You want to build character and add special memories to the lives of kids today? Get them involved in the outdoors. It worked a long time ago and it still works today.
Although there were a number of memorable outdoors things we did growing up out on the rural route, there was one activity that stands out and is still vivid in my memory.
That activity was being on hand for the cooking of a squirrel mulligan down at the Old Landing on Saline Bayou near where I grew up.
My dad and other men of the community saved the squirrels they’d killed on previous hunts and they’d take their sons, including my brother and me, along on what always seemed to be the coldest night of the year for the mulligan cooking. Once the roaring fire had burned down to a bed of glowing coals, a black pot with all the fixings was slowly cooked until it was done. For boys with ravenous appetites, the cooking process seemed to take forever but once it was done and the finished product ladled into bowls, the steaming mulligan was like manna.
Although I’m absolutely sure granddaughters Callie, 17, and Catelyn, 15, would turn up their noses at diving into a bowl of squirrel mulligan, the sisters enjoy the outing where the prime ingredient for the mulligan is collected. For the past several Februarys, they’ve accompanied their dad, Bill, from their home in Baton Rouge for a weekend visit. The prime focus of the trip was to take advantage of the generous offer by my friend and hunting buddy, George Seacrist, to squirrel hunt.
George has three seasoned and highly skilled squirrel dogs, Rascal, Dottie and Lucy. Once deer season ends each year, he is in the woods with his buddies following the dogs in quest of a mess of squirrels. I always feel fortunate when I get the call from George, wanting to know when Bill and the girls are coming up to hunt.
The stage was set for this past weekend and they arrived Friday afternoon in time for a super fish dinner at Doody’s Diner in Choudrant.
After checking Saturday’s weather forecast, George had determined our best chance with the squirrels would be a Saturday afternoon hunt. This gave the girls a chance at a shopping trip with my wife while Bill and I visited Wild Wings at Downsville for a round of sporting clays to sharpen our shooting eyes.
Meeting George and guest Eddie Parkman at the camp that afternoon, we headed to the woods for a few hours of listening for the dogs to tell us a squirrel was treed. The hunt started rather slow but the last hour of daylight, the action picked up steadily. We came out of the woods just before dark with a dozen squirrels.
During much of the hunt, the girls and I lagged behind the other hunters, giving us time to visit; to look for animal tracks; to spend some special granddaughter-papaw time together.
Upon his retirement from the U.S. Navy, my daughter gave Bill something he’d always wanted, a shotgun. Living and working in Baton Rouge, however, he seldom gets to hunt, which means the trip to my squirrel woods is not only big for the girls; it’s extra special for him.
One thing about squirrel hunting with dogs that is fun is you can talk; laugh; hoot and holler if you want to. Having to sit still and quiet in a deer stand or waiting out an approaching gobbler can try the patience for youngsters. Not so for following squirrel dogs through the woods.
Added to that is the opportunity to sit on a log with special grandkids, making memories they can share with their children.