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Woodland Archery
Part 6 of 6

"Saw a yellow-billed cuckoo carrying an egg in its mouth. Followed it for some time. Had forgotten to bring glass with me from tent, so couldn't tell whether or not the egg was cuckoo's own. Tried to make it drop egg. Shot at it twice, but it got away, egg and all, saw this same thing once years ago."

An experience worth recording. Coming home at noon, bow in hand and looking for something to shoot at, saw a little fluffy tuft at the foot of a wisp of woods edge. ‘Supposing that wad were a hare,' I said, idly speaking to myself, ‘wonder if I could hit it.' Thereupon I drew up and let drive. Thump, the arrow-head struck in the very middle of the fluff, and out leaped an old wood-hare sure enough! A curious accident had saved him; for my shaft had hit a warped-up oak-root behind which the hare had scooped out his form.

"Have had some great shooting, the Judge trailing at my heels with audible observations upon my skill, One shot tickled him mightily. A young graysquirrel thrust its head forth from behind a tree's body thirty feet up and good forty yards distant. I settled myself well and drew for a careful aim. ‘Bet you four dollars you don't hit it!' said the Judge in a whisper that went through the wood like a breeze. I kept my nerve, measured the distance carefully while I drew, and hit center, knocking the squirrel a rod beyond. "The mystery of bird migration will probably never be solved. Last night I heard woodcock voices, and ran out of my tent to look up and see a flight of perhaps a hundred of the birds not very far above the trees. They were going northwestward in a straggling body, to drop down, perhaps in Indiana or Illinois.

"During my stay in the tan-bark tent I saw but one pair of mocking-birds. I am not sure whether they were residents, or migrants just arrived. At all events they were fixing upon a meeting-place before I left, and the male was singing vigorously. Catbirds, brown thrushes, great-crested flycatchers, vireos, nuthatches, cardinal grosbeaks, and blue jays were most plentiful close around the tent, and almost every morning a pair of beautiful flickers were hopping about not far from my door, pecking in the ground for grubs, worms and larvæ. This is a singular habit of the golden wing, more like the feeding of the woodcock than like a woodpecker's way of getting food. The bird thrusts its beak into the ground up to its eyes, and uses its dagger-like tongue to spear its prey.

And here is a note from which it maybe possible to catch the fragrance of spring as it sometimes falls upon a favored spot in the Georgia mountains:
    "Have been trying to think of phrasing with which to fix in this pocket-book the odors, pungencies and fragrances that load the air at certain times here. It is a rare thing, this opening of Nature's box of original sweets. The poets tell us about it, as if it were done every day of spring and summer; but I seldom get the full waft. This morning, just after I had bathed in the brook, it struck my nostrils, first with a dash of sassafras, then came a sappy perfume indescribably sweet. I spread my naked chest and drew in a deep breath of it, which, as my senses assimilated it, dissolved and separated into many vague and delicately delicious strains of pungent and odorous freshness. Spicy thrills, fleeting hints of ravishing bittersweets and a breath of bursting buds were mingled with the sugary balm smell from young leaves treacled with honeydew. It was not a strong, over-distinct puff of odors, but rather broken and imperfectly outlined; its captivating power lay in its elusiveness, and, its duration being but momentary, it was a memory almost from the beginning. Yet how incomparably sweet!

"I have never been troubled with insomnia. When I need sleep I take it. There is, however, as much difference between slumbers as between wines. The refreshment of a dreamless night's sleep on a leaf bed under a bark tent in the forest cannot be described. You wake up at day-crack stimulated, clarified, gladdened, having an appetite upon which a handbreadth of broiled ham and an ashy potato sacrifice themselves precipitately. I am an inveterate coffee-drinker when at home in town; but the brown tipple rarely follows me into camp. Morning does not need any help out in the wild woods; it exhilarates me beyond the best effect of coffee, and my breakfast, no matter how simple, is a gustatory delight. Tramping and archery account for the best part of it. The joy of wasting tissue is followed by that of building it up again. Exercise, amusement, eating and sleep—these are the four elements of out-door life. Nay, there are five. Pure, free air is, perhaps, the best of all. Taken together, they bring a sense of freedom which to me is intoxicating. When I said this to the Judge he looked at me for a moment, and then, "It's malaria," he grimly remarked; "you'll want quinine next week." But when next week came I was in my study, hard at work, with a woodsy freshness still bubbling in my veins.