Smith And Wesson Forums banner

1 - 6 of 6 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
17,977 Posts
Discussion Starter #1

by Jim Casada | Feb 14, 2021 | HUNTING
Grandma Was a Squirrel Hunting Fool


It’s not every fellow who can say he grew up under the tutelage of an extraordinary grandma who was a squirrel hunting fool.
As a youngster, I was fortunate to spend considerable time around both of my grandmothers. Each, in her own way, was a genuine character. They shared a fair amount in common. Both had weathered the hard times of the Depression and certainly knew the concept of “make do with what you’ve got,” and what they had wasn’t much. Both were diminutive, hardworking, resilient, tough as seasoned hickory and unchallenged matriarchs of their respective domains.
My paternal grandmother, Minnie, and her husband raised nine children on little more than gumption, a few acres of hardscrabble mountain farmland and indomitable wills. From her earliest memory her life had been one fraught with more than a fair share of trouble, because she was raised in bondage. Most folks think slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, and to a degree that was true. But if you look at census records well afterwards, you will see the cryptic notation beside a person’s name: “Bound.” That was the status of my Grandma Minnie as a child, and she wasn’t even born until 1885, a full generation after slavery became illegal. Still, she was equal to seemingly anything life threw her way. On one occasion a copperhead dropped out of the rafters of her home into a dish pan. She dispatched the snake with a stick of stove wood. Another time she chopped a rattlesnake into pieces with a hoe as it neared a crawling child. She had a 300-pound temper in a 90-pound body and a tongue so sharp it could have flayed the hide off a razorback hog. Her cooking skills were remarkable, and she could work wonders with wild game. To my knowledge, however, she never hunted.
squirrel hunting grandma

Grandma Ledford, the “squirrel hunting fool”

It was my maternal grandmother who was a hunter. In particular, Grandmother Ledford (we never called her by her first name, Nettie) enjoyed squirrel hunting. That was the product of them being plentiful and ammunition being cheap (.22 long rifle shells sold for a penny apiece and cost even less if you bought them in large quantities). She was tight as a miser’s purse and maybe that was one underlying factor in her marksmanship. At any rate, she didn’t want the word “miss” in her shooting vocabulary.

I have no idea when she began squirrel hunting, although it was long before I was born. Chances are she started during her girlhood growing up in Clay County, North Carolina. Bushytails were incredibly abundant then, thanks to vast groves of American chestnuts gracing the area’s steep hills and deep hollows. For decades hunting squirrels was, at least in that area and over much of the eastern United States, the most popular of all shooting sports. Of course it was reserved primarily for males. That didn’t bother Grandma because she was never one for letting tradition or social barriers stand in her way. In later years she drove a sleek Hudson Hornet with a verve which netted her numerous speeding tickets, and Lord help the poor soul who got on her wrong side for some real or perceived piece of misbehavior.

Whatever the exact nature of her squirrel hunting apprenticeship, Grandma Ledford had mastered the sport long before my birth. She adamantly insisted that the only suitable shot placement was in the squirrel’s neck. That way no meat was damaged and the head was left intact. Where I grew up, squirrel brains were considered a delicacy, and damaging the head was almost as unacceptable as a shot through the hams.

As far back as my memory stretches, probably to pre-school age, I recall tales of her squirrel hunting prowess. She took to the woods at every opportunity and during the autumn and winter months, squirrel and dumplings, fried squirrel or squirrel stew regularly graced her table. I remember asking Grandpa Ledford about his spouse’s unusual love of squirrel hunting (he had heart problems and seldom accompanied her afield). He just smiled, shook his head in a bemused fashion, and said: “Well, your Grandma, she’s just a squirrel hunting fool. Always has been and I reckon always will be.”

Beyond pure passion for the hunt and the intense practicality associated with food on the table when victuals were scarce, Grandma absolutely loved the taste of squirrel meat. More than once, when she was dining on fried squirrel, milk gravy made from the drippings, baked sweet potatoes, cathead biscuits and maybe a bowl of turnip greens, she would comment: “A body couldn’t ask for anything finer.”

The deeper truth of the matter is that Grandma loved to be in the woods. There she escaped the burdens of daily life and could enjoy the splendor of solitude. She took pride in her woodscraft and opined “I’m about as much at home in the woods as any man in these parts.” Few would have argued with her.

Her husband died decades before Grandma Ledford, and from that point on if anything squirrel hunting loomed larger in her life. She continued to venture afield, almost always alone, until well into her eighties. Even after the toll of years and a life filled with hard work mitigated against being in the woods, she continued to fish and loved to talk about the good old days and some of her more memorable hunts.

Grandma’s health gradually failed in her nineties. In particular, she seemed to lose her appetite. One day I was visiting my parents and brought home a mess of squirrels. In a moment of inspiration, Momma said: “I bet your Grandma would eat it if I cooked up some squirrel for her.” She stewed the squirrels until they were so tender the meat easily pulled from the bones, then picked it off and mixed it with milk gravy. Grandma ate like nobody’s business and then asked for seconds.

From that day forth until her death, the surest was to get her to eat was to offer up a meal of squirrel and gravy or squirrel and dumplings. Whenever I visited in season she not only feasted but also insisted on knowing about my latest “doings” in the squirrel woods. Periodically she would say: “Squirrel hunting was always a big part of my life, and in my prime I reckon I could hold my own with any man in the mountains when it came to bringing home a bunch of bushytails.” She spoke nothing more that the unvarnished truth.

As she moved into her final months then days, I realized I had been blessed with a grandmother who was in one way at least an extraordinary woman. After all, it’s not every fellow who can say he grew up under the tutelage of a grandma who was a squirrel hunting fool.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
166 Posts
I think we have a lot in common.

A while back I typed this up in response to an article about a woman movie director who was replacing REAL MEN in older big time movies. I can't remember the exact names of the movies. But they were all cowboy type western and WW2 war movies. Red River, maybe To Hell and Back. Movies similar to those. But here it is...

Originally Posted by Victor N TN
When I hear what she has tried to do, replace male movie heroes with women, I really can't figure out why. Like others have said before, there were a LOT of women busy raising children, keeping the house, hoeing the garden and being a domestic kind of woman.

While my grandpa was gone and in Europe during WW1, his wife was home in the mountains keeping everything going forward on HER home front. Trying to beat a living out of 85 acres of rock and hillside and take care of her older children, who were the only ones at that time. She ran a black bear out of the herb garden with a broom. Filling the kerosene lamps / lanterns and cutting wood for the cook stove were her responsibility as well. She hunted small game with a 22 single shot rifle. And she kept everything going forward for him and the family until he returned.

She was NOT Wonder Woman. She was the NORM for the day, in her time. Other women were doing much the same things that she did. And she was STILL a woman. She raised 9 kids. And they were married until Grandpa died at 70. She lived to 93. She never remarried. She never wanted to be a man. To do man's work all day every day was not what she wanted. But she did what she had to do at the time to take care of her family.

And I'm eternally grateful that she did.



Agreed, they were the real 'Wonder Women' of the day. These were the women who raised us - all were strong, independent and wise. It was a team effort to raise a family, while the men fought the wars, and later on, worked to feed the family.



 

·
Registered
Joined
·
17,977 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
My maternal grandmother was born and raised in Scotland. While the family had money and house staff she still had to learn and then dispatch rabbits from the hutch, go "ratting" in the barn, etc. For her to get her driver's license she had to actually change a tire by the roadside - no AAA in those days. I have her notebooks from her college courses in home economics and you're right, what they had to do when the men weren't there all day was amazing. her notes on how to mend anything with samples in the book, how to budget and manage staff and what to pay; how to cook certain foods, proper etiquette for dinner parties, etc. Strong women because they had to be..........
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
34,033 Posts
Fried chicken of the trees is great!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1 Posts
Your story is inspiring. You're very lucky to have a grandmother like that. I had a great-grandmother, too, but she didn't hunt squirrels.
Now I have to hunt squirrels sometimes because they have decided that they have a right to my fruit trees. The apples on the trees do not have time to grow, as the squirrels eat them. Hunting them helped, but not for long. Then I ordered on https://tulsa.aaacwildliferemoval.com/squirrel-removal the service of removing nasty squirrels. As it turned out, this is very convenient. Without my slightest involvement and hassle, the squirrels were removed and my apple trees were saved.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
16,608 Posts
Fried chicken of the trees is great!
Certainly is. Jimmy and I hunt tree rats all the time. Jimmy is one of the group I hunt with and Jimmy males the best squirrel stew around. Here in Michigan you can have 10 per hunter in possession with a bag limit of 5 per day.

Jimmy uses a 410 and I use my 10-22. Sit in the oak woods and pop 'em.

10 makes a good pot of stew, especially the plump ones.... (y)
 
1 - 6 of 6 Posts
Top