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Starry, Starry Night

The favored sport of the Bulloch men was always raccoon hunting. Though the family didn’t eat raccoon, (“coon” for short), there were always people they could give them to. Coon hunting seems to be a poor man’s fox hunt for them – it is hunting for the sport of it, not to actually catch dinner.

Coon dogs would run forever on the trail of a critter. Hunters followed across some pretty rugged, forested land near the southern Appalachians. Since coon hunting takes place at night, a hunter could get lost. This had happened on more than one occasion, so Ben (Daddy) and his brother Ray figured out a solution.

On the next coon hunt, Daddy and Ray parked near a fire spotter’s tower up on the mountain. Ray climbed up the tower and attached a kerosene lantern, lit it, then climbed back to the ground. Ben and Ray looked up in the dusky evening sky and saw that the lantern was bright. It would serve their plan well. They could see the lantern on the fire tower from anywhere on the side of the mountain, and find their way back to the car.

They had a good night, shooting several raccoons, and putting them in a cloth bag to carry them home. They didn’t have to mark their trail or worry about where they turned because the lantern would guide them home. Around midnight, they looked up for the lantern so they could hike back to the car….and saw stars. The millions of stars that in the dark, cold Georgia sky looked very much like lanterns on a fire tower. They were twinkling, mocking them. No matter how hard they looked, they didn’t see the lantern, so they began hiking out in a direction that seemed right.

After a very long time, they crossed a fire road. They tied the now heavy bag of dead raccoons to a fence post, and followed the road out to the next road and on to the highway. Knowing they could find the road to the fire tower from the highway, they walked on. They realized that they had come down the wrong side of the mountain and the walk to the car ended up taking hours.

Ben and Ray left the lantern and the raccoons for next-day retrieval, then stumbled home. Two very tired wives laughed for years at the adventure of these very clever coon hunters.

© 2019 Susan Bulloch

Categories: Dad's Stories


I write. I fix computers. I feed cats.

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