Saturday, September 10, 2016

Eugene Gochenor's Memoirs: Pets, Fishing, and Hunting

Gene Gochenour
This excerpt from my father's memoirs concerns his dog Trixie, raising rabbits for profit, and hunting with his father. He talks about visiting Putt's farm in the Allegheny mountains. I remember watching Mrs. Putt candle eggs in a dark room, and walking up the hill in autumn.
Gene Gochenour with unnamed dog
"My pet dog and best buddy was named Trixie. Wherever I went, he went, and he was a hunting dog too. He was part Terrier, and I don’t know what else. When father and I would take him hunting, he would get on the trail of a rabbit or pheasant and would run full speed ‘till he flushed it, or lost it. When he was on the trail of a pheasant we would have to run to keep up with him. Carrying our guns and running through the fields on a warm Autumn day to be near when the bird flushed was hard work. If someone saw us running through the fields and did not see the dog, they probably would have wondered what was going on. That may not have been the best way to hunt, but we had many a dinner, thanks to Trixie!

Gene and Al Gochenour and poor Trixie
"Trixie being mainly a Terrier was an excellent ratter. It was my job to saw up the piles of wood we used to feed our kitchen stove. There was a table saw back by the garage that I used to cut up the boards. One day I was getting down to the bottom of the pile and when I lifted the last board, there were three rats hiding beneath it. Trixie knew they were there, and when I lifted the board, he grabbed each one, snapped it’s neck, and killed them in a flash! He was like greased lightning! Rats were always a problem because there were so many places they could live in the country. There were barns, fields, wood piles, and the town dump was only a mile away.

'We had some old garages behind the house and one day I put some rat poison in one of them. We always kept the doors closed, but one day I went in to get a tool, and did not close the door. When I went to take the tool back, I saw Trixie eating the poison. I called our Vet and asked him what I should do. He told me to make a glass of salt water and make the dog drink it until he vomited.
This photo of Dad always made me sad.

"Well I tried that, but the dog did not want to cooperate. He got more water on him than in him. I got the dog so mad I thought he would bite me, so I decided to take him to the Vet’s. Once there, he gave Trixie a shot of vitamin K. He said the poison stopped the dog’s digestive system from absorbing vitamin K and the shot would take of him. Taking Trixie to the Vet was sure better than getting bit by my buddy. Trixie was never chained or fenced, and one day he ran out onto Military Road and was killed by a car. My good buddy was gone!


"During the early spring, Dad, Lee [his uncle Levant Becker], and I would occasionally drive to Wilson, a town on the shore of Lake Ontario, to spear suckers, a fish that spawns in the creeks at that time of year. We drove there in the evening and when we arrived there it would be dark, and all the creeks would be outlined with the lights from the lanterns of the many people already there. We then would join them with our boots, lanterns, and spears.

"Our spears were like a pitchfork with five tines, each with a barb. We then would walk up the creek carrying our lanterns to light the way, until we found a shallow place where we would wait for the fish to swim through. Usually about ten o’clock the fish would start the run, and we would attempt to spear them as they swam past. When we did manage to spear one, we would toss it onto the bank.

"All three of us had found different places on the creek to spear from, and sometimes we would jab our spears into a deep hole, since that is where they hid during the daytime. When we thought we had caught enough fish we gathered them into a burlap bag, and headed home.

"Dad allowed me to drive one time, but I got tired on the way home and ran the car onto the shoulder after I almost fell asleep and he had to take over. The fish we caught were smoked, pickled, or canned.

"Dad took me, and many times also Lee, hunting pheasant, squirrel, and groundhog during the summer and fall. In those days we never had any problem finding a place to hunt. Farmers were glad to allow us to hunt their land to get rid of the varmints. We hunted pheasants at the fruit belt near Lake Ontario, squirrels at Jedo, a small village located about twenty miles past Lockport, and hunted groundhog at the farms near Akron.
The hill at Putt's Farm
"Dad also had friends who owned a farm about eighty miles away where we hunted deer. Floyd Putt was the farmer’s name. The farm was located in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains; only part of the over 180 acres was usable, the rest was dense woods. Floyd and his wife had three children, Floyd Junior, Loretta, and Bob. Other children of relatives that had died also occasionally stayed with them.
Putt's chicken coupe in the 1980s. Dad's Horizon.
"Life on the farm was hard and every one had a job to do. Mrs. Putt gathered the eggs from the hundreds of chickens, washed, candled, and graded them. She cooked, washed, and ran the house. Loretta helped her mother. Mr. Putt and the boys ploughed, harvested the crops, milked the cows, and the small children brought in firewood for the cooking stove, and fed the cats and dogs.

"Early in the fall we would go there to post his property with “No hunting” signs. When we posted, we would walk his line fence and remove fallen trees from it and repair it where it had been damaged. Whenever we went there we would stay in his garage which was beneath his chicken house. Above were hundreds of chickens and we could always hear them scratching and clucking.

Gene and Levant Becker at Putt's Farm in the Allegheny Mountains
"There was a wood stove in the garage that he always kept burning, so it was always warm when we went there. Sometimes when we would arrive late at night and everyone was asleep, we would go into the garage and also go to sleep. Mr. Putt kept horse blankets in the garage and we would spread them on the workbench, the floor, and in the bed of his pickup truck. It was a surprise to him when he woke up early in the morning and found us there. They all got a big laugh when he would drive the truck I was sleeping in the bed of,f out into the driveway, and make me run back into the garage through the snow.
Putt's Farm Hill Today. My cousin owns a cabin built there by our uncle.
"Pheasant existed by the tens of thousands during the ‘30s and ‘40s in western New York. We had a garden in back of our house, and it was always visited by pheasants.

"Mr. Thiel lived in an upstairs apartment with his family in the Military Road house. [Ed. note: the old farm house was divided into three apartments]. One day he asked father to borrow his .22 rifle, so father lent it to him. Mr. Thiel would sit at his upstairs window with the gun and shoot an occasional pheasant when one came into the garden. There was no hunting allowed in the area, but we were in the country, and no one paid much attention. When he shot one, he would walk to the garden, pick it up, put it under his coat, and return to the house. One pheasant for dinner! Many people did this in our area, so it was quite common.

"One day Dale Thiel, his brother Maynard, and I were at their apartment, and when we walked to the back bedroom, there sat the gun. Maynard picked up the gun, and pulled the trigger. Luckily it was aimed at the wall, because when it went off, the bullet went right under the window. No one was home, so we were the only ones who knew what had happened.

"For some strange reason, occasionally pheasant roosters would gather in open areas by the hundreds. One day I went over to the golf course early in the morning, and a very large area of the course was covered with strutting birds. There were no hens. I have no idea why they gathered like that, but it was an awesome sight to see. That was a sight I only saw twice during my life.

"The area with the most pheasants was the fruit belt by Lake Ontario. The birds were everywhere. Father and I went hunting during the fall of 1945, a few months after the Second World War ended. I could not hunt, because I was only 15 years old, but father allowed me to tag along. Many soldiers had returned home, and on that day, the roads surrounding the fields were lined with cars filled with hunters. Hunting was allowed after 8:00 A. M., then hunters entered the fields, all at once. The air was filled with flying pheasants, and you did not need a dog to flush them. Only the roosters were legal to shoot, but it was easy to shoot them as they flew over. That morning it sounded like a battlefield! The bird limit was six roosters per hunter, and no one had trouble getting their limit. Even though the hunters only used shotguns, it was a wonder no one got shot that day!
Gene in the woods
"I once went deer hunting with my uncle Levant Becker and my brother-in-law Clyde Guenther at Blue Mountain in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. One day we were hunting about five miles back in the mountains and I fell into a stream that I was attempting to cross. There was a sheet of clear ice on the rock I stepped on and I slipped and fell. It was quite a shock when I fell into the ice cold water, but I kept my gun from being damaged. Since it was too far to walk back to our camp, we started a fire so I could dry my clothes. Luckily I had two pair of pants on, so I first dried one pair, then the other, while everyone else hunted. Not a fun way to spend the day.

"That evening Clyde told us of a hunter that got lost the year before. The hunter’s name was Jim, and he got lost late in the day. Luckily they found him before nightfall, because in some directions, it is fifty miles to the nearest road.

"Well, the next day we went far back in the mountains, and we separated to hunt. I sat down to watch for deer, and soon I heard a noise, and got up to investigate. I heard a deer run off, and followed the noise for a while, then found I was lost. I did not have the slightest idea where I was, or how to get back to camp. So I panicked and hollered, and when I got no answer, I started running through the woods. Soon I decided I had better stop, and think about this. I remembered the story about the lost hunter, and I was scared. After sitting a while, I decided the best way back to camp was to find a stream, and follow it back to Blue Lake where our camp was. I and found a stream, and fought my way over boulders, and through dense brush, and eventually came to a road that led to our camp. I did not tell the others what had happened to me. I did not get a deer that year, but I had an exciting time.
Gene Gochenour in 1950s going ground hog hunting
"During the war many things were rationed, so we had a Victory Garden. There were many pheasants around, and sometimes Dad would shoot one for dinner.

Gene, his dog, and a Rabbit

"I raised rabbits. At one time I had about one hundred and fifty of them. They were New Zealand Whites and they looked like albinos because they had red eyes.

"We had rabbit for many a Sunday dinner. Dad also sold some of the meat to his coworkers. After the rabbits were butchered, the skins were put on to a board to dry. After they dried, and we had accumulated quite a few, they were removed from the boards, bundled, and shipped to a place in Pennsylvania. They paid me twenty five cents each for them.
Gene with rabbit cages 

The garages. Rabbit coupe was a far end on right.
Mary Gochenour with rabbit
"The rabbit coupe was next to the garage in the back yard, and in it were many cages that lined the walls. They were fed hay, rabbit pellets, and water. The hay came from John Kuhn’s barn and the pellets from a feed store.

"I was never there when Dad mated the rabbits, but thirty days later we would have bunnies. Dad planned the litters so that it would happen during the spring because the coupe was too small to cage them all. He built large screened cages with no bottoms so we could put groups of small ones together, and move them around the front yard. This got a lot of attention from passing cars, and helped us sell some of them.
Alice and Gene Gochenour at the Rabbit Coupe

"West of our house and beyond the railroad tracks was a huge empty field. John and I had once cut hay there. It was about a half mile square in size. It lay between Ensminger Road and Sheridan Drive, and between the railroad tracks and the golf course.

"At the beginning of the Second World War, the government built houses for about twelve hundred families there to provide workers for the factories involved in the war industry. Occasionally, while they were being built, Dad and I would hook up John’s hay wagon to the tractor and go there to load up with scrap wood to burn in our kitchen stove. Huge piles of wood lay there, and if no one took it the workers would just burn it. I never saw any watchmen at the project as it was being built, and when the workers ended their workday, they left their tools where they stopped. The houses were in different stages of completion and were open, and in the evening we kids would run through them and play hide-and-seek.

"On Kenmore Avenue near Sheridan Drive was a huge railroad siding. Boxcars were parked there when the wood, lining their inside walls, had to be replaced. The wood lay in piles and Father and I would fill his box trailer and haul it home. Once home, it became my job to saw it into small pieces and stack it in the cellar. We had a table saw in the yard that I used to saw it.

"A friend of mine, John Molnar, lived with his family at a farm that was next to the railroad siding. His father had a contract with the railroad company to empty the leftover grain from the boxcars when they were stripped. Originally they used most of the grain for their animals, but later when John ran the farm and no longer had animals, he would sell it to other farmers. John had a machine that could separate the various grains found in the cars.

"Many people had vegetable and flower gardens and I saw in a magazine that I could earn the prize of a B-B gun by selling packets of seeds. So early in the winter one year, I sent in and soon received the seeds. I then visited our neighbors, and before long, I sold them all. I sent in the money, then one winter day when I came home from school, mother gave me a box that the mailman had dropped off. I was very excited, and when I opened the box, I saw my bright new B-B gun.

"I became a very good shot, I could hit a fly from about twenty feet away. When I got older, I bought other guns, but earning that B-B gun was a big event in my life. The photo [below] is of Father and I as we are about to go target shooting. The gun I am holding is Dad’s .22 rifle."
Al and Gene Gochenour