REFLECTIONS

Hunting And Such

  My good friend, Warren Stifflerís wife, Libby, passed away while I was writing this. Her passing (on 21 September, 1999), and my visit to the funeral home and seeing Warren after so many years brought back a flood of memories.

  Perhaps 30 years ago, Warren and Libby Stiffler visited us almost every Sunday night after church. We would go to Claysburg for Pizza and bring it home and eat it together. After talking to Warren the night of the viewing of Libby, we were talking at home about the good times Warren and I had at the hunting camp. My son, Larry suggested that I add some of the reminisces that I had about the things that happened when we were at the camp. Warren and I spent a lot of time in the summer weekends building and adding to the original structure. Let me explain further. My dad and I had a large truck that we used for hauling lumber and paperwood. We were operating a sawmill at the time, so we cut and sawed enough lumber to build a small cabin on the back of the truck. It was made from sumac logs and was pretty light. Our original plan was to haul the cabin (it was nine by fifteen feet and had sleeping room for four or five men) to a location and after the couple of days of hunting bring it home.

  Plans change. After our first trip, we decided to lease a plot of ground and let the cabin there. We found a good spot where there was a bank and we pushed it off the truck, and after the first year, we decided to build a section on to the original cabin. We used the cabin for sleeping quarters, and since we had built the new section, we added a hallway in which to hang our hunting clothes. Now we could take on another member. There was Warren Stiffler, Art Nofsker, my dad, Eldon Smith, Bill Long and myself. We went there every year for deer hunting, and now since we had the addition we could invite guests.

  Some of the things that happened were humorous and we occasionally had a good laugh. Some of Artís in-laws were there one week to hunt deer. Artís father-in-law did not have a rifle to bring, so the boys borrowed a rifle from the VFW for him to use. Those rifles were used for shooting blanks when the VFW had graveside services. The rifles were hardly ever cleaned, so the barrels were usually pitted and sometimes rusted making it nearly impossible to shoot live ammo straight. The result was that Adam Fagans (Artís father-in-law) shot five shots at a large buck standing, and missed every shot. On the way back to the camp, one of his boys asked where the rifle was and he replied that it was no good for anyone, so he pitched it down in a brush pile. The boys had to go and hunt for it.

  The Fagan boys brought their uncle Mayberry, whom they called Uncle Berry, with them to the hunting camp. Uncle Berry was not too safe to be around because he carried a flask of whiskey with him. Warren and I did not hunt near the Fagans, but when they came back to the camp, they said Uncle Berry got lost. The Fagan boys warned him not to go on the other side of the road they were on, but he didnít seem to pay any attention. There were several of them hunting and they fired three shots in the air several times. That is the recognized way to call everyone together, but Uncle Berry just did not answer. Everyone came back to the camp to organize a search party. Warren and I preferred not to go so the Fagans went hunting him. They found him in a saloon very unconcerned, because when he came in, the bartender heard him say, "Oh, a filing stationí and immediately ordered a beer.

  I would say that the best times we had was when we all gathered in the camp for supper, followed by a bull session of what we had seen, what we had missed or shot. Warren would do the cooking but would not clean up the table, or wash dishes. He told of the time he took someone with him, whose name Iíve forgotten. That person was always first at the table, but was too tired to do the dishes. He came in one evening to find that Warren had made buckwheat cakes and sausage. He piled in and ate several cakes and remarked that they were pretty good. Warren answered him by telling him they were better at first, but a mouse had fallen down from the ceiling into the batter, and he had just got finished fishing him out. His friend decided to quit eating and really got into doing the dishes.

  One time I remember was the time that Pap went up to the hunting camp with Art. He stopped at Chic Aylesí little store in McKee to buy some shells. You see Pap was just a mite frugal when he went hunting. He told Mrs. Ayle to mix them up, meaning the shot sizes, but she misunderstood and mixed up the gauges. So Pap came to the hunting camp with a box of shells, 12-gauge, 16-gauge and -20 gauge. He took a lot of kidding about not watching what Mrs. Ayle put in the box. Another time in deer season, Warren and I were already at the camp and were out hunting along a steep hill. Pap and Bob Claar came up later and started to hunt down in the bottom of the hill we were on. A large buck came down fast like it was flying. Neither of us got a clear shot, but we soon heard four shots down at the bottom. Warren said someone got our buck, and we let it go at that. Later on, in the camp, Pap said the biggest deer he ever seen came down and stopped fifty yards away. He shot four shots, but missed on all of them. We asked why he did not shoot the other cartridge in his gun. He replied that he was saving it for a better shot.

  When we were all at the camp, we usually put everything in the food line together and used it as it was needed. Everyone shared, but Bill Long. He usually put his in a corner and would save it and eat ours instead. One day when everyone else was out hunting, I put his groceries with the rest. He did not like it, but did not say anything. He did not believe in helping with the dues that we used to pay our lease and taxes, so after two years we contacted him and told him he was no longer a member.

  The one thing I told Warren the other night that he got a chuckle from was the time we were going out turkey hunting along the Sand Rock Road. Pap was driving the old Plymouth that we had at the time. Some turkeys, eight or ten in number, flew across the road and landed on the bank. Warren told pap to stop, and we would get one or two of them. Warren and I piled out of the car, guns ready, and when we got to the top of the bank, Warren fell. He rammed his gun barrel into the ground. Needless to say, that hunt was over. We really never did a lot of road hunting.

  On a serious note, however, Warren was a hunter who was hard to keep up with. He did not do any fooling around, but kept going. On some occasions I would take him out to the road leading to Karthus, and then meet him out by the fire tower. It was a distance of about five or six miles. Warren would hunt the entire way from where I dropped him off to the fire tower, and if he saw game and shoot it we would drive out in the evening to get it where he had it hid.

  The stories that I just related happened after I came home from the Army. Times were a little slower then, and we used to take our family members up to the camp in the summer. Once or twice we stayed a couple of days. The times that were spent in Clinton County were not the first hunting experiences that I had. The Hazenstab boys and I went rabbit hunting several times each season and prior to that, I had hunted alone when we lived up on the Harker Hollow farm. My dad never took me with him, because I did not have a gun, but after we moved down to my present home. I visited my grandfather Bowser a lot. Granddad Bowser had a neighbor; the man that dad sold our place to, a Mister Long. This Mr. Long had a sweet little 20 gauge double barrel shotgun, made by Stevenísí Arms, which he would let me use.

  Hunting with the 20 gauge really got me interested in hunting and I pestered my mother until she helped me buy a Bolt action 20 gauge Mossberg shotgun. It was not the same as Mr. Longís gun, but it filled the bill as far as hunting was concerned. This gun was the one I used for several years, hunting with the Hazenstab boys and some others. One day in hunting, we found a ringneck rooster that had been shot or had died of natural causes. We placed it on top of a fence post and left it there. A week or two later, a friend from school wanted to hunt with me. The two of us headed for my favorite field, and soon we came to the ringneck rooster. My friend told me to stop, that he had a good shot and started blasting away at the ringneck. He started to brag about his good marksmanship, but his tune changed when he discovered that the bird had been dead a long time.

  I eventually graduated from the twenty-gauge shotgun; in the next few years acquired a series of different shotguns and rifles. At one time I became a firearms dealer selling various shotguns and rifles and reloading equipment. Dollie did a lot of the "gopher work" for my business, going different places for the things that I needed. There was Millers in Altoona, Swanks Hardware in Johnstown and sometimes we went together to Aurands in Lewistown for new Rifles and scopes. We would travel to Belding and Mull in Phillipsburg for loading equipment. We also sent to Sutcliffes in Louisville, Kentucky. I suppose that my career in the Army had gotten me interested in the love of firearms in my life.