Early Monday morning a coworker walked in and fixed himself a cup of coffee.
“How was the weekend?” I asked.
“It was great! There is a new game out, and my wife let me stay in the basement and play all weekend. There were some guys from all over such and such . . . they joined . . . and were all talking trash . . . and I was like . . .”
Blah, blah, blah. I was trying to listen, but my mind sort of faded away as I took a sip of coffee. While he talked about graphics, levels, and a whole lot of other things that I didn’t understand, I thought back on my Saturday morning.
The sleet, driven by high winds, stung like pinpricks on the back of my neck. My toes were cold and numb inside the insulated boots of my waders. I wiggled my stiff ankle to see if I could still move it, and the buildup of ice cracked from my boot and fell into the shallow ice water.
Suddenly I could hear the air breaking over the wings of an invisible flock of mallards. They sounded like a jet thundering over my right shoulder.
Where are they? I thought as my cold hand fumbled to get at a duck call I had tucked inside my coat. I turned to look behind me and tried to hide behind the bill of my hat to keep the sleet out of my squinting eyes. The chaotic roar of the weather made it hard to tell what direction the sound came from, but I wouldn’t have to guess for long. After a moment I could make out the tiny black specks that appeared to be moving across the wind in a broken and jagged pattern behind me.
I barked at them with the call as loud as I could until, all at once, they turned with the wind and accelerated past me again; this time I could not hear them. Before they got too far past my spread, I hit them with a strong greeting that I often use as a landing call. My heart pounded with excitement as they turned to the call and slowly fought their way back against the wind toward my little decoy spread. The anticipation was brutal as I waited for what seemed like an eternity until, finally, they were at 20 yards and . . .
His words interrupted my daydream.
“My son is into it, too. Except he likes to watch YouTube videos of people playing video games better than the games themselves. At least we were together all weekend. I was using my mad gaming skills and he was . . .” Blah blah.
My short attention span for such things caught up with me again. I had a slightly vacant smile on my face as I adjusted the way I was leaning against the counter. I took another sip of coffee and tried to focus on the conversation, but I soon drifted off into visions of my Sunday.
“Mike! The tracker says she is on point 365 yards away. It looks like she is around this hill. We will need to gain a little elevation so we can keep the birds below us. We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s pick up the pace.”
Mike had never hunted wild birds with a pointing dog before, so I was doing my best to give him a good experience hunting chukars over my best bird dog. We were both feeling the fatigue in our legs from the long ascent up the ridge line. I’m not sure he was completely convinced that the dog really had birds pointed somewhere beyond our vision, but he did as I asked and picked up the pace as best he could.
By the time I checked the GPS tracker again, I was breathing hard and Mike had fallen behind. It claimed that she was still more than 90 yards away. I looked back at Mike, who was bent over with his hands on his knees giving me the “go on without me” wave.
Seconds later I could see the dog. She was facing downhill, her tail was straight in the air, and she was intense and confident. I positioned myself just above her, well within gun range, and looked to see where Mike was. I could just see his head slowly peaking around the hill 60 yards away. I waved for him to hurry. He tried yelling something back to me, but I put my finger to my mouth to shush him from making noise that might flush the birds.
When he finally got there, I signaled to him and we pushed down below the dog. I could still see doubt in his eyes as he walked nervously below the pointing dog. With one final step, tranquility turned to chaos and the mountainside exploded with flushing chukars. I heard Mike’s gun go off several times as I tracked a bird and let the bottom barrel go, then quickly found a second bird to victimize with my top.
“Did you get any, Mike?” I yelled.
Mike was laughing hysterically.
“I don’t know. That has got to be the coolest thing I have ever seen! I was too excited to shoot straight! I think I may have gotten one, but I’m just . . .”
Before I could finish the thought, my coworker’s words again disturbed me. He said, “Enough about my weekend. You must have had a great weekend with a grin like that all over your face.”
Knowing that my friend wouldn’t understand my idea of a good time any more than I understood his, I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “It was okay, I guess. I just went hunting.”