TRAINS, TREES, AND ARROWS
TRAINS, TREES, AND ARROWS
I would save my broken arrows if they were still long enough to get a decent draw on my bow. Then I’d carve my name along the shaft and put on another point. I’d save them for when I went up to visit my grandmother. No, not for my grandmother, but for the railroad that ran near her house.
She, and three aunts, lived in the small town of Wesson, Mississippi. Back in the day, cotton and lumber were the industries here, and my grandfather did alright selling lumber. He built a large two-story southern style home on a hill at the south end of town. It was called The Highlands. It overlooked main street, aka Old Hwy 51, and houses leading back into town.
Between the houses and the local college not far distant, were the train tracks. Trains ran north to Memphis, and Chicago, and south to New Orleans. A two-lane bridge overpass crossed over the tracks at the bottom of the hill leading up to my grandmother’s house. These trains were the reason for my arrows. I would send my arrows into them wondering how far up and down the line they would get before their discovery.
It was an easy thing to do. Thick woods pressed up against the tracks on both sides just below the overpass. I could get up close, make sure no trainman was visible, or near the flight of my arrows, and then, let ‘em fly.
The challenge was getting up on the overpass, avoiding any cars or foot traffic, and shoot down into open boxcars carrying watermelons, or cantaloupes, or sweet potatoes, or corn. I know I ruined some of the produce. I wasn’t looking for trouble, it was just fun. Like putting coins on the tracks to see how the wheels would flatten them.
I did get paranoid though; I didn’t see how I could have gone long undiscovered. I started seeing eyes everywhere, and scared myself away from the game.
The visits to Wesson were greatly anticipated. My aunts were always fun. Often, my cousin Bobby, from Baton Rouge, was there, and we had made a couple of friends there locally. We’d spend the day in the woods, knowing to be home before dark.
The big bonus was when my Uncle Dale was there, and he would take me hunting in those woods. He was a carpenter who traveled to and from his work sites, sometimes being away for days, or weeks. We would hunt squirrels with his .22 Remington. He would skin them and cook them up. They tasted "just like chicken". Seems most critters when fried up taste like chicken. He eventually gave me the .22. Soon after, he moved to California.
We lived in a new subdivision on the edge of town. Many families, mostly of Airmen stationed at Chennault Air Force Base, quickly filled the new houses. There were a lot of kids. Enough to form gangs of those like-minded. We had access to acres and acres of open cattle fields and patches of overgrown bush and woods. This was our playground.
And hunting grounds. There was skunk, armadillos, raccoons, snakes, crows, and geese. But only for bows and arrows. Shooting .22s, or shotguns, this close to houses would bring consequences. I found the snakes, and crows, and geese, impossible to hit. As it soon turned out, my desire for hunting passed, and except for a couple of times later on deer hunting, I haven’t hunted since. I think it was the skunk. I wanted to tan its hide for a wall hanging, or perhaps a hat. It was a mess, a stinking mess. And I felt bad about it.
Hunting for food, if necessary, and taking out varmints, is different. I still enjoy target shooting.
Christmas was a fine time; after the holidays, we’d collect the discarded Christmas trees and make elaborate clubhouse forts that lasted well into the winter, or until the leaves fell off. Or until the cattle would take down a wall or two. Pilfering the other gang’s trees was great sport.
On the other side of our subdivision, was the town proper. Prien Lake Road was a major throughway, and where our housing began, the two-lane road split to go around a line of four oak trees. They were huge.
I sent one of my autographed arrows high up into a thick branch of one of them. I would see that arrow, if I remembered to look, as I went to and from Junior High School on my bike. About the time of my first year of college, they cut those beautiful oak trees down. A rash of car crashes into them by teenagers under the influence, brought them to an end.
Someone, I didn't know who, found that arrow in the fallen timber, and brought it by the house. I figured it had been up in the tree at least seven years. Those downed trees brought an end to a special time.
Image by Me.
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