Johnny awoke before the alarm clock sounded. He was already dressed. Daddy opened his bedroom door and saw Johnny standing in the hall wearing his best khaki pants and a crookedly buttoned dress shirt. His shirt tail was tucked neatly into his underwear, which was peeking out over the top of his pants.
Daddy reached down and picked him up. “Johnny, you look real nice, little man, but that’s not what you wear to go hunting.”
“It’s not?” Tommy looked disappointed.
“No. We wear jeans and a flannel shirt. We’re going into the woods, and if we’re lucky, we’ll bring home some squirrels for dinner.”
“Your kiddin' me, aren’t ya dad?”
Dad shook his head. “No, son I’m not. How about you go to your room and change your clothes.”
“Okay, Daddy.” Johnny wriggled out of his father arms and ran to his room.
“Breakfast is ready!” Mom called from the kitchen. She placed two plates of pancakes and sausages on the table.
Johnny raced to the kitchen and slid into his chair. He crammed food into his mouth while talking. Little pieces of sausage and pancakes were falling out of his mouth. "Momma, I’m gone to bring home the biggest one in the forest," Johnny told her. He stretched his arms wide to show how big.
Mom laughed. "Johnny, squirrels never get that big, and what did I tell you about talking with your mouth full?"
“Sorry, Momma,” he said through bulging cheeks.
Dad took a few sips of coffee and a bite of breakfast. "Let's go. We gotta get out there early."
Mom helped Johnny button his coat and pulled his orange stocking cap down over his ears.
Dad took Johnny's hand, and they both gave Mom a good-bye kiss.
Daddy drove his pickup truck to the woods. Johnny watched out the window and swung his feet the whole way. “Are we almost there?”
“It’s just right up the road.”
Johnny saw the trees up ahead and clapped his hands. “We’re here!”
The forest was alive with the colors of autumn, and as Johnny walked through, he named the colors of the leaves. "Look Daddy, there's orange, brown, red…”
"Shhh. You have to be quiet while hunting, or you'll scare the squirrels away."
"Okay Daddy." Johnny traipsed along behind his father kicking and crunching leaves.
"Johnny, you have to walk softly, or you'll scare away the squirrels."
Johnny scrunched up his little face. "They're scared of everything, aren't they?"
"I see one. In that branch, right there." Dad raised his rifle and had a squirrel in his sights.
"Oh, isn't it so cute," Johnny squealed. "How does he carry a nut like that? Doesn't it make his jaws hurt?"
The squirrel scurried up the branch to safety. Dad lost his chance to shoot.
"Johnny, how am I supposed to shoot it if you scare it away?"
Johnny's brown eyes were glossy; his bottom lip quivered. "Shoot them? Daddy, you can’t. That’s not nice, and besides, you said we were taking them home to dinner." He wiped his nose with his sleeve.
Blotting the tears from Johnny's cold, rosy cheeks, Dad smiled. "How about we take a hike through the woods? You can talk, kick leaves, and we'll watch the squirrels gather nuts."
Johnny nodded his head. “Okay, but can we have pizza for dinner?"
“Daddy, that squirrel could be a daddy like you. I’m happy you didn’t shoot him.”
“Me too.” Dad held Johnny’s hand, and they walked together through the woods, collected colorful leaves, and watched the squirrels.