Yesterday, my dad surprised me with an email that told a story from his childhood. Something you should know about my dad is that he tells a lot of stories, but he very seldom (if ever) writes them down. There have been plenty of times where he has expressed the desire to write a book about himself, saying that he has tons of good material to draw from but lacks the desire to spend the time it takes to jot them down. I'm not sure what caused him to write this one down, but I would be interested in reading more of these.
Subject: A true story from my youth.
My Paw Paw had a hunting/fishing camp that we spent a tremendous amount of time at back when I was a boy. It was nothing more than several poles sticking out of the ground with tin sides and a tin roof and a door. In short, it was a paradise palace for us boys. My little brother and I hunted and fished from daylight to dark for most every species found in Louisiana. We were very successful too. Talk about a game rich environment. Paw Paw's rules were law. If we didn't obey, well, let's just say that there was no one around for miles to hear the screams.
One of the chores that Paw Paw assigned to us, (other than hunting and fishing for meals) was the extermination of chipmunks that had taken up residence in our little shack. Them little rascals dug tunnels everywhere under our shack and did a significant amount of damage. They gnawed on just about everything. They stole knives , forks, spoons, and all manner of things small enough for them to carry off into their tunnels and dens. But when they got into Paw Paw's mattress on his bed and stole most of the stuffing, he declared a bounty on their heads. He offered us a nickle for every one we could kill with our Benjamin pump air rifles. Needless to say, we had tons of fun earning them nickles. It would have been impossible for us to actually put a dent in their population due to the immense numbers of them and the fact that they didn't sit still too long.
One particular day, I had about a dozen chipmunks in my pockets and was walking back to the camp to proudly collect my bounty. I had to crawl under a barbed wire fence so I carefully placed my gun on the other side and started to crawl. About half way under the fence, I felt one of the chipmunks in my hip pocket moving around. I came up from there in a hurry and started shucking munks from the pocket in fear of getting bit in a very tender area. When I found the one that wasn't dead, I put the others back in the pocket and instead of finishing him off, I carefully picked him up. I noticed that he was a young one and had been shot through one eye. For some strange reason I decided not to show this one to Paw Paw. When I got back to the camp I wrapped him up in an old flannel shirt and hid it in the truck. We got busy filling up the ice chest with bass and bream and I actually forgot about the chipmunk till I got home and was helping unload the truck. I grabbed up my shirt and carried it around where nobody else could see. I was fully expecting the little chipmunk to be dead and I felt bad that I had forgotten about him. Surprisingly he was still breathing. He wasn't moving much and seemed awfully weak. It was at that point I had to make a decision. It didn't take long to decide that I wanted to try to save him. Now all I had to do was convince the grown-ups. Maybe it was to teach me a lesson, I don't know. But neither my parents nor grandparents, (we lived next door to Maw Maw & Paw Paw), tried to talk me out of it. In fact, my Daddy, (who I thought would offer the most resistance), said,"bring it in the house and let me see what I can do". Daddy took him and put some Merthiolate and Neosporin on the injured eye. He then told me that my patient may not make it if the pellet fractured the skull and or was lodged somewhere inside. A little later, after finding an old shoe box for a temporary chipmunk hospital, I was able to get him to take some warm milk from an eyedropper. The next morning, I heard him moving around in the box a little bit. He eagerly took some more milk but was very weak. I knew that chipmunks of this size needed more than milk so I got some shelled pecans from my Maw Maw and mashed some up into mush and mixed it in with the milk. Chip, (that's his name now), seemed to like this pecan mush milk a lot. As the days went by, he got stronger and stronger. I continued applying the Neosporin to his eye and feeding him regularly. Eventually he was back on his feet and living in a brand new cage that Paw Paw helped me build. And somewhere along the way, Paw Paw stopped hating chipmunks so much. I started feeding him shelled pecans and acorns and such and gave him water from one of those little hamster water bottles that I fastened in the cage. It took quite a while, but he healed up nicely except for being blind in one eye, and could gnaw into the acorns and pecans by himself. I had been handling Chip every day since I brought him home, so he was used to me and didn't seem to mind being held. He actually acted glad to see me and would climb all over me. He never tried to escape and was content to be on my shoulder or in my shirt pocket, peeking out now and then. Even stranger still was that our pit bull,(Reb), was fascinated with Chip. Reb never even once showed any aggression towards Chip. On the contrary, he played with Chip. It was the weirdest animal relationship ever. Chip could ride on Reb's back and those that saw it were amazed. I even snuck my little one eyed chipmunk to school with me a time or two. My friends, (the vast majority of which had never seen a chipmunk), loved him and the teachers that I trusted enough to show him to, didn't mind as long as he stayed in my shirt pocket and didn't cause a disruption.
At home, I didn't have to shut him up in the cage unless we were going somewhere that Momma said he couldn't go. I did however have to clean up after him if he made pellets or puddles outside the cage. Usually he was with me and I was outside. I also had a small portable cage that I hung on my bike in case I happened to be playing ball or something. It was interesting watching him move around the house because he would get right up against a wall with his blind side and run along the wall till he got where he was going. Rarely would he venture out away from a wall or the couch unless he was riding Reb or me. I really don't remember exactly how long Chip lived, but I was somewhere around 5th or 6th grade and I was in my junior year of high school when I came home one day to find that he had passed away in his cage in my room. Having that little one eyed chipmunk was a lot of fun and a great experience for me. It never changed my love for hunting, but it did help to nurture a certain respect for life that I feel is missing in a lot of hunters. This is but one of countless little memories from my childhood. I hope I did'nt bore you to death with my ramblings.