‘Get the beagles, we are going hunting.’ My family grew up in Southern Indiana where hunting was part of rural life and even put food on the table. Grandpa raised beagles for all of my childhood and they were used for rabbit and squirrel hunting, not as pets. They were tri-color beagles, brown, black and white and were bred and the puppies sold after we socialized them to people, dogs, and loud noises, like gun shots. The Warfield Reds that dad bred were the most beautiful beagles, and probably led to my love for red and white hunting dogs in Brittany Spaniels.
We were poor. Not dirt poor, but squirrel and rabbit hunting was part of how we ate regularly. I can remember Dad coming home with several squirrels that h had skinned in the field. He would be holding them by those long bushy rat tails with their heads cut off and the cleaned out insides exposed. Dad would bring the carcass into the kitchen and mom would cut up the pieces. Shoulder, legs, back part into four pieces. The pieces were soaked in salt water overnight to decrease any game taste and work out any shotgun pellets. Gross. What I do remember is squirrel gravy. Fry the squirrel after dipping it into flour seasoned with salt and lots of pepper. Fry slowly until browned and then turn up the heat until crispy. Take out the squirrel pieces, add flour to the grease and when creamy brown, slowly add milk until you have gravy. Yum. Yum.
As a vegetarian for twenty years, the thought of eating squirrel makes me nauseous. The reality of hunting your own food by killing critters on the ground or in trees is disgusting. But I do remember that gravy and how good it was. Tastes change. Fortunes change. I chase the squirrels away from the bird feeder. If they don’t leave, I let the dogs chase them away. And if that does not work, I know where I can get a shotgun.