Your Time Is Now

Oh the roads we ran and the folks we knew, the risky things that we used to do, now it’s over and I know were through, and I wish we had our time again, I wish we had our time…” John Hartford   

    They called it the House Rock, appropriate because it was bigger than most homes, around here at least. He sat with his back against the limestone, in exactly the same spot that he had chosen for the past forty years. The angle of the stone and the forest floor made it a perfect place to sit and survey the huge cove of woods below him.

    This was how they had always done it. Start far down the mountain, walk the poplar hollow to the third branch on the right. You followed that till it plumb ran out, then you pulled straight up into the low gap. The House Rock was waiting for you there. You sat here for at least thirty minutes, sometimes an hour, recovering from the climb, listening, soaking in the woods. If you didn’t find them on the climb up here, you might run into them going down the other side.

    Turkeys, that is.

    He and Ben had always followed this procedure and it had served them well. They didn’t get into a flock every time they made this journey, but it was one of their traditional walks and they did it every year whether they found the turkeys or not.

    Now Ben was gone. How much time did he have left to make this hunt?

    By my calculations we have just about two weeks until our first hunting season comes to us. Most states start the dove season on September 1. After that it is fast and furious as the different seasons roll by, squirrel, early waterfowl, archery deer, fall turkey, (if you have one in your state), rabbit, and another waterfowl season.

    Everything comes to a grand crescendo when the much awaited rifle buck season comes in then you have at least one doe season, maybe some muzzle loading deer season, then finish up in January and February with small game and a late waterfowl! The order is not the same in all states, but that might be close.

    That is a big menu to choose from with a lot of sides. If you are an experienced hunter, you have noticed something in the past several years.

    Boys and girls, it goes really fast.

    You look at it on the calendar; you think you have a lot of time, these seasons stretch over several months. Once it starts it is a whirlwind, and like my buddy says, they blow the whistle and the game is over for another year.

    Count the number of days in the season you love best. How many days can you actually hunt? If are working to make a living, not many. If you are retired, God bless you, I hope that you go every day that you can and want to. The real question is this; how many days do you have to the tramp woods on this earth?

    I don’t know and you don’t know; only the Man upstairs knows. If you are living and able, your time is now. What are you waiting for? A better time? Again, your time is now. That secret place you have been thinking about going to for the past few years, the old buddy that you have been meaning to call and say “Hey, let’s hike to the House Rock one more time”! That grand kid, or any kid, that you have thought about taking to the woods, call them, your time is now.

    One more thing, I want you to do something for me. This week I want you to call an old hunting or fishing buddy that maybe you have not heard from in a while. In case you haven’t noticed folks, they will not be around forever. Do it, call them, do it this week.

    He was half dozing in the sunshine, leaning against the old Browning, and he muttered “Ben, we’re burning daylight, we best be goin’”.

“What’d you say Papaw”? The kid beside him asked.

Realizing where he was, he glanced down at the boy, all wide eyed and full of wonder and amazement at finally getting to go to the big woods with his grand dad.

    He smiled at the boy’s youth and eagerness; it was all in front of him. “I said we better get goin’ ol’ buddy!” “We got a lot of ground to cover before dark”!

“Oh me oh my how the years do fly, it makes no difference and we all know why, dear old friends have to turn their eye, and I wish we had our time again, I wish we had our time”.

Larryocase3@gmail.comLAR, JACK, DOTZIE


The Back Mountain Loon Dance




   A Game Warden rescues an angry water bird and a group of deer hunters have a change of heart.




    Driving down the winding Back Mountain road, Cheat Mountain looms to my right and the Greenbrier River is somewhere down the hill to my left. I am driving between Durbin and Cass, West Virginia. It is the Friday before the opening of the rifle buck season and you can feel the anticipation in the air. The year is 1987 and I am thirty four years old. I am in my prime as a Conservation Officer for the Department of Natural Resources. As it often happens in life, I am living the dream, but don’t know it.

    I have received a call to go to a deer camp about the retrieval of some type of animal or bird. As usual, the exact nature of the call is unclear. The call is a little strange for this time of year; as any call in November is typically about one thing-deer killin’. I pull up to the house that serves as a camp and it occurs to me that I have been here before. Odds are this group will not be happy to see me return.

    I got out of the too small Chevy S-10 Blazer, (state contract, low bid), and surveyed the crowd eyeing me from the yard. It doesn’t take a PH.D. in psychology to see that this bunch has issues. About ten hunters are standing around stiff-legged in the yard, like a pack of dogs before they fight. “OK”, I think to myself, “this ought to be good”.

    The leader of the bunch was situated in the front of the group, standing behind a large cardboard box. I asked if they had called about some animal that I needed to pick up, at which time the leader growls something to the effect of “Yeah, what are you going to do with this Mr. Game Warden!”

    He then proceeds to dump the box over and out slides a large, beautiful, and very angry looking, loon. A Common Loon, you know, the kind you see on the movies making that crazy call they have. I was more than a little surprised; I didn’t think we got that many Common Loons in Pocahontas County, WV. I remember thinking “Man, this thing is BIG.” It looked like it would weigh close to twenty pounds; the body was about thirty inches long. The loon had hard, red eyes and a “don’t mess with me” look.

    Loons, as you may know, like all diving ducks and other similar waterfowl, sometimes get stranded on land. They need at least fifty yards of open water to skip along and get airborne. No water, they can’t take off.  They are known of course for their wild, eerie cry. This guy, however, was not doing the cry today, he just looked like he was gonna get some pay back.

    The disgruntled group of hunters thought this was great fun; their fearless leader had dumped quite a problem on the ol’ game warden, how was he going to deal with this irate water bird? I stood and surveyed the scene for a minute thinking on my next move. I figured I would get no help from the group; they wanted to see the game warden getting whopped on by this fish-eating bird.

    Then, as I stood and watched, one of those strange and wonderful incidents occurred that are all too rare in our lives. The sun broke through the clouds over Cheat Mountain; a ray of sun softly lit the scene in that deer camp. I thought I saw the Loon’s red eyes narrow; he drew back his head for a second and with his rapier like bill, speared the group’s leader right in the crotch of his blue jeans!

   Things seemed to take on a surreal appearance. The leader of the group, now quite changed in demeanor, began a lively shuffle to and fro. His arms were spread wide and waved in circles, (this later became the main component of the dance) The legs were held wide as well, trying to counter for the weight of the terrible feathered pendulum attached to his fly that would NOT let go.

    Loons, as you may not know, besides having a powerful spear like bill, have sharp projections in the roof of the bill (and on the tongue), slanting back. This is to keep a fish from escaping once they grab it; I can testify that these also work quite well on denim.

    The leader shuffled and waved through his group swinging the dreaded appendage crying something like “O!”, “O no! O!” His former comrades exploded in gales of laughter, hooting, and general hilarity at the plight of their man. The poor guy looked over at me like, “Hey buddy can you help me PLEASE?”

    After what must have seemed like hours to the loon dancer, we somehow grabbed the offending bird and extracted it from his blue jeans. (A somewhat tedious process) The offending loon was put back in the box for transporting, muttering obscenities all the while.

    The climate of the whole scene changed. Several of the hunters did reenactments of the loon dance with laughs and back slaps all around. Many of them even shook hands with the game warden, including the leader. I left with the impression that maybe they didn’t think I was such a bad guy after all. I mean, how can you stay mad at a guy who helps to pry a crazed water bird off of the fly of your pants?

     I went down the Back Mountain road with the loon in the back of the Blazer. I released him on the Greenbrier River and wished him well. I watched as he dipped under twice and paddled away. He was probably hoping that he would never again be involved with deer hunters, game wardens, or humans in general. One thing was for sure though, if he was ever captured again by a bunch of humans, he knew how to get their attention.