Ask any Mississippian about his or her family tree, and it’s likely you’ll hear about a great hunter that stands out on one of the many limbs, like a fox squirrel’s red tail blowing on a cool fall morning.

In my family, it was Willy Savage, my mom’s stepfather, who, for some reason, took me under his wing and decided I would be the one of his many grandchildren that he would mentor.

Fortunately for me, Grandpa Willy was a grass-roots sort of outdoorsman. He was a hard-working man, whose hands were always greasy in the afternoon after a day of fixing heavy, diesel equipment, but always soft to the touch and clean as he held me and told me hunting stories.

Living in Houston, Texas, he used his autumn weekends either to hunt deer in the high desert, ducks in the Sabine River bottoms or squirrels in the tall timber between Houston and the Gulf.

When I visited for two months each summer, he’d share his stories; his best were always about hunting with his friend Skeet, a tall, skinny, black man who lived in the woods, and, as best I can remember, had to be the greatest squirrel hunter there ever was. 

Together, he and Grandpa Willy killed hundreds of squirrels each season, all of which they cleaned together over a case of beer and split between them. There were piles of them every weekend. I didn’t know anything about limits, and apparently, they didn’t either.

When Grandpa Willy was helping build the Astrodome, keeping those giant earth movers and mighty cranes working in what had to be brutal heat and humidity, he often worked weekends. Skeet would fill the void, shooting enough squirrels to load Grandma’s