Hunting on Tanglefoot

TANGLEFOOT         Chapter three

” Three!, three! , Yes !, Do I have four! Give me four! Going once, Going twice … Sold! The man in the blue hat gets the axe handle. Now what’s my bid on this old skillet? Who will give me two dollars for this used and abused old frying pan?”

Here I am, bored out of my mind. Dad and Mother are Saturday farm auction freaks. They seem to enjoy buying someone else’s junk while I set on this hard old wagon seat collecting sand in my teeth. Old people sure have strange ways of enjoying themselves. Dad gets a big thrill out of irrigating during the mosquito hatch. Oh well, part of the reason I’m here is my fault, I guess. A month ago, my parents left me at the house while they went to an auction.  They got back just about the same time the ambulance was leaving…

It started out simple enough.  My parents were gone nearly ten minutes when I decided to go hunting up the canyon on Tanglefoot. Tanglefoot is a strong young stallion that needs to be ridden a lot and to have new experiences. It still amazes me that Mr. Schuster gave him to me just before he died. I am full of pride when people, especially Dad, brag on him . ” Look at how long and tall that horse is, look at those powerful hindquarters. What a dandy.” I am still getting used to his power,  I just about have him figured out. and he doesn’t run away with me like he used to.

Tanglefoot is a sucker for grain, so he is easy to catch with a bucket of grain and a halter. He is so tall that I still need to stand on a straw bale to throw the saddle on, but at least he didn’t bite me this time.

In the house, I got a jug of water and then unlocked the gun cabinet. Instead of taking my .22, I felt the need to borrow Dad’s antique .410 shotgun with the dark cherry stock. The last time I asked to use it , Mother asked if I had lost my mind. That convinced me not to ask Dad. So, at this point, I promised myself that I would be careful with it.

Tanglefoot was pretty spooky when I got on with a shotgun in my hand. He shied away from it until I spurred him ahead. He nearly jumped out from under me. We left the corral at a vicious trot, I had one hand on the saddle horn and the other holding the shotgun out away from Tanglefoot’s head.

Tanglefoot and I played Davy Crockett for a while. I held the shotgun across the saddle and Tanglefoot pivoted his ears around listening for trouble. We chased a jackrabbit for a few minutes before it dawned on us that we were over-matched. That rabbit was way too good for us.

Then, the darndest thing happened, a flock of wild turkeys ran out of the sagebrush and up under some red cedar trees. Tanglefoot was as impressed as I was, he pointed his ears and snorted in surprise. Now, how often did Davy Crockett pass up fresh turkey? I popped open the shotgun and quietly  slipped in the single shot. When I looked up, the turkeys were sneaking  out through the trees. It was destiny, I aimed at a big tom and pulled the trigger. It was a blur as to what happened the next few minutes. Tanglefoot  started bucking and jumping while I flailed the shotgun  in my hand. Tanglefoot’s neck came back as my head went forward and the blow knocked the crud out of me. I tumbled off backward and lit square on my back.. Dad’s gun landed safely, there was only a dent in the wood where it smacked a rock.

I lifted my head to see if Tanglefoot had left the country. He was spraddle-legged like one of those pointing dogs, eyes and ears focused on something in the brush. I gathered Tanglefoot quickly and looked over to see what he was looking at. Feathers were everywhere as if the turkeys had all shed their feathers and were flapping up some mountain bare-naked. Hanging against the base of a tree lay a turkey. Looking him over I saw just a bit of blood at the top of his head. I must have barely hit him with the shotgun blast. Well, I knew that Dad would be mighty proud of his supper-getting son.

Tanglefoot  wasn’t too sure about me tying the turkey to the back of the saddle. He danced around not entirely sure this was the best use of his time. The turkey’s head  hung real low on Tanglefoot’s side. I grabbed the gun and piled on. Tanglefoot crow-hopped a time or two, but we were headed for home just the same.

The road home had not gone far when the turkey screeched and began flapping and flopping. Thinking about it later, I surmised that the turkey knocked itself out flying into the tree and awoke travelling upside down on a strange conveyance, but now he was alive and raising all kinds of how-do-you-do . With wing feathers slapping Tanglefoot’s  flanks, he took off bucking and jumping. It did not help  that much when grabbing for the saddle horn, I smacked Tanglefoot in the ear with Dad’s antique gun.

There was a short period of time when I thought I could ride this turkey- powered bronc. We came out of the trees onto Mr. Thompson’s irrigated field. You should have seen Mr. Thompson’s face as we snorted and screamed past his tractor. I don’t know whether his surprised look came from seeing the turkey machine or that I had lost one of the reins to the turkey machine. Dead ahead was the corral, the barn, and the large manure pile that sits behind every upstanding barn. The lights went out when Tanglefoot turned and I didn’t.

Somewhere through the haze. I could hear Mr. Thompson  ask, “You O.K., Son?”

“How’s Tanglefoot?”, I whispered aloud.

” He’s fine.” Mr. Thompson said looking me over.

” And Dad’s gun?”, I asked feebly blinking at my exact location in the fresh manure pile.

Mr. Thompson had a habit of shaking his head and making a clicking sound with his mouth when when things were going bad. In this case, it meant, ” you’re dead meat, Davy.”

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