“Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.”
My aunt and uncle’s log cabin in Nevada was at eight thousand three hundred feet and surrounded by national forest. There was no one or anything for miles around but what God put there.
My cousins and I often played flashlight tag outside after dinner, often in a group of eight to ten. We had a wild time chasing each other through the trees and burning off a lot of energy, likely to our parent’s delight.
So, it was not unusual when one evening my oldest cousin, Mike, suggested that we go out snipe hunting. He said we would have to get our parents’ permission first, but they readily agreed.
Mike gave each of us a gunny sack, essentially a burlap bag roughly the size of today’s larger trash bags. He said we would also need a flashlight, warm clothes and patience.
Off we went into the darkness with our hopes high. Mike explained that we had to spread out and hide in the willows down by the creek, with flashlights turned off. And we were to make no sounds at all.
Mike said he would go and hunt the snipe, a small flightless bird that looked and acted somewhat like a quail. Once he found them, he’d chase them past where we were hiding. When we heard him coming, we were to jump out with our gunny sacks and flashlights. “Shine your lights in their faces,” he told us, “and they will be stunned and freeze. Then quickly grab them up and toss them in your sack. And that’s it, you will have caught a whole bunch of snipe.”
But he warned us that we must be very patient and quiet or the snipe would stay hidden and remain impossible to find.
So, into the bushes all of us younger ones went, spreading out and staying as quiet as possible. And we sat and waited in great anticipation for Mike to chase a covey of snipe past our hiding places.
Nothing happened for quite a while, but I figured that Mike would come running any moment. So I waited some more, and Mike still didn’t come. I waited longer, wondering how big snipe were anyway and did they bite? Mike didn’t come, but I remember he told us we must be patient.
Finally, I decided something must have gone wrong, or that Mike had gotten lost and that this was pretty boring anyway. Quietly, I came out of my hiding place and, alone, began to trudge back up to the cabin. I kept looking over my shoulder, hoping to see Mike running my way behind a flock or gaggle or herd, or whatever a bunch of snipe were called. But he never appeared.
Into the cabin I went and headed to the living room, where I knew a warm fire was roaring. And there was Mike with several of my older cousins enjoying hot chocolate among the grownups–and no sign of my younger cousins.
I’m sharing this little adventure of snipe hunting so that you, or some young person you know, might enjoy it too, but once is definitely enough.