The Coon Hunt At Maple Grove
By Linda Hunt
“It’s an awful night out tonight! Fog, drizzle, just awful!” my wife, Lyddie sighed.
“The sap will be runnin’. Our buckets will be full come morning. Coons will be running tonight.”
“Don’t go out hunting in this. You’ll catch your death of cold. You won’t be able to see your hand in front of your face. Promise you won’t go.”
I wanted to go, but I didn’t want to argue, and I didn’t want to lie to her. If I didn’t keep the coon population down, my corn crop next summer would be destroyed by legions of raccoons with big appetites. “Let’s just go to bed then,” I answered.
“You’ll leave as soon as I fall asleep.”
“I’ll be asleep too,” I grinned. “We worked too hard today to be able to stay awake for long.”
Before much time had passed, I could hear my wife’s heavy, relaxed breathing and I knew she was fast asleep. I also knew she didn’t trust me to stay in bed when I found a safety pin connecting my shirt to her nightie! I couldn’t help grinning at the thought of my sweet little wife being so devious. I suppose I was a little devious too when I unpinned it and pinned her to the sheets. Ha!
Outside, the air was crisp and thick with fog. Hunters were required to carry a kerosene lantern and the minute my coon dog, Mitty, saw it she began to bark wildly and dance all around me.
Behind the house was a heavily wooded swamp that belonged to my neighbor, the perfect place to begin the hunt. Old Bill Switzer often ran cattle in there, but I thought I had seen them grazing in the pasture near his house that day. It didn’t matter. I wouldn’t mistake a coon for a cow!
Mitty slid through the fence and ran out ahead of me. All was quiet except for drops of water dripping from the resting trees and the quiet crunch of my footsteps on twigs and leaves that had fallen to the ground, until I heard Mitty baying on the trail! I ran toward the sound.
Strangely, as I ran, I could hear the thunder of hooves, the bellow of cattle, and Mitty’s barks that had turned to desperate yips! Next thing I saw was a herd of very angry Black Angus cattle coming towards me with Mitty in the lead! They were heading right at me! I quickly climbed a nearby tree! Mitty kept on running, but the cattle stopped, investigated my lantern and my rifle that were laying at the trunk of the tree, and decided to remain while they continued to make their angry noises.
It started to rain. Though I knew the temperature had not fallen to freezing, I was shivering. I noticed that several of the cattle had new calves. Now it all made sense. There’s nothing meaner than a cow with a new calf!
The cattle remained under my tree all night, screaming and stomping. I heard gunshots off in the distance, probably incentive for them not to wander. I have never had such a miserable night!
As the sky began to lighten, they finally wandered off. Once I was back on the ground, I could barely move. I was soaked to the skin and I was so stiff that my whole body seemed to be frozen!
Mitty met me at the barn where she had spent a cozy night sleeping in a nice pile of warm hay. I looked at her and said, “traitor.”
When I walked into the kitchen soaking wet and shaking from the cold, Lyddie was fixing breakfast. First she looked at me and then she took a deep breath. I could tell that she was relieved to see me all in one piece. Then she laughed! She laughed and laughed! I must have been a sight.
“Besides pneumonia, did you catch anything else?” she gulped as she tried to control her mirth. “Ha ha! I went down to the barn looking for you and I saw Mitty was doing well. I figured you were probably dead somewhere. Dare I ask what happened?”
“I would rather not talk about it,” I mumbled as I left to search for some dry clothes.
Lyddie grinned and snickered throughout the day as we worked in the sugar camp emptying buckets of sap into the large trough we used to boil the watery liquid from the sugar maple trees into maple syrup over an open fire. It was hard work, but the syrup was a precious commodity to a small Ohio farmer.