Most of my acquaintances—check that, all of my acquaintances—think I’m nuts to work with my wife. They scratch their heads when they find out we also work out of our home, and they prefer not to get involved when they learn that we share an office. That’s OK; I love working with her, but not nearly as much as I love her.
But there is one thing. One of Angela’s mottos is “I don’t stop when I’m tired. I stop when I’m done.” When she sinks her teeth into a project, she is as tenacious as a bull trying to run down a red flag.
Hers is a motto I also share. So the real problem is that we have to be very careful about what we choose to work on. Before we know it, a lot of time can pass very quickly.
We once logged 37 consecutive days of 15-18 hour days. Enough, I had had enough! My thinking was cloudy, my energy was low, and I had to get out of the office. It was early fall, and from the sounds of my buddies’ texts, the fishing was red hot. I told Angela we were taking the afternoon off, hitched up the boat, she grabbed the gear, and we hung out the sign—“Gone Fishin’.”
A southwest wind was blowing, so we trailered the skiff to the bay side. The tide was dropping, and the low light made the water’s surface look like diamonds. It was flat calm, and when we cleared the last “No Wake Zone” sign, I buried the throttle.
We jacked up on plane, and 20 minutes later we arrived where the flat dropped over a bar. Bait was washing off the edge, and there were blitzing fish everywhere. No sooner had I come off plane and trimmed the motor than Angela was already hooked up on a striped bass. She put the boots to it, and in no time I had a grip on its lip.
I removed her soft plastic and set about reviving the fish for release. I had hardly moved before she was ready for me to land another.
Then another. Then a bluefish. And another bass. She threw flies, she tossed pencil poppers, and she swam soft plastics. She caught a fish on nearly every cast, and when the tide ran out we had to quit.
The final tally? Angela: 11 bass, eight bluefish. Tom: Nothing. I didn’t make a cast.
Back to work we went, and I was like a clam at high tide. We had a great day on the water—one of the best of the year. We washed down the boat and gear and went back to work. More was accomplished in the next six hours than in the past two days.
Hunting season is a little different, particularly since we have four setters. We’ll wake up before the sun rises over the mountains and put ’em down in grouse and woodcock coverts. By late morning we’ll load ’em up and head home to work.
On most evenings we’ll work late, then sit by the fire before going to sleep. Morning comes early if you’re not careful.
Some days I carry the gun while Angela carries the camera; other days it’s reversed. On a few days we both just get our hunt on, and that’s where our differences begin to appear. I like side-by-sides; Angela favors over/unders. I like chaps; she likes brush pants. I like bells; she likes beepers. I like leather boots; she wears L.L. Bean boots. I like waxed cotton; she likes synthetic.
We agree on dogs and that they all need a turn, and that’s precisely where the train goes off the rails.
It happens so often that I should be used to it by now. I remember one mid-season, Indian summer day last year. In nearly an instant the winds shifted dramatically. They bounced from the north back to the south, and the temperatures went from just above freezing at night to in the high 60s.
The only folks who benefited from those bright, sunny days were the farmers—they got one final cut of hay that was dried to perfection. We, on the other hand, fell on hard times, for the beautiful weather stalled the woodcock flights like a flooded carburetor. When the wind sat down the scenting conditions deteriorated, and the grouse that normally trade the hard mast on the ridges for the soft mast in the lowlands didn’t budge.
The dogs pointed trash. First it was a rabbit, then a pair of gray squirrels, then a porcupine. They were working well and trying hard to find some birds, but it was no use. Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard was bare.
I looked at my watch.
“We’re getting a lot of unproductives,” I said. “Let’s head home. We might as well get some work done.”
“Albert and Rebel still need to run one more cover each. We haven’t hit Spilled Milk, Freight Train, River Walk, or Black Dog. The girls do better in those coverts anyway. We’ll need to hit at least four more before calling it a day.”
Boy, do I like the way she thinks.
We had unproductives in all of ’em, so swinging by Maple Syrup seemed an exercise in futility. But when Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, so we put down a tri-color/orange belton brace to wrap things up. They high-tailed it through the cover and cast back around beautifully. They sure looked purdy, but there were no birds. And now it seemed like we were going to need to hit the supermarket to pick up dinner.
But wait . . . an honored point where the Japanese knotweed meets the alders. There’s usually a doodle in there.
Not this time, for a brood of grouse was loafing around. From the look of things, they hadn’t seen a bird dog before, ’cause they just stayed put. This brood wasn’t used to bells clanging and beepers sounding. They were about as dumb as a bird could be and were just what we needed.
(I might add that they tasted particularly good with a side of wild rice chased with a slice of hot apple pie topped with a piece of sharp-cheddar rat cheese.)
All work and no play—that’s not what it’s about. We’re on the leading edge of our latest hunting season, so it’s time to get back to work. And that’s part of what makes the back-end payoff so very sweetly.