It was a rite of passage back in the day. To go on a snipe hunt was beyond exciting. “Really? Really? Are we finally going snipe hunting this time?” We all knew it was a super secret event, a time of great revelation especially if one actually caught a snipe. Our grade school hearts fairly burst with anticipation. A long awaited dream come true! We were finally going to go!
“Shhh! You must walk very softly,” our adult guides whispered to my brother and me and our friends as we crept through the forest, eyes peeled in the dark, looking for the ever-elusive snipes, whatever they were. Some sort of little mysterious bird, long-legged, and able to run like the wind, it had been rarely seen in these hills, and even more rarely captured. Apparently snipes made a distinct sound, if one ever heard it. They were mystery wrapped up with a bow, one we were determined to capture and reveal. Wearing the cloak of Snipe Hunters International was the overall nebulous idea… if there ever was such a thing back then.
Tip-toeing through pine forest deadfall in the dark was not what one would call a quiet endeavor. No flashlights allowed – they’d alert our prey – so they stayed pushed deep down in our pockets. Just the start of the hunt and we were fairly defeated by the terrain. Yet we trudged on, with nary a sound but a “shhhhh!” or the rude “snap!” of a dry branch or twig, as we peeked around trees, under fallen logs, and into brushy piles.
After what seemed not long enough, yet forever as we stumbled around in the dark, a fearless leader yelled, “Come on, gang, it looks like there are no snipes out here tonight,” calling us to a fire-pit area. Flashlights flipped on helped us wend our way to our reward: a good talk around the roaring, warm campfire… and the soon-to-be-revealed coveted initiation into the secret snipe hunters club. Who knew what that was all about?… now we would find out…
The fire crackled as we young ones bent on our knees, initiation-posed and ready. To understand the secret we were to say over and over, while bowing up and down, a repeated phrase until it’s hidden meaning came clear to each of us individually. Only then could one stop repeating the phrase and leave the group, waiting quietly til the others had received their revelation.
“Ahwah tagoo siam…” Must be snipes were some sort of oriental bird… scenes from South Pacific and The King and I flashed through my head as I repeated the strange words over and over again. The phrase swirled like a whirling dervish in my mind and out my lips until… suddenly, the light clicked on!
One by one… a gasp, a titter, an “oh!”… as we each got the message. Then there we all were, standing round the campfire in the dark, grinning and laughing, congratulating each other, talking about our amazing accomplishment, and finding we had learned some special things that night. Especially a little more about ourselves, and the bonds of friendship, family, and good old fashion fun. And, perhaps more long-term, the wonderful advantage of using light to hunt out the truth of those snipe-ish things hidden in the dark… and in ourselves.