(This is part of the Growing Up In Utah's Dixie series, by LaVarr B. Webb)
Meat was a rare commodity in Dixie during the depression
years of the 1930's, so rabbit and quail hunting
were done out of necessity as much as it was for sport.
Rabbit suppers as a form of entertainment were as popular
as molasses candy pulls.
As one hunted the gullies and sage brush flats around
Virgin, it was always possible to kick up a rabbit or a covey
of quail. I found quail, however, almost impossible to bag
with a 22 rifle. They made very small targets, and were
constantly on the move. Once in a while one would see a
tasseled cock sitting on a rock or a fence post, but he was
very difficult to approach because he was on the high perch
as an observer, a sentinel. He was there for the visual
command that the high perch gave him of all the surrounding
area, and as soon as the hunter began to get within
range, he would hop or glide to the ground, alert his covey,
and all would run in short bursts, fly in short bursts, from
cover to cover until they were well out of sight and range.
Rabbits, though, made larger targets, especially jacks.
They also had the foolish habit of halting, periodically, in
flight, stopping sometimes right out in the open, stopping
to gaze in pop-eyed wonder at the intruding hunter.
Rabbits fell victims to my marksmanship regularly, as
I hunted, generally alone, walking the sage brush flats and
the gullies, skirting the fields and orchards, watching for
the bobbing white puff of the cottontail, or the long legged,
zig zag bounce of the jack.
I received my first twenty-two for Christmas, 1933,
when I was almost twelve years old. The following spring,
sometime in April or May, I was hunting near some fields
just west of the town of Virgin, and just north of the river.
I shot at a rabbit that was between me and one of the
fields. I missed, and the rabbit disappeared into the thick
brush. So, I continued on my way, walking slowly, always
alert for another shot.
About an hour later, I saw Leslie Wilcox, the town
marshal walking toward me. I stopped and waited after I
saw him wave at me. When he came up to me, he said,
"Jiggs," everyone in town, other than my mother, called
me Jiggs, "I'm going to have to take your gun." Of course,
I asked, "Why."
"Because," he said, "You shot Lisha Lee's hat off."
"Oh, no," I cried, 'I haven't been near Lisha Lee's place."
So, he explained that Elisha Lee had been watering
hay in the field near where I had been hunting.
Now Elisha Lee was an old man then. He was a son of
John D. Lee and somewhat of a relation of mine. I say
"somewhat" because John D. Lee had quite a few wives
and many children, and one of his daughters was my great
grandmother and Elisha's half sister.
Elisha, with his long white beard and hair, looked like a
prophet or patriarch, and according to the marshal, I had
shot his hat off! The marshal went on to say, "Lisha," who
was ordinarily very calm, "got real excited and upset when,
suddenly, his hat was blown right off his head."
Elisha had described to the marshal how he heard a
shot, and how his hat went flying, and how when he picked
it up, it had two holes in it - one where the bullet went in,
and the other where the bullet went out.
"Now," Marshal Wilcox added, "Lisha Lee is mad. In
fact, he wants me to arrest you, and you may spend some
time in the county jail. I saw his hat. That bullet missed
the top of his head by about one half of an inch."
I remember that I was very thankful that Lisha wore a
high crowned hat, but that didn't help much because the
marshal still took my gun away from me as he did he
muttered something like "Irresponsible kids shouldn't be
allowed to carry guns."
So, I lost my gun, one of the few things that was
really mine, and one of the few things that I loved. I sat
down on a rock and tried to figure what to do. I had shot
at a rabbit. I hadn't shot at Lisha Lee's hat. Therefore, I
reasoned, it had been an accident, but, I also reasoned,
how do you convince an upset man and a big, rawboned,
stubborn marshal, and, some angry parents, mine, that it
really was an accident. I didn't want to go home. I didn't
want to face Lisha Lee, my parents, or anyone else in town
but I had to, and I did.
To Elisha, I was a menace, to the marshal I was irresponsible,
to my parents, I was a problem, but to the other
kids in town, I was a bit of a hero. They got a big kick out
of knocking each others' hats off and saying, "Jiggs just
put a hole through it."
Oh, yes, a few weeks later, after a lecture, I did get
my gun back.