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"Pete" Sparks' Story

"Pete" Sparks' Story

       Aug. 31, 1992

Hi Sam,

When I was 5 years old I learned to shoot a single shot Savage 22 rifle and in a few years I started to hunt with it.  When I was 12 I had picked out a patch of woods that was polluted with fox squirrels, gray and black squirrels.  These were my favorite game at that time.  This place was around the headwaters of Cow and Calf Runs on the east side of Oil Creek.  I shot so many squirrels there in two seasons that I was the happiest kid in the woods.  They are really good eating.

The third year I went there a few times in the beginning of the season.  Being 14 years old, no hunting license and no hunters around to bother me, I decided to venture over to Gregg Run, the next run north of Calf.  I cautiously went through the top end of the woods where the big oaks were and then worked my way down to the planting of scotch pines.  I guess I was silently stalking like one of Chief Cornplanter's braves.  Worried about coming across another hunter, I stood still for a long time.  When I started seeing six or more gray squirrels in the trees in front of me, I realized there was no one else in the woods.

I decided to look around a little bit more and crossed a lease road which gave me my first glimpse of an abandoned cable tool drilling rig practically on the lip of the very steep ravine of Gregg Run.  It had turned into an "amusement park for squirrels".  The first gray I saw was sitting on the band wheel eating acorns.  I walked slowly toward the drilling machine and spooked that gray squirrel and about eight others that jumped off the gears and wheels.  The one I had my eye on jumped onto the derrick, ran to the top and leaped right into a hole in a beech tree and disappeared.

I was pretty excited and decided to sit on top of the big blue band wheel.  After several minutes a squirrel came out on a branch of a hemlock tree.  I had it in my sights, squeezed the trigger and got my first squirrel at the old rig.  It was a large gray.  I laid him on the rig floor and climbed back up to my spot on the wheel.  I could hear a squirrel in a big white oak tree and waited for him to make a move.  It came down the tree and ran out on one of the lower limbs.  It was getting ready to jump into the hemlocks.  I watched for the pause when the squirrel would kick off its back legs to jump.  I squeezed the trigger at the precise time.  The squirrel lunged forward but didn't make the hemlock.  That was number two in the space of less than 10 minutes.  Fast hunting.  I knew I had found "squirrel heaven".

I wanted to get "eye level" with that first squirrel which had leaped to the beech tree.  Never worrying about rotted wood or dropping my 22 rifle, I started up the old A-frame derrick which was like a ladder.  It didn't have a monkey platform so it was difficult to hang on and hold the rifle, but I was sure I would get that squirrel from my position way up there on the crown pulley.  That gray squirrel had its head stuck out of that hole  watching me.  I had my leg kicked over the crown pulley and hung on.  When that squirrel came all the way out of the hole, I shot it.  Here I had a bird's eye view of the tree tops and I was not getting off the derrick until I had to.  All told I shot four squirrels from that derrick and only used four bullets.

As I was leaving the old rig a squirrel ran out of the machinery.  It jumped on the bell bottom of a nearby red oak.  I shot it there and picked it up from the ground at the side of the tree.  Five squirrels in a half-hour to 45 minutes was the best hunting in one spot that I ever had. 

I headed out, but while on the way, I saw a squirrel in that patch of timber size oak trees near Cow Run. After the squirrel ran around two or three of those trees, it stopped and look back at me.  That was its fatal mistake.  I shot it right then.

I took off down the lease road to Farrel Point and then followed other lease roads to the house.  I was so excited over shooting the squirrels, all I could think of was having to face school all week while waiting for next Saturday to come so I could go back to that old rig again.  I spent six more seasons hunting off that rig.

Ellsworth "Pete" Sparks at age 14 with his father, Russell C. Sparks.  At this age "Pete" was hunting squirrels with his single shot 22 every chance he got.  In the photo they are holding the parachute of an U.S. Army high altitude radio-equipped balloon which they found in the woods of Oil Creek Valley.
In April 1992 "Pete" Sparks revisited the abandoned rig which he called "an amusement park for squirrels".  He is shown here standing beside the blue band wheel which he used to sit on at age 14 to hunt for squirrels.  The author and "Pete" again looked over this rig in June, 2000.

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