Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area

Hunting Was Tough But Fruitful in the Old Days

Tri-City Pioneer
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, October 23, 1960, page 8.

The early day Settlers always used the weather to their best advantage. Therefore, in the winter if the weather should become severely cold, freezing everything solid, they would go duck and goose hunting. Their game would freeze stiff and keep until a thaw came. Crab Creek, near the present city of Moses Lake, was one of the favorite hunting grounds for the hunters of the Tri-City region.

A light Rushford wagon with wild hay into which the hunters could nestle to keep warm, was drawn by four fast horses. Leaving Kennewick very early in the morning, Crab Creek would be reached late at night. The horses were really hightailed. They would have plenty of time to rest and eat hay while the shooting was in progress. A hunting party consisted of five or six congenial souls. Each hunter brought a couple of rifles, one a small bore and one a large bore, also his favorite shotgun. The ammunition for the shotguns was hand loaded. Each hunter loaded the shells to suit his particular fancy. He would discuss at great length why his ammunition was the best. The wives of the hunters vied with each other on the lunches they put up for their men. The only food the hunters prepared was bacon, eggs, and coffee. Large fires were kept burning near the camp to keep man and beast warm.

The fourteen foot skiff they had brought could only be used where the current of the stream was swift enough to keep the ice from forming. The shooting lasted for a period of four or five days, in which time the hunters secured enough game to supply themselves and neighbors. The hunters were always anxious to secure sufficient game in as short a time as possible because they must get back home before a thaw would start and ruin everything. (There was no dry ice in these Early Days.)

The trip home was always somewhat tiresome. Everyone would be sleepy. Each hunter took his turn driving the four horses while the rest of the party dozed. The following morning every school child of the hunter's took a frozen goose and duck to some neighbor and more to the school house for other school children to take home. I remember taking two frozen geese and two frozen ducks to the new Episcopal Rector whose place was on my path to school. His wife hung the birds on their clothes line. Day after day as I passed the place the birds were still hanging on the clothes line. I made a report to my parents each night concerning it. Finally a thaw came and the birds were gone. Several weeks afterwards the Rector's wife called on mother and thanked her for the geese and ducks, and explained to mother that they were English. They liked their fowl "a bit high." She had left the birds hanging too long "So everything was lovely but the goose had hung too high."

The assets of the hunt were not limited to food alone. The feathers and down from the fowls were gladly received by the women folks to renovate and make new feather beds. (There were no foam rubber mattresses in these early days). A good bed then consisted of a tick filled with clean wheat straw on which was placed a feather tick, then a blanket or sheet on which one slept covered by a sheet or blanket, another feather tick, comforter and quilt.The bed pillows were usually filled with duck feathers. The goose fat was rendered into goose grease which was used for different homemade salves and ointments. Goose quills were also made into writing pens. The beautiful breasts of the mallard and other ducks were often skinned and tanned, then fashioned into stunning caps and hats by the women folks.

These hunting trips were quite strenuous but the Early Day Settlers were a sturdy race. They enjoyed the shooting and listening to each others stories. They made their own amusement. There were no electric lights, telephones, phonographs, radios, televisions, automobiles, airplanes, 'copters, improved roads or service stations. Yet these Early Day Settlers had a plenty of a few things such as, plenty of room.

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