Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Horner Woods

In the 1970s the Lansing Council for the Boy Scouts of American had many campgrounds.  One of them was Horner Woods, named after the name of the family that donated the parcel.  This picture was taken on the walk that Herc and I took earlier today.

Image from HERE

Horner Woods was notable for abundant firewood, dense woods, nesting Great Horned Owls and for being five miles away from the closest place a camper could buy RC Cola and Mallo-cups.  It was also the very best place for snipe hunting.

Contrary to what you may have read, snipe are real.  The reason that they are seldom seen is that they usually reside in very wet areas to avoid predators.  They brave firmer grounds at night when they have an advantage.  Their long bill acts as a vibration sensing antenna, allowing them to detect the heart-beat of predators.

They taste better than chicken

One of my regrets is that I missed the epic snipe hunt.  It was notable for the fact that it was Vince, John and XXX's introduction to camping.  These young men came from diverse backgrounds.  One was a disadvantaged "Yute", another was the only scion of a wealthy drugstore magnate, the third was my younger brother.  They remained scouts for a long time and were a source of much amusement (like the time Vince and John proved that defecating in one's mess kit is more than a rhetorical turn-of-phrase).

The Newbs were already starting to pick up on the fact that not everything they were being told was the Gospel truth.  They were a bit lukewarm on the idea of snipe hunting at night.  But they were hungry and the enthusiasm was infectious.

It quickly became apparent that they had me pegged as a perpetrator.  The snipe hunt was going to be a no-go if I was involved.  Younger brothers are not always a blessing.

The young fellows were given a quick lesson on the biology of snipe.  In addition to the snipe's bill, they have large feet and are quickly exhausted running through alfalfa stubble.  Consequently, snipe hunts involved several shorter drives to "herd them", culminating in a final drive where they would be brought to bag.

The southwest corner of the campground was bordered by a pasture/hay field.  That back corner steeply funneled down into a swamp.  Swamps are good for atmosphere...thick, misty atmosphere....and spooky bird noises.  The Newbs were told to cut off the snipe as they made a break for the swamp.  They were provided with sacks.  Several of them picked up large sticks for protection against werewolves, vampires and other denizens of the night.

Clearly, they were skeptics at this point.  Then Urdy (short for Richurd) was inspired to have his minions collect armfuls of round rocks, the bigger the better.  In the final drive of the evening the older scouts charged down the hill, screaming like Commanchero...launching their rocks at the last moment.

The rocks, being round, accelerated down the hill, bouncing and hissing through the alfalfa stubble.  The Newbs screamed like sorority girls.  Sticks flailed.  Tackles were attempted.  All snipe escaped.

Sadly, the Boy Scouts of America fell on hard times.  Older boys had little use for the sissified, politically correct organization that evolved to chase United Way dollars.  The cost of running campground rose astronomically as health departments demanded septic tanks, engineered drain fields, cabins vs. tents and so on.  BSA responded with market retreat, focusing on Cub Scouts.  Horner Woods, Shim-ni-con, Mapleton were sold.  Now Kiwanis and the square mile up north, Northwoods, are for sale.  Hell hath no revenge like a market taken for granted.

We were not men, yet.  But dang, did we have fun.


  1. If they sell the camps, what becomes of Scouting? Not everyone can afford Philmont.

    1. Well, I guess they go to Holiday Inns without swimming pools and learn to walk to Hungry Howies in order to learn how to thrive in austere conditions.

  2. If they sell the camps, what becomes of Scouting? Not everyone can afford Philmont.

  3. Great narrative. I really enjoyed this post!

    1. Hello Sir:

      Thank-you for making time to read this blog.

      I value your comments.

      Again, thanks.

  4. Oddly enough some of my fondest memories are of hunting the real snipe as a teen.