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Flying Squirrels and Roman Candles

The “President’s Farm” was property near Pine Mountain, GA that was owned by Franklin Roosevelt, both before and after he was elected.  He got it with the purchase of Warm Springs, the polio rehab center near Bullochville, GA which he utilized, then bought.    By all accounts, Mr. Roosevelt was a good neighbor, and didn’t  mind if local men hunted game on his property. 

One evening, Ben, Ray and Buddy decided to go coon hunting over on the President’s farm for just a little while, and in a fit of insanity, Hazel (Mom) decided to let 6 year-old David go along.  Because what could possibly go wrong?

So with young David, wearing his pajamas and spiffy new Roy Rogers six-shooter cap guns and holster in tow, the 3 men drove the short drive to the farm, parked and got out the dogs.  For those who don’t know, it should be noted that when dogs are tracking an animal, they run wherever the scent leads.  Dogs don’t need trails or paths, and they really don’t care that it is pitch dark outside, so in VERY short order, there was a splash as the shortest among the trotting males went into a creek, coming up soaked, mad and shivering.

Being the responsible father, Ben stopped and got David out of the creek, then seeing how wet he was – and imagining the butt-chewing that would happen if he headed back now, decided to stop for a while.   They found a suitable spot, lit a nice campfire, stripped the boy and sat him and his soaked clothing on rocks by the fire.  Ben took the Roy Rogers six shooters and shoved them into his own belt to keep them from getting too hot by the fire.

While they were roasting the clothes – they grabbed a biscuit from their bags and one of them noticed some flying squirrels coming out of a nearby rotten tree.   *BLAM* – a shotgun rang out, and the squirrel headed back into the safety of the tree.  More squirrels followed suit and it became very clear that the rotten tree was a nest.  It must contain dozens of squirrels.

The next few minutes must have been insane as 3 sober men (seriously, they were) decided to roust the squirrels and shoot them all as they flew out – by setting a fire at the base of the tree.  That’s right – fire:  the cure for almost everything from wet PJs to rousting critters.  The fire was set and they all sat there with guns at ready, when suddenly the biggest roman candle in the universe went off.  It seems the rotten tree was hollow.  The fire at the base instantly ran up the inside and spewed fire out the top twenty feet overhead, and the tree canopy was suddenly as bright as day.

There’s no word on how many of the fleeing squirrels were shot with the first volley of rounds, nor how many profanities uttered as the men realized what had happened.  I can imagine a naked 6 year old boy dancing excitedly at the sight of the giant and unexpected fireworks display.

While the men pondered their problem, the President’s foreman arrived in his truck, having seen the fireworks display himself.  He wandered up on this sight:  A naked boy by a fire, with his clothes laying on the rocks, a young man holding a shotgun, wearing Roy Rogers cap pistols in his belt, 2 other men with shotguns and dogs, all standing near a flaming tree.  Daddy said the man laughed pretty hard.  That’s better than having them arrested.  Besides, the foreman wasn’t about to sit there and watch that tree burn safely down – and make sure it didn’t set the forest on fire.  No, that was going to be the responsibility of the knuckleheads who set the fire in the first place.  The foreman drove off, having taken their names, leaving the men to clean up the mess they had caused.

Mama was spitting mad when they arrived hours late with a sleeping boy – and Daddy still wearing the six shooters in his belt.  David remembers this hunting trip 60 years later –  his first, and for many years, his last one.  There were no charges, no arrests and thankfully, no forest fire.  Just another coon hunting story.  Oh – and no coons were harmed in this incident, either.

© 2019 Susan Bulloch

Original publication date August 2016

Categories: Dad's Stories

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I write. I fix computers. I feed cats.

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