Snipes

When I was a kid, I believed in Snipes more than I believed in Santa Clause.

I’m fairly certain that snipes are grounded in reality, they’re in the dictionary anyway, but the kind that I believed in are as real as a festively plump guy squeezing his way down the chimney with a sack full of presents and flying around the whole world in one night with the help of some reindeer. No, the snipes of my childhood were as much a legend as anything can be to kids and it was all conceived and perpetuated in the mind of my Dad. Let me explain.

As a kid growing up in Colorado, camping was as much a part of my summers as sunshine and swimming. Weekend after weekend we would load up our gear and join up with a group of friends, forming a caravan up the Rocky Mountains that rivaled the Oregon Trail. We would arrive at our campsite and get everything set up. We would hike and roast marshmallows, fish and play horseshoes but we all knew what the main event would be– “Snipe Hunting,” of which my Dad was at the helm.

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There were probably 10 or 15 of us kids on these camping trips and Snipe Hunting required the help of all of us. On the night of our hunt, my Dad would explain that Snipes were a mysterious creature, with the body and head of a large bird, the front teeth a beaver, and eyes that glowed greenish bluish in the dark. They didn’t fly but instead strutted around like turkeys clicking their sharp talon-like claws together to find a mate. Snipes were big and fast and very few people had ever seen one, he said. He told us that he had been hunting them his whole life but had never caught one. But this trip (like every other trip), he was feeling lucky.

At this point in the night, all of us kids were riveted. Every summer, we would picture these mysterious creatures and talk about them in hushed tones with a little bit of reverence, a little bit of fear. My Dad would ask if we felt like we were ready, if we were up to the task of hunting one down– just to say that we had caught one, that we had looked into the glowing eyes of a Snipe and lived to tell the tale.

We were.

Catching a Snipe wasn’t easy though. First off, you need bate. My Dad said that cans of creamed corn were best, but French cut green beans would do the trick too. At this point, one of the moms would dig around in the coolers full of hotdogs and cereal that we brought and produce the needed canned goods. My Dad would open the can and pour it out in a long, thin line and then tell us to go and line up a few yards away from it. Then he would tell us all to pick up two rocks, big enough to click together. Remember that Snipes click their claws together to find a mate? Well, any good hunter would tell you that you need to make the sound of the mating call of the animal to lure them. So, there we were, standing in a long straight line behind a line of dumped out creamed corn, clicking rocks together to mimic the mating call of imaginary birds, in the dark, scared spitless.

Now, I should also mention that before we all lined up, my Dad had designated a few of the older boys (by older I mean old enough not to believe his Snipe stories but smart enough to play along with the ruse for the rest of us) to be the “catchers.” If a Snipe were to answer our calls and come to eat the bate, one of the boys was supposed the go after it and catch it with a grocery bag. So there we were, clicking our rocks together while the catchers waited a few feet in front of us when my Dad would say “Wait, did you hear that? A Snipe is clicking back at us!” We would wait and listen for a clicking sound and there it was, off in the distance. None of us thought to notice that a few of the other Dads had snuck off with some rocks of their own prepared to respond to our clicks with a few of theirs.

Then, all of the sudden, while we were lost in our clicking, my Dad would throw himself on the ground with his grocery bag, rolling around and appearing to struggle. He would go at it, wrestling with, what we were sure was a Snipe, for a few seconds while we would wait with bated breath until, finally, he would get up and say, “I had one for a minute but he tore through the bag.” And then, so we could never doubt him, he would show us the plastic grocery bag with a big hole torn in it. And with that, the hunt was over, ready to be resumed the next camping trip.

Year after year, we believed my Dad and the other parents. We just knew that Snipes were out there, waiting to be found. We never doubted them. I mean who could with the clicking sounds and the shredded grocery bags?! And while we steeled ourselves for another summer and another hunt, our parents all had a pretty big laugh watching us click away in our perfectly straight line in the dark.

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My parents. All of our faces look like my Mom’s here when we’re around my Dad.

Credit: Melissa Yocum Photography

We eventually caught on but no one wanted to admit that these mystical creatures, that had given us bravery and rock clicking skills, didn’t exist. We would play along so the younger kids wouldn’t find out, so the bubble wouldn’t burst, so childhood could be childhood. Because kids will believe anything and that faith that they have can cause them to do anything.

When I look back on my summers spent Snipe hunting, it’s no mystery to me why Jesus said that we need to have the faith of a child.

“And He said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:3 NIV

I believed in Snipes so I did some pretty silly stuff. I never questioned how an animal’s eyes could glow or how a bird that lived in the wild ate exclusively canned vegetables. I never wondered why we would try to capture something with claws with plastic grocery bags or why it required standing in a line. I just did it because I believed my Dad. I knew that he was a good, good father and had my best interests at heart. Sure the story turned out to be just that, a story, but he gave me the gift of adventure and fun and imagination and now when I look back on it, the gift of laughter.

Is that the kind of faith you have in the Lord? Do you trust that He’s a good Father and that He has your best interests in mind? Do you trust him enough to go out on a limb and do things that seem foreign to you or don’t make sense? Things like fighting a giant like David did or walking on water like Peter did? Things like having a baby in your nineties like Sarah did or giving away the last coin to your name like the widow did?

Do you believe enough to click rocks together in the dark behind a pile of creamed corn?

The kind of faith that believes enough to do– that’s what Jesus is looking for. He must have pictured the generations of kids who would lay out cookies and milk for a man to slide down the chimney or the others in the mountains looking for snipes when he said what He did in Matthew 18. He must have seen it in the eyes of the children waiting to see Him, the ones that were told to go away by the disciples but who pushed forward anyway. He must have seen that faith that is willing to do. The faith that believes that even when what they’re told seems unlikely, impossible even, they would believe it anyway. And that’s why he said that “the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16 NIV

With faith, nothing is impossible. It’s our ticket to pleasing God and changing the world.

“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go throw yourself into the sea’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” Mark 11:23 NIV

Have Snipe-Hunting-like faith this week. Believe enough to do the unexpected, the impossible, the challenging because you know that the one who sent you can be trusted. Like my Dad, He’s a good, good Father who watches you and smiles.