Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Snipe Hunt Goes International

I’m sure most of you, especially those from the South, remember your introduction to snipe hunting. For many of us this was a ritual or orientation to high school. The best thing about a snipe hunt was the anticipation of taking the next group on their hunt. But what exactly is a snipe? According to Wilkepedia,

A snipe hunt is one of a class of practical jokes that involves experienced people making fun of newcomers by giving them an impossible or imaginary task. The origin of the term is a practical joke where inexperienced campers are told about a bird or animal called the snipe as well as a usually ridiculous method of catching it, such as running around the woods carrying a bag or making strange noises. In the most popular version of the snipe hunt, especially in the American South, a newcomer is taken deep into the woods late at night and told to make a clucking noise while holding a large sack. The others, who are in on the joke, say that they will go around the snipes and push them back toward the hunter. The frightened snipes, they say, will be attracted to the clucking noise and easily caught in the bag. The newcomer is then simply left in the dark forest, eventually to realize his gullibility and find his way home or back to camp.
My good friend Todd Long had developed a great student ministry in Timisoara. Occasionally I would join them for events or retreats. Being from the South as well, Todd and I decided we would take the boys to a local village for fun and games, hot dogs, and smores. Some how we even decided the boys needed to be introduced to the tradition of snipe hunting. For weeks Todd and I talked and talked about the great snipe hunt. After a while this story grew legs of its own. The snipe slowly took shape and they had a visual image in their mind of the “thing” they were going to catch. Funny enough, Raol, the team leader, was probably more excited than all the others put together.

Finally the day of the great hunt came. We had a wonderful day of playing soccer, trying to teach flag football, and eating. As the sun began to set we passed out the yellow plastic Billa shopping bags (as if it would hold a bird). Each boy was given a flashlight and sent on their way. We even offered a $100 reward for the first snipe. This just added fuel to the fire. They ran all over that village looking for the birds. They were kicking over mounds of dirt, looking under logs, climbing trees, all in an effort to win the prize.

Unfortunately the sun sat without a single snipe being caught. We gathered the boys around the camp fire to cook smores. They were so dejected, but not near as dejected as they were once I told them the truth! You would have thought we had kissed their sister they were so mad! We did share with them a Bible passage on being deceived and we tried to make a lesson of it. However, it was not until we told them that they could carry on the tradition of snipe hunting by doing it to others that they forgave us.

Everyone seemed to let this event go after a few days; everyone except Raol that is. He was determined to prove us wrong and save face. After all, he was their leader and he had been duped. Much to my amazement he shows up one day for lunch with an article from ESPN on an actual snipe bird. Apparently a snipe is a member of the shorebird family. It is difficult to catch for experienced hunters and the word “sniper” is derived from it to refer to anyone skilled enough to shoot one!

I’m not sure if these boys have continued the snipe hunting tradition, and unfortunately we lost Raol last year in a terrible car accident. But this is one day that will go down in my book of memories forever.

Aspire to new heights.

1 comment:

todd long said...

....what a day and what a memory! Thanks for the photo of Raoul's big ol' smile.