Mason County News
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At the Top of Erna Hill
Wednesday, November 9, 2011 • Posted November 9, 2011

Here we are in November, which back in the 1940’s meant the opening of hunting season on the 16 th and closing on December 31st and was a big event (most schools let out opening day), even though, almost any local opened the season when the opportunity arose to bag the big ‘un or that is, up till the time I entered the military in ’51. I was never very interested in hunting, or fishing, but I had a brother, Cub, who made up for my shortcomings.Nita and I sold our business in Houston in 1990 and returned to my grandfather’s old home place near Erna in ’91 to renew our country living experiences. When I left in the fifties, day hunting was going for 5 to 10 dollars a day, but after our arrival back here, I was sorry that I had not followed the hunting vocation as the Labor Day weekend was the start of the hustle, as the highway was full of $ 50,000 pickups pulling tandem trailers full of $ 10,000 4 wheelers and leases were going for $10 per acre. And the landowners think it’s worth every penny.I had two first cousins locally and a brother, Cub, to serve in WW 2. Cousin, Charles Hight volunteered for the Navy in ’42 and made a career of the military. Cousin T. C. Hight volunteered for the military in ’42 and was placed in the Army Air Corp and trained as a gunner on board a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber and was sent to England where he joined a bomber group. The B-17 was called a flying fortress due to the fact that it had four twin mounted 50 caliber machine guns placed fore, aft, top and bottom of the plane. T. C. became top turret gunner and plane engineer and flew 52 missions without receiving a disabling injury. Cub was drafted into the Army in ’42 and was stationed in Alaska for 2 years and later transferred to a training facality in Jacksonville, Florida. The fall of ’45 saw the end of WW 2 and Cub and T. C. were mustered out of the service and as a celebration for the two returnees, our family, the Jesse Hights and T. C’s family, the Oliver Hights, leased the Watters Ranch west of London for the hunting season. Cub nor T. C. were not wed at that time so the two of them spent almost the whole season on the lease except for the Saturday night’s London Hall brawl. Back in the forties, camping amenities were non-existent, however, we did have a cook tent, which housed the staple vitals. The cooking was done over the wood fires (did not have to worry about the grass-the goats an sheep took care of that) by the means of frying pans and Dutch ovens and the fire was the only means of heat and light. Did have coal oil lanterns which made very little light.The bill of fare was usually fried salt pork, water biscuits, cow butter and home made preserves. In order to be able to eat the salt pork, it had to be boiled in the frying pan for about 10 minutes and then drain off the water and fry. After the bacon was cooked, most of the grease was poured off and re heated and then sugar cane molasses were poured into the hot grease and was used as a sop. Of course, after camp meat was made available, the menu changed to water biscuits, fried potatoes, cream gravy and fried venison.Cooking was a chore but it seems that dishwashing was such that no one cared about the job. Therefore, after every meal, especially on weekends, a game called pitch was played and was the best two out of three. The losers had to wash dishes for that meal. Never had volunteers for the chore. I was a junior in hi school in’45 so I didn’t get to camp but about three weekends for the season. The men only spent the nights on the lease and the sleeping arrangements was all together side by side on cots, etc., with individual covers and then a wagon sheet was pulled over the lot to keep moisture away from the covers. I did this a couple of times and it was very refreshing climbing out early on a cold morn. And there was no such thing as hunting blinds and delivery in a heated vehicle was not heard of. Everyone walked to the area where he was to hunt and he walked, stood and listened and never go out of his area till time to return to camp.I must explain the hunting laws of the ‘40s. There was absolutely no killing of a DOE. Only two bucks were allowed and the head had to have three points or more to be legal. Did not have tags to worry about. Reported the kills to the landowner and he took care of the rest. T. C. killed his big buck during an afternoon hunt and was dark getting to camp and hung it up to drain. Of course, the talk at supper was the about the big one. Next day, after the morning hunt, the more experienced hunters examined the “big buck” that T. C. had hanging in a live oak draining, and they discovered that there were only two points that were legal and the deer was only a spiker. So, T. C. cut the head off and hauled away from camp. The others got busy cutting up the deer into small lots (as if that was a huge task-deer probably weighed 20 pounds field dressed.). The camp was made ready for a visit from a game warder, who never came by the way. His name was Swanson and he had about five counties to cover. It so happened the big one was all that T. C. killed so he began to work on the third point. In order for a point to be legal, it had to extend out from the main prong far enough to hang a ring on. He got his pocket knife and a rat tail file and went work and by 12-31, he had created a third point from a nub near the base of one horn and by being careful, he could hang a ring on it With a smear of blood over the carving, it looked good to go. Others made kills but I managed to evade having the problem of cleaning a deer, since I failed to make a kill. I think I was hunting with my great Uncle John Woodward’s rifle, which was a 30-40 Kreag. The muzzle velocity was so low that if a deer had quick reflexes, he could get out of the way of the bullet. Rifles were in short supply at that time and almost everyone borrowed a gun or passed them around as needed. Now, everyone has a collection of weapons of all descriptions, Even me and I don’t hunt. (Unless it is very convenient.) Deer were not very plentiful in those days and good hunting skills were required or just plain luck, as in my case. One cousin, whose husband, Irvin, hunted on a weekend when Pearl would let him off the farm, brought his 17 year old daughter and her friend to the lease to hunt on a Saturday afternoon. So, he was told by the masters at camp where he could go for the best results, so they took off early and went to the west side of the pasture and sat on the ground in a clump of brush. After about two hours, a large deer appeared about 200 yards away walking thru the shin oak brush and each one got to counting points on the deer. After observing about 30 minutes, each one decided that the buck must have at least 10 points, so Irvin lowered the boom. All three ran to the spot where they had last seen the deer and as they came around a clump of sinnery, there that big deer lay. However, from the time they shot the deer and the time they arrived to claim the prize, that deer had shed every horn on its head. A big DOE, or it looked big in the wild. They took off and left the deer thinking that the game warden, Swanson, would be on their trail any minute.Life became complicated after this hunting experience and we never got together for a hunt since. Of course, Cub and T. C. used the “long pasture” quite often for a few years. Their hunting experiences will come at a later date.

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