The Great Snipe Hunt

by Dale Phillips


I tale you now a story of back in the useful, youthful days of Summershine, which we enjoyed maxaloutely as we played. Being in school was cruel, but we had just been released, and were soaking up Sollyrays to the fullest. We rambled and scrambled over hillendale, and teased the toff-prof in Effigy, a spot not far away.

We had our usual group, and whensome, to wit; myself, the chronicler extraordinaire; Harold the Herald, also known as Vox Clamantis; AngelEyes (she with the orbs of different hue, one is gold and the other is blue); Rabbit, by nature the timid one among us; PeachPi, a mathematical genius; Athos, the strong and shylent one; and WillardWisp, our imaginary playmate. WillardWisp was by far the most popular among us, since we could lay blame for all bad luck and all depathing of goodness upon his broad but invisible shoulders. Everyone should have such a friend.

We frolicked to such games as Drakes and Ducks, where we took turns doing fowl imitations while the others guessed which ones we twittered, or Kings-and-Queens-of-Far-Off-Worlds (my favorite, since you chose any sort of custom for the others to follow), and Kick the CanCan, where some of us would dance madly while the rest spoke French and pretended to drink strong spirits (all except for WillardWisp, of course, who always objected). We teased him that he didn't take his liquid in the right spirit, and he told us he was consumed with envy.

But the Summershine eventually bored through us until we were thoroughly bored. One day the fun came to a crashing not as Solly scorched us from his lofty perch. We lay on our backs, looking up at the skyhigh, clutching handfuls of unsodden sod so as not to fly away prematurely. Not even a WillardWisp of a cloud with which to play Shapes ghosted the endless blue. We lay mirthless and heavyheartmore.

"We need excitement," said AngelEyes.

"A search," responded PeachPi tangentially.

"A quest!" Athos posed heroically.

"Something more," whispered WillardWisp. We waited with breath bated.

"Agreedy indeedy. We need a Hunt!" Harold heralded.

Rabbit spoke up from where he was lying down. "But what shall we hunt?" he asked, for we were not hurtful, and the thought of intentious stalking was abhorrent to us.

"Fear not, my lapinous friend," Harold went onward. "We are not hare to pursue bunny business. No, no. Our game is much more clever and elusive. We shall, this very eventide, venture forth in pursuit of the wild and woolly snipe!"

"I don't even know what a snipe looks like," AngelEyes spoke her viewpoint.

"Nor I," said Rabbit, in what, for him, was a bold statement.

"But some say they're only a legend," Athos objectified.

Those of us who weren’t in the no-know had hooked our three gullible friends, and Harold warmed to the task.

"The snipe is elusive," Harold said. "And seldom seen by anyone, much less caught. Cross a ferret with a lemur with a wombat, ruffle the fur backcrosswise, and there you are, with luminous eyes, sensitive ears, and an even more sensitive nose. Their being very sensible, they are hard to catch, because they don't care for bigfolk like us, my fuddybuddies. They run with the elves, gnomes, and fairies, but shy away from such as we."

"Then how do we see them?" asked AngelEyes.

"By the JunieMoon reflection off their great shiny eyes."

"Sounds easy as falling off a logarithm," said PeachPi.

"How do we catch hold of them?" said Athos.

"Not in a trap of steel?" quivered Rabbit.

"No, no, of course not," soothed Harold. "Extraordinary creatures cannot be caught by ordinary means. Else you’d see pet snipes everywhichwhere, in stores, on leashes, in cages, in fine restaurants. Which would be a most horrible thing, as they are very sensitive and delicate.

"You must wait for the Eve of Believe, which, however, comes this very night," Harold continued. “You use specialsoft snipe sacks, carefully rubbed with civet and fennel in the moonlight, to discombobulate the keen proboscis of the snipe. Lastly, to get the snipe to enter your sack, you must say a special charm over it. It has to be a personal charm, one no one else hears or knows. It must be very powerful, full of belief. If you don't believe, the snipes will dash right by you, over, about, and through you. But with a strong belief, a good charm, and a stout soft sack, you just might be lucky enough to coax one in. Once in the bag, we shall marvel at the wonder before releasing the snipe back to the JunieMoonlight games."

"How do we go about it?" asked Athos.

"We'll divide up," said PeachPi. When we groaned at her, she smiled sweetly and told us she was nonplussed.

"Since Rabbit, AngelEyes, and Athos have not yet caught a snipe, they shall be the baggers," said Harold. "The rest of us shall be the beaters. We shall flush the snipes and send them bagwards, as you stand there holding the mouth of your sack open and waiting. Our whistles shall alert you that the snipes are coming. You'll close your eyes, repeat your charm, and presto!"

"Won't it be dark and scary, though?" asked Rabbit.

"You'll have Lunalight aplenty sitting on your shoulder. With Athos and AngelEyes as co-vigilmates, you'll have nothing to fear."

"To the hunt," whispered WillardWisp.

"To the hunt!"

We bayed like hounds until Harold bade us cease. "This calls for a celebration race."

"Yes!" We roared, leaping up to sprint for the clubhouse.

"Last one there is a witches' lunch!" We whooped as we swooped away.

It was a marvelous race, the heat of Solly ignored. When speed gave a lead, another would overtake them. Fast as cheetahs we made it to the clearing and tore across the dotted line together.

"Dead heat!" We howled in glee as Solly agreed.

"And just as it should be. The witches shall dine on none here this day," Harold gasped. "To the swimming withall."

We leapt up again and dashed to the pond, to roll like otters in the waters. Later we emerged to collapse in the Sweetgrass, laughing as Solly dried us. We wrung our clothes and hands until Athos heroically scrambled up the ladder to the clubhouse, and returned with a blanketed bundle. With solemn ceremony, he spread the blanket on the ground, revealing a dark, musty bottle and a set of tiny teacups.

"Alice in Funderland," we cried with glee.

"I'll be the Cheshire Cat," purred WillardWisp.

"I can see me as Alice," piped AngelEyes.

"It adds up that I should be the Queen," said PeachPi.

"It's the Mad Hatter for me," said I, with a trace of madness.

"Who better than me for the Mock Turtle?" mocked Harold.

"Caterpillar," said Athos, waving antennae.

"But," we looked around in mock panic. "We have no White Rabbit! We simply cannot play without one! Who can we get to play the White Rabbit?"

"Well, er, how about me?" Rabbit stammered.

"You!" We thundered, feigning surprise. "Why what a brilliant idea! A Rabbit you are, and a Rabbit you shall be! But hurry up, you're late."

"Oh dear, oh dear," Rabbit murmured and looked at his watch. We dissolved into helpless laughter, as we did every time we played. Then we arranged ourselves and poured the DoughnutWine, the bottled liquid essence of Baking Day. We waited as Harold held up a hand and raised his cup.

"A toast," he said. "To the Great Snipe Hunt."

We echoed his sentiment, and drank. We savored each drop and sat back contentedly. When he had finished, Harold smacked his lips and stood.

"And now we must each repair to our lair till Eventide. Meet back here when JunieMoon shows her lovely visage. I'll bring the necessary equipment. Adieu for now."

Ah, what a grand illusion and ghostly trick we were to play on our three unsuspecters. During our bushwhacking, we would call out like ferocious wildee beasts to scarify them. Their fear and feet would be fleeting, and merry we would be. Explanations and we would follow about how snipes as such were imaginery only.

We regathered when Lunalight lumined the clubhouse. Harold solemnly passed a snipesack to Athos, AngelEyes, and Rabbit.

"Here is your sack," he intoned. "Guard it well. Has each of you a charm?"

Nodding heads bobbed, and Harold went on.

"Once set in position, you must stay like a statue, for any movement will spook the poor snipes. No matter what your ear might hear, you must not move, or all will be lost.” Harold winked at us. “And don't believe those silly stories about wolves eating snipehunters."

"Wolves?" Rabbit quavered.

"Yes, wolves," Harold went on, matter-of-factly. "Large ferocious carnivorians with dark fur, hypnotizing yellow eyes, and huge, sharp teeth that devour small, furry creatures, and sometimes humans. They have a rather long, lamenting howl, especially when they're on the hunt. But fear not, for no one’s parts have been devoured by a wolf in these parts for quite a stretch."

"What about that boy they didn't find?" asked PeachPi, dangling the angle.

"No evidence he was wolfed down," Harold replied haughtily. "And even if he was, the one who did it probably isn't even around here anymore."

Our baggers and baguette displayed concerned expressions of impressions. The seed of doubt had been firmly planted, and later we would try to bloom it to full flower.

Whippowhirls twittered distantly, and flyerflies buzzed around us in the nightish air. We led our glum chums to a small clearing in the goodwoods where their faces were clearing in the Lunalight.

"Here in this space is your waiting place," Harold said. "Now open your ears, allay your fears, close your eyes, and be armed with your charm. Make ye ready and remain steady. Remember, you must truly, truly believe. Forget fear, forget all else. And most importantly, don't even think of wolves at all."

Poor Rabbit groaned.

"Now, Rabbit," Harold said. "That feeling will keep you snipeless. Now off we go, to drive them fro."

"Keep your eyes peeled for theirs," I cited.

"Keep your sacks low and spirits high," added PeachPi.

We crashed through the goodwoods until we could laugh without being heard. Once chuckled out, we slipped silently back to spy, as invisible as WillardWisp. Our friends cast nervous glances surroundingly but not surrenderingly, and bravely stood their ground like summer knights.

PeachPi made a ghostly hoot.

"Wh-wh-what was that?" whispered Rabbit.

"Owl," offered Athos, swallowing hard.

"Don’t they eat rabbits?”

This mirthed us mightily. I hollowed my hands and rolled out a deep, rumbling cough.

"Now what was that?" asked a very quivering Rabbit.

"Maybe a bear," said AngelEyes.

"Oh-h-h," was all Rabbit could say. We made light of their plight, and saved the worst for last. Harold tilted back and gave out with his best howl, rending the night and icewatering the blood. White with fright, our stalwart companions still held their ground and their sacks.

We stick-whicked the thickets, and mauled shrubbery as we shouted.

"There's one! Watch him, Harold!"

"PeachPi, behind you! There!"

"They're coming your way," we called. "Must be a whole nest of snipes here!"

And so on until we entered the clearing, prepared to display our disappointment at their snipe-catching failure. But our friends squealed with glee, and danced for Joy, who was not there.

"We've caught some!" they shouted.

"What?" We answered, blunderstruck at the error.

"Snipes. We've caught snipes!"

We disbelieved them. Were they trying to best our jest?

"But snipes don't really exist," said Harold. "There are no such things. A snipe hunt is a hoax to hex the baggers."

"Then what are these?"

Three sacks each held a small, furred creature with luminous eyes, large alert ears, and a very nervous expression. We looked at each other, then back in the sacks.

"This is impossible," sputtered Harold.

"You said if we believed, we would catch one," Rabbit spoke up, to the brim with confidence. "With the right charm, you said, they'd run right and left into our sacks. And that's just what they did. Oh, we were terribly frightened, but we believed."

We were dazed and amazed, shocked out of talk. And then the topper arrived in the shape of a huge wolf. He strolled into the clearing with red tongue-a-hanging, yellow eyes-a-blazing, and white sharp fangs-a-clicking.

Three sacks fell at once. The snipes hurry-scurried in a rash dash to the bushes. Chasingly, the wolf followed, while we ran full tiltingly in the other direction. Once safe behind tall walls, Harold gaspingly turned to Rabbit.

"You really believed there was a wolf out there, didn't you?"

"Well, of course," answered Rabbit. "But there was."

"There wasn't until you conjured him up by believing, just like the snipes."

And thereby ends a tale, but not our adventures. However, we nevermore went out hunting for snipes. And evermore from that point on, we were very, very careful of what we believed in.