One summer when I thirteen or fourteen years old I went with my cousin, Gene Landers to visit an aunt and uncle down near Fredricksburg, TX. Several members of the family were going down for the Fourth of July holiday. They had invited all family members who could come for a cookout and a sort of gathering of the clan. Dad and mom couldn't go but they said it was all right if I went Dowd and Pete Sheldon lived in a community that no longer existed. It was called Loyal Valley but a number of families still lived there. Shopping was done in Fredricksburg, some twenty miles south of this small farm community. Pete Shelton, my dad's brother in law had some acreage there and raised a huge garden. Deer was plentiful and a creek ran nearby. After the grownups had caught up on some news of the families, Pete said, "I've got a bunch of chicken half's I'm going to bar barque. I'm going to cook them slow so we can eat around six o'clock." Then he said to me, Billy Ray, you can use a .22 can't you? Why don't you take my gun and a few shells and go down the creek aways and see if you can get us a squirrel or two. I said okay, and was glad for something to do. I pocketed five or six shells, stuck one in the chamber and started off down the creek. It must have been around three-thirty or four p.m. I had to walk a good piece before the creek entered good timber. It was a winding creek and seemed to run to the southeast, more or less. I found a good shade where a tree had blown down and sat on the trunk and watched the trees and listened for the chatter of squirrels. I waited and watched and waited some more, not seeing or hearing a thing. The shadows began to lengthen and in the hill country the sun seems to set earlier. I walked on down the creek a bit further, seeing nothing, I decided I better head back toward the house. It was almost sundown. I walked a ways along the creek before deciding there was no use following a winding creek all the way back, I'd just cut across and it would save some walking. Just as the sun was setting behind the hills I came to a barbed wire fence. I didn't remember seeing a fence coming down along the creek but I was reasonably sure of my direction, so I bent the wire to crawl between the fence. As I did so I saw a snake and I shot it. I crawled through the fence and started walking with a purpose'. I didn't relish the thought of being out here after dark trying to find my way back. I did have one comfort. After dark people would turn on their lights and I could see the houses. It got dark and I wasn't sure of my direction. I was so very tired. We had driven for about five hours today and now I must have been walking for at least three hours. I couldn't see a light anywhere. I was tired and sit down in a small clearing I had come upon. I lay down in the short grass, put my head on a small rock and dozed off. When I awoke, I didn't know which direction I had come from or which direction I had been going. The moon was out and everything looked different. To my left front as best I could make it, was a large flattop hill. Had I seen this before I lay down? I didn't think so. I considered climbing the hill and looking for lights but as I walked and walked and grew closer to the hill, I realized it was much larger than I had thought. I kept walking. I wanted to go north but I wasn't sure which direction north was. I began to feel a little fright and panic began to seize me. I had no choice, I had to keep going. I was sure my family would be a little concerned that I hadn't returned. Maybe they'd think I shot myself. I was tired but I had to keep going. Strangely enough, I could see pretty well out here in the dark. I was trying to retrace my steps in my mind when I came upon another fence. I could follow the fence but which direction? No, I'd keep on like I was going. After what seemed like a hour, I came to a dusty road that appeared to be unused recently, no tracks. I followed the road and soon came upon an abandoned house. I rested a few minutes.. I continued following the road and after a while I heard the sound of a traffic on a highway. I continued walking toward the sound I had heard and following the road. I came to the highway. Not knowing which way to go, I turned left, facing any traffic that might be coming toward me. After walking a few minutes, I heard the sound of a vehicle coming up from behind me. It was a truck and he kept going but suddenly he slowed then stopped. He started backing in my direction. When he was along side me, he rolled down his window and said, "Now where in the world would a boy carrying a rifle at three-thirty in the morning be going?" "I don't know, I said, I got lost and I've been walking a long time, but I'm not sure of my direction." "Get in, he said, let's try to figure this out." I'm He said I saw a big commotion back down the highway near Loyal Valley, off to the east a way. I'll bet they were looking for you. "What do you mean, commotion? I asked. "There were a bunch of cops and spotlights, a bunch of cars, maybe fifty , or a hundred, I don't know. I heard something back up the road about getting a posse together and looking for someone. I bet they're looking for you." "Oh, God, I bet I'm in big trouble." He turned his rig around. As we came upon the Loyal Valley exit he said, "I can't drive up in there. That road is too narrow and has some real narrow bridges. I'll let you out here. Good luck. You can tell them I picked you up eight miles this side of Fredricksburg. I said, "Thanks for the lift." Cars were every where. many up front had their lights on. People were talking on the car radios. I walked up to a group of men and recognized Pete Shelton. Pete saw me and told the sheriff, who was putting on hip boots, this is the boy we're looking for. "That thing loaded, " the sheriff asked, pointing to my gun? I told him it was and he reached for it. He unloaded the shell and handed the .22 to Pete. "We've got a hundred men out here looking for you. Where you been all night? "Walking." And I relayed my nights events to a number of sheriff and deputies. The sheriff told me how lucky I was. He said the area I was in is a game preserve. He said there's more rattlesnakes out there than anything else and he said he wouldn't set a foot out where I'd been with out a pair of hip boots on. Some voiced concern I had probably shot my self and was either dead or unable to get back. Pete Shelton looked at me and said, "Boy, I'm sure glad I didn't have to call your daddy. You hungry?" "Yeah." "Go on in the house, the girls'll feed you." And Pete thanked all the people who had assembled out here in the middle of the night to look for me. After some time, the crowd dispersed. I was embarrassed to have caused all this trouble for everybody and glad, too, they hadn't called my daddy.