Thursday, September 5, 2019
The Shrewd King 7.4: As a matter of fact, you CAN unscrew a rabbit
Miguel Rodriguez and Quinn Spackle would have left the camp with nothing more than a couple of large dogfood bags and some orange, poly baling twine in Miguel’s pockets if Quinn had not made a point of taking their weapons.
Miguel pushed back about it but Spackle demanded it. “Look, I know guns are heavy and they can be a pain in the ass. But I know from personal experience that the time you need one will be a huge surprise and you won’t have time to run back to camp and get one...and I ain’t talking about bunnies, either.”
Had it been almost anybody else, Miguel would have blown him off.
But Quinn’s reputation had not suffered during his absence. All of the old timers were firm on having inflicted 1300 casualties on the enemy. With a force of thirty fighters, that was a bit more than forty enemy fighters engaged and taken out by every fighter. And the fighters all agreed, Quinn had big, brass balls. He led a fire-team in the hottest sector and was not shy about putting himself in harms what.
When a guy who had half of his ass shot-off and who had willingly put himself downrange of Berfa’s pattern tells you to take your weapon...you take your weapon.
“What are we hunting today?” Quinn asked. He was curious because they didn’t have any equipment he recognized as hunting equipment.
“Anything we can find, boss. Anything we can find.” Miguel said.
Quinn was surprised when Miguel took them across the bridge and out of Chernovsky’s Annex. Turning north (left) shortly after crossing the bridge, Miguel walked through the tall grass to a clump of young box-elder trees. Selecting a trunk that was about 2” in diameter near the bottom and clear of branches for the first eight feet, Miguel bent the trunk and severed it from the base with a couple of vigorous blows with his belt knife.
“The key is to put some bend into stem where you want to cut it.” Miguel said. “Then to make sure you are hitting the stem on the slant.”
Quinn knew that but kept his mouth shut. This was Miguel’s rodeo.
Miguel stripped all the leaves and tiny branches, he called them pins, from the stem. Then he trimmed the branches near the top. He did not cut them flush but left them about four inches long.
“It is better to leave these a little bit long because it is easier to cut them shorter than to find and cut another pole if they are too short.”
Miguel gave the tool a little shake and was satisfied with how limber it was and then rejoined Quinn on the paved road.
Miguel had Quinn carry the tool as they continued east. Coming to the edge of an abandoned field, Miguel again turned left and they moved through the woods that was lower in elevation than the field.
Miguel started giving Quinn some background.
“My grandfather’s family came up from Texas in 1940 to work the sugar beet fields.” Miguel said.
“My grandfather’s brother enlisted in December of 1941 and was stationed in Fort Custer over near Battle Creek. Needless to say, the family did not move back down to Texas.” Miguel said.
“The first few winters were hard. That is when my grandfather’s papa taught him how to hunt this way.” Miguel said.
Spotting some fresh sandy dirt and a hole, Miguel stopped. “I already know where most of the woodchuck holes are. I brought you this way so you would know what one looks like.”
“The first thing you do is you bend over and smell the hole.” Miguel said.
Quinn looked down at him and gave him a look that said “What kind of idiot do you think I am?”
“No, really. You don’t want to do this if there is a skunk down in that hole.” Miguel said.
Well, that made sense to Quinn.
There was no smell of skunks.
Miguel handed Quinn the pole.
“You learn by doing. Slowly push the pole into the hole and every six inches or so, give it a few, slow twists. That helps screw it past the roots and you will figure out if there is rabbit in the hole.” Miguel said.
Quinn figured that Miguel had a shovel stashed somewhere nearby and that they were going to dig a rabbit out of the woodchuck hole.
“I think I got to the end.” Quinn said.
“Push it in deeper and give it a couple short, quick twists.” Miguel said.
Quinn did so and the pole started quivering.
“Pull it out, pull it out!” Miguel said, excited.
Quinn yanked the pole out and was rewarded with a rabbit's distress squeal and a few rabbit hairs caught in the rough ends of the trimmed side branches.
“Rabbits have really loose skin.” Miguel explained. “Pushing that end into him” Miguel said as he pointed to the bristling stubs “and twisting the pole will get his hide all tangled up. Then it is just a matter of slowly keeping the twist going as you drag him out of the hole.”
“You are shitting me.” Quinn said.
“No, let me show you.” Miguel said.
In fifteen seconds Miguel was popping the complaining rabbit into the dog food bag.
“It is a knack.” Miguel said. “I can’t talk it into you. It is something you have to learn by feel and by practice.”
By the third woodchuck hole and at least twenty tries, Quinn was finally able to unscrew a rabbit out of the hole.
That is when Miguel showed him a cheat.
“I wanted you to be able to do this the way Grandfather taught me. Now, everything else will be easy.’ Miguel said.
Miguel had prepared for today’s lesson by stashing a short length of barbed wire by each woodchuck hole.
The piece by this hole was about thirty inches long. Miguel bent it into a loop and lashed the ends of the loop to the pole with the orange, poly twine he had been carrying. The resulting tool looked vaguely like an elongated lacrosse paddle after Miguel bent the loop of wire so it was about four inches wide at the widest point.
Miguel also trimmed the wooden stubs on the pole back to about an inch. "We don't need them now that we have the wire, but leaving a little bit of them helps keep the wire from slipping off."
“The barbs on the wire are way better than the points I can whittle into the soft wood.” Miguel assured him. “The wire will bite into and twist up any animal in the hole and the loop is almost like a finger trap. Anything that is down in that hole, we can catch...even the skunks.”