D. E. Larsen, DVM
It had been a long walk up Catching Creek Road in the early morning August sun. Don Miller and I had been trying to hunt pigeons for the last couple of weeks and had identified this ridge as their crossing point between creek valleys.
“Next trip, we should get someone to drive us,” Don said. “I’m tired, and we haven’t even started up the hill yet.”
“Mom said she would drop us off next time,” I said. “She was busy this morning.”
We finally came to the end of the Davenport fields, and the old logging road that turned up to the ridge was waiting.
“This climb is the only thing wrong with this idea,” Don said. “I know we watched those flocks fly over this ridge, but I worry that this will be a lot of work for nothing.”
“I think it is going to be great,” I said. “Let’s get started.”
The climb was not bad. The road had been unused for ten years, and small alder trees were growing out of the roadbed in some areas, but no real brush. Before we knew it, we were at the top of the ridge.
The ridge top was flat and had a roadbed running its full length of over two hundred yards. The regrowth of trees was just high enough to provide us cover but didn’t obstruct our view. The only issue was the back side of the ridge was brushy and steep.
“I think we want to shoot these birds out in front of us,” I said. “If we shoot them overhead, they will fall down the back side of this ridge, and it doesn’t look like it would be easy to retrieve them.”
We were just getting rested from the climb when the first flock of pigeons came into view as they flew around the knob hill a half a mile up the creek.
This was a large flock of several hundred birds. They would come down Catching Creek and fly over this ridge heading to the orchard of cherry trees on Matheny Creek. The main flock had a half dozen scout birds a hundred yards out in front.
“They are going to cross down by the trees,” Don said as he started at a trot. I stayed in the middle of the ridge top.
Don shot the first bird to cross the ridge. The main flock changed directions and crossed the ridge over my position. Lesson learned, allow the scout birds to cross unmolested.
With a large flock crossing our position every half hour, we had our limits of ten birds each in less than two hours. We loaded up and started home.
I stopped when we reached the road heading down the hill.
“Why don’t we just follow this ridge top? It should drop us right down onto Catching Creek,” I said. “It shouldn’t be very brushy on the top of the ridge.”
“I think it will put us right down onto the Felsher place,” Don said.
It was approaching noon, and the August sun was out in full force. The trees along the ridge provided some shade, but it was still hot as we scurried along.
The brush became thicker when the ridge top ended and the hill slopped toward the valley floor. I was in front and picked the trail, and I only had to keep from swatting Don with branches that I had bent out of the way.
Finally, we broke out of the brush and had the upper field of the Felsher place in front of us. We crossed the fence and stopped in the middle of their orchard.
Picking a couple of apples from their Gravenstein tree, we sat down in the shade and rested against the tree trunk. We ate our apples with idle conversation and admired our clutch of birds.
“I would say that we have found the best place to shoot pigeons in the whole area,” I said.
“Now, we just need to keep it quiet,” Don said. “Of course, climbing that ridge will keep most people out of there.”
We had a nice serene view in front of us. The Felsher house was at the end of this field. It was a white, wood-frame farmhouse with two stories. This field sat on a bench of land above the valley of Catching Creek. The barn was around the hill a way and not in view.
My mother had grown up with the Felsher kids. Stanley was killed in the Batan Death March, and Connie was Mom’s best friend. Mr. Felsher had died several years ago, and Mrs. Felsher, an old lady in her eighties, lived alone.
One of the Drip brothers, my name for them, walked out from town every day to work for Mrs. Felsher, helping in and around the house.
As Don and I munched on our apples, we noticed smoke coming from one of the open windows in the Felsher house. Then the Drip guy and Mrs. Felsher came running out of the house, followed by a bellow of smoke from the open door.
The Drip guy was waving his arms up and down, and Mrs. Felsher held her head with her hands.
I looked at Don.
“What are we going to do?” I asked.
Now flames were coming from the windows and the open door.
“It doesn’t look like we can do anything,” Don said.
Flames engulfed the house in minutes and would be a total loss.
A County Forest Fire truck arrived about then. The truck pulled up to the house, and the guy got out and talked with his hands on his hips with Mrs. Felsher. There was nothing to do at this point, and he did not get a hose out of his truck.
Shortly, the roof collapsed into the fire, and it was all but a pile of ashes in less than an hour. The fireman loaded Mrs. Felsher and the Drip guy into his truck and left.
Don and I looked at each other, almost not believing what we had witnessed. We picked up our birds and headed to Felsher lane and the bridge across Catching Creek leading to home.
Photo by Dhakshna Moorthy from Pexels