Looking Back: Magpie massacre, part two

MEEKER — “Has anyone
else called you about your column
about the magpies?” the
caller asked.
“Not yet, you’re the first,
and I thought you just wanted
me to make pies!” I answered.
A mix-up in answering
machine communication had
me planning to provide some
pies for an emergency gettogether
of some sort, so I was
taken aback when she laughed
and said, “Even though you
sounded willing, I didn’t need
pies, I wanted to talk about the
magpies!”
As long-time resident, she
recalled the days that both she
and her husband earned extra
cash by bagging the birds’ eggs
in her high school days in the
1950s. Apparently the bounty
on these pesky birds was still
active then and quite a few of
the kids who grew up out in the
country knew where the nests
were located. She recalled that a
rivalry between “townies” and
ranch kids developed, as raids
on the previously lucrative
nests meant that it was more
difficult to earn as much extra
cash.Another White River Valley
native remembered her children’s
successful money-making
efforts from collecting the
bounty in the 1950s as well.
Talking with other residents living
here in that era, I discovered
that this bounty bird endeavor
became so popular some enterprising
“hunters” raided some
of the local garbage cans and
resold them later.
One danger of looking at
any culture’s traditions and customs
is that stereotypes often
develop. While hunting and
sport shooting were enjoyed by
quite a few of area residents,
some never took to it and
remember a childhood trauma
or two from being served the
quarry later for supper. One
native’s childhood remembrance
of
going rabbit
hunting with
her family
resulted in a
change in the
menu later,
as she says
she found it
so upsetting
her grandmother
told her they couldn’t
serve the rabbit for supper
because it had fleas.
Shooting squirrels, rabbits
and magpies for money may
have been one way that many
area youngsters earned some
spending money but doing odd
jobs was another. Talking with a
friend who grew up on a ranch
outside Rifle, I realized that
even though I was a “townie,”
we shared a childhood “bounty
hunting” experience of our
own. Both of us went out and
scoured the “neighborhood” for
empty pop bottles and took
them in for a cash refund.