Friday, December 31, 2010

Hunting Season - By Lee Y. Greene, Jr.

An installment story about my hometown in North Alabama.

Hartselle, Alabama is like most other places of 12,000 or fewer souls in the South. Most everyone is moderate to middle class, as the area prospered only when the Tennessee Valley Authority came in the 1930’s to change our area from an agrarian economy to a service economy. With the advent of the aerospace and defense industries in a nearby county, our hometown evolved into a bedroom community.

Folks live here, but work and spend their day elsewhere. Because of this suburban evolution, we have lost the days of porch sitting and story telling, now that we commute and no longer really know our next door neighbor. That doesn’t mean that funny things don’t happen here, but that fewer connections are available to tell them. This is a story from my hometown:

In the South, the day after Thanksgiving to the end of January is widely known as “hunting season”. In most Alabama counties, this means the time of year when the Alabama Department of Conservation allows white tail deer hunting with a rifle. There are other times of the year when only a bow and arrow can be used. There is even a time of year when a spear can be used. Deer hunting is enjoyed by many hunters in the state, but also vilified by animal rights interests as well. The arguments of managing the state’s deer population to eliminate starvation from limited food resources to animal cruelty are heard around this time of year from each side of the sport.

Needless to say, the hunters outnumber the animal rights folks by a vast margin. Evidence of this was a certain PETA demonstration at a bass fishing tournament on the Tennessee River a few years back that did not go well for the anti-fishing protesters. The protest group greatly underestimated the number and strength of the bass fishing sympathizers. They also did not think about the revenue to the locals from the tournament event, so the PETA folks had to be escorted out of town, for their safety.

There is no hunting season, however, for animals considered a nuisance or vermin. One of these, coyotes, is an invasive species that have migrated to our state. There is no closed season and no bag limit for hunting them. You apparently can hunt them in daylight hours and in certain times with dogs. Coyotes prey on small animals and are a nuisance in urban fringes of habitation.

One of our Hartselle residents, named Bill, had enough of coyotes in his neighborhood. He lives in a residential subdivision of nice homes and covenants to protect the neighborhood. None of the covenants protect the neighbors from him, unfortunately. Bill has a dog that he likes very much. He takes his dog walking around his block in the Paradise View Subdivision every day. Bill also says what he means and does not hold back in giving his opinions. One day while walking around with his dog, it barked at lady walking around the block opposite of Bill. The dog took an aggressive stance toward the woman who then told Bill to get the dog “put down” if he was that aggressive. Bill then told her that the dog only barked at fat women and that she should lose a few pounds. It turned out that the lady was a friend of Bills’ wife, so after an ugly homecoming from his walk, an apology was made and Bill was in trouble for a while.

About that time, Bill started noticing coyotes in his yard in the evenings. Bill’s yard borders a deep canyon with a wooded area. This area is a habitat for all sorts of animals, but Bill did not like the coyotes because they threatened the neighbors’ dogs and cats. He wanted to know how to get rid of them, so he called a pest control service in Massey, AL that specializes in varmint removal. Thy told him that they could put out traps and humanely relocate the coyotes to another place, but there was a chance they would come back, as they are apparently territorial. Bill also learned that they charged $400 to perform this task, so he politely declined.
Bill came up with another idea, one that cost a fraction of the price and would solve his problem permanently. He went to Lacon, AL to the infamous Trade Day bazaar and bought four chickens and a wire coop from a Spanish-speaking vendor. He went back home and tied a string around the chickens in his back yard to use as bait for the coyotes. He then loaded his .22 rifle and sat in his backyard gazebo to wait for darkness to fall. At this point it is probably relevant to mention that some single malt Scotch was involved in this process.

As all of this preparation spelled impending disaster, the coyotes never appeared to take the bait. More than the intelligence of the coyotes, Bill probably fell asleep in the gazebo and his snoring scared them off. After a few days, Bill’s wife and the neighbors wanted to know why there were chickens tied to the ground in Bill’s backyard. Bill revealed the details of his plan and was told to get rid of the chickens and not to do this again, or his permanent home would be the backyard gazebo. The neighbors had a quickly summoned meeting and decided to pay to have the pest control folks remove the coyotes. They also passed some stringent rules against their neighbor, Bill. The amendment had something about firearms in the city and such. In defiance of his neighbors, Bill let the chickens go and roam free in the neighborhood. The “gazebo hunting” plan was only a few weeks ago, and to this day, there are still chickens running around in that subdivision.