I often hear the term “urban legend,” and I guess we have some kind of equivalent in the country, but I don’t know what it’s called. Like the urban legend, a country legend usually begins with an isolated event — a one-time occurrence that makes such a good story that it gets repeated over and over until it assumes a place in local lore.
I grew up in South Georgia, at a time when doves were occasionally found in near-pestilence numbers. When that happened to be the case, it gave us a chance to play around with our shooting a little.
A fellow could practice a certain type of shot: one that he found difficult, for example. Or, one could try unconventional trick-shots, if that was his fancy. I quickly learned that on a true incomer — one that was actually coming straight on instead of just seeming to — it was fairly easy to spot-shoot at the right place ahead of him and drop the bird almost in the blind. Sometimes even in it. You just had to have tried it enough times to know where the spot was.
That led to trying to hit incomers one-handed, for the same reason: You didn’t have to swing the shotgun, you just had to point it at the right spot.
But youth couldn’t last forever. In time I went off to college, and, when that was done, settled into a new place where the opportunities for such shenanigans were less common.
When the next dove season rolled around, a newfound buddy named Jimbo invited me to a shoot on a millet field just south of town. Opening day was hotter’n the hinges of Hades, and around mid-afternoon Jimbo yelled across the field, “You got anything cold to drink over there?” I did and volunteered to take him a drink. When I got to his stand, I handed him a Coke and opened a Nehi Orange while we talked.
“You been showing off a little bit over there, ain’tcha?” Jimbo allowed.
“Nah, I don’t like show-offs.”
We were still talking when a dove crested a big red oak on the far woodline, heading our way. He seemed a mile high and still climbing. Discretion being the better part of valor, Jimbo offered, “You take him … I’m busy.”
Well, there I stood, with a Nehi Orange in one hand and a gun in the other. I was completely exposed, so there was nothing to do but freeze while the luckless creature bored in straight above. When the victim was directly overhead, I eased the big, full-choked Parker up with my right hand, picked a spot that felt good, and let fly — still holding the orange drink in my left hand. That was back in the days when I could still hear, and I clearly heard the smack of the bird and shot cloud simultaneously arriving at a point in the stratosphere.
The big gun had done its work, and I hurriedly took a swig of the orange drink before tucking it into the side pocket of my dove belt. Thoroughly smacked, the bird folded its wings and plummeted straight down to where Jimbo and I were standing, and for a brief second I thought he was going to clobber one of us; so I reflexively extended my left hand and nonchalantly fielded the bird like Willie Mays pulling in a long fly ball. Just like I did it all the time.
Of course it hurt, but since I was clearly the focus of every eye on the field, I retrieved the Nehi and in the same motion dropped the bird into the pocket of my dove belt. I gave Jimbo a wink as I turned for my stand and walked away. Never looked back. Never cracked a smile. Never let on that it wasn’t a miracle.
And a legend was born.
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