When I was just old enough to tote a gun without shooting my foot off, it became my job to put meat on the table. I came from a large family that varied from six to sixteen depending on the number of cousins, aunts and uncles staying with us.
Bringing home a single rabbit was always met with disappointment; while deer, elk or several grouse was rewarded with praise for the mighty hunter. We had been living on jack-rabbit and sage hens for about a week; as you might imagine, this created a rather hostile atmosphere at dinner time.
Saturday I would go further afield and with any luck bring home enough meat to fill the freezer. When the sun rose that morning, I was already beyond the sagebrush and into the tree covered hills. This was some of the finest hunting area to be found, with several creeks and trees for shade.
When the sun told me it was around noon, I still hadn’t seen another living creature. I was heading for the crick to get a drink when I spotted a colony of honey bees in a hollow tree. I had helped my Grandpa with his hives and could handle bees pretty well. This was my chance at redemption; if I brought home a large honeycomb full of fresh honey, it might make up for the lack of meat.
I buttoned down my shirt and covered as much skin as possible. I made a smoking torch from some half-dry buffalo grass. (smoke makes the bees think there is a fire and they gorge themselves on honey which makes them fairly docile.) I was bound to get stung several times, but it would be worth it.
I climbed up to the hive, smoked them bees real good; and pulled out a large chunk of honeycomb. That’s when the bees mounted a counter attack; I was stung so many times that I dropped from the tree to get away. The honeycomb landed on top of me and covered me head to toe in warm honey.
Just then I spotted some game, but my gun was leaning against a tree twenty feet away. As luck would have it, the game spotted me at the same moment. My chance of getting meat for the table faded quickly, but the bear’s chances had greatly improved.
When my feet touched down, I was throwing a rooster-tail of dirt six feet high. The bear just stood there, he couldn’t believe his luck at finding a honey-basted boy in the woods. I ran a good mile, tearing off my honey-soaked clothes as I ran; when I finally looked behind me, the bear was nowhere in sight.
I washed up in the creek and cautiously made my way back to the gun. That bear had shredded all my clothes; luckily I wasn’t in them. So I made up a grass hula skirt and headed for home. Dad was obviously worried about me; he was sitting in the porch swing smoking his pipe when I arrived.
He looked at the grass skirt and said; “Let me guess, you were hunting ducks and that was your duck-blind?” In my best matter-of-fact voice,
I said; “Nope, been huntin' bare.”