Category Archives: Outdoors

Squirrels Attack!

 

McSquizzy

McSquizzy

 

Long-time readers of this blog might have the opinion that I am prejudiced against squirrels. While I have written about previous confrontations with the pesky varmints cute little critters, I firmly believe there is a place for them in this world: right next to the mashed potatoes and gravy.

Occasionally, we outdoorsmen are accused of exaggeration. Some question the accuracy of our measurements or the veracity of our reports. Some would say it is impossible for a fish to be so big that the level of the lake drops three inches when he is taken out. Some would say that a buck with a rack that looks like a rocking chair on his head is beyond the realm of plausibility. They might, and I emphasize MIGHT, have a point, but I assure you that what I am about to tell you is the pure, unadulterated truth. I will not blame the reader for skepticism. Had I not witnessed it first hand, I would be slow to believe it myself, but in the words of the late, great Wendy Bagwell, this is a fact with my hand up.

There are those who think that squirrels are just cute, energetic little things that are happy all the time. They labor under the misconception that squirrels, while perhaps a bit shy around humans are basically harmless and the only thought that goes through their acorn-sized mind is where to find the next nut.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Squirrels are devious, destructive beasts who are capable of distinguishing between different types of firearms, planning coordinated attacks and are intent upon inflicting bodily harm on humans.

A few days ago, my two sons and I went deer hunting on my grandmother’s farm. It was a nice fall afternoon and the total absence of deer was counter-balanced by the serenity of the great outdoors. The boys were located in their hunting spots and I was comfortably situated in my hunting chair with my feet propped up on a fallen log. Life was good and I was completely relaxed.

The tranquility was suddenly shattered by an explosion of shrill chattering and barking. A squirrel had completed a recon mission on my situation and decided that I did not pose a threat to him. He doubtlessly knew this from the orange vest I was wearing and the deer rifle that I was holding (I told you they could tell the difference between guns). He jumped from behind a tree and engaged in a rush of angry monologue. I am not fluent in Squirrelese, but I had no doubt of the content of his words. He was cussing me out. This is not unusual, it has happened to me, and many other woodsmen, before.

While the first squirrel was continuing his diatribe against me, I began to hear objects striking the ground close behind me. I turned around in my seat and craned my neck to look up in the hickory tree behind me. Another squirrel had snuck up behind me while I was distracted by his partner and was bombing me with nuts. He would scamper along a limb until he found a nut that hadn’t yet fallen, pull the nut off the branch and launch it in my direction. He fired six or seven shots. He didn’t just chunk them randomly, I could see him actually taking aim, adjusting for the wind and elevation. The only thing that kept me from getting hit was the fact that he was too weak to throw them far enough away from the tree. Had he been as big as even a fox squirrel or raccoon, I would undoubtedly have knots on my head now.

So be careful, my friends, next time you are around these scampering, chattering, bombarding menaces. They may look cute and charming, but they are probably just on a recon mission to find the best way to attack you.

In the Boondocks

   Last week was the week of fall break for schools in our area. Although we home-school our sons, we try to follow the local calendar and so we took time off as well. Wanting to get out and enjoy the mild fall weather and get away from home for a little while, we decided on a camping trip to one of our wonderful Georgia state parks.

   After calling around to a few parks to the north and west of us, I found that their campgrounds were all filled for the weekend. Turning my attention to the east, I found the Stephen C. Foster State Park in Okefenokee Swamp. When I called I was greeted by a very friendly lady who assured me that there were plenty of campsites available. She warned me, though, that if we were coming I should bring everything I needed with me because there was absolutely nothing around where she was. I reserved a spot and we began to load up our Jeep for the trip.

   We found the park to be located seventeen miles in the heart of Okefenokee Swamp. It was literally at the end of the road, but it was an absolutely gorgeous place to camp. Wildlife was abundant and we saw a large number of deer, along with squirrels, raccoons (who overran our campsite during the night), a fox, a possum, an otter, a variety of birds and of course, alligators (sorry, Beverly, Pogo didn’t show up 😉 ).

   Friday night was very relaxing as we sat by the fire under the moonlight. The only sounds that could be heard were the crickets chirping and an occasional owl hooting.

   On Saturday, we rented a boat and traveled about 4 or 5 miles up various creeks and waterways through the swamp. Gigantic cypress trees towered overhead and reflected in the still black water. Water lilies were blooming as were black-eyed Susans and other wildflowers. At times the waterways became so narrow that there was only a few inches of clearance on either side of the boat as we passed between trees.

   It was an amazingly refreshing time that we hated to see end. We all left reluctantly, counting the days until we can go back.

Going Camping

Our boys are on fall break this week. We have decided to get out of the house tonight, so we are going to go camping in Okeefenokee Swamp. If the gators, bears and skeeters don’t eat me, I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.

Have a blessed weekend.

A Blessed Week

Last week was one that was full of blessings. I suppose we could really say that about every week, but this one was especially so.

Our church held Vacation Bible School beginning on Sunday evening. We had an incredible week that was the highest attended we have ever had. The kids were enthusiastic and the adults really worked together as a team. Several good contacts with unchurched families were made. Most importantly, two children placed their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

On Tuesday, we got the news that my oldest son, Clay, had received a good report on an unusual mole that had been removed from his back a couple of weeks ago. The doctor said that it was not malignant. Thanks a bunch to all of you who offered prayers on his behalf.

After such a full week, we were ready for a little getaway, so my family and I travelled to the Julian Bruce State Park at St. George Island, Florida. We had a wonderful day at the beach and experienced some beautiful sights. Some sea turtles had recently hatched and you could see the trails through the sand where they had made their way to the water. We saw a number of different birds, but to cap everything off, we had all four swam out to the sand bar that was about forty or fifty yards offshore. While we were there, playing in about three feet of crystal-clear water, four dolphins came swimming by within just a few yards of us. They were unhurried, one even stuck his head out of the water to get a better look at us. It was an amazing moment.

On the way back home, we swung by our old haunt, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and drove down to the lighthouse at sunset. On our way in we had a close encounter with a raccoon. Coming out we got a good look at a great horned owl and a pair of ospreys. We even got to see a whip-poor-will. As often as I have heard these birds sing at night, this was the first one I had actually seen.

Praise the Lord for His everlasting goodness.

 

A Day Observing God’s Glory

It happened a little over a week ago, but I am just now finding the time to write about it. My two sons and I took a field trip to our favorite haunt, St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge. It would take a whole series of posts to describe all that we saw and experienced, but it was an incredible day observing the glory of God in His creation.

We were able to get within arm’s length of baby alligators, saw some awesome sights on a hiking trail, identified over 50 different species of birds, had a nice picnic lunch, took a boat ride on the nearby Wakulla River where we saw a 12 1/2 foot long gator literally launch himself out of the water in an attempt to catch a FLYING great blue heron. We then went swimming in the 69 degree water of the springs there. We grilled some brats and sausage for supper and discovered a new dessert that was almost too good to be true, ROASTED CHOCOLATE MARSHMALLOWS STUCK BETWEEN THE SEPARATED PARTS OF AN OREO COOKIE. (Kings should eat so well.) We saw deer, a raccoon, got buzzed by a bat, serenaded by bullfrogs and illuminated by fireflies.

It was a trip that started at 7:30 A.M. and ended about 10:00 P.M. and it was non-stop, but we all decided we would do it again in a heartbeat.

Here are a few pictures of some of the things we saw.

A baby alligator

 

Is God great or what?

Bits and Pieces

It’s been quite a weekend. On Friday, I took my two sons along with my mom and dad to St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge. We had attempted to go the week before, but had to postpone the trip due to sickness.

We had a great time and saw a variety of birds including, wild turkey, bald eagle, osprey (a really big one), white ibis, glossy ibis, wood stork, egrets and herons of several varieties (including a beautiful great blue heron), kingfisher, pelicans and some blue-wing teal. We also saw a deer as we were leaving. Migrating butterflies were everywhere and we were able to see a really nice rainbow.

On Saturday, my wife and I went with some friends to see the Seminoles beat up on North Carolina State. It was a great game, even though the weather was a little wierd. We had a lightening delay of about 49 minutes, but when we re-entered the stadium, there was a beautiful double rainbow arching over the field. (I wonder if there is any significance in that? hmmm).

We had a wonderful day at church yesterday. There was a great spirit in the services and the fellowship was sweet. Last night we had several members share some scriptures that they had been reading and talk about what they were learning from the Word. It was really great and some edifying thoughts were brought out. On the way to church, we saw yet another rainbow, making it the first time in my life that I have seen rainbows on three consecutive days.

I also want to share with those of you who might be interested about a blog that some friends are running right now. Keith and Julie Parker and their son race are the son-in-law, daughter and grandson of Cleve and Judy Dixon who attend Pine Park Baptist Church. Keith recently graduated from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. They are in the process of adopting a little boy from Viet Nam. Julie is keeping a blog of their trip and the process. You can read about it here. Please keep this family in your prayers as they travel.

I hope you have a blessed day. Come back soon.

Weekend Survey

The family and I are going to go down to St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge (pictured in my header) to do some hiking and birding this afternoon. We have plans for a picnic supper and hopefully the bald eagles have returned after the summer.

As majestic as the eagles are, however, I would have to say that the bird that fascinates me the most is the Great Blue Heron. These birds have some amazing beauty and I never get tired of watching them hunt for supper in the wading pools with the sun setting in the background.

So, with that in mind, this week’s survey is for the birds. Which bird is your favorite?

God bless and have a great weekend.

Oh, yeah, the ‘Noles are gonna take Alabama down hard!

The Great Yellowjacket Caper

   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.

The Day I Made Papa Mad

   I had the best of intentions, I really did. I was only trying to help. I did not mean to cause chaos on the farm and make  Papa mad, but I did. As far as I can recollect, it was the only time in the seven years that Papa was part of my life that he got mad at me, his eldest grandson. Most of the time, I could do no wrong, as far as he was concerned, but on this day I blew it.

   Papa was a fisherman (actually, that’s somewhat of an understatement). He fished to eat. Speckled perch, shell-crackers and bream trembled at the thought of Papa even being near the lake. I believe if they could have, they would have jumped directly from the water into his fish cooker to avoid the humiliation of being hooked. He caught fish when no one else on the lake or even in the boat was catching fish.

   In fact, he was so good, that only once in all the times that we went fishing did I beat him. The last time we ever went fishing together I caught more than he did. It caused such such a stir in the community that local legend and Outdoor Hall-of-Famer, Jack Wingate took my picture with my fish and hung it on the wall of his restaurant where it remained for over 25 years.

   It was not unusual for Papa to go fishing 4 or 5 times a week. Since he lived way out in the country and the nearest bait store was several miles away, he developed his own bait supply. He had a nice worm bed where he would throw old coffee grounds and grits. The worms grew fat and sassy and were always in abundant supply.

   He also had a minnow tank that he had made out of one of those concrete vaults that go inside graves in the cemetary. He had located it out behind his tractor shed. It had a hole in the center that served as a drain. Plugging this hole was a piece of one-inch metal pipe. Filled with water and oxygenated by an aerator, it provided a nice abode for about a thousand minnows. They were very happy in their concrete fortress, blissfully unaware of the fact that they were destined to be eaten by bigger fish. They were also ignorant of the fact that outside that tank, the area was infested with about twenty or so cats that hung around the shed.

   It was in January of my fifth winter that the Incident occurred. We had a particularly hard cold snap that left a sheet of ice about an inch thick over the top of the minnow tank. You need to understand that it hardly ever gets that cold in South Georgia, so this was a new experience for me.

   As I looked at the minnow tank, it seemed likely to me that the minnows would not be able to get enough air to breathe. There was no way that oxygen could into the tank through that layer of ice. I could just imagine the ice thawing out in a couple of days to reveal a thousand dead minnows who had suffocated.

   I knew if that happened, Papa would be out bait for the speckled perch that I so dearly loved to eat. In addition, he would have to buy more minnows to restock the tank and that would be a lot of trouble. So, I decided to do him a favor.

   I climbed up on the cinder blocks that the tank was sitting on and leaned over the side with a stick in my hand. I figured that if I could break the ice, the minnows would be able to breathe again and the crisis would be averted. Alas, for the best laid plans of five year old boys! I leaned over just a little too far and fell into the tank, breaking the ice and completely soaking myself. That was undoubtedly the coldest water I have ever felt. It was so cold that suddenly the minnows looked like penguins.

   My younger brother stood there gazing in astonishment as I came up for air, too cold to even scream. All the noise I could manage was something that could best be described as a combination of a shriek, a gasp and a wheeze.

   In all the excitement, I managed to dislodge the metal pipe that served as a drain plug. The water began to pour out of the bottom of the tank, taking a thousand hapless minnows with it. The ground was was literally covered with flopping minnows (They did seem to be happy about the fresh air, although they were probably wondering where all the water went).

   I don’t know how the cats discovered the smorgasboard so quickly, but before I could even get out of the tank, they came pouring in from all directions like good Baptists coming to a covered-dish supper. In the days to come, everytime I would walk by the shed they would gather around me with the expectations that I would provide another feast for them.

    About that time, Papa came around the corner of the shed and saw what was happening. I had never seen the expression that came across his face before. It was a “what-in-this-world-are-you-doing-why-in-this-world-would-you-do-it-how-in-this-world-could-you-do-it” look.

   We went back inside the house. While my mom and grandma tried to get me out of my wet clothes, Papa started telling me how mad he was with me. He told me that I could never come to his house again. I couldn’t even come in his yard (we lived next door at the time). He told me he was going to put up signs that said, “No Trespassing, Scoot” (“Scoot” was my nickname back then). If I wanted to talk to Nana, I would just have to get her to come to my house or either stand at the edge of the yard and talk to her. Of course, in my semi-frozen condition, I thought he was serious.

   After a couple of days, I realized that he wasn’t mad anymore and started going back to his house, but I didn’t get anywhere near that minnow tank.

Elvis Lives

   That’s right, you read it here. Elvis lives. I saw him with my own two eyes Saturday afternoon. I’ll bet you’ll never guess where, so let me tell you the story.

   As I mentioned in my Weekend Survey, I took the family to Lake Seminole State Park for some fun and relaxation. We left our house shortly after lunch and after stopping by my parent’s house to take them some strawberries, we went to the Wal-mart in Bainbridge, GA, to pick up some bratwursts and accompanying goodies.

   While we were doing our shopping, I heard the strains of “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” coming from the part of the store to where we were headed. As we passed the jewelry department, I saw a large banner advertising a karaoke contest. Sure enough, there was a short, somewhat chunky version of Elvis on stage singing to Marilyn Monroe. Elvis had on the ubiquitous white-sequined suit, unbuttoned in the front exposing his pasty white chest (it was whiter than the suit). His pompadour was bigger than he was.

   A few minutes later, we came back by and there was a preacher (?) on stage performing a marriage ceremony for Elvis and Marilyn. The cashier told me they were renewing their vows…dressed up in silly costumes…in Wal-mart. Isn’t that romantic?

   We continued on to the lake where we had a great time of fun and relaxation, all except for the four hours of non-stop jet skiing right in front of where I was trying to enjoy my Grisham novel. They were so loud that I could barely hear my Miles Davis CD.

   Pardon me for a ranting a little here. Why is that people on jet skis think that the whole world exists for watching them do stupid stunts and scream like maniacs? I began to recall a favorite episode of the Andy Griffith show in which Barney buys a motorcycle and begins to terrorize the citizens of Mayberry with it. Aunt Bee offered the solution of stringing a strand of barbed wire across the road. But, after I thought about it, I realized that probably wasn’t the Christian thing to do.

   Eventually they quit and I enjoyed fifteen minutes of blissful quiet before the mosquitoes came out and made me go home.

   All in all, it was a pretty fun day.