Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

December 4, 2013

It’s hard to fool an old snipe hunter…

By Keith Kappes - Publisher
Journal-Times

Dec. 4, 2013 —     For openers, I’ll define the word “snipe”.

    It’s actually a small, coastal bird but often is said to be an animal that lives in the forest and is difficult to see and to capture.

    A “snipe hunt” has been a rite of passage for generations of Boy Scouts and other young folks who’ve attended summer camps in the country.

    It’s actually a form of initiation in that adults or older boys tell the first-time campers that they are required to participate in a snipe hunt and that a wonderful prize goes to the camper who snares a snipe.

    I’ve seen boys holding open sacks at the end of hollow logs, sometimes for hours, waiting for an elusive snipe to fall into their trap.

    Exhausted campers have walked for hours, often in circles, in search of those tricky little varmints that defy description.

    Now that you understand the prank, I’ll share my recent experience in Southern Idaho with my wife’s family.

    My sister-in-law and her husband invited us to tour a small horse ranch they purchased earlier this year as a vacation getaway.

    We were en route to that dusty, treeless locale when I spotted a sign about a tilapia fish hatchery.

    Soon thereafter, I saw a sign on a small roadside café offering a special meal of alligator meat.

    I know that Southern Idaho is about 400 miles further north than where we live in Kentucky and even our winters are much too cold for such warm water creatures.

    Suspecting something akin to a snipe hunt, I asked if we could visit the hatchery and the alligator farm.

    Sure enough, that destination was next on our itinerary. Warily, I approached the gate to the fish hatchery/alligator farm.

    I knew that any minute someone would yell “gotcha” and this Kentucky visitor would become the object of good-natured teasing.

    Lo and behold, the first thing I saw was a pool of water filled with tilapia. The air temperature was in the low-40’s.

    I was about to put my hand into the bubbling water when my brother-in-law said that probably wasn’t a good idea.

    That’s when I noticed a set of eyes coming at me across the water.

    Behind them was a 12-foot alligator.

    So I quickly moved outside the fence and tried to listen as my guide explained that geo-thermal springs produce year-round hot water in that part of Idaho.

    As we drove safely away, I chuckled, thinking it would be a great place for a snipe hunt.