By Robert Hitt Neil, Syndicated columnist
The Picayune Item
It’s that time of year again: Betsy just declared, “You’ve GOT to go kill some of those dad-blamed squirrels before they eat up all my pecans!”
Normally I can do that: thin the bushytail population out on the Mammy Grudge ditchbank for a few days (until more move in), and get her somewhat pacified. However, this fall my old anemia seems to have returned full strength, and I was reminded that about thirty years ago, I not only had to give up squirrel shooting, but also duck hunting because of anemia, when I found that looking up gave me vertigo, to the point of putting me on the ground on my back!
Grandboys seemed like the obvious solution, but neither are quite big enough to shoulder a rifle yet, so I’m still trying to figure out a good answer. Part of that answer may be the Super-Duper Pecan Picker-Upperer that we got for our joint birthday presents — once the leaves are blown away from beneath the trees and the sticks are picked up, piled, and burnt, this wondrous outfit can be wheeled in and one circles the trees while it goes steadily “click, click, click,” as the nuts rapidly fill the attached basket. I ain’t kidding you: that sucker picked up 75 pounds of pecans from under three trees (didn’t work too well with the little pecans) in less than a couple of hours. And get this — no stooping-and-standing repetitions, which are so dizzifying for someone with anemia!
Guys, it reminds me of the early homemade duck pluckers, with the rubber fingers that whirled around and gently fluffled the feathers off your ducks. They never worked well on the backs, but that was after I had invented my Famous Shish-ka-Bob Duck Breasts, which award-winning recipe changed my duck-cleaning methods to filleted breasts and detached legs for the gumbo pot.
Anyhoo, after running that Super-Duper Picker-Upperer (it works really well on small sticks and leaves, too, if you don’t take the time to pick up and blow) for only a couple of hours one Saturday afternoon while the mosquitoes were still fairly active, my Bride had hopes of a storehouse full of nuts — besides me!
So, it was decreed that the Man of the House must arrange for the rapid demise of an increasing number of squirrels who were learning to call Brownspur home, since the trees seem to be loaded with tasty ripening nuts.
Actually, this has been a ritual amongst Brownspur Women since time began, I suppose. Thirty-four years ago, when we had just moved our big old turn-of-the-other-century home eleven miles out to where it is now, my Aunt Rose still lived across the road from us, mostly concealed in spring, summer, and fall by a big pecan grove. Uncle Sam had died a few years before, and his widow had ably assumed the squirrel-shooting duties. They had a little Winchester Model 73 .22 rifle, one of the sweetest shooting guns I’ve ever shot, and during the fall, Aunt Rose would take a screen out of her breakfast room window, so that she could raise the window and take a whack at any squirrel she spied in her trees.
One morning son Adam, who lived in our upstairs at nine years old, came rushing down the spiral staircase and interrupted my coffee drinking: “Daddy! Somebody just shot through my front window, while I was lying on the window bed reading a book!” I went back upstairs with him, and sure enough, a brand new bullet hole adorned one of the panes, about 18 inches over where he’d been lying.
Sighting through the hole, I realized where it must have come from, and paid my elderly aunt a visit. She invited me to sit with a cup of coffee where she kept watch at her breakfast room table. “Aunt Rose, did you just shoot at a squirrel out in the grove a little while ago?” I asked.
She nodded emphatically, “Those pesky squirrels!”
I declared, “Aunt Rose, you shot through my window; almost hit Adam!”
She blinked, but quickly replied, “Well, last year, there wasn’t even a house over there!”