There are few activities which define the “us vs. them” aspect of life in Appalachia as well as snipe hunting.
I was about eight years old when my father and grandfather, both Appalachian farmers and coal miners, convinced my mother’s city-slicker cousin that snipe season had just begun and that they wanted him to bag one.
“But what is a snipe?” he curiously inquired.
“Oh, son, you’ll know when we chase it to you,” replied granddad.
The entire afternoon, my dad and grandfather talked up the big hunt, to the point that I wanted nothing less than to go myself, still unawares of what was really in the works.
“What kind of gun should I use?” asked my poor cousin, whose net worth was about five times that of my dad and grandfather’s combined; yet whose understanding of all things country was extraordinarily thin.
“Did you hear that, he wants to use a gun,” laughed my dad.
“You don’t use no gun when you’re snipe hunting. We ain’t kill’n ’em, we’re catching ’em — you’ll use a pillowcase,” responded granddad.
That evening, we all four piled into my father’s black Dodge Ram pickup truck — back when those trucks were still affordable and driven by the common man — and headed “up the holler”.
When we arrived on “the back side” of the holler, dad and granddad hand my mother’s cousin a flashlight and a pillowcase and tell him that we would be going around the other side of the hill and would chase some snipes to him and that if he would “hawk” like a bird they’d come right to him.
Excited, my mother’s cousin readily jumped from the truck and took his position and soon, we were gone.
My dad and grandfather laughing hysterically all the way home and to their waiting beds.
Early the next morning, they went back where the poor soul was in the same position still awaiting the snipes.
“Did you see any?” they asked.
“I don’t think I did,” he answered.
“Well, sometimes when you’re snipe hunting you’ll have nights like this — hop in the truck and we’ll go home,” said Dad.
To this day, I do not believe my mother’s cousin ever figured out that he had been duped by the oldest trick in the country book!
Interestingly, I was surprised to recently learn that “snipes” are actually a real bird whose habitat may be found in Asia, Europe and the outlying area around New Zealand… so going snipe hunting is not entirely an impossibility!
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