By the time we had bought bows, scrapped a dozen arrows, purchased tags and supplies for the trip there wasn’t much money left for camo gear. Figuring that if it was good enough for the US Army ten years ago it was good enough for us, we went looking for surplus army clothes with other men’s names sewn into them. After satisfying ourselves that there were no pesky bullet holes to let in the cold air we bought them. With a couple sticks of surplus face paint thrown in we were ready for our first season bow hunting.
As it happened, Dave and I were the only archers in the campground adjacent to the high mountain meadows where we were hunting. We soon found out that wearing face paint and old camouflage is not the best way to inspire confidence in your fellow campers.
A seven-year old named Joseph was the first to break the ice. He rode up on his bike and I saluted him. “Hello Joseph.” I, ever the alert woodsman, spotted the name on his license plate. Henceforth, Joseph was convinced that I was no ordinary bow hunter. I’m not sure if it was because he knew I was literate or if he thought that I could know his name by looking at him (the latter was the impression that I tried to make).
“What are you Army guys doing up here anyway?” (His dad must be a rifle hunter). We explained that these were just old Army fatigues and we were bow-hunting. He seemed skeptical.
“Huh! I ain’t ever heard of Army fat-i-gews.”
According to Joseph, he was an extremely accomplished hunter for his tender age. He spoke of a rabbit that he had harvested, innumerable barn swallows and the odd woodchuck. I didn’t ask why he wanted to pick on odd woodchucks. As he spoke, it became evident that this was no ordinary seven year old. Finding in us a fascinated audience, each adventure he related was more fantastic than the last.
He recalled the time that his mother had hung a carrot in front of his archery target (for no apparent reason). It seems that as he let the arrow fly, a rabbit (a really big rabbit), leapt into the air for the carrot. The hapless hare was impaled upon the shaft which still retained enough velocity to carry forward into the bulls-eye! An astounding feat of arms by anyone’s book.
Authentication of this and other stories proved somewhat difficult, however. When his mother happened on the scene, no doubt to protect her innocent child from bow hunters, Joseph developed a strong desire to go fishing. “But you don’t like to fish”, she said.
“I do now.”
I did, though, manage to find out the answer to one age-old question before he walked away. “Joseph”, I said. “You seem to be a great outdoorsman.” He nodded solemnly. “You must know a lot about animals.” Again the modest affirmative. “There is something I have wanted to know since I was your age.”
Like all great students of the wild, men wise in the ways of the forest, he was eager to be of help, to answer any question a novice might have.
“Joseph,” I said slowly and carefully, “How much wood,” he nodded as if to encourage me, his eager pupil, “could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”
He thought it over. It was, after all, a question that required deep thought and must be answered with tact. He didn’t want to hurt my feelings just because I was naive.
“Nine,” he said with all the authority he could muster. “Two, if it was a little one.” And with the day’s lesson complete, he went fishing.