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Credits: S. Bennett, M. Martian, P. Paige, C. Smith, T. Walker, M. Einziger
How Snipe Hunting Was Invented
An Uncle Steve Robertson Story, As told by Earl Bowman, December 23, 1938
There was this feller named Slocum, Brad Slocum, and he was one of these tender-actin’ persons that was always wantin’ somebody else to do it, whatever it was, for him instead of doin’ it for hisself. Well, it wasn’t long till we’d changed his name from Brad to ‘Babe’ Slocum, ‘cause that’s jest the way he was, always wantin’ somebody to hand him whatever he wanted instead of reachin’ for it himself.
Well, we let him come along ‘cause he said he wanted to git out west, but th’ further west we got th’ tenderer he seemed to git and when we was quite a ways out on th’ Platte River he jest got to be unbearable and so I invented ‘huntin’ snipes with a sack to give him a chance to set and set and jest keep on settin’ and wait as long as he damned please for somebody else to do it for him.
The way it was, there was lots of snipes along the Platte where we was travelin’ and every night when we’d camp you could hear them hollerin’ jest as if they was invitin’ somebody to come out and shoot a bunch of them and turn them into ‘snipe pies’—and ‘Gawd, snipe pie’s good if you ever tasted anything that was really good!
This feller, ‘Babe’ Slocum had eat snipe pie and knowed how good it was and every night when we’d camp and hear them snipe down along the swamps beside th’ Old Platte River, chirpin, and singin’, he’d start in teasin’ Bob or me to go down there and git a mess of them so Mam could make a snipe pie out of them.
And when Bob or me would say, “Why th’ hell don’t you go down there and git a mess of them yourself?” he’d sort of whine and say, “to start with I don’t know much about catchin’ snipe and you and Bob know more about it than I do, and besides, I’m awful tired this evenin’ and would rather set here in camp and rest!” ‘Gawd it got to be plumb disgusting,’ so I figgered out: ‘If he wants to ‘set,’ there ain’t but one thing to do an’ that is study up some scheme to let him set, and jest keep on setting, clean through Eternity if he wanted to; gosh, I wouldn’t give a damn.
So that’s when I invented huntin’ snipes with a sack.
The next time he started whinin’ for Bob or me to go git a mess of snipes, I jest up and said: “Hell, you shore don’t know much about huntin’ snipes when you say for Bob or me, one or the other of us, to go down there and git a mess of snipes—any danged fool ought to know it takes three men to hunt snipes. One can’t do it by himself nor two can’t do it, it takes three to do it, snipes is damned smart and they’ve got to be handled jest right or nobody ever can ketch any!”
“That’s danged funny,” he said, “One man can hunt quails or two men can hunt quails and I don’t see why th’ blue blazes it takes three men to hunt snipes, ain’t they all birds?” he said.
“Hell, yes, they’re all birds but they’re different kinds of birds and you got to hunt ‘em different. The only way to hunt quails is to hunt ‘em with a shotgun, but snipes is different, you got to drive ‘em in a sack and any danged fool ought to know one man’s got to set and hold th’ sack while th’ other two men drive ‘em in it.” I told him, “if you want a mess of snipe pie you got to go with Bob and me and help us git ‘em’”
So, finally he said, “Well, I’m pretty tired tonight but if you’ll let me set and hold th’ sack while you and Bob go and drive ‘em in it, I’ll go and help you ketch a mess.”
That’s what I knowed he’d say, so I winked at Bob—we’d already talked it over and Bob knew the idea I had and the new way of huntin’ snipe I had invented for Babe Slocum’s special benefit. So, I told him, “Well, Bob and me’s pretty tired too, but I reckon’ you’re tireder an’ so you can hold th’ sack. Bob and me’ll drive ‘em in as fast as we can and when there’s a sackful you can yell and Bob and me’ll come and help you carry them to camp.”
We waited till after supper and then we took him up a gully about a half a mile from camp and which was out of sight of camp and told him to be sure and keep the mouth of the sack open so th’ snipe could come in it when we rounded up a bunch of them down by th’ Old Platte River and drove them up th’ gully.
As far as I know he’s still settin’ up there in that gully waitin’ for me and Bob to drive them damn snipe into his sack! Bob and me went back to camp, hitched up and drove about ten miles further and made another camp—So, that’s the way it was.
Yeah, he’s probably still settin’ there holdin’ that cussed sack open, waitin’ for somebody else to drive th’ snipe into it for him, but some people is like that; all they want to do is set and hold th’ sack while somebody else does all the damned walkin’ and climbin’ and so forth, so they just set, and set, and hold th’ doggone sack.
Excerpted from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936–40 (Library of Congress)
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; ‘tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb
Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
Is full of blessings.
Prayer of the Woods
I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights, the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun, and my fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your thirst as you journey on.
I am the beam that holds your house, the board of your table, the bed on which you lie, and the timber that builds your boat.
I am the handle of your hoe, the door of your homestead, the wood of your cradle, and the shell of your coffin.
I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty.
Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer:
Harm me not.