Hill-Bully Gets Shot At
While out walking in the Dan's Mountain Wildlife Management Area near my home, I came across my neighbor. I won't tell you his name because he lives out in the woods for a reason, which I guess is he doesn't want too much attention. He's an elderly fellow who is full of tales from a different world, the one he lived in before technology blossomed into full flower.
I'll call him Mr. Natural. He speaks slowly and softly, and his tales have to be put into a narrative, because they can only be pulled out of him with lots of questions, which he's happy to answer. Once I've extracted the key details, you'll see that it would be a shame for him to end his time on this earth with them still inside him. It is my service to humanity and to myself to compile them.
When Mr. Natural was six years old, their family lived in the West Virginia mountains near Petersburg. His father was a farmer and had fox hounds. His neighbor was known for "orneryness". The neighbor wouldn't get along with anyone. He liked to kill things, and he'd kill your dog, if you let it run loose, by putting out poisoned meat. Lots of his neighbors had lost their dogs to this man. He stuck to his own land because people didn't like him, for good reason.
Mr. Natural's father had a problem with his corn crop. When the plants were a few inches tall, flocks of crows landed in his fields and ate every plant. He asked around for advice on how to deal with it and someone told him to take some dried corn kernels, soak them in lye overnight, and put them on a big rock where the crows could see them from the air. Mr. Natural's dad did this and the crows ate the corn, got thirsty, flew to his ornery neighbor's creek, got a drink of water, and keeled over backwards, dead. It happened to dozens of crows.
Mr. Natural's dad was surprized that the lye method of crow extermination worked so well. He was also happy that his ornery neighbor had a bunch of dead crows around his place. He found out through the grapevine that Mr. Ornery thought the crows had died from the poisoned meat he put out, so to avoid ridicule he quickly buried the crows, which was a labor-intensive chore.
That fall Mr. Natural was hunting with his father on a hill near their home. They could see a long way. Their two foxhounds were on the trail of a red fox. The red fox's fur was very valuable in those days, and his dad had his rifle ready to shoot the fox when the dogs drove it around to them.
They could hear the foxhounds yelping as they ran through the woods on the trail of the fox. Mr. Ornery could too, and he came out from his cabin with his shotgun. He didn't see Mr. Natural and his dad up on the hill about one hundred yards away. From the sound of the dogs, Mr. Ornery guessed where the fox would be coming from and chose a tree to stand behind and wait in ambush.
Mr. Natural's dad figured his ornery neighbor would shoot the fox. But when the fox ran past him unscathed, he realized Mr. Ornery's game was to shoot the foxhounds.
But he didn't get the chance. As the dogs approached the ambush, his dad raised his rifle and pointed it in Mr. Ornery's direction. When Mr. Ornery raised his shotgun to be ready to shoot the dogs, the dad shot and hit the tree that Mr. Ornery was standing beside, about 6 inches above his head. A chunk of bark flew off and hit him in the head.
Mr. Ornery lowered his gun and took off running for home, at full speed. He didn't know where the shot had come from but he knew he could have been killed.
Mr. Natural and his dad had a good laugh, bagged a fox, and saved their foxhounds.
Its been 70 years or so since that happened, but as he told it, Mr. Natural's face lit up, and for a moment I saw him as a little boy, proud of his dad.
(I'll get some more stories out of him next time I see him and pass them on to you).
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