This last weekend I shared a post about a hike up El Toro with My John. I mentioned he grew up at the base of that hill and had many escapades to share. Here is an abridged column he wrote that I think you’ll enjoy.
“You’d think boys would know how to hunt” by John P. Gavin
Who has read the book Lord of the Flies?
When I was in school it was pretty much required reading. It was written in the 50’s by William Golding and is the story of a group of young boys marooned, without grownups, on an island somewhere.
In the book the boys quickly revert to a feral state and run about howling, fighting and wielding crudely made weapons. I remember reading it in class and thinking “what’s the big deal? That’s no different from my neighborhood”.
Not to knock Mr. Golding but the boys in my old neighborhood did not require an island without grownups in order to channel our wild side. All we needed were the orchards and forests at the edge of town – and a little imagination.
My neighborhood was bordered to the west by a small mountain that had been named El Toro by the Spaniards who discovered it (under the feet of the Chitactac Indians who were already living on it). To the north of us was a large walnut orchard that also bordered El Toro.
We virtually lived on that mountain – we knew all the big trees, open spaces and trails. One particular trail we knew of was travelled by a herd of deer that used it to get down to the orchard. They would then pass through the orchard to drink from the pond that lay beyond.
We were familiar not only with the trail, but also with the time of evening the deer would come down it. In our grubby hands this was dangerous knowledge. I still remember the summer day we sat in Dave Mead’s garage talking about what our next adventure (the word ‘mayhem’ would work equally well) would be when one of the guys blurted out “Let’s hunt the deer in the orchard!”
To us an idea like that one did not require any discussion further than working out the details.
My little brother Brian asked, “What will we hunt them with?”
Someone shouted “Spears!”
Dave’s brother Richard wondered aloud “Where do we get spears?”
My response was “We make them”.
“Out of what?” Patrick Black asked.
“Knives tied to broom handles,” I said.
Brian wanted to know “When do we get the deer – on their way down the orchard or back through it?” On their way back from the pond we decided – figuring they’d be less wary on their second trip through the walnut trees.
And so we set off to our respective homes to steal knives out of drawers and cut handles off of brooms. The plan was to meet at the edge of the orchard about the time the herd of deer would pass through on their way to the pond, and then quietly filter in among the trees so as to be in place when they made their return trip.
To this day I still remember shouting, “Get ‘em!” as the deer made their way back toward El Toro. Out jumped five running, shouting, spear wielding boys; and as the terrified deer spotted us they all bolted in unison. I launched my spear, as did the others, hoping it would fly true and hit its mark – a big deer charging past me.
I didn’t hit my target that day in the orchard. None of us did. Heck, we were little kids with kitchen knives tied to broom handles – what damage were we really going to do? I think all we accomplished was scaring the daylights out of a bunch of deer – well maybe that and the realization all we truly wanted to do was follow them around.