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Hunting on Vashon

 It was dusk and a low mist hung over the field where two deer stood, a doe and a buck, hardly visible through the haze. It was cold but not raining, my eye trained to the little B-B on the end of my barrel. It was my first shotgun at 12 years old and cost me $25 at McCormick’s Hardware, a Stevens 20 gauge-single shot.

 Uncle Jerry was standing above me. I was on one knee and consumed with buck fever. “Uncle Jerry, Uncle Jerry, can I shoot? The buck has horns. I can see them”, I said. “No”, he replied. “Both deer are does”. I let the hammer down slowly, so the gun would be safe. It was one of the many lessons we learned in hunting. We couldn’t take a doe, because they were out of season. I went home very dissatisfied, no game for the freezer.

 We always hunted as a Family, that is the way it was. Hunting ducks at Portage in the Fall with Dad and the dogs was the best. The gap between Vashon and Maury Islands was a flyway where the ducks with the wind would come by our old log like bullets. The little Butterball or Blue Winged Teal were the hardest to hit. The pellets from the shotgun were so slow, that you had to lead the ducks by 6 feet if you were going to have a chance of hitting one. The ducks had the advantage if they flew too high to shoot or didn’t fly close enough to our duck blind at the isthmus between Vashon and Maury. Over 150 feet in range and the pellets would be ineffective. That’s why we always shot as the ducks flew away from us; so the pellets wouldn’t bounce off their feathers.

 The log we shot from was 200 feet from shore and so big it never floated away with the tide, but stayed stuck in the mud for years; until George Miller build a plank platform on it with a diving board made from a stiff old plank, that had no bounce. It was a good place to launch rockets from on the 4th of July.

 20 or 30 Islanders would park at the head of Quartermaster to watch the Malones and the Carahers light up their rockets, florals and the almighty triple salute.

 Dad and Uncles Mike and Jerry and several of us boys would help set off the fireworks. It was a great privilege to be old enough to be on the platform for the 4th. We called Uncle Mike the “busher” because he played baseball in the bush leagues after college. He was a left hander, known for his occasional “snaffoos”; as you will see in a minute.
 The plank platform wasn’t very big and we would all crowd up at the end of the log when the stuff started going off and then the “busher” lined up his tubes with the small wood bases and struck his match to set them off. Oh, Oh, something went wrong with the “triple salute”. The first stage went off right out of the tube and the other two stages fell into the fireworks box causing a mass explosion of rockets and florals. We all jumped into the bay to avoid the calamity. The rowboat was tied to the log, but we had no time to use it.

 The people all watching from the end of Quartermaster honked their horns for the grandest finale they had ever seen, all of us wading back to shore.

Uncle Jerry was the youngest son and always wanted to anticipate things; so while everyone else was waiting for night to fall, he would be out on the beach launching golf balls from a piece of lead pipe driven deep in the sand. He would light a powerful cherry bomb from his cigarette and drop the smoking bomb down the pipe. He had to quickly set the golf ball on the open end of the pipe and launch the ball out of sight. We could see it hit the water halfway to Burton.

 A firecracker war broke out among the younger set. We used punks to light them. You had to be quick not to be holding the firecracker when it went off. With a flurry, we hurled smoking firecrackers at each other. Fat old Dale, a neighbor, had a pocket full of firecrackers; when a flying cracker found the hole and Dale’s pocket started exploding, tearing his pants to shreds and burning his leg. The grown- ups stopped the war.