From time to time, I enjoy writing about the outdoor adventures that I experience with my two sons. One of our favorite activities is squirrel hunting. We really enjoy hunting them, and eating them is fun, too. It seems like just about anything can happen when you are in pursuit of these fuzzy little critters. With the fall season fast approaching, we are eagerly anticipating the opportunity to go after a mess of ’em.
The events of this story took place about five years ago on my grandmother’s farm. She lives about 45 minutes away from us and we enjoy going over there and hunting, fishing and just generally knocking around in the woods.
My oldest son, Clay, was 6 at the time. One Saturday morning, I took him and (another little boy who was 4 whose name I promised not to mention–hereafter known only as “X”) squirrel hunting at Nana’s (my grandmother) place.
It was a balmy fall morning, slightly overcast and the squirrels were active. We had already bagged two or three in the location where we had started and decided to move around a bit since Clay and
Gl X were getting antsy.
We started making our way through a stand of oak trees when I happened to look up at the sky and saw a bald eagle flying overhead. This was the first (and only) bald eagle I have ever seen on my grandmother’s farm and I began to move more quickly trying to get a clearer look at it as it flew slowly over the watermelon field that was between the woods where we were hunting and Nana’s house. The boys were trying to keep up with me and I didn’t want to get too far ahead of them, so I found an opening in the trees that gave me a clear view and stopped to watch the eagle fly away.
It was then that little X hollered that he was stuck in some briars. Clay, being a helpful brother, stopped to help him get untangled. I began to make my way to them, when suddenly Clay yelled, “Yellowjackets!”
Yellowjackets, being the sneaky sort of bug that they are, often build their nests in the ground. Leaves can cover the openings to the nest leaving them practically invisible. Unbeknownst to X, when he got tangled in the briars, his little foot was sinking down into a large yellowjacket nest.
The pandemonium that ensued could best be described by imagining a whirlwind in a henhouse. I dropped my gun and ran back to where Clay was still trying to disentangle X from the grip of the briars, even as the yellowjackets were rising from the nest and circling angrily around them. X felt the prick of the briars and thought the yellowjackets were stinging him and began to scream.
I told Clay to run for it and grabbed X by his arm, pulling him free of the briars. His shoe (brand new–naturally I had grabbed the wrong ones that morning) came off in the yellowjacket nest. I drug him through the woods with the yellowjackets in pursuit as we tried to catch up with Clay who had suddenly found his high gear.
We made it out of the woods and realized that the yellowjackets were no longer chasing us, but that the boys had them crawling all over them. Concerned that they might be up their sleeves or pants legs, I told the boys to take their clothes off. They stripped down to their skivvies and for some unknown reason, they turned in unison and took off through the watermelon patch for Nana’s house wearing nothing but their Fruit-of-the-looms.
I tried to catch up with them (just for the record, I was fully clothed) but they were running in a highly motivated fashion. When I breathlessly arrived at the house, they were huffing and puffing and crying and trying to explain to Nana what had happened.
After a careful examination, we found that X had miraculously escaped being stung. He had some pretty bad scratches from being snatched out of the briar patch and he had picked up some sand spurs as he ran through the watermelon patch, but was otherwise alright.
Clay only received one sting. Wouldn’t you know that it was on the very end of his middle finger? He went around the rest of the day showing people the wounded digit. I finally told him, “Son, you either have to show them all your fingers or none of them.” (I didn’t want people to think the preacher’s kid was giving them the one-fingered salute, you understand.)
Eventually, I went back out there and retrieved their clothes, my gun and other paraphenalia that they had shed in their flight. Unfortunately, the new shoe that X lost had to stay with the yellowjackets. By the time I got back they had adopted it as part of their house and were having a victory party in it.
There have been times when I have questioned the intellectual abilities of squirrels, but this experience made me wonder if maybe the squirrels had formed some kind of military alliance with the yellowjackets.
Nah, I guess that’s just me being paranoid.
Or is it…
Editorial note: This story was approved by all of those involved in the squirrel hunt. X read and approved this article before it was posted.