By Donald Ketzler
My brother, Walter, was the outdoorsman in our family when it came to hunting and fishing. I joined in fishing sometimes but only in the role of the kid brother tagging along.
Walter had a friend, Delbert McMahon who lived on Old Road. Delbert had a dory that he kept on the bank of an inlet to the river. We got there by walking past the baseball field towards the river until we came to a creek that led into the river.
The boat was an authentic dory of the type that was rowed by fishermen for generations before power boats came in to use. Walter and Delbert would sit side by side and row and if I was along I’d sit in the stern. The first stop would be in shallow water to fish for flounder. They were plentiful and if there were no ripples on the water you could see them on the bottom even though their coloring camouflaged them well. Sometimes we tried to spear them but they were usually too quick for us.
After catching a few flounder they then rowed out into the river to fish for cod. It worked best if you started out while the tide was still going out and you headed towards Frankfort Island. When the tide changed you then drifted back with your hand lines out. (We didn’t have poles). We often caught some good sized cod.
One day we skipped school to make one of these fishing trips. When we went back to school the next day we were called to the office. Somehow the principal knew that we had been fishing and not out ill. After a severe reprimand we were asked, with a big smile, “Did you catch anything?”
Walter was also a trapper. His best luck was with muskrats that lived in the marsh at the foot of Rosemary Hill. It was on the north side of the B&M tracks (now Dow Road). In order to sell the pelts you had to skin the animal, stretch its hide over a board shaped for this purpose and when it was cured and ready to be sold, take it off of the board and ship the pelt(s) to a Montgomery Ward location out west. (We used to call the company “Monkey Ward”) They paid you according to the type of animal and the size and condition of the pelt
Hunting and gun ownership was pretty much the norm in East Eliot back then. It wasn’t just the sport for some. Rather, it was a source of food. Francis Payne, for example, always managed to shoot at least three deer during the deer season in November. The limit was one deer per license but he made sure that his older boys also got licenses. No one really questioned who shot all the deer. The venison was a great source of food for his large family. Who should question the matter? Once in a while someone would kid him about the great shots his boys were. He would just smile and say, “Ayeh”
Walter naturally wanted to be part of the hunting scene and have his own gun for hunting. My father was dead set against this and refused to let him have a gun. One day Walter borrowed a shot gun from someone (Payne boys?) and brought it home to demonstrate to Dad that he knew how to handle a gun safely and therefore should be allowed to have one. I vividly remember this scene. It was in the kitchen. Walter was holding the gun trying to get Dad to change his mind when there was a huge bang! He had accidently fired the gun, blowing a hole in the kitchen floor. In the midst of the smoke and the ringing in my ears I could hear my father screaming. “Get that #*^><# gun out of here and don’t ever talk to me again about getting a gun!”
After quite a bit of time my father relented and Walter got to go hunting with his own gun.
I really couldn’t get excited about this hunting business. I tried but I was a lousy hunter. I would see a deer and watch it leap away. Then I would remember that I was supposed to shoot at it. The same with partridge and pheasant. One day I was up on Great Hill and came across a rabbit (rabbits were considered a game animal) I raised my gun. He didn’t run. I aimed. He still didn’t run. I fired and blew him right off the log he was sitting on. I went over and picked him up. I was mad. I don’t know who I was madder at, myself or the rabbit but I said to myself, “Why didn’t you run you stupid rabbit”. I buried him and went home. That ended my hunting career.