over-grown farms around their place was absolutely ideal for cottontails.
The enthusiasm coming from the beagles on the chase was fun to watch and hear. That small sweet breed will tear through sticker brambles until their ears are bloody. They are ferocious when chasing those lightning balls of fur as the rabbits attempt to circle back to the secure cover where they were before. So you can wait to shoot them when they come back.
Pat’s oldest brother, Charles, isn’t around any more; we lost him a few years ago to a heart attack. He was the one who kept hound dogs and it was usually his beagles. Dennis and Michael Donahoe and I talked for hours after eating turkey about those hunts. Several of those 25 years or more it snowed on Thanksgiving or it was already on the ground. Funny how you can recall incidents like that and what the weather was like.
One of those years another field man from Tyson hunted with us. He brought a basset hound he wanted to try out – a beautiful dog but a lot slower than the beagles. I recall that the short-legged dog got in a logjam and barked until we carried him out. We never forgot that day. Sweetest dog in the world but not prepared to hunt on over-grown farmland.
My grandfather gave me his shotgun. It was a double barrel 20 gauge made for Ranger. That was the brand Sears Roebuck sold. I would rabbit and bird hunt with that gun and I could bust skeet so well that no one would challenge me. It is still a whale of a great firearm that I will pass on to my grandson.
In those days there were still bobwhite quail to hunt. The loss of cover, cutting hay in their nesting season and not growing lespedeza any longer all added to the disappearance of the coveys that used to explode in your face. Also the proliferation and protection of hawks make quail rare today. There is hardly a patch of farmland today, say a few hundred acres, not ruled over by a pair of red tail hawks.
Farm wives would keep a .410 or even a 12 gauge ready by the back door to shoot those chicken killers. They kept the hawk population down in the interest of their range chickens. If they couldn’t shoot them, they’d call in some neighborhood boy to do the deed.
My generation grew up slaughtering chickens at home. We knew the smell of dunking them in scalding water and plucking the feathers off by the handful. Then singeing them over an open flame to get the fine ones. Next dressing them in the kitchen sink, saving the heart, liver and gizzard to cook as a treat for those who liked them.
I hope you had a great holiday with family and friends and survived shopping as well. God bless you and America.  
Western novelist Dusty Richards and his wife Pat live on Beaver Lake in northwest Arkansas. For more information about his books you can email Dusty by visiting ozarksfn.com and clicking on ‘Contact Us’ or call 1-866-532-1960.


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