Can You Come Play Lil Boy?
Lil boy is a heart-warming story of a four-year-old boy who is ripped from his mother, father and brothers at the beginning of the Korean War. Father was drafted into the Army to fight in Korea; mother moved to California to work as a ship builder to support the other children. Mother could not take all the children with her, so I got to stay with my grandparents on a small dirt farm in the Panhandle of Oklahoma, about half way between Ft. Supply and Buffalo.
The winter of 1950 ushered in one of the state’s worse blizzards recorded in that century. Grandmother went to Ft. Supply to live with my uncle and his family until after the blizzard passed. I got to stay with my Granddad on the farm to “help” him feed and care for the cows, horses, pigs, chickens, dogs and other barnyard critters.
The blizzard was a particularly harsh one, leaving snowdrifts six feet high along most hedgerows and fences. Coyotes, which prefer to hunt under the cover of night, were now hunting twenty-four hours a day. It sounded like they were all around us.
When the snow stopped falling, the wind subsided and the sun broke through the clouds, the landscape, draped in nature’s finest dress, was awesome. Coyotes howled in the distance, letting others know they had spotted a food source – our chickens. I was five years old by now and was handy with a single shot rifle. I told Granddad,”If I don’t go out and scare off those coyotes, they are going to get inside the chicken house and eat all the chickens.” He didn’t say anything because he knew I was right. I began working him with my vivid imagery of feathers, guts and broken eggs they would leave behind.
Finally, he asked, “How do you intend to scare them away?” “With the rifle,” I said.
He looked at me for awhile, then said "go get dressed in you long-handles, flannel shirt, pants and coveralls. Make sure to bring your heaviest coat and gloves.
When I was fully dressed, I ran to him and said “Granddad, I’m ready. Can I go now?”
He replied, “You’ll need this rifle and a box of shells,” as he handed me the gun. I smiled so wide I thought my face would crack. After all the obligatory warnings, I set off to the south where I last heard the coyotes. I headed directly towards a thicket of current bushes. Sure enough, their tracks were everywhere. I still didn’t see them, so I crawled under the thicket where I spotted three small coyote pups playfully wrestling one another. With a six-foot long stick, I entered the game along with them. After a little teasing, they stopped wresting each other and attack my stick, breaking it into four pieces. They pretended the stick was a snake, picking it up, biting on it, and flipping it around in the air with their mouth.
At last, their parents called them and they all left the thicket heading east towards “Coyote Mound”, a known area for coyote dens. I followed them to the mound and spotted them directly in front of me. They were walking single file—I was the last in the file. I put a shell in my rifle and cocked the gun. By then they had disappeared. The next time I saw them, they were behind me. They’d out-lapped me by one full lap. The pursuer now became the pursued. I stopped, pointed the gun well over their heads and fired a shot. That stopped them in their tracks. I loaded again just in case they came after me. The three pups moved towards me, but the elders laid down either for their morning nap or to soak up the sun.
As I watched the three pups, I realized they were just like dog puppies. There is no way I could ever hurt a puppy, dog or coyote. I stood there admiring them for awhile and took off running toward our house, yelling all the way that I had shot one. Of course, Granddad knew better, but he went along. I’ve never hunted coyotes since that day.
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