Luke Clayton: The way things were ‘back then’
Outdoors columnist recalls days of cheap ammo and a simpler life
I recently saw 30/30 ammo going for $85 a box at a gun show and folks were standing in line to purchase it. I’m not talking about some specialty wildcat rounds that are hand loaded, I’m talking THIRTY THIRTY rounds, arguably the most common and widely used of all centerfire “bullets.” Just try to find a box of 9 mm or .223 ammo, it’s as scarce as hen’s teeth. If you can find it, it might be necessary to take out a loan on the homestead just to purchase a few boxes! Even rim fire .22 rounds are tough to find and pricy.
The current situation we outdoor folks find ourselves in causes me to pause and think back to the way things were “back in the day.” I remember at the age of 12, back in 1962, my folks driving me to Dallas to board a Greyhound bus bound for Houston. My uncle and aunt would meet me at the bus station and we would head down to family land around Waller, Texas and hunt deer for a few days. I would stay a week or so there hunting with “Poppa Dinkins” and living the carefree life of a young outdoorsman that found himself in the middle of what I considered “outdoor heaven.” I remember boarding the bus there in Dallas and handing the driver a soft gun case with my trusty 30/30 to stow in the luggage compartment. In my bag, I would have a couple boxes of ammo packed. Could you imagine showing up in a public place today with a rifle and ammo? I shudder to think what would happen!
Up in very rural Red River County, I recall riding the school bus home and being dropped off at a friend’s for an afternoon of squirrel hunting. My dad would meet me on the way home and hand-deliver my .22 and “game bag” with ammo, knife, etc. We would get off the bus, grab a snack supplied by my friend’s mother, and head straight to the woods. If we were successful in harvesting a few squirrels, we would dress them and deliver them to his mom who was always happy to get the meat. Fried squirrel or smothered squirrel with rice and gravy was a staple meal where I grew up. Later, during my teenage years, my old pickup seldom left home without a shotgun and rifle in the gun rack, proudly displayed in the rear window.
My brother in law’s parents managed a small dairy farm near the community of Fulbright, not far from where I lived. Our place was basically in the woods and provided good squirrel hunting but the land around Fulbright was mostly prairie and farms, cottontail rabbits were in great abundance. We would usually hunt on Saturday mornings, always shooting enough rabbits for his mother to prepare for Sunday dinner. I can still remember those meals she turned out, we could depend on a big “batch” of cat head biscuits or cornbread and her famous sweetened pinto beans to go with the tender fried rabbit. Fresh turnip greens with turnips was usually on the menu.
Pecan Bayou was within walking distance of our home and catching a “mess” of channel catfish for a fish fry was as simple as baiting a few “cane poles” with cut perch and spending a few hours checking them. About once every couple months, we camped a few days and set trotlines up in southeastern Oklahoma. No elaborate campers back then, we slept on the ground with a “tarp” between the ground and us and a waterproof tarp over us to protect from the dew. The drill was to get to the little lake we fished, get the lines set in time to catch a “mess” of fish for the evening meal. It was never a problem to catch plenty of eater size catfish and have them cleaned and in hot lard before darkness caused us to fire up the old Coleman gas lanterns. I still remember going to sleep with the “hisss” of those old lanterns. Wild strawberries were abundant in the area during the spring and berries with sugar was always a welcomed desert.
Things have certainly changed. I still occasionally set up a little tent camp on the banks of the Brazos River up in Palo Pinto County where my buddy Randy Douglas manages the Dale River Ranch. “Camping” 20 feet from the next camper in a campground just doesn’t seem like camping to me. I enjoy the tranquility of gurgling water within a few yards of my camp or the sound of a turkey gobbler sounding off back in the woods on a spring morning. The nighttime howls of a pack of hunting coyotes nearby is always comforting, although I know there sole purpose in life is to prey upon some of the same animals and birds that I love to hunt. I’ve learned to share the wilds with them. Because the wolf, the only animal big enough to keep their number in check is absent, I do my share to help control their population. In areas where wolves are present, coyotes usually don’t fare so well. Likewise, in areas with heavy coyote numbers, there are few foxes, it’s just nature’s way.
Thankfully, I have enough “bullets” for my centerfires to keep me hunting for a couple of years but I find myself doing far less target shooting these days. If all goes south, I have a compressor to supply air to my big bore air rifles and a good supply of arrows for my compound bows.
Winter Outdoor Ron De Voux
Our second annual outdoor event takes place on March 6 on 4 wooded acres a few blocks north of downtown Greenville. Food, live music, booths, antique car show and I’ll keep a campfire going for us to set around. Hope to see you there. For more information or booth space, contact Randy Koon 903-456-3048.