J C Penney had a large Aberdeen Black Angus farm near Green Haven prison. Yes, this was the same J C Penney who made a fortune with his chain of retail stores. He was in his nineties and had several large farms in different states. His eight farms in Missouri covered over eight thousand acres. He was very well known and respected for the high quality of his stock and leading edge farm technologies. His farm near Green Haven was a consolidation of several adjoining farms linked together. His annual auction of prized angus were white tent affairs with all the bells and whistles. He employed a farm manager, had a sophisticated artificial breeding program, and kept full documentation of every animal. Each angus had a small chain collar with a round brass number tag around it’s neck for identification. A roving herdsman accounted for every animal every day and took notes on them. When Mr Penney’s limo brought him to the farm he would sit at a picnic table and admire his pastures of stock.
Joe and Felix Siskavich worked part time at the Penney farm when we were at Green Haven. When Felix received his transfer up north I worked for a while with Joe. The fence lines of the farms were mostly stone walls and tree lines with additional new fences. The farm manager used part time help to patrol the fence lines and pastures for anything that might cause injury to the prized angus cattle. A scar could decrease the value of the show cattle. The biggest problems were dead or damaged tree branches along the fence lines which might cut or fall on the them. Rodent, rabbit, and woodchuck holes were also dangerous tripping hazards. We would ride the fence lines, cut down, and remove dangerous trees.
A big old woodchuck had homesteaded on the side of a small knoll in one of the pastures. We often thought about shooting him, but a gun on site would not have been appreciated. The woodchuck was pretty cautious. We’d see him from a distance but never get close. He made the mistake of sticking his nose out when we were close on a sunny afternoon. We were passing with our tractor and small work trailer. When Joe was a ways past his hole we stopped. Off I went with a claw hammer in my hand. Joe thought I was nuts.
After pussy footing up hill to within fifty feet the woodchuck’s hole on the uphill side, I dropped down and did my very best USMC belly crawl. I raised the claw hammer in one hand and waited for the woodchuck to stick his head up. When he popped up he never felt or saw the claw hammer that terminated him. It was hard to say who got the biggest surprise, Joe or the woodchuck. Joe couldn’t believe I really stalked and got that woodchuck.
The woodchuck wasn’t any trophy………………..it was the thrill of the hunt that counted.