21 February 2008

Getting Rid of the Chicken Hawk in the 1930s Sandhills

By James Ed. Ducey, with Jack Sampson

During the dry days of dust-bowl times in the western sand hills, Jack Sampson was a teen in Ashby, with parents Mr. and Mrs. J.E. Sampson and a sister. The village of a few hundred was along the busy railway and Highway 2 to Alliance. The slightly-grassy sandhills to the south and north were filled with homesteader families staking a land claim.

[Sampson sketch of Monday Wash Day]

Monday Wash Day. - Done by hand - carrying in the water then carrying out the water. Used homemade soap, a wash board and a copper boiler on the range, with cowchip fuel to heat the water. Sketches by Jack Sampson, used with permission.

There was a national depression as well as drought. The only source of cash income may have been a slight crop of cream and eggs, carefully taken by team and wagon to Ashby from the country homestead.

Sampson recalls going to the Oscar Sutter homestead in the early 1930s, about ten miles north along the road from Ashby, near the Sampson Flats and Old Baldy Peak country, west of Mother Lake in Cherry county.

"Meager income provided the bare essentials such as flour, sugar, and 22-shells. During the trip back to the homestead, usually some game came along and meant food for the table that included plenty of grouse, prairie chicken, cotton-tail rabbits, nesting ducks. There were always a few rattle snakes to shoot in the head for sport, or a possible shot at a coyote in good range.
"Oscar was an expert shot. Many times I saw him raise a covey of grouse, and with two shots from his small Winchester pump 22, would down two grouse. Times were tough. I don't remember such as hunting or fishing licenses, or if there were game wardens?

At that time his father, John Sampson, a.k.a. "Old Jack," - a carpenter and painter craftsman - and his father, Lewis Sampson - a.k.a. deputy sheriff - "were expert duck shots" with a shotgun. Scattered remnant lakes and wetlands in the deep hollows of the hills, were prime places to pursue a variety of fat wild fowl, useful anytime for a supper.

"The limit in the fall season - with thousands of ducks going through the sand hill lakes - was 25 ducks. A morning hunt for them was each a limit. These ducks were picked, feathers for pillows and feather mattresses, some given to neighbors. When I was 8 years old I went with them for ducks. I had my own shotgun. Oscar had a slenne, though I think that might have been illegal. I helped him get a supply of bullhead fish that we placed in cream cans of water that were taken home to place in a stock tank to be used when wanted.
[Sampson sketch of the errant chicken-hawk]

The Chicken Hawk. Loaded gun always ready above the kitchen door. (1996)

"Oscar's 22 Winchester sat on two nails over the kitchen door - for immediate use when the chickens let it be known there was a hawk. If who ever was present - one had only to reach over the door for the gun. All members of the family were experts with a rifle. Their chickens were valuable for the eggs they produced, as well as eggs and fried chicken, besides, shooting a hawk was not only serious, but sport as well, and excitement for awhile. There was no radio nor t.v. in those days.

When an errant hawk was troubling the chickens, there was an immediate response. Get the gun and get rid of the birdly threat. The scene is vividly depicted in the sketch by the Sampson - the Sandhills Draughtsman - as part of his "Women of the '30s" series, which, with other drawings which uniquely depict an era in the sand hills.

Sampson sketch - Fun in the 1930s Sandhills]

Fun in the 1930s. Conte pencil and pastel, 2000.

No comments:

Post a Comment