Snipe Hunting

In yesterday’s article, I made reference to one of the most beloved tool at any lumber yard – the green handled board stretcher.

And then – I gave no details about it! A cliffhanger indeed!

Before we get into the green handled board stretcher, a few words about a North American rite of passage:

snipe huntingIn this prank older adolescents take younger boys into the wilderness for the supposed purpose of “snipe hunting.” Snipes are an imaginary game bird purported to resemble quails or pheasants or what have you (the fictional snipe is not to be confused with the extant North American shorebird of that same name).

Snipe hunting takes place on moonless nights; the victims are provided burlap bags with which to catch the birds, while the conspirators spot them with flashlights. The conspirators make birdcalls, throw rocks in the bushes, and urgently cry out “snipe” to make the victims believe there are actually birds in the area. The victims don’t want to be the only one who can’t see the imaginary birds, so they claim to have seen them also. Pretty soon the victims have convinced each other they are surrounded by snipes and proceed to run about foolishly in search of the non-existent birds.

The conspirators will often agree they have just seen a snipe in a cactus patch or lake or thorny bush and order the victims to dive in and catch it with his respective sack. The victims are then often abandoned by their guides, thus completing the joke. The cycle repeats when this year’s dupes become privy to the snipe hunting joke and then take their younger siblings out the following year, in search of the ever elusive snipe.

When I was hired to manage the prefabricated metal connector plated roof truss manufacturing plant at Lucas Plywood and Lumber in Salem, Oregon in 1979, it was my first experience working adjacent to a lumber yard.

I was quite entertained by the new hires, over on the lumber side of the street, being indoctrinated on their first day of work. One of the first tasks was being sent by the lumber yard foreman to go fetch the “green handled board stretcher”. Without fail, every one of them went off looking for it. The more astute ones would realize with 10-15 minutes they had been sent off on a snipe hunt and sheepishly return.

To the best of my knowledge, the longest anyone ever went searching for the green handled board stretcher was until lunch time – however there have been rumors of lumberyards haunted by the ghosts of former new employees – still wandering aimlessly about deserted lumberyards….in search of the green handled board stretcher

3 thoughts on “Snipe Hunting

  1. I’ve been aware of the tradition of “snipe hunting” in the USA for many years but in Europe and Asia, we actually do hunt a bird named the snipe. Its a very difficult bird to connect with as they are fleet of wing and pretty small but very tasty. My father used to travel to Southern Ireland from England to hunt them in the 1960’s as that was one of the best hunting areas for them. Snipe hunters have to be crack shots which is the origin of the term “Sniper.” Really enjoy your blog!

  2. Capt Daryl Gonyon

    Snipe hunts. If you were in Boy Scouting, you will remember them. I sure do. I have told of my Snipe hunt experience countless times.
    The snipe hunt is an errand or expedition, attested as early as the 1840s in the United States. It was the most common ritual for boys in American summer camps during the early 20th century, and is a rite of passage often associated with groups such as the Boy Scouts.
    In camp life and children’s folklore, the snipe hunt provides an opportunity to have fun with newcomers while also accepting them into the group.
    If you have a young boy that has not experienced the Snipe hunt, don’t spoil the fun by telling them what it is.
    For those of you who have experienced the Snipe hunt, you can see it nicely exprienced by a Texas Ranger in the TV series Walker, Texas Ranger. It is shown on UPTV channel 908, and Hallmark channels. The exact episode to see is Series 4, Episode 23, named “The
    Seige.” Enjoy! Relive the great experience…


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