By Fred Collins
Have you ever been snipe hunting? If you are like people, you are not sure if a snipe is real or fantasy. Most people that have hunted snipe likely come from generations of campers taken by a group of older kids, who gave them a bag to hold open in the dark woods while they left to round them up. Eventually, the snipe hunter figured out that they had been taken deep into the woods in the dark to be deserted. If they did a good job on their “hunt,” they would not be seen until the next day since it would take all night and into daybreak to find their way home.
When I was a nature counselor at a boys’ camp, we took one of our naïve charges on a snipe hunt. The other boys tormented this young man for his weight. I told the boys about a snipe hunt and spun a yarn about the call of the snipe. They could hear them calling in a dark canyon behind the camp area. On the appointed moonless night, we went on the hunt. It was a perfect night with only starlight in the canyon so you could not see your hand in front of your face. We left the boy alone, and the others returned to camp and the safety of their beds. I had actually hidden about 50 feet from the fellow “left holding the bag” to watch over him.
After a few minutes of deep silence, I heard him whimper a bit, stir, call softly for other boys and then go silent. Talking to himself to bolster his courage, he was sure he would soon catch the snipe that was calling ever so close. (The calling bird was actually a Chuck-will’s-widow, but he had been told they were snipe.) He whimpered a bit from time to time, quieted his fear and remained determined to bag the snipe. He demonstrated true grit. After at least 30 minutes alone in the dark, I rescued him.
Perhaps I had oversold the joke as it took some time before he finally understood. But he had conquered fear, and when I told him how scared the other boys had been sneaking away with limited light to the cabin, he began to realize how brave he had been. The counselor who had taken the other boys back reported how worried the boys became and how they thought they would die being out there alone in the dark. When we got back to camp about an hour after the other boys, they welcomed him as a hero and he was no longer a kid to be teased.
The snipe really is a bird — a gamebird that inhabits the prairies around Cypress each winter. The picture above is one I drew many years ago during my snipe hunting days. But the story of real snipe and historic snipe hunters will have to wait until next month. In the meantime, maybe a snipe hunt would be a good Halloween trick.
To learn more about Texas or Cypress history, visit Commissioner Steve Radack’s Cypress Top Historic Park at 26026 Old Hempstead Hwy., open daily from dawn to 7 p.m. The Cypress Historical Society website, cypresshistoricalsociety.com, has more information on the museum buildings, special tours, and on available genealogy and history information. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the society at 281-758-0083.
Historical facts courtesy of Cypress Top Historic Park Collection & Cypress Historical Society: Preserving Cypress History for Posterity.