Last weekend, I had two distinct privileges: going squirrel hunting for the first time and taking a shower.
[A note to any members of the Arkansas Game and Wildlife Commission: The following paragraph is a work of pure fiction. I would never considered hunting in the state of Arkansas without first paying $50 and taking your certification course.]
On Saturday morning, I went squirrel hunting with several members of the hunting club that leases the property I'm staying on. We actually hunted on an adjacent tract of land that the club owns. We were meeting at 8:00, so I awoke early, only to find that my two jugs of water were frozen, making my morning coffee a bit of a struggle. Seeing the ice, I should have thought about dressing warmer--maybe about adding an extra layer of socks or long underwear--but instead I just focused on getting my caffeine fix. That was a mistake. As a consequence, I could hardly feel any part of my body from the waist down by the time we loaded up and hiked off. Luckily, the walking warmed me to a tolerable degree. The entire experience consisted of hiking in pursuit of our squirrel dog for the day, Lucky. He would catch a scent, and start tracing the path the squirrel had taken until he came to a tree. Barking and scratching at the tree, the five of us would catch up, and being scanning the treetops, looking for movement, falling bark, or any other signs of a squirrel. If one was sighted, one man with a .22 would take a few shots and the rest of us, wielding shotguns, would finish the job if he were to miss. Three and a half hours and five dead squirrels later, we ended up back at their hunting camp. Two men left, and the remaining two (Ricky and Robert) and I cleaned the squirrels. Even after detaching the feet and loosening the skin, those little suckers are hard to peel. It takes two grown men pulling in opposite directs with most of their might to pull their skin off. While Ricky went home to get soak the squirrel meat and pick up sausages for grilling, Robert and I hung out and shot at various targets at the hunting camp's firing range. When Ricky returned, we had a lunch of grilled sausages and hamburgers. With no big plans for the afternoon, after lunch I borrowed one of Robert's .22s and went hunting on my own, without the benefit of a canine nose. Following the dry creek bed of Beech Creek, I would hike for a ways, then stop and stand quiet and still for a few minutes, looking and listening for signs of life. After about an hour of this, I was in the bottoms that surround the creek bed. As I came to a stop, I saw a squirrel dart up a tree about thirty yards to my left. I pivoted, took aim, and fired. I was a bit surprised that I hit him and even more surprised to see that it was a perfect head shot. (Seriously, I have a picture to prove it.) Upon returning to the hunting camp, Ricky had left and Robert was off hunting on his own. That left me alone to clean the squirrel. My novice, combined with the lack of assistance resulted in a botched skinning job. Only able to salvage the meat from the hind legs, but determined to eat the rewards of my first kill, I returned to my camp. I have since learned that there are certain ways to prepare squirrel meat, and if done properly, squirrel meat can taste quite good. Needless to say, whatever I did, I did not prepare it properly, and I will not be eating any squirrel meat ever again unless it is prepared by a more knowledgeable cook.
On Sunday, I made the hour-long trek drive to El Dorado to have Sunday lunch with some family at the appropriately named Hays House (named after its builder, my great grandfather). My one stipulation was that--for the sake of all those in my company--I would not be sitting down at the table with anyone unless I was able to take a shower first. Having a homecooked meal was fantastic and apparently I was able to dispel enough of my odor that I was invited to future Sunday lunches.