My father-in-law, Bill bought a large piece of property with his best friend, William. This about 600 acres on the Aransas River. The nearest town was a small place called Bonnie View, and so that's what we named the property.
The Aransas River took a turn toward the bay at this point, so the property had more than its share of river frontage. Bill had bought the property as an investment, and so it was "for sale" as soon as they purchased it. In the meantime, this was a great place for a family with two boys to visit and explore.
The property was just across the river from the Welder Wildlife Refuge, so there was no shortage of animal life. I took a friend to visit the property once, and he noticed something I had not. This was the first time my city dwelling friend had ever looked around and not been able to see a utility pole.
This was a good place to hunt deer, wild hogs, turkey and dove. I have tried my hand at deer hunting exactly two times. The first time we went to Bonnie View as a family. My father and his wife had pulled their travel trailer from Arizona to visit and to go hunting with me. He loved to camp, and had never had the chance to take me on a hunt. My father had hunted all of his life, beginning during the depression on his family farm in Iowa. Back then, hunting was necessary to keep the family supplied in meat. Later, he hunted for the sport of it. He had brought his rifle and scope to give to me, since he knew he'd had his last hunt. We slept in a tent, and they stayed in the trailer. The camping out was great fun.
We got up early the next morning and trudged off to our deer blinds. Jason and John went off to a deer blind that was on one end of the property. I remembered seeing a deer blind on the other end. I took my elderly father to that spot.
After a lifetime of smoking cigarettes, my father who was nearing 70, had COPD. He carried oxygen with him wherever he went. He had a small pack that he strapped over his shoulder or around his waist, and he could pretty much go wherever he wanted, as long as his tank didn't run empty.
So, off the two of us went. Me carrying the rifle and scope that my dad had taken on many hunting trips, and him carrying his oxygen. We walked, and walked, and walked some more. The blind was a little further away than I had remembered. I had not bothered to check on it the day before, so I was relying on old memory. When we finally arrived, the blind was gone! The blind had been put on the property by one of Bill's friends. Apparently the friend had decided to take it down and move it to a new location.
Well, that was really OK with me. I wasn't real sure that I wanted to shoot anything that day, anyway. It was nice just to be out there with my dad. So, we turned around and started back. We were about half-way back to the camp site when I spotted a family of wild hogs crossing the road. It looked like there were four adults and a half-dozen piglets.
All I could think of was that horrible scene from the book "Old Yeller." There were a few small shrub oak around, but noting that could get us above charging wild hogs with 3' long razor sharp tusks! Besides, my dad couldn't climb a tree with his oxygen tank. The rifle was a single shot. I couldn't be sure that if I shot one hog, the rest would get scared and run away. They might just get mad and charge, instead. I might have time to reload and shoot two more hogs, if I were quick and accurate. But then the rest of the hogs would be on top of us. There's that awful scene from Old Yeller again.
So, we froze. And we waited.
And the hogs crossed the road, totally ignoring us! Whew.
My second time to go deer hunting was a trip I made with just Jason. We were at the property before dawn, and we each climbed into a different deer blind. And then we waited.
It was cold that morning as the sun turned the darkness to grey, and then brightened everything around us. I looked into the clearing in front of me, watching for a deer to walk across my line of site, holding my father’s rifle at the ready. As the dawn emerged on the South Texas brush country, new ideas were dawning in me. If I did actually see a deer, I was pretty sure I would be able to shoot it, even though it would be the largest animal I had ever shot. However, there was just a bit of doubt. Did I really want to kill an animal? Hogs, snakes and predators would be no problem, but a deer? And the other concern: Once I shot the deer, then what? I knew nothing about gutting and skinning animals. Doing the initial butchering to get them ready for the final job at the butcher’s shop would be a messy job. A job I knew I wouldn’t like.
I was relieved that morning that I didn’t have to make that decision. No deer was seen by either of us that day. And I was able to make the decision that I am not a deer hunter. I told this to Jason as I handed him my father’s deer rifle, letting it skip a generation as the rifle moved into the hands of a young man with more appreciation of its purpose than I had.
The first time we went to see Bonnie View, we went as a family. Kathy and our sons and Kathy’s sister and her husband made the 45 minute drive to check out this new piece of property. There was a slough that collected run – off from the property and ran into the river. It was stagnant water most of the year. We had driven to the slough at the farthest end of the property. Everyone got out and started exploring. Kathy and her sister stood at the fork, watching the river and visiting. All of us guys headed off to see how far inland the slough ran.
The boys and their uncle go interested in looking at things around the slough, and I walked back to where Kathy and sister were. Kathy got the idea that she would like to play a little trick on the boys. There was a small log floating just off shore. She thought it looked a little like an alligator. So she thought she would scare the boys and tell them there was an alligator in the water.
The boys returned and Kathy launched into her little deceit, pointing to the log, trying to convince them that it was an alligator. Kathy was really convincing, because, as we all watched it looked like a pair of eyes and snout were emerging from the water. Sometimes Karma doesn’t take long to boomerang back. This log really was a young alligator. He was about four or five feet long.
I had my rod and reel in the back of the truck. I grabbed it and stuck a plastic frog on the end of the line. I was curious to see what the alligator would do with the frog. Would it chase it? Or just ignore it?
He was patient, and ignored my frog the first time I cast it out to him. The second time, he got a bit annoyed with me, and snapped at the frog. There was no chasing. It happened that quickly! One snap and I had caught the alligator. He went under water, and tried to get away, but I kept hold of the line and started to reel him in. It was hard at first, and then it got easy.
That alligator resurfaced and was staring at me as I reeled him in. Everyone started heading for their vehicles. And I began to realize that there just might a down-side to catching an 8 foot alligator. Did he seem a bit bigger now than when I started?
We did eventually let Katie come with us, but that’s a story for next time.