Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Snipe Hunt

Who could fool that face?
Actually . . .
As a young man, Dad spent his summers working on the ranch.
It was these summers that convinced him that ranching was in his blood.
And that he would make it his life’s work.
Even though it had its embarrassing moments . . .
Young cowboys on a big spread are often the butt of jokes pulled by the older, more experienced hands.
Dad, though he was the boss’ son, was no exception.
He and a schoolmate, Ruel, were invited to go with a couple of the men on a ‘snipe hunt’.
The snipe, they were told, was a bird that lived in the coulees around the ranch. It was very tasty, if you could nab one. But there was the problem. Snipes were tricky creatures. They only had one weakness - they were mesmerized by a light at night. Ordinarily, they stayed still when darkness fell, but if disturbed, would fly toward said light. The trick was to have someone wait quietly, holding a bag next to a lantern and, when the birds were stirred up, catch them as they flew to the light.
Slick.
The boys were excited to be included on this fun hunting trip. They rode behind the two older hands and took up a position at the mouth of the coulee, bag and lantern in hand. Then they waited while the riders circled around to the other end to ride down the coulee, driving the tasty little snipes ahead of them and straight to the waiting sack and certain doom.
They waited for over two hours.
Finally deciding that something had gone terribly wrong, the two boys gave up and walked the two miles back to the ranch. When they reached the barn, they discovered the horses the two older hands had been riding, safely tucked up for the night.
Only then did they realize they’d been had.
They toyed with the idea of hiding in the hay loft and getting the rest of the men stirred up when they didn’t show up for breakfast. They even went so far as to sleep in the loft, snuggled down cozily in the soft, fragrant hay. But the enthusiastic swinging of a pitchfork early the next morning as one of the hands fed the horses convinced them that they should appear or risk being skewered.
They stood up and endured the general laugh at their expense.
Grampa Stringam was disgusted. “How could you fall for something like that?!” he demanded.
It had been embarrassingly easy, so Dad said nothing.
Sometimes, ranching isn’t about the cows.
But being cowed.

P.S. The snipe is a real bird, living along watercourses throughout the world. It is notoriously hard to catch and the person who could actually shoot one would be known as a 'sniper'. Thus the name for a skilled gunman.

14 comments:

  1. I haven't heard the term 'snipe hunt' in years. Wonder if it's due a comeback, there's a whole new generation or two out there, bet they're just a gullible as ever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmmm . . . have I let the snipe out of the bag?

      Delete
  2. Between the story and the label, I decided to check out your P.S. info, juuuuust in case :) I won't spoil the answer, for anyone else who is wondering!

    ReplyDelete
  3. How about that? You learn something new every day, even after 60.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We can only hope, big brother! We can only hope! :)

      Delete
  4. Oh, what a fun story that was. I can relate a bit to that. I had an Uncle who was always playing tricks on us when we were at his ranch. Sometimes, it was all that fun.
    I liked the history lesson the snipe.
    Blessings!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What would the world be without uncles?! It was news to me as well!

      Delete
  5. Terrific post! I have 4 brother's and they were taken on their own "snipehunt". As the only girl it was amazing to see!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I never knew that's where the term sniper came from! Cool!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! Who says you can't learn something from an elderly rancher?! :)

      Delete
  7. A bit like sending the apprentice out shopping for a left-handed screwdriver.

    ReplyDelete

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