*_If you properly respect what you are after, and shoot it cleanly and on the animal’s terrain, if you imprison in your mind all the wonder of the day from sky to smell to breeze to flowers–then you have not merely killed an animal. You have lent immortality to a beast you have killed because you loved him and wanted him forever so that you could always capture the day._*
–Robert Ruark, The Old Man and the Boy
h5. Chapter 9
When they got home “Ma’s” folks had already arrived and settled in for a visit. “Grampa!”, Mike hollered as he came in the door. “Grampa, I got my first goose. Goose and a half. Dad and I doubled. I got to drive the truck. The geese came in perfect and Dad goofed and I got my first one all by myself and it was great and we doubled on one and….”
“Whoa, boy, slow down a little.” Grampa was laughing. “Go just a little slower. You’re runnin’ everything together and I don’t know if you got goosed or got a goose.”
“Ah, Grampa, you know what I mean. It was so great. Dad let me have the first shot and I knocked him on his, uh, I dropped him deader than, er. Grampa, I killed my first goose.‚Äù
Everybody laughed and Mike turned red. They all headed for the kitchen for lunch and Mike told his story over and over. Just like the Big Guy had predicted he’d have to do. And, Grampa loved every minute of it.
Then the subject of going hunting the next morning came up. The Big Guy asked Grampa if he would like to go along, but Grampa had said, ‚ÄúNo boys, I‚Äôm going to pass. My eyes just keep getting worse and I‚Äôd just cause you extra work getting me to and from the blind.‚Äù
Mike told his Grampa, ‚ÄúGrampa, I sure want you to go with us tomorrow morning. It isn‚Äôt every kid who can spend a day in a blind with both his Dad and his Grampa. Heck, it‚Äôs a short walk to the blind and I can help you while Dad sets up the decoys.‚Äù
That had settled it. ‚ÄúMike, I guess I can‚Äôt pass up an invite like that. If nothing else, just to make your Dad set all the decoys by himself would be worth it.‚Äù
And so the next morning there were three of them who rode out to the blind. Grampa and Mike took their time getting to the blind and Grampa kept saying, ‚ÄúNow, Mike, like I told you, just take your time and by the time we get settled in, your Dad will be all done with the decoys.‚Äù Grampa and Mike laughed. They knew the Big Guy wouldn‚Äôt mind a bit.
The Big Guy just put me up at the head of the spread again. I think he’s gonna get fooled. It feels like we’re going to have a wind change and we aren’t set up for a south wind. I wonder if they’ll stick it out if that happens. Boy, there’s a fine odor coming from over in the blind. Um! Um! Um!
The men were situated in the blind, and had settled back with coffee, hot chocolate, and gramma’s homemade , “these should be patented”, cinnamon rolls. Those rolls are obviously the source of the fine odor I was smelling..
“Grampa”, Mike is asking, “did we tell you about the decoy we found yesterday? It is a dandy. It’s been carved out of wood and it looks so real. There wasn’t any cord on it so we figured it must have come untied. Right after we found him, the geese started coming in. I think we should name him Lucky.”
“Mike”, replied Grampa, “Lucky sounds like a pretty good name. I don’t know anyone who makes carved decoys anymore. There used to be quite a few decoy carvers up north but most of them died off or quit. The new plastic decoys look pretty good and they’re a lot lighter to carry, but, they sure don’t look as good as the old carved ones. Later on this morning, why don’t you bring Lucky in so I can see him up close. These ol’ eyes don’t work so good at a distance but I can still see up close pretty good.”
Hey, you guys in the blind! Drop those coffee cups and pay attention. Those ol’ boys were in range when they went over. In range, I’d hope. They were about 25 yards up and they were just hanging there inspecting the spread.
“Gosh, Dad, we should have shot.” Mike whispered. He’s quieter today, he’s learning.
“It’s OK Mike. They’ll hook and come right back. Boy, they came in from the back without a peep. Remember, they have to get down wind to drop back in. It’s not just prettier to watch them do that, it makes for better, closer, shootin’, too. Now, give them a couple of toots.‚Äù
“Mike is just staring at his Dad, “No Dad, I’m not ready to do that. I haven’t practiced enough. You call ‘em.”
“Son”, the Big Guy whispered, “believe me, your Ma and I know how much you’ve practiced; at home, in the car, and even your school teacher called. Remember? Now give ‘em a couple of toots.”
The Big Guy couldn’t help a quiet chuckle. But here they came. They had committed before Mike ever blew his call and his imitation of a New York taxi cab didn’t even faze them.
“Take ‘em!” The Big Guy yelled as soon as they came in over my head.
“KA-BOOM! KA-BOOM! KA-BOOM!”
“SPLASH! SPLASH! SPLASH!”
“All right, boys! Three for three!”, the Big Guy hollered. “Somebody open that door and let Fifty out before she tears the blind down.” The door is flying open and there goes Fifty, charging down the bank and getting below the farthest goose.
They‚Äôre watching Fifty as she retrieves the three geese in perfect order. She‚Äôs bringing the furthest one to the bank, returning for the next furthest, and finally the closest one is lying on the bank. All three are laying about seventy five yards downstream from the blind. And now she‚Äôs bringing each of them to the blind.
“Boys, you’ve got yourself one fine dog there.”, Grampa said. “She reminds me a lot of that Chessie Uncle Albert had years ago. She’s just a natural born retriever. I’ve known lots of men that would pay just about anything for a dog like that. I guess it can be trained into them, but it sure is something to see one just do it on their own.‚Äù
Hm. I remember Heinz and Grant talking about someone by the name of Albert that had a Chessie that was supposed to be a great retriever. Small world sometimes.
I was sure right about that wind change. It just got dead calm and then whipped around to the south. I wonder if we’ll pick up or stick it out? This bar lays pretty good for either a north or a south wind. I’ll bet they move us around and stick it out. Yup, I just heard the Big Guy say, “Well, what do you think Grampa? Want to stick it out a while longer? We can pick up now if you’d rather.”
“Good God Almighty!” Grampa replied. “You boys have five hours of daylight left, and those bacon wrapped mallard breasts you set on the stove are starting to smell mighty fine. I have to see my grandson get at least one more goose and I want a close look at that decoy you told me about. Speaking of which, Mike, why don’t you bring him to me and then help your Dad move the spread. That wind change has you boys set up bass-ackwards.”
Well Hi Mike! Take me to your larder. Yuck, yuck! Dang it, he can’t hear me either. He‚Äôs pulling me out of the water and he’s taking me into the blind for Grampa to give me the old once over. Grampa reminds me a little bit of ol’ Heinz. Kind of that leathery faced look and his hands are rough from lots of years of hard work, but he sure is holding and turning me gently.
“Yep, boys”, the old man said when they came in from moving the rest of the spread around, “You did come up with a dandy decoy. There was an old decoy carver up around Peoria who made decoys that looked this good. Heinz somebody or other, something like that. He died just this year. I’d bet you that this was one of his decoys. He had a magic touch when it came to doing feathers. He was really famous for carving his geese in lots of different positions. Not just sentinels, like this one, but birds preening their feathers, or sleeping. I think maybe you did good when you named him Lucky. Just seems right.‚Äù
Grampa might not see so good with his eyes, but his hands have twenty-twenty vision. Ol’ Heinz must have been kinda famous if they know about him way down here. Mike put me back in the spread but this time Grampa told him to put me at the downwind end and Grampa‚Äôs right, that’s where I belong. Grampa and Heinz must have gone to the same decoy setting school. ‚ÄúYou should always put your best looking decoys where they’ll be seen first by the geese coming in. It might just keep ‘em from flaring off.” Grampa said. That’s the same thing Heinz used to say.
You know, boys, I am really enjoying today.” Grampa started off. “You should be pretty tickled going three for three so far. Those ol’ geese sure are big and you wouldn’t think you could ever miss’em, but it sure happens. Why I remember the time….” The Big Guy leaned back, smiled, and nudged Mike with his elbow. Mike smiled back, and turned to his Grampa, “Grampa, is this the story about you and Uncle Ron and Uncle Larry in the cornfield.?‚Äù
Grampa laughed. “I guess I do like to tell that story about the best. How many times have I told it to you? Probably only two or three times, wouldn’t you say?‚Äù
Mike just smiled at his Grampa. He knew he’d heard that story several times more than two or three. Maybe twenty three. “You know Grampa, I really do like that story, too. Especially since it seems to have a little different ending each time.”
Grampa cracked up with that statement. He wiped a tear from his eye and said, “Mike, you just keep that honest streak alive and well. Yeah, I reckon once in a while I get the details a little mixed up, but, I’m usually pretty close. I tell you, we had those geese dead to rights. Ol’ Ron let em get so close before he hollered ‘take ‘em’ that nobody could have missed. I ferget how many we killed. Somewhere between two and eight. Maybe ten.”
“Now Grampa,” the Big Guy said between foghorn guffaws, “you know Ron admits you never killed a bird, and his son, Shane, was laying out in the other end of the field watching the whole thing. Come on, fess up!”
“Why, that Shane couldn’t see no better than I can now.” laughed Grampa. “You know, I never did figure out how that happened. I know I never was a crack shot, but ol’ Larry was. And Ron was pretty good. And not one of us drew a feather. I guarantee you, if Shane hadn’t been watching from the other end of the field that day, nobody would ever have heard about it. We just stood there and looked at each other, shook our heads, and laughed. We truly shot right through ‘em. Not a feather. Not even one. It still amazes me to this day.”
“Boys, I’m afraid your shootin’s over for today. I’ll just have to come back another time to see you get another bird, Mike. Your Ma and Gramma were already up building apple pies when we left and that mallard breast has kinda wore off. I think we ought to pick up and head for home. Whatcha think?”
“Sounds good to me Grampa, I’ll start at the far end, Dad.” Mike hollered back over his shoulder. Apple pie was apparently one of the few things that could tempt Mike to quit hunting.
This sure has been a nice day for me. It’s nice to be hunting with people of different ages. That Mike is a pistol, one hundred percent on the go all the time, but, he does a good job of sitting still in the blind. I kind of wish the Big Guy would convince him he’s practiced enough on that goose call. He really does have it pretty well down. It wasn’t so bad today with Grampa along, but yesterday about noon he really got going. Then when they left, I could hear him blowing it in the truck till they went out of sight.
One very nice thing about the Big Guy and Mike, they always stack us very carefully in the blind. I ended up on top again. I heard the Big Guy tell Mike to be extra careful with me and not put me on the bottom as my neck might get broke. Yecch!