“Listen Davey, Ya hear that?”
Davey looked at his Pa, and stood silently tuning his ears to their surroundings, they were three days away from home, with nothing but the forest on all sides, Pa was standing stock still, the only indication that he was a living being, the breath of fog escaping his lips, on the brisk morning air.
“I don’t hear anything Pa, ‘cept the leaves crunchin’ under our feet” Davey looked up at his Pa expectantly “what d’you hear?”
Davey’s Pa smiled and bent down beside his five year old son “Everything, the forest is alive, sit perfectly still, pay no mind to me, close your eyes and listen, don’t think, just listen”
Davey tried again, closing his eyes as tight as he could, doing his best to ignore his Pa sitting beside him watching.
Suddenly it was as if the woods became alive, just like Pa said, he could hear birds calling, critters scampering in the trees above, and on the ground below, leaves rustled from the treetops, whistling in the wind as they fell, he could hear the sound of twigs snapping, and the chatter of the forest life, and the gentle breathing of his Pa waiting patiently, Davey opened his eyes with a big grin “Pa! it worked! I could hear a whippoorwill, and something climbing the tree’s, a bird nearby flapping his wings, I even heard a hoot owl! But how come I can’t hear it anymore?” Davey asked frowning a little in disappointment.
Pa patted his little shoulder, “It’s ‘cause you lost your focus, all those noises, and critters they’re still there, but you stopped listenin', kinda like when your Ma tells you to finish your chores before you go play with your cousins, you heard her, but you didn’t listen, because your focus was on your fishin’ pole. When we hunt, we gotta listen carefully, or we ain’t gonna catch a thing, the critters they can sense danger, and if they can hear you they’ll go into hiding, On the other side, as a hunter, that is another thing you must be wary of, if you have your eyes and ears attuned to your surrounding and there is nothing but silence, then you should expect danger as well, I remember during the war, I could always tell the enemy was nearby, when I was scoutin', sometimes the forest would be utterly silent, and at any moment, I could be face to face with the enemy or taken down by a sharpshooter, I had to choose to go into hidin' myself or hightail it back to camp and warn the others of the Yankee’s approach”
Davey looked in awe “Really Pa, did you ever get caught?”
Pa chuckled “No, but I nearly entered the wrong camp one time, hunting for food, I got too far in but realized just in time, and instead got some vital information, about supplies coming through, but enough of that lets show you how to use a rifle”
Davey put all his focus on his Pa, full of interest, as he learned about the powder horn, using the ramrod, and taking aim, then he learned how to load and fire a pistol as well, finally Pa decided it was time for him to give it a try, the rifle was as big as he was, but with his Pa’s help, he managed to load it properly and propped up against an old tree trunk, he fired and hit his target, just shy of the mark, after a couple more tries, his aim improved and he was ready to hunt in earnest, the morning fog was beginning to roll away, as Davey began the hunt for small game, his Pa watching proudly as he studied the forest floor, listening and watching for movement.
Soon an unsuspecting rabbit hopped into his line of sight, the rifle primed and ready he silently took aim, taking in a breath he placed his finger on the trigger and fired, the blast filled his ears and smoke from the shot blocked his view, he stayed in position just as Pa had taught him, waiting for the smoke to clear before checking to see if he hit his mark, moments later he peered over the trunk and saw his target lifeless before him, at first he was kind of sad, thinking of the poor bunny, and how his little sister Lydia was so fond of them but the thought was quickly overtaken by his excitement to have hit his target, straight through the neck, with a whoop and a holler he jumped over the trunk and ran to pick it up, “Look Pa I got it! I really got it!”
Pa came over to inspect the rabbit a big smile of pride lighting his face “Great job Davey! That was a clean shot, pretty soon, you’ll be out here on your own, bringing home dinner for your Ma and Lydia, when I’m away, now I’ll show you how to dress it, and we’ll try to catch a few more before heading back home”
Davey watched as Pa showed him how clean and prepare it, and a few hours later, they had two squirrels, another rabbit, and a quail, ready to bring home, but in honor of Davey’s success they cooked the first rabbit he shot in the campfire that night, and to Davey it was the best he had ever tasted “Just wait till I tell Liddy and Ma! He exclaimed over a mouthful, Pa laughed, “it’s better you don’t give Liddy the details of your catch, it’s sufficient, she just knows you just brought dinner home, save the gory details for your Uncle Ike, understood?”
Davey nodded understanding “Course Pa, Liddy wouldn’t eat a bite if she knew I kill’t a bunny, how long you think b‘fore she figures it out?”
“Probably a year or two, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it”
The next two days they spent heading back home, with a sack full of small game, Davey couldn’t wait to get home and share the details with the other young boys in school, and how the forest came alive.