After my military service ended in 1972, I made a brief visit home, then moved back to Southern California as I had enjoyed my time out there very much. I stayed out there for a few more years, moving back to Wisconsin only after a weak job market with few prospects left me little choice. It was a difficult decision at the time.


Beautiful, but harsh country


Though previously out by the desert in Riverside, California, I now lived on the opposite end of Greater Los Angeles, settling in the San Fernando Valley. (North Hollywood to be exact) I lived near friends and relatives who resided in that area, and I also had friends in the Long Beach and Anaheim area, so I spent time in all three areas during my time in California.


In the valley I spent a lot of time with my good friend Bill and his young family. Bill and I both enjoyed hunting, and on many weekends we went up into the mountains near Tujunga Canyon looking for deer or Black-tailed jackrabbits. The black tails were much bigger than the cottontails I had hunted in Wisconsin, but were about the same size as the jackrabbits I chased after during my time in North Dakota; and these were some tough bunnies!


They were tougher than they looked!


I had a single shot 22 caliber rifle, and even using the long rifle round, it was hard to bring a jackrabbit down with one shot. Bill and the other guys that went along had 22 magnums and even larger caliber weapons for the bunnies. Whenever one of the other hunters didn’t go, I would scheme to borrow his gun for the weekend.


One of the guys we hunted with was an old friend of Bills named “Smith”. I never heard him referred to in any way other than “Smith”. Not Smitty, or Bob, or John or whatever…just “Smith”.  I’m not even sure if anyone knew Smith’s first name. And Smith was quite an eccentric character. He lived right up in the canyon where we hunted, sharing an old trapper’s cabin with a mongrel dog and a woman named “Kiiya”. (Pronounced Kia, like the automaker)


Kiiya, a Native American, was not a particularly friendly person, as a matter of fact she was most often sullen and reticent. During the short time we spent at their shack, she seemed to spend most of her time tending her chickens,…and that was fine with us.


This photo from a National Geographic website bares a striking resemblance to Smith’s soulmate.


Because of Smith’s location in the canyon, we’d always start and end our days at his place. We’d pick him up early in the morning and be at our hunting ground within a half hour or less. Kiiya would see us off with a mean glare, which we returned, (when she wasn’t looking) and we always gave Smith the business about her disposition. He never apologized or made excuses for her and took our jibing in good humor.


He’d often say, half-jokingly:


“If you find me carved up at the bottom of the ravine, don’t believe the suicide note”.


And we wouldn’t have been surprised had he met that fate.



                                              The Hunt


Now Jackrabbit hunting may sound easy, but in those dry, steep hills, full of poisonous yucca plants, cactus, rattle snakes and scorpions it was actually very challenging. We’d pack in several gallons of water and would never have a drop left at the end of the day. At the time there was no limit on jackrabbits out there, and I always felt good if I got more than two; if I got three or four…that was a good day for me. Bill would usually get four or five and some of the others would as well…except Smith. Smith hunted with an old 12-gauge shotgun and was the worst shot I ever saw. We ragged on him mercilessly about his shooting prowess, but as with our ragging about Kiiya, he just laughed it off. Or he’d say:


“If I was a good shot, I’d have to eat these damn things every day. I’ll take chicken any day of the week”.


And he was right because no matter how long you brined those damn jacks, they were still tougher than an old tramp’s shoe. Bill’s mother-in-law was Italian, and she simmered them for hours in tomato sauce, after which they were tolerable…even halfway decent.


After a long day of hunting, we’d usually drop Smith off and be on our way, before the ill-tempered Kiiya could make her appearance. One day, however, Smith insisted that we stay for a cookout and beverages, and we reluctantly agreed. We always left most of the jack rabbits with Smith, since we didn’t care for them too much ourselves, and it was obvious from their living conditions that they could probably use them; if nothing else, just to feed the dog.


That night at Smith’s we enjoyed some great barbecued chicken, and actually had a fairly pleasant evening. Kiiya puttered around with her chickens and stayed away for the most part, which was fine by us. As we sat drinking beer, watching the sun setting behind the last mountain range, we rehashed the day’s hunt, and talked about when we hoped to make it back.


Kiiya had finished her putterings and now sat, listening to the conversation, glum faced as ever. One of the other guys noticed a short heavy chain, wrapped around a log with an old frayed collar on one end.


“What’s the chain for?”


Smith’s dog had about as much charm as his “soul mate”

Smith explained that their mongrel dog occasionally had bowel problems and they would chain him to the log until the unpleasant episode passed.


Jokingly, Bill commented:


“Well, if we ever see Smith chained to that log, we’ll know why.”


That got everyone to laughing, except for Kiiya, who without missing a beat replied in her usual surly tone:


“It’ll fit both.”           😀


After I left California for good, I stayed in touch with Bill and a few of the other guys, but have no idea what became of Smith, the dog or his ill-tempered woman. Nor did I ask.   😉



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Joe Campolo Jr.

Joe Campolo, Jr. is an award winning author, poet and public speaker. A Vietnam War Veteran, Joe writes and speaks about the war and many other topics. See the "Author Page" of this website for more information on Joe. Guest writers on Joe's blogs will have a short bio with each article. Select blogs by category and enjoy the many other articles available here. Joe's popular books are available thru Amazon, this website, and many other on-line book stores.


  1. Joe, Gotta complement you, yet again! I always enjoy yer stories. Real life in really life time!!!
    I hunted jack rabbits when I was stationed Ellsworth. Heck of belly busting good time!!!


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