Wednesday, 14 November 2012 02:11
A wild tale of a whitetail…a boy’s memories.
By: Rodney Miller
His track told the tale. “That wasn’t a mule, Lloyd. You see this track? It that had to be left by a monster buck.” My Pap Paw Burkhart said as he examined the ground. “Look how wide it is and how he also left his dew claws in the ground? He has to be close to 300 pounds! I got a glimpse of his rack, and he looked liked he had a rockin’ chair on his head as he ran across the garden!” Pap went on.
“I ain’t never seen a deer around here, Daddy. Are you sure it was a buck?” Lloyd asked “And where do you think he came from?”
“He’s doin’ what the call ‘ruttin’, I suppose. When it gets this time in the fall, they go lookin’ for females, and they don’t stop until they find ‘em one.” Pap said.
Lloyd didn’t have the nerve to tell Pap Paw he was being pranked. He knew how much his dad wanted to take a shot at a big buck and when Pap saw the tracks, a big grin came upon his face as now he knew the chase was on. He finally would get his chance to match wits with a big buck.
It had been many years since my Pap Paw had seen a deer and almost as many since he had seen a track. He told me when he was young, there were still a few “mountain deer” in Clay County but they had been hunted until they were considered almost extinct.
My Pap Paw loved the outdoors and he taught me lots about hunting, animal tracks, and trapping. He also taught me a valuable lesson when cleaning a mud turtle. After their head is cut off they can still bite, and I’m talking about biting with a vengeance.
I had caught a huge turtle in our farm pond and had taken it to him to show me how to “dress” him out. He first cut off the turtle’s head and laid it aside. He then flipped it over and proceeded cutting around the breastplate with his knife. He laid his knife aside and grabbed the breastplate with his hand and pulled it away from the turtle’s body. Then, reaching for his knife he had laid beside him, he instead grabbed the cut-off turtle’s head. It clamped down on his finger like vise grips. His first reflex was to sling off the head with a whipping action of his hand. The turtle’s head nearly took off the whole end of his finger.
But back to my story. Finding the deer tracks made my Pap Paw’s hunting instincts kick in. The next morning he was up early to find the buck that had left the tracks. He put on his hunting clothes and reached for a couple of very peculiar pieces. He got out an old tie from the closet. It was an ugly tie. The color was orange with blue strips, and he tied it around his neck.
“What’s that for Daddy?” Lloyd asked.
“That’s so if there’s anybody else huntin’ the deer, they won’t shoot me. They’ll surely see this tie.” Pap Paw told him.
We didn’t know it at the time and thought he was crazy to wear the ugly tie but he had the right idea. Now, it’s a law that all deer hunters must wear hunter’s orange for protection.
Next, he got a cowbell from the closet shelf. Yep, a real cowbell, like the ones cows ware around their neck so the farmer could find them easier when lost. Pap Paw’s idea was he could sneak up on an unsuspecting buck easier if he sounded like a cow walking in the woods. “A deer won’t run from a cow.” Pap said.
He loaded his 30-30, ’94 Winchester and returned to the spot of where he had seen the tracks the night before. Like an Indian, he examined the ground closely and quickly he was on the trail of the buck. But, after about 10 yards, the trail just disappeared. He scratched his head in disbelief. “I know he didn’t sprout wings and just fly off!” Pap Paw said looking around. Something smelled fishy.
Lloyd, who was hiding in the bushes, started laughing, “What’s the matter Daddy? Did you loose his trail?”
“Yep, I did loose his trail, but you’re about to loose your tail, you Ethiopian!” Pap Paw yelled as he took out after Lloyd running for the woods laughing.
When Pap called someone a name, he didn’t curse or use any bad language, he called ‘em Ethiopians. I don’t think he knew what the word meant but I guess he liked the way it rolled off of his tongue.
Lloyd, who was a big cut-up, had fooled his Dad. He had gotten two deer legs from my Dad, who had cut them off a deer killed by Dr. Becknell at Fort Knox. Then that night, he took the feet of the deer and made tracks in Pap Paw’s garden.
Next, he ran to the house with the full moon overhead, telling the story to Pap Paw about a mule or horse he had seen in Pap’s garden. Pap Paw, who was in bed, began putting on his clothes as Lloyd made his way out the back door.
Lloyd ran in the moonlight to the edge of the garden and holding a broken tree branch over his head to look like antlers, watched for the back door at the house to open. When Pap opened the door, Lloyd made a quick dash across the garden looking like a deer.
The trick had worked like a charm. Later, we all had the biggest laugh as Lloyd retold the story and Pap Paw, who had been fooled, laughed as hard as anyone. You see, Pap was a cut-up too.
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 13:19
Old timers most times used a Y-shaped twig cut from a willow or a peach tree to find water location in under the ground. I always heard that the weeping willow was the best to use when water witching.
The water witch, a man who was supposed to find the water, would take the y-shaped limb from a willow and hold the two ends of the “y” in each of his hands. He held it straight out in his hands palms down. The witch or dowser then walks slowly over the places where he suspects the water may be, and the dowsing rod supposedly dips, inclines or twitches when a discovery of water is made. I’ve heard reports of water signs so strong that it would twist the bark off of the dowsing wood right in a person’s hand. This method is known as "Willow Witching."
Other dowsers used a pair of simple L-shaped metal rods. One rod is held in each hand, with the short arm of the L held upright, and the long arm pointing forward. When water is found, the rods cross over one another making an "X" over the best place to dig for water. If they were looking for an object, such as a water pipe, the rods will point in opposite directions, showing its orientation. The rods were most times fashioned from old wire coat hangers.
In the late 1960s during the Vietnam War, some United States Marines used dowsing to attempt to locate weapons and tunnels of the Viet Cong. As late as in 1986, when an avalanche took 31 soldiers during an operation in the NATO drill Anchor Express in Vassdalen, Norway. The Norwegian army attempted to locate soldiers buried in the avalanche using dowsing as search method. 16 soldiers died in the attempt.
My family like most of our time truly believed in water witching. One year, my Aunt Bootie, Daddy’s sister, and Uncle Buster decided they wanted water. They lived next door to us and had to carry water from a spring because they didn’t have a well of their property. The family turned to a water witch.
It was a belief back then that certain people were better at finding water and dug wells took a considerable amount of work. That meant that you wanted to dig for water in the most likely place to find it. Water witches back then would come to a person home and perform their magic of finding water for a small fee of $5.00 - $10.00 dollars.
As the water witch walked the yard his willow limb began to twist and turn fiercely just a few feet from Bootie and Buster’s home. Daddy and Buster wanted to check for themselves to make sure that was the correct place to dig the well so they too took the willow branch and each time it pointed to the same spot.
Work began soon as the men and boys began to dig the 5x5 foot dirt well. We worked all the rest of that day and only got about four feet deep in the hard rocky clay soil. Next day we were at our digging again early now having to lower buckets by rope into the well to remove the loosened dirt. That evening a wooden ladder had to be placed into the well for the workers to get in and out of the hole now about 10 feet deep, but no luck finding the water.
The next day work was going slower as the well reached deeper and deeper into the hard ground but still no water had been found.
All of us kids were gathering around the edge of the well trying to get a peek at the deep hole. Then, Anthony got a little too close. Down the well he fell landing on top of Uncle Buster. On the way down we heard Anthony say something that well, he shouldn’t have said. He almost knocked Buster down to his knees with the impact.
“What did you say?’ Buster asked Anthony. “Nothing! I didn’t say nothing,” Anthony quickly answered back. “”Yes you did,” Buster said laughing, “Wait until I tell Jamup!”
Anthony kept denying that any bad word had been said but he still didn’t want Buster to say anything because he knew that Daddy would for sure punish him for it. He begged and he begged Buster not to say anything and he agreed not to. But every time he wanted to make Anthony squirm he would threaten him again with telling Daddy. It worked for years and Buster always got a laugh from it.
We never did hit water in the well after digging somewhere around 15-20 feet so the well project was abandoned and the hole was filled up. The water witch had been wrong. Of course he never admitted he was wrong. He just said we didn’t dig deep enough.
And I guess to a certain extent he was right. But if we had continued to dig eventually we might have ended up draining the Pacific Ocean. I’m glad we stopped when we did.
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 12:35
As a young boy, I loved to hunt but there just weren’t any deer here in the county. I saw my first deer when I was in my late teens. But now, with the help of the Kentucky Department of Wildlife and their re-stocking program, deer are here in good numbers.
I hunted deer with a gun for several years and had pretty good success but the 3-day gun season wasn’t long enough for me. The archery season started in October and was much longer so I thought I would give it a try. What I didn’t realize at first was it would also be much more challenging.
In the early years of bow hunting everyone shot a long bow or a recurve bow. Today, the bow is called the traditional bow but most hunters considered it to be primitive. Not long after I started hunting the modern day compound bow came along and changed everything.
My first bow was a short recurve bow called a Black Bear. It was made of wood and fiberglass to give it strength and durability. The “draw weight” of the bow was 60 pounds with no let-off. When the bow was at full draw, you didn’t hold it long. Find your target, draw your arrow and quickly release.
It never had sight pins either. The traditional bows were shot by what was referred to as instinct. But I never had good instinct evidently. I made a sight pen with a small paneling nail, hammered the nail into the wooden sight window, and covered the head of the nail with red fingernail polish so I would see it easily. I hunted with that old bow for about three years with lots of misses but no deer.
Then, along came the compound bow and my whole life changed. I bought a Bear brand Whitetail compound bow, the hottest bow on the market. It was a weird looking bow with strings and pulleys, but man was it accurate.
When the bow was drawn, the weight to hold back was half of the draw weight pull. A 60 draw weight was easily held at full draw from up to a few minutes. A new way of sighting was also invented with separate pins for 10, 20, 30, 40, or even 50-yard shots possible with practice.
I practiced with the bow almost every evening after work and got to where I could shoot five arrows at 20 yards and hit inside a three-inch circle easily. When fall came that year, I was itching to get in the woods with my new bow and my new Fox Squirrel climbing tree stand.
There still weren’t many deer on Horse Creek but I found plenty of good sign in the Red Bird Wildlife Management Area. I scouted the area several days before season and found most of the buck sign was down in the river bottoms. I hunted there every day I had off seeing a few does but no bucks until Halloween day.
On that morning I climbed into my stand long before daylight and sat there until around 10 o’clock. I had heard something running through the brush before daylight but didn’t see anything. I climbed down the tree and made my way back to my Ford Bronco parked beside the highway.
My brother Carlos and Casey,one of his friends he worked with, were hunting on the other side of the river also trying to get a shot at the buck that was leaving so much sign. As I slowly drove down the dirt road I met both of them in the road carrying their bows and stopped to ask if they had seen anything. Neither had seen a deer. As the conservation went on, some movement caught my eye in a grown up field behind them. There standing in full view was the biggest buck I had ever seen in my life.
“Don’t move boys,” I whispered lowly, “There’s a huge buck in the field just behind you.” Both kind of laughed and Carlos said, “I’m not falling for that one!”
“I’m not kidding! He’s starring right at us. I think he hears us but the sun must be in his eyes and it must be keeping him from seeing us.” I whispered again.
Both slowly turned their heads and they could not believe their eyes. “What are we going to do, he’s looking directly at us,” One of them said.
Thinking quick, I said, “Don’t move and I will try to slip out of the passenger door of my Bronco and crawl down the road to where I might get a shot at him.”
Both agreed that would probably be a good idea. I slowly climbed into the passenger seat, got my bow in my hand and opened the door, ever so quietly. Out the door I climbed obliviously to the big buck. I got down on my knees and crept slowly down the dusty dirt road until I was lined up broadside with the deer. Luckily he hadn’t moved a step from where I had first spotted him.
I slowly rose to my feet and estimated the buck to be at 45 yards. I split my 40 and 50-yard pin on the bucks shoulder, held my breath and turned the string loose. It was like time stood still. Everything was in slow motion as I watch the arrow rotating in its flight as the arrow finally met it’s mark. At first I thought I had shot too low but the buck reared on his hind feet, jumped and kicked hard as I heard the thump from the arrow.
I stood in the road shaking with my heart racing so fast I could hear my heart beating through my mouth as I gasped for air. Carlos and Casey both came running down the road telling me that they thought I had hit the buck good.
I tried to gather my emotions as I counted the steps to the spot where the buck had stood. I counted 50 yards. I thought that was why my arrow seemed to hit too low. I had misjudged the distance by 5 yards. I looked for blood but only found hair.
Slowly, I began to follow the exit trail of the monster buck and only after about 10 yards found my broken arrow’s shaft, stained with bright red blood. I smiled as I picked it up and then began to find a wider red blood trail. I didn’t have to go too far when Carlos yelled, “There he is!”
My eyes had never seen a more beautiful sight. The huge 10-point buck was lying in the edge of the thicket only about 40 yards from where I had shot him.
When field dressing the deer I found that my arrow had hit the buck directly in the heart. Carlos and Casey helped me as we pulled the 200-pound giant to the Bronco and we loaded him in the back. I rode all the way home with the tailgate down. I could hardly wait to show the big boy to my family and friends. It was a feeling that I will never forget.
From that day forward, I was hooked forever on bow hunting. Each year I can’t wait until the air once again has that crispness, that smell, and the leaves to start falling. Each year, when fall returns to Kentucky, you can bet I will be somewhere in a tree for a chance at another memory. It’s a high no drug can duplicate.
Hunting on Halloween that year proved to be a great idea. I finally got my monster that I had hunted for so long.
Wednesday, 24 October 2012 12:49
I'm not afraid of snakes, or toads,
or bugs, or worms, or mice, The things that girls are scared of,
I think are kinda' nice. I'm pretty brave at times, I guess;
And yet I hate to go to bed, For, when I'm tucked up warm and snug
and after my prayers are said, Momma tells me "Happy dreams!"
and takes away the light, This leaves me lying all alone
and seeing things at night.
Sometimes they're in the corner,
sometimes they're by the door, Sometimes they all just creep and crawl
across the bedroom floor; Sometimes they come when I'm asleep,
sometimes when I'm awake So softly and so silently,
they make me scream and shake. Sometimes they are as black as ink,
and other times they're white But color makes no difference
when you're seeing things at night.
Once, Momma caught me being bad,
fighting in the street, And Daddy sent me up to bed
without a bite to eat. I heard some noises in the dark
and up my ears did prick Those things were gathered all around
and planning something sick. I was so very scared that time,
I got an awful fright It's always when I'm bad that
I start seeing things at night.
Lucky thing I'm not a girl,
or I'd be scared to death. Since I'm a boy, I duck my head
and then I hold my breath. When I hear something horrible,
crawling up the stairs I promise to be better
and I always say my prayers. I'm certain that's the only way
that I can make it right When I've been very bad
and start seeing things at night!
And so, when other mean kids tempt
and coax me into sin, I try to squash the devil's voice
that urges me within. At night the things creep closer
and they aren't very nice, They want to eat me up
without even thinking twice! Eventually these evil things
will drag me out of sight I hope I don't keep doing wrong,
and seeing things at night!
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 12:28
I never noticed anything out of the ordinary except a hint of fog in the air as I made my way out of the hollow. I got to work and started with my usual morning routine getting breakfast ready for my customers. Day was breaking and everything was going along just like most every day at the store when my telephone rang.
Leslie , who was enrolled at Union College at the time, was headed for school and Margy was still at home not yet ready to come down to our store and help me. It was about 7:30 am when I got a frantic cal.
“Dad!” Leslie, my daughter began, “What in the world is going on on Paw Paw?” she asked.
“I don’t know. What are you talking about?” I asked her.
“It’s still dark and I can’t even see how to drive! I’m here at Ronnie’s. I couldn’t make it any farther. I can barely could see and was afraid to try to make it any farther,” Leslie said in a shaky voice.
I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about. Outside my store at Sibert it was a normal fall morning. There wasn’t hardly any sign of fog as I began asking questions to try to understand what she was talking about.
“What do you mean, it’s too dark to drive? It’s a clear as a bell down here!” I asked
“Daddy, I don’t know what’s going on I could barely see how to turn into Ronnie’s driveway. I can’t even see my hand clearly in front of my face,” she continued. “I think it’s fog but if it is it’s the thickest fog I have ever seen. There’s no way I can drive in it.”
“I’ve never heard anything like that. A fog that is so thick you can’t see your hand in front of your face?” I asked again.
“I’m telling you it’s as dark as night. I can’t see a thing,” she repeated. “Here asked Ronnie. He will tell you the same thing.
Leslie handed Ronnie the phone and he pretty much said the same thing that she had said about the mystery fog. He told me he had never seen anything like it.
“Tell Leslie to stay right there and I’ll be up,” I told Ronnie. “Don’t let here leave!”
I then called Margy at my house and she hadn’t noticed the dark fog outside but she too told me that it was a dark as night and by now it was close to 8 am.
I had to go check it out. So as soon as I had gotten all of the customers out of my store I locked the front door, got in my truck and headed towards Paw Paw.
At first I didn’t notice anything out of the normal until I got a little past the Yeager turnoff. Then I looked up the hollow and saw the thickest smoky fog I had ever seen and it was just creeping down the road about a hundred yards high in the air. It stretched from mountainside to mountainside and was as thicker than any I had ever witnessed.
As soon as I met up with the thick curtain of fog I couldn’t see. I turned my headlights on in the darkness but still could only drive mostly by instinct of knowing the road so well.
I made my way up the dark hollow wondering just what had caused the thick fog. I did notice the air had a hint of a sulfur acid-like smell, kind of like a burning slate pile but not enough that it was choking or anything.
When I reached Ronnie’s house he was out with a video recorder trying to capture the event but all it looked like most of the time was just a blank screen. The fog was so thick you couldn’t see anything else.
I told Leslie to leave her car there as Ronnie and I got into my truck to head on up the hollow towards my house. As I got close to home I noticed the thickness of the fog was starting to break up and just above my house about a quarter of a mile it was almost non-existent except for pockets of the thick stuff still hanging on here and there.
I noticed after we turned around that the wind was carrying the fog down the hollow and it was breaking up. A little after about 9 o’clock the mystery fog was gone just about as quickly as it came.
We never knew what caused it and no one I talked to had ever seen anything like it. Someone offered an explanation that one of the many old mine shafts that dot Paw Paw had “belched out” hot air or smoke from an under ground fire and caused the sudden thick fog maybe so, or maybe not. No one knows for sure.
To this day we haven’t really found out a clear explanation for what happened and I guess we may never know. But for a time that morning, what ever caused the fog, it was a very unusual time to say the least.
Anyone have an idea of what it may have been?
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