LARRY DABLEMONT, outdoor photographer

My front porch is adorned each morning with beautiful yellow flowers. Of course this is no way for a grizzled o1′ outdoorsman to talk, but I ain’t as grizzled as I use to be. I have a softer side, and I just love flowers.

I also love okra. I like it fried and I like it pickled and those beautiful yellow flowers turn into okra. It isn’t regular okra, it is a ‘vining’ okra and you can see some pictures of it on my website, given at the end of this column.

But here’s the problem: the gray squirrels up here on Lightnin’ Ridge are thicker than stump roaches. They get up early and head for my okra vine. This all gives me a chance to tell readers about the best shot I have made since I nailed a flying wasp with a small bore pistol, when I was camping with the Postlewaite boys down on Lake Ouachita.

Yesterday morning I stepped out on the porch at first light with my .22 rifle, a little short Ruger with just plain iron sights. No scope for us grizzled old sharp-shooters And there he was, headed for the okra vines, a wicked-looking gray squirrel that is much of the reason that my dreams of pickle canning looks bleak.

He retreated when he saw me, dashing out into the lawn, up a big walnut tree and jumping over to the limb of the tallest tree in my lawn, a 200-year-old locust, one of them that doesn’t have thorns. Way up there, flattened out on a limb a good 40-yards from my barrel, this is a squirrel that thinks I spent all my time in the library as a kid.

He doesn’t recognize the fact that I was a juvenile squirrel hunter in a time when squirrels along the Tweed bottoms were scarce. And they were scarce only because I hunted there so much.

We ate a tub full of fried squirrels, folks, and gave a few to the neighbors! By the time I was 12, the guys at the pool hall had started calling me “hawkeye.”

Well, I looked at that ornery okra-eating ogre and drew a quick bead and squeezed the trigger. He never knew what happened. Deader than a duck. He was so high up there I drank half a cup of coffee before he hit the ground.

His uncle and two cousins sat up in the branches and watched me skin and clean him, and I fear they have vowed revenge. My okra vines are in danger.

Now I get up well before dawn to sit out on my porch with my rifle, waiting for one of them to dash in for an okra bud. Up to now we have dwelled here on this high ridge in harmony the squirrels and I.

They have dumped my hummingbird feeders in the summer and raided the sunflower feeders in the winter, and they have chewed a hole in my storage-shed door and I have ignored it because I am a peaceful man and eat so much chicken and hamburger nowadays.

But now I intend to ‘harvest the surplus!’ That’s what us hunters call it when we kill squirrels, rabbits, and deer… harvesting! Filling the freezer and frying fat, furry fellows from the forest.

Well, that’s not the whole story. I have a nice big wildlife feeder down by my pond that I can watch from my office window. Thinking maybe I could fatten up some of the squirrels I am about to ‘harvest,’ I went down yesterday to fill it with corn.

As I did that, I was ruthlessly attacked by a herd of honey bees, and stung three times, twice to the east of my navel and once southwest of my left armpit.

Quickly retreating to my last-gasp garden not far away, I found a couple of small green tomatoes, and cut them open to make a poultice. There is nothing better for a sting than a juicy slice of green tomato. As I write this column, it still hurts just a little, but without those green tomatoes I would be in agony.

All this isn’t so bad as you might think. This month I will dine on fried okra and fried corn-fattened squirrels. But the honey bees have a hollow tree nearby where the honey will be easy to ‘harvest.’ I’d have to say I am doing all right here as fall approaches. When I cut that dead honey tree I will also have some good firewood for winter.

My grandfather had a technique for finding honey trees. He would find several bees concentrating on blooms of something or another, and he would sprinkle flour on them. That flour makes it so much easier to see bees heading for their hive, and when he got a good direction from those little white-coated bees, he would follow until sooner or later he would find that hive.

He’d get the honey by cutting down the hollow tree, but first he would build a fire so that the wind direction would make a lot of smoke to protect him. And he used screen wire off an old screen door to make a mask, gloves and a heavy shirt to minimize stings.

But grandpa, like me, was tougher than wang leather, and he honestly thought that a couple of bee stings were good for a person, having a certain effect on arthritis or sore joints. As I write this I have to admit I do not have a sore joint anywhere.

If you haven’t eaten squirrel meat for awhile, you can’t find a better time to go squirrel hunting because there are a bunch of them, and it might be good for you to get out and walk and use your eyes and ears.

Today I take a few plastic bags along and quickly skin and clean the squirrels that I kill. I remember how hard it was when I was young to clean an old stiff dead squirrel that I had lugged around for two or three hours.

My method for skinning a squirrel is the old time way, cutting the skin beneath the base of the tail and stepping on the tail, then pulling on the back feet. I learned that they are really delicious when they are cut up like you would do a chicken and marinated for a day in the refrigerator and then grilled.

This is a wonderful time of the year because the fishing is also great. Dove season is open and teal season about to begin. I love to eat teal, so I intend to try to find some on a dual fishing and hunting float down the river.

When I do so, I will place old Bolt, my Labrador, in charge of watching the okra vines. Or if he goes along to retrieve my ducks, then maybe my executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins, will do that. That woman loves to shoot at squirrels, but she can’t hit a bucket on a post.

My website is larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com and you can email me at lightninridge@windstream.com.

If you are smart enough to be without a computer, you can just write me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613.

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