Saturday, February 7, 2009
Today's "Blast from the Past" photo is from 1975. This is my dad, Raymond, and his best bird dog, a German Shorthaired Pointer named Fritz. In his right hand is his trusty Remington 1100, which I now own. The cowboy hat was a constant. He came by it naturally, working the McAlester Stockyards as a teen. And I am a very good horseman because of him, but that is another story.
(Click here or on photo to go large.)
About the only time he wasn't wearing cowboy boots was when he was hunting. Then it was wool socks and Redwings. A plaid wool shirt over white insulated underwear because, by golly, it gets cold this time of year. And red coveralls because hunter orange was not yet in vogue. And his ensemble is rounded out with a shell vest and a nail apron because there is much to carry.
This photos brings up many memories for me. My dad introduced me to hunting very early in life. At the time this photo was taken, I was 13 and already quite a veteran of quail hunting. I really wish I knew exactly what age I was when I started hunting, but I don't. I just remember that before Fritz, there was Judd and Lady, American Pointers. And there was also Gent, a German Shorthaired puppy of my own.
The earlier memories come in pieces. Sometimes fragmented and disassociated from each other. I remember a 12 gauge Remington autoloader. Dad cut the barrel down to the minimum legal length and added an adjustable poly-choke that was always set to Improved Cylinder. He also cut down the stock and custom shaped a recoil pad to fit it. Now, most grade schoolers don't shoot 12 gauge! But dad wasn't going to put me at the disadvantage of shooting quail with a 410, which he considered woefully inadequate. And I shot the same high brass extended range shells that dad shot. That gun knocked me to the ground on more than one occasion. But a lot of quail were knocked to the ground too!
The gun fit me well and I had the fast reflexes of youth on my side. I remember the admiration of my dad and and his friends when I would occasionally knock down a surprise flushed quail almost before they even knew what was happening. A kid lives for moments like that!
I remember being woken up in the "middle of the night." Sleepily getting dressed and falling asleep again in the truck. I remember being woken up at a little cafe. It was still dark as we ate our hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns and biscuits. Then back in the truck for a few more minutes. We would arrive at our destination at dawn and by the time the sun actually broke the horizon, we were in the field.
Sometimes dad would bring a friend or two; sometimes it was just the two of us. We would walk all day. In sometimes very rough terrain of rocks and cactus. My legs were short, my boots and gun heavy. Thankfully, I carried only my own shells and downed birds in my vest. Dad carried all the extras; our lunch, water and candy bars. It was sometimes very cold, especially early in the morning. My toes and fingertips would ache.
I remember walking back to the truck at the end of the day, leg and shoulder muscles aching and throbbing. Wondering where I would find the power to take another step. Sometimes we wouldn't time it right and it would get dark. I remember walking single file in the darkness, dad leading the way. The dogs would walk behind me, exhausted and content to just follow in our footsteps. We would all sleep very hard tonight. And I wouldn't have missed it for the world.