Monthly Archives: December 2012

My First Snowshoe

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A sound I will never forget is the sound of beagles baying upon their discovery of a rabbit’s scent.  Slow distant snips to exclaim a vague vapor, and a hurried long deep loud voice to express the scent’s freshness.  The term “one tracked mind” may have been coined by an Ivy League gentleman, but I on the other hand believe the quote came from an ole’ rabbit hunter from long ago.  I mean it explains the methodical way these dogs work a track.  This method stands in comparison to the systematic approach of a forensic scientist.  Beagles laboriously comb over small pieces of earth until they detect the sweet smell of rabbit stench, then, they continue to follow the scent until the rabbit is flushed from its cover.

 

To this day I never really understood the phenomenon unfolding before my very eyes.  You would think that as the dog chases the rabbit it would continue in a straight line until either the rabbit or the dog tired of the chase.  But, that’s not the case, I mean one hundred percent of the time the rabbit would run in a circular pattern somehow thinking it could shake the dog from his trail.  Matter of fact, this could be where many moonshiner tactics came from.   We have all heard stories of moonshiner’s leading revenuers in circles, in order to frustrate, and confuse them.  Well, the revenuers may have been frustrated and confused, but the beagle holds steadfast on the scent trail all the while thinking of only one thing – yep, the rabbit.

 

Now, with a picture of the chase planted in our mind we must ease into the strategy of interception.  Shortly after deer season would end our family weekends would be spent assuming our passion of hunting northern Michigan’s famed “Snowshoe Hare.”  Our snowshoe hunting adventures consisted of: Mom, Dad, Brother Bill, and I.  We would load up into my Dad’s old Chevrolet pickup complete with camper, hunting gear, two or more rabbit dogs (beagles), and then we would travel to a piece of state wilderness property.  This piece of property was approx eighty acres, and made up of Poplar slashings (small white trees that grow in thick clumps).  These slashing were often dotted with several jack pine and blue spruce clumps, as well. 

 

Upon arrival at this property we would get dressed in our blood red hunting suits.  We needed these warm suits, because the weather was usually a balmy 25-30 degrees.  Typically during these times we would also have to contend with a foot or two of fresh fluffy snow.  Next, we would pull our shotguns from the cases, wipe them off, and hold them breach open over the right or left arm; always safety first.  The last event before crossing the line of departure was unleashing or de-caging the dogs.  On this particular occasion I believe we had “Daisy, and Stubby.” 

 

Now at this time, Daisy was a young inexperienced dog, that often times overran the scent. In her youth she spent a good amount of time re-tracking. On the other hand Stubby was an old timer; smart, and cagey.  Dad often said, “He has two speeds; slow, and stop.” But, one thing about Stubby, he was sure to have a rabbit in front of him each time he came around past you.  The pairing of these two dogs was by no means an accident. These two dogs were paired because of their differences.  Daisy, usually jumped the rabbit and kept it moving, while Stubby, kept consistently on the track so that when Daisy would overrun she always had a reference point to return too.  Another sideline benefit, was, they would often jump another rabbit in the course of chasing the first.  And Daisy, new without a doubt she could leave Stubby to the first while she was in hot pursuit of the second.

 

Ok now, the dogs are out, the guns are loaded, and we are making our way to our individual points of interception.  These points are actually strategically placed positions along an imaginary circle; at least imaginary to us but quite apparent to the dogs.  This is why it is very important to stay put, because the dog will bring the rabbit to where it last observed you, if you move the dog will bring the rabbit to where you were, not to where you are now.  Remember, in this game patience is definitely a virtue – tough for a young hunter; but, highly rewarding.

 

On this particular occasion I was the young hunter, so, I went with my Dad to a particular point.  The position we took up had a vantage point, known as “a fire break” a fire break was a small but long opening between the thicket of trees, and usually a pine plantation. This break was usually caused by the forest service performing a controlled burn.  A controlled burn is burning off of underbrush to stimulate the growth of emerging vegetation; normally choked out by the thick underbrush.  So, here we stood gun loaded (my Dad’s old single shot H&R 16 Gauge) awaiting the famed snowshoe hare.

 

All of a sudden a high pitched cry and a deep guttural belch rang out in the dampened silence.  This is what we were all waiting for, Dad said, “The dogs are on a fresh one.”  As, I sit here and write this my mind drifts to the thoughts of a musician listening to the particular pitch of a musical note telling him his instrument is in tune.  You know how music has the ability to imprint on your mind, in such a way, that allows the tune to be recalled and recognized at a later time.  Well that is just how the song of the beagle sounds.  This sound will be with a rabbit hunter until the day he passes.  And even if he loses his hearing the sound is still there. 

 

Well, by now the dogs are half way into the imaginary circle with the ole’ wiled snowshoe in the lead.  Halfway into the circle is very important, as this is usually the time to go on full alert; especially when hunting the ever so fast snowshoe hare.  Cottontails, another species of rabbit, are quite a bit smaller and slower. And a three quarter circle is par for the course when sounding the alert.

 

 Here I am a young man on high alert watching for something that is covered fully in snow white hair, and probably moving at an extremely fast rate of speed.  About the only reference point you get is some brown or blackening around the ears, and the big black button of an eye.  I am now scanning feverishly; left then right, then back again.  Unknown to me, Dad has seen the rabbit; he hands me the shotgun and tells me to get ready and focus on the leading edge of the firebreak.  He says, “When the rabbits nose hits the fire break – you squeeze; not pull, squeeze the trigger.” I reply “Ok, Dad” and go back to scanning.  My heart is beating faster, and faster, as I know, I am going to be tested.  All of a sudden out of the corner of my eye I catch movement then ears; ears are all I see – huge ears.  This thing looks like a small white donkey, and man is he moving!  I pull back the hammer on the shotgun, settle down on one knee, place the sight of the gun on the forward leading edge of the fire break, and just as the rabbit’s nose hits the break I squeeze observing the rabbit role to a immediate halt.  Wow, the adrenaline is still coursing through my veins even now as I am writing, but, not quite as intense as that day.

 

I cracked the breach on the shotgun expelling the spent cartridge and handed the shotgun back to my Dad; as if to say “there I did it exactly like you told me.”  I could see the spark in his eye, and feel the well of pride in my chest as he said, “way to go boy; you rolled that snowshoe up like the Sunday paper.”  In my pride I started to take off towards the downed rabbit, and Dad said, “Whoa; wait, the dogs aren’t done.  You killed it, but they worked for it – let em’ have the satisfaction of getting to it first.” Wow, that really tested my patience as the dogs still had about 15 minutes left chasing before they would come upon it and Stubby probably had 20 minutes. 

 

Finally, they came out, smelt the rabbit, and ended the chase on this one.  Then immediately continued, always sniffing, and always tracking, their way to the next rabbit. 

 

Heck, these dogs had rabbit fever so bad they even tracked rabbits in their sleep.  I remember on many occasions ole’ Daisy would lay by the fireplace, asleep on her side, feet moving a mile a minute as tiny yips escaped from her mouth.  Not sure if she ever caught him; but that particular day I got mine for the very first time.

 

It was never about the kill, it was about spending time with family, and listening to a couple of four legged champions, do, what God built them to do.  And the fact is I came out of the slashings a little taller than when I went in.  Thanks, Daisy and Stubby – I will never forget you. And to my Dad, Mother, and Brother – them were the days – weren’t they?

 

 

 

 

 

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The Six pointer with Dad

Dad and me

 

He must have had the patience of a saint. Who? My Dad, you see I and my nephew Kevin had been pestering my Dad for about two weeks for him to take us with him to his deer stand, we had all but written it off without really knowing why he wouldn’t take us.  Later in life we found out that it wasn’t because he didn’t want too it was because he knew all too well that we could not sit still to save our lives.  I was all of about eight years old and my nephew was approximately twelve.  My Dad had taken us small game hunting several times, and even during them times we weren’t able to sit long enough for the beagles to bring the rabbit around to us.  Yes, many times we spoiled the hunt with our juvenile antics.  But that’s not to say that my Dad gave up on us.  No, not at all the fruits of our pestering worked and the faithful day had finally come.

 

 It was about six o’clock in the evening when Dad gave us the news.  He said, “Boys; you will be going with me in the morning to the deer stand, so you better get to bed early.”  To bed early, “Right, like we were going to get any sleep.”  We were so elated and ecstatic that we didn’t sleep a wink instead we lay awake talking about our impending adventure.  I didn’t know it at the time, but where I come from this would mark my first real adventure; not as a kid, but as a young man.  To most of you reading this you understand what I am talking about, however, some readers won’t.  If you’re from the city I suppose you could compare it to riding the subway for the first time by yourself.  Or if you are a virtual person you could compare it to sending your avatar into a battle for the first time.  Exactly, you never really know what is going to happen, but you can be sure it will be dangerous.

 

 The morning arrived and Kevin and I are up, dressed, and headed to the breakfast table, as this is where mom has breakfast cooking.  During this time of year (Oct-Nov) breakfast typically consisted of; fried venison steak,  pancakes covered in real butter and smothered in homemade maple syrup that was made the previous winter, and a large glass of ice cold milk.  It is was so intently palate pleasing that even now thirty-seven years later, I begin to salivate while writing about it.  Dad finally emerged from his bedroom donning a pair of blood red trousers stained from years of wear, a blue button up shirt leftover from his days as a security guard with General Motors.  He sat down at the table and began to sip his coffee; you could have heard a pin drop if it wasn’t for Kevin making a most annoying sound as he slurped his milk and gobbled his pancakes.  After his second cup of coffee he began to speak, “Boys, I will have to ask you to try hard and do your best to stay quiet and sit still.  Be sure to use the bathroom before we go.”  We both nodded in affirmation of his request.  He finished his coffee stood up and said, “Come on boys lets go” we jumped up and ran outside ahead of him.  My dad paused for a moment on the front porch pulled on a bright red sweater and placed a blood red hand knitted cap upon his head.  He then extended his hand towards the deer slayer; a model 94 Winchester Rifle in the caliber of .32 win special.  This rifle in the hands of my father had slain many white-tailed deer.  He then exited the porch and began to load the rifle with six rounds.  It could hold seven, but full load will weaken the spring over time, and with a lever action you can’t afford to have a bad spring; in case for some reason you actually needed a second shot.  Keep in mind I rarely heard of my Dad needing more than one shot.  And when he did need a second, it was like the first because the first actually had to clear the brush for that second shot.

 

 It was about a quarter past eight in the morning as we headed out. Bear in mind that both of my brothers and any other adults that were at our place hunting had already gotten up before day break and headed to their deer stand.  At their deer stands they would find carefully prepared offensive positions, complete with a framework of pine boughs for camouflage.  And usually they would dig down into the earth a few inches to allow for small movements, and to lower their profile for a better shot; kind of putting themselves on the same level as their quarry.  Oh! But not my Dad, he was the kind of guy that could get up later than everyone else, sit wherever he saw fit, without any preparation, usually for a very short duration of time, kill his deer and return to the house well ahead of everyone else.  Of course he would leave the deer until everyone came in, so we, young men could drag it out, bring it back to the house, and hoist it up on the buck pole. 

 

 By the time we reached the place where my Dad would make his stand it was about nine O’clock in the morning.  Our stand was by a big maple tree overlooking a small cut between the pine plantation and a hardwood plot, probably about two acres or so.  My Dad scraped the snow off of a log stump next to the tree and sat down.  He said, “Boys, scrape the snow and leaves off a spot in the ground next to the tree and sit down, because it is here where we will make our stand.”  We did as he said.  He positioned us all around the tree so we would have eyes in all directions.

 

 After about twenty minutes of sitting Kevin and I began to wiggle around and lose interest.  Plus we were getting a little chilly.  Dad saw this and without getting upset, he said “You boys asked for this, and if you expect see anything you need to settle down, stop moving, and remain quiet.”  His firm but calm voice settled us back down and we intently gazed into our own fields of view.  It was probably another ten minutes when all of a sudden I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, I had a microsecond to identify what it was. But before I could say something to my Dad, the deer slayer’s report rang loud and deadly.  I saw the bullet pass completely through the front shoulder of the deer.  As I turned to see if Kevin saw it, he was on his feet and in hot pursuit of this wounded deer; Dad yelled “Kevin get you’re A** back here and sit down.”  Kevin returned and sat down.  While we were waiting, my Dad’s long time friend, and co-worker from General Motors came up to talk with my Dad.  He had heard the shot from his stand and recognized the report of the deer slayer.  He had known my Dad long enough to know that when the deer slayer sounded usually a deer had met its demise.  My brothers were now at our deer stand, and were discussing a strategy to search for this deer; which turned out to be a two year old six point buck. For westerners that may be reading this, the buck was a three point or a three by three. 

 

 The buck had run into a nearby pine plantation, so we all traveled to one end of the plantation and began to move up the rows.  My Dad and Joe (Dad’s friend) posted themselves on the opposite end of the plantation in case the deer hadn’t expired, and tried to make a break for it.  Kevin and I were only a row apart as we moved towards the end of the plantation.  We were just about to the end and came to a small opening.  Kevin was a bit ahead of me but I could see him well, as he neared the end of the opening.  All of a sudden the mortally wounded buck made his final dying lunge in Kevin’s direction; not to attack Kevin, but merely his last movement as he bled out.  This scared the proverbial crap out of Kevin and he thought for sure this buck was attacking him, he started yelling “Grandpa, Grandpa, Grandpa, the deer is attacking me.”  Now my Dad was where he could see this event unfold, and needless to say he was laughing his backside off.  I never did see Kevin again; it wasn’t until we got back to the cabin that we discovered where he had run off to.  We retrieved the buck from the pines, loaded it into my Dad’s old Chevrolet pickup, and drove it back to the house where we hung it up on the buck pole. 

 

 At this stage and in the middle of my life, I know, I will never forget this day.  I didn’t understand it at the time, but I came closer to understanding the meaning of the word “Man” that day than any other for years to come.  In my mind the games of childhood halted for a moment, and the reality of life, death, quest, adventure, and fatherly acceptance came to be.  I was welcomed into my Father’s world and was accepted.  I hadn’t failed when placed in danger’s path.  It was on this cold November day in the shadow of that maple tree, and under the protecting watch of my father’s eyes I started a journey; where it was heading was still a mystery.  All I knew was one day I would hold the deer slayer in my hands; I would have one shot and it needed to count.  Even now I keep asking myself “Do I have what it takes.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The “Still Small Voice”

Do you ever wonder why God assigns a particular call or unique vocal sound to a specific species of animal?  Think about the newborn fawn that instinctively knows its mother’s call.   The fawn’s source of comfort, reassurance, and protection can be found there in her mother’s call.  Just one bleat from the doe, changing only slightly in depth of pitch, can send the fawn; into hiding, sound the dinner bell, or give it permission to frolic.  The fawn listens and the fawn lives.  Animals are fortunate, in that, their original source of communication hasn’t been corrupted.  However, man’s agreement with the Serpent in Eden has placed some white noise between him and the hearing of his Father’s voice. 

Due to man’s stumble in the Garden, now, not only does man need to listen for Father’s voice, he is relegated to listening for the counterfeit voice as well.  This counterfeit voice endeavors to mimic our Father’s voice.   This is why we must listen intently and ever so closely to Father’s “still small voice.”  If we listen in haste, our actions may play directly into the enemy’s hand.    How, you say? If we accept the counterfeit, as the Father’s “still small voice,” we may be acting on false information.  You see, it is through subversion and the masking of God’s gentle voice that our adversary wages his most damaging assault.  How? With lies! Through lies the enemy attempts to deceive our unconscious mind by convincing us that the our Father’s “still small voice” is an auditory mirage.  In confirmation Ms. Penn-Lewis, says “One tactic of the evil one is to make souls confused and distracted over what is the will of God.” 

How can we weather the distraction and decipher the confusion?  Ms. Penn-Lewis claims, “The voice of the Lord brings a deep calm over the spirit, whereas the voice of the devil often causes confusion, restlessness, agitation and uncertainty.”  Therefore, the moment the voice is heard compare it to the Word of God.  If the information obtained from the “still small voice” doesn’t align to God’s standard of truth; then rebuke the insurgent and disregard.

 

Be still and know that I am (Psalm 46:10)     

 

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Yielding to the Holy Spirit!

I went for a ride the other day and I invited the Spirit to come along.  I used to leave Him at home: Why? Well, I’m not exactly sure but it could have been the thought that He might get in my way.  All those times I rode around without the Spirit my mind drifted back to Him.  I pictured Him sitting there at home all alone; all the while praying for me and always consciously thinking about me.  A tear welled in my eye as I heard Him say, “If you knew you weren’t coming home today wouldn’t you want me with you?”  I said, “But I have every intention of returning home today.”  He responded, “You really don’t get it do you?  You see, your intentions and God’s intentions are something quite different.”  I said, “Ok, you’re right, you can come along.  But you will have to ride in the back seat.” 

We pulled out of the driveway and headed towards my destination.  Funny thing, I wasn’t really sure of my destination; however, I wasn’t going to admit that to Him.  So, I drove on thinking: now where was it I was heading? I was doing just fine and knew exactly where I was going preceding my discussion with the Spirit.  As I continued to drive I kept glancing into my rearview mirror, and wouldn’t you know it there He sat praying for me and always consciously watching me.  He didn’t speak; He just watched and waited ever so patiently.  All of a sudden it hit me; I have a GPS! All I have to do is see where I went yesterday at this time and voila I will know exactly where I am going.  Upon researching my previous destinations I discovered that I was on my way to work.  I drove along ever so confident, after all the GPS figured it all out for me.  Because of this man made device I knew exactly where I was going.  Then the Spirit said, “James, what happens when you type heaven in your GPS?.”  I said, “Well, I don’t rightly know.  So, I feverishly type in the destination heaven; but all I hear is: re-calculating, re-calculating, re-calculating.  My frustration builds, I am getting angry, and as my patience is nearing the end – I stop – then turn to the Spirit and say, “It doesn’t really know where I am going does it?”  The Spirit says, “No, it does not – only your faith in God, and God Himself knows where you are headed.  And He has put me here to guide you.”  Finally, it all became clear and I said to the Spirit, “Would you please come up here and drive? I would really like to reach my eternal destination.”  He said, “Sure, all I was waiting for was to hear you ask!” 

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Where Did I Ever?

I wonder who it was that ever convinced me I belonged to myself?  After all, I was saved at a young age; truly saved.  The more I aged the more I believed experience gave me the right to myself.  So, I sought experience, and what experiences I had; but no matter the experience good or bad it didn’t bring me any closer to properly governing myself.  Experience presented itself to me as a cheap imitation of worthiness. I believe the only experiences that ever brought me close to fulfilling my worth were the times when I was tried and tested by God and passed the test.  I am here to tell you, divine tests, there were many, but my victories were few.  I remember accepting each challenge then leading myself into battle without the realization that I was never meant to lead myself into anything on my own accord. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) 

In complete view of others I tainted my worth.  It became tainted when, I as the tenant of my own body exercised my will in contrast to the will of the legal owner.  I am a clay pitcher made by the potter for the filling of water – understood – but can I pour myself out? I think not.  The hand that made me must be the hand that pours me out.  My worth is poured out through the measure of service I offer to the least in His Kingdom.  The measure of worth is molded, and proofed by the potter through pass after pass into the kiln. The kiln (Holy Spirit) offers tinsel strength and purity of hardness.  This type of hardness and purity comes from His image within.  I am not my own.  I have been purchased by the highest worth known to man.  The hardness of worth by which I was purchased contains the governance of which I need.  I have discovered my worth is proven by the degree of humility, in which, I show myself to the world as a Bondservant of Christ. 

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