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Brad Eden

Essays, Poems, Thoughts. . .

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Scar

Again, I have written a story.  Again, it is with some trepidation that I share.  Please be kind.

 

 

Shooting Flying – With Zeal

 

                The older I get the less I struggle with the anxiety that in my youth I knew as excitement.  Despite this unfortunate fact I was eagerly anticipating this morning’s hunt.  November and December had been dry making bird work spotty and good, classic shooting opportunities scarce.  January had started with a cold, wet front that left a couple inches of snow showing white around the grey-blue sage.  My computer had told me last night that the cold would break and the temperatures would push into the low 50’s today driven by a clear sky and the weak sun of winter.  Pleasant quail hunting weather.

                The dogs don’t suffer from my stunted emotional disabilities.  They are both excited about the hunt despite the fact that they’ve been hunted every week since the Mid-November opener.  Having sore pads and muscles is behind them now.  The easy fat of the summer has faded and they both have that long, lean look of a killer.  I’m not sure if they can see color very well but they damn sure know when I show up at the kennel wearing blaze orange. 

                Ellie, a shorthair/pointer cross given to me six years ago in lieu of a trip to the pound, is a quiet, reserved dog who has grown to have a confidence in her own abilities that amazes me every time I let her out of the box.  Like me she’s showing some grey hairs and her eyes speak of experience.  She’s not a whiner but her feet beat a rapid tempo on the kennel floor as soon as I enter.  Maybe she also knows the day holds great promise or maybe she just wants to have yet another chance to give voice to her genetics.  Probably both.

                Little Dottie, a better bred pointer than I deserve, is in her first year and has all the foolish hyperactivity of a puppy.  Her excitement is manifest in her vocalizations, with whines and light yips letting me know she couldn’t be happier to see me.  She’s thirty-five pounds of spring loaded hope and she’s ready to go do something right now.  I’m more than a bit jealous as she surges out of the kennel and into the yard where she’ll run a loop until I put her in the box.

                Other than the weather the fact that it would just be the dogs and I today increased my anticipation.  I’m blessed to have a number of friends who enjoy chasing quail with bird dogs and the early weekends of the season had seen many of them coming to visit.  I’m a social creature and enjoy very little more than spending a day walking the sagebrush and sand draws with a small group of quail hunters and their dogs but time has lead me to a place where a solitary hunt is almost religious.  When alone I rarely feel any need to direct my dogs as I just follow where they lead.  When alone I feel no need to rush the shooting or take marginal shots.  Without the need to track fellow hunters my mind is free to roam similar to the courses of the dogs.  The details of habitat, dog work and shooting that make this sport so appealing to me are easier to note when alone and the silence gives rise to introspection that is absent with a group.

                My old Jeep starts up immediately in the early dawn.  The dust of thirty plus years settles around the dog kennels as I slam the tailgate closed on the dog boxes.  The dogs seem to like travelling in the Jeep better than in the bed of my pickup.  Despite my failings I’m certain my dogs like me and I think they like the feeling that they are “with” me in the cab of the Jeep.  The old radio barely works so as I drive out of town it’s only the road noise covering whatever minimal noise the dogs are making in their boxes.  Some stray buckle or empty shell is rattling against the wheel well in the back and while I’m not particularly compulsive few things irritate me more than a repetitive rattle in a vehicle.   I’ll need to figure out the cause when I get where I’m going.  The complete absence of traffic reinforces my sense of solitude. 

I’d worried that the location I’d decided to hunt first would have other hunters but when I turn off the pavement onto the two-track the remaining snow is pristine.  I’m always surprised to find myself alone when hunting public land but it happens as often as not after the initial rush of the opener. 

                My first walk of the day is in a location of prime habitat just south of the river bottom.  A sandy creek intersected the river just east of where I park and sand plum thickets extend south of me sporadically for a half mile into the sandy hills overlooking the thick grass plain of the river’s ancient course.   A glance as I lower the tailgate of the Jeep gives me no reason to believe other hunters have visited the location in the recent past.  The sun is up and shining as strongly as it will all day and I feel it’s warmth on my shoulders as I start my collaring routine with the dogs.

                Some men, with better trained dogs than I, have the luxury of collaring their dogs, or even booting them, while the dogs stand patiently on the tailgate tolerant of handling.  Not so me.  Collaring my dogs requires focus, attention and the occasional harsh words.  Even Ellie is barely willing to stand still long enough to facilitate my attaching her tracking collar.  I finish her first and release her knowing she will empty herself and start hunting while I collar the pup.  Collaring Dot is comparable to convincing a teenage boy to shower frequently.  Tough but necessary.

                Dot leaves the tailgate, antenna upright, in a flash as I turn to locate Ellie.  I don’t realize it yet but Ellie’s point alarm has sounded while I wrestled the collar onto the pup.  A quick glance around doesn’t help me find Ellie so I look at my handheld and I see that she’s on point forty-five yards east of me back along the entrance two-track.  I make it probably fifteen yards in her direction when I realize I still haven’t loaded my gun.  After dropping in the shells the sound of the action closing is loud against the snow induced quiet.  A plum thicket covered aged barbed wire fence runs along the left side of the entry road.  Despite covering most of the distance indicated by the handheld I still can’t see Ellie but experience tells me she’s solidly on point and that there will definitely be birds. 

                Finally a splash of white turns from snow to dog and there she is across the fence strong and focused with tail high and head low.  The ripples of the muscles in her shoulders and back convey her intensity.  I see her head move slightly to acknowledge my presence.  As I move to within ten yards of her I kick some brush in the fenceline and she breaks point moving towards me into the heart of the thicket.  My admonishment to go easy is as much for me as for her.  I take a couple steps paralleling her along the fenceline and turn to face her as she re-establishes her point.  There’s a pause of approximately two heartbeats and then the covey of bobwhite quail flush from underfoot with a clatter of wings.

                Some two or three birds go hard left of me to the south but the bulk of the covey fly left to right across my face with the closest coming up not more than five feet away.  I pick out a bird and see the flash of white on his head as I pull the trigger.  Solidly hit he crumples into a thick stand of saltgrass twenty yards west of me.  Ellie is on him almost before he hits the ground.  The remainder of the covey scatters widely in the thick grass flat between me and the river.

                As I gather the bird from Ellie I check the handheld for Dot and see that she is, as pointers are prone to be, two hundred yards away but heading back to the action drawn by the sound of the shot.  Ellie stands beside me long enough for me to communicate my thanks with a touch of my hand to her head and some softly spoken words and then she’s off after the singles she and I watched settle into the grass.  Despite our age I’m pretty sure we are both excited.

 

EllieJan.jpg

 

Covey-Flush.jpg

Edited by Scar
added pictures

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1971snipe
Fourth of July Thoughts
 
My wife and I drove to a nearby Gulf of Mexico beach last Saturday afternoon.  It's always an interesting drive, through upland habitat, wetlands habitat, marine nurseries and past countless fishing spots.  The trail also goes through the middle of a couple of petroleum refineries, past a couple of LNG terminals, and several offshore drilling rigs being repaired or built.  We never know what we'll see.
 
The paved "beach road" is an old one, with salt marsh on one side and coastal prairie on the other; and as it leads down the coast it gets closer and closer to the beach, finally ending at a road block, where the turn off of the road immediately lands you on the sandy beach.  Last Saturday about a mile or so before reaching the road block, on the side of the road beneath one of the rare trees there, standing alone in the shade and breeze, was an old guy playing a bagpipe.  We slowed way down and rolled down the windows as we coasted by, letting the notes drift into our car and ride along with us for as long as they lasted. 
 
It reminded my wife and I both of a certain funeral, from 11 years ago almost to the day.  A lone bagpiper was at the cemetery, and after Taps was played and rifles were fired, the piper played as he walked off into the distance.  It seems like it was yesterday.  It always does.  

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Wisconsin

THE OLDER I GET

 

The older I get the more I sit.

I sit to fish, on shore and in my boat.

My duck blind bench supports my bottom,

and a folding camo chair follows me from pothole to pothole.

 

In the uplands while following my dogs down the trails I look for stumps, fallen logs and boulders.

Resting along the way adds time to the hunt and rests my weary legs.

 

Along the river without gun or rod, I like to perch my backside upon her banks. 

I watch the water pass by a few days out of Mosinee, Tomahawk or Rhinelander.

 

A pair of Ravens, followed by a single, flew over my duck blind the other day. They growled as they passed, and triggered a crow to join the raspy music. Ten minutes later they returned for a second verse.

 

I smiled when I realized the reason why. The older I get, the more I sit.

duckblind.JPG

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walt lister

Autumn is another spring, with every leaf a flower.

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DTB

                                                          

         October 12

 

  It was not the classic clear,crisp fall day that comes to mind when you dream of autumn.The sky was swirled with various shades of grey and the ground was still wet from the storm the night before.It was that in between temperature where you sweat from exertion but your nose and hands are cold.

  The foliage is everything you ever read about.Colors that there are no names for hanging from every tree. Colors so intense that even in the low light there seems to be a glow,almost an aura that lights up the woods.It seems unusual that the act of decay could produce such a show.

  Dampness quiets the sound of your steps and makes it difficult to keep track of the dog.

  And the dog. You would not be here if not for the dog.He moves ahead of you with an eagerness and purpose that was bred into him.The two of you might train all year long but it is something deep in his DNA that moves him in the autumn. Most of the year he is your pet. Today he is your partner.

  His tempo quickens, an abrupt turn, you are ready.

  No thunderous flush this time. More of a silent, low, sneaking out the back door kind of flush.If you were not looking right at it you would be late. Unconsciously you have taken a half step towards the grouse, raised the gun and pushed the safety off.When the bird and the barrels seem to occupy the same space the gun goes off.

  The shot is so loud it seems a sacrilege.No other shots this day will be as loud as the first shot.

  Momentum carries the bird in a shallow arc and there is no sound when it hits the ground.Your canine partner is halfway to the retrieve before you even comprehend what just happened.Praise the dog,smooth the feathers of your quarry and remind yourself to remember this moment.

  Inevitably at some point you will return to your real world where a wife or a co-worker will ask if you had a nice time and did you catch anything.

  Best to just answer "Yes.It was Good".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1971snipe

Treasure

 

The corona virus “stay at home”, or “shelter in place”, orders are affecting folks in various ways.  Most folks are keeping busy.  Many are reading, cooking, home-schooling, and some are stepping up their spring-cleaning efforts.  A very smart attorney on a pipe-smoking-related forum commented somewhat contradictorily that he was in the process of simplifying his castle. 

Musing aloud that pocketknives and smoking pipes could neither be very easily eaten nor used for wiping one’s backside, he declared that he has entirely too many.  Define “too many”?  Well, his knives number 14, and his pipes somewhere upwards of 182 +/-.  Besides using the time to sort and clean tools, he’s cleaning up his pipes with the intent to sell many of them when times get better.  He’ll also pare down his small collection of various tobaccos, with the thought of possibly even becoming a single-blend pipe smoker.  A “one blend man”, specifically. 

I was following along well enough until someone chimed in on these deep cleaning thoughts and mentioned giving or throwing away books, rationalizing that they would likely never be re-read.  This struck a real chord with me.

I’ve lugged boxes of books around the country for years through numerous moves.  Books that not only belonged to me, but to my grandparents and parents, and children.  Finally, at our current residence, I had a room built that contains floor to ceiling bookshelves.  A library specifically devoted to housing all the books saved and collected over the years.  Visitors invariably ask if I’ve read all these books, and my reply is “of course not”.  First, many are reference books.  But primarily, most of the books belonged to someone else.  People that I loved.  Not that I may eventually read some or many of them.  Many have inscriptions, and some evoke pleasant memories.  They won’t mean anything to the next generation, and they will feel free to throw them away, but I’m not.  Let them throw everything in the trash bin, but I won’t. 

The same can be said for my garage, which hold tools and various odds and ends that belonged to my grandfathers and my father, and a few things, to my son.  Like Gene Hill said in his story, “Trash or Treasures”, they wouldn’t like it if I threw their things out. 

My wife is less of a pack rat than I, and it took some convincing in the last day or two to keep her from throwing out some old photos.  “It’s time”, she said.  “Just put them in a ziplock”, I replied.  “Or digitize them.  Or both”. 

Not that I’m a hoarder.  But with some stuff, it’s not that easy.  Some stuff truly is treasure.    

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1971snipe

Masks:

I went to physical therapy and the store this morning, and while watching people come and go, removing their masks when going outside, I couldn't help but think that for some women the mask is a good thing. Some men too, for that matter. Sort of like seeing someone from the back with nice long hair, and what appears to be an ok figure, then when they turn around, and you're expecting to see a beautiful woman, instead it's a long haired dude with a beard and mustache. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as they said on Seinfeld, but Sheez.  

Then there's the young lady at the coffee shop with the most beautiful eyes.  And that's all that's visible, her eyes.  I wished that she would remove the mask and reveal the face, and I'm pretty sure she knew.  I'm not a dirty old man, just a curious one.  No big deal.  

But I can see where this may be headed.  I can already picture Mardi Gras next year in New Orleans if they have it.  Guys will be tossing beads to the girls and yelling, "take off your mask!".    Hopefully no one will be throwing more beads and yelling, "put the mask back on!".  Surely not.  

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1971snipe

Bones:

I have two dogs but this evening I only had one bone, a femur or some sort.  So I decided to saw it into two pieces.

 

Out to the garage I went with both dogs following and observing closely.  I covered each end of the bone in its' plastic wrap, set it down on top of the vise, and proceeded to saw with a hacksaw.  Too slow.  Coping saw was next, with teeth a little larger and more course.  Still too slow.  I reached for a regular 15" crosscut handsaw, and with a little work it did the trick in fairly short time and with mild odor.  

 

I can't help but think of my dad's uncle.  Close to the beginning of the 20th century, in very rural Louisiana, Dad's uncle's arm was mangled in a cotton gin accident.  They got him home, to his old unpainted wooden house in the deep woods, and sent for the doctor.  Then they started giving the uncle sips of moonshine whisky, in small sips at first, then larger swallows.  There was plenty of time.  The doctor was a good hour away by horseback, and the return trip longer than that by horse drawn buggy.  The arm was pretty bad, and by the time the doctor arrived, the uncle was pretty much unconscious.  "We can do what needs to be done here in the house, or else take him out onto the porch", the doctor said.  Out to the front porch they went with the uncle.  And off came the arm.  I'm sure the doctor had much better saws and other tools than I have out there in my garage tonight.  Much sharper.  But still, I wonder how long it took, and  can only imagine the smell out there on the porch.  

 

I have no other information handed down about that event or the immediate aftermath and following days.  But eventually the uncle recovered from the amputation, and family members pitched in and set the uncle up in business with a small country store, (and I presume either cleaned or otherwise restored the front porch to its' former peaceful spot).  Apparently he managed ok with one arm.  Dad once had a large catfish trapped in a hollow log, but couldn't quite get enough nerve together to grapple it out.  As he walked down the river bank he came upon his one armed uncle and told him where the log was.  In short time the uncle appeared, with the catfish hanging on a stringer fashioned from a length of twine.  No way that Dad would accept that fish.  

 

There were a few nickel slot machine in the uncle's old store, but in the early '50s Louisiana's then governor had law enforcement going statewide, smashing slot machines and other casino type equipment.  But one of the slots was saved, and stayed hidden out in a hay barn until sometime in the late '60s when some cousins and I and my younger brother heard about it and found it and dug it out.  I've pulled the handle on that old slot thousands of times.  One of my cousins has it now sitting in his living room.  The handle sticks up into the air like a one armed guy waving, and it still works.  "Unbelievable", I tell my cousin.  "Not really", he replies.  "Just like old Uncle Lee, it's got good bones".  

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