I see the journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.
Not too long ago I was out with a friend at a local sports bar, a hangout of sorts for a lot of people that I graduated high school with. On any given night there is no telling who you might run into. We had not been there long when a woman dropped by our table and began talking to my friend. It was a dark place like most sports bars and this woman kept glancing at me so I I felt that I probably knew her but did not have a clue who she was because I could not distinguish any features. She was a dark blurry figure to me. It was embarrassing. People don’t understand how little I see. I tell them I see big meaning that I can see big things but details are beyond me. I would rather have people just identify themselves to me instead of looking like I am being standoffish or just rude. I don’t have many friends so chasing people away is not what I am wanting.
When you are young you can’t wait to grow up to be old enough to do things that you have wanted to do for a long time. There are certain milestones unique to everyone like driving a car. One of the things I looked forward to was going bird hunting with my dad. Every year he went with friends leaving early in the morning and coming back late at night. There was a strange fellowship, a rite of passage to manhood about these experiences. They were comrades in arms, sharing big hunts. They were all so relaxed when they got home slightly intoxicated but they all had stories. One night they came back and they had come across a bunch of frogs so naturally they shot up the frogs so their wives could fry up some frog legs. I learned that I did not like frog legs and have not had them since. I remember though the frog that was still alive, with one eye shot out that was riding in the trunk.
Before I ever went I knew that my dad was an excellent shot. He did not waste a lot of shells and if he did not get his limit then it was because there just were not any birds. The firs times I was allowed to go it was without a gun. I was essentially a glorified retriever dog, running to retrieve any birds that my dad shot and putting them in his bag. I had to always be by his side and my dad would tell his buddies that I would see the birds first since you could shoot at first light and I had excellent eyesight. So I tried hard to see the birds first and let him know. Most of the time he saw them first. I didn’t care. Just being there was special to me. Being part of the group, all that manhood learning how to pee on the side of the road, learning about barking spiders and sipping beer from my dad’s open can when they took a break. They di not drink much during the hunt, maybe one when they broke for lunch or sitting in the shade when the birds stopped flying. I loved every minute of it.
I was probably 11 or 12 the first time I carried a gun, a borrowed .410. I was taught gun safety from a very early age. That first year I remember so well, as we shot 110 birds. I say we because I was there. I shot 3 boxes of shells and never even bothered a bird. They stuck me out in the middle of a field and my job was to shoot and keep them flying. I was peppered constantly. It was a boy’s dream. Of course the best thing about the hunt was the cook out. My dad can really grill dove to the point they just melt in your mouth. I could eat way more than I shot which is not that big a deal since I rarely hit anything, but it was sure fun. Almost every great memory I have from childhood was centered around hunting with my dad. As I got bigger I could go quail hunting. We rarely had a dog, my Uncle Bobby always knew where they were. We would jump huge coveys and they would take off like a giant helicopter. It would make you jump.
It is hard to find places to hunt now. We used to just ask permission but now everything is leased. My own son is not so into it. He is a gentle soul I think. We did take him turkey hunting one year. He was maybe 6. He just wanted to wear a bunch of camouflage I think. My dad thought e was too small and young and would not sit still but he was great/ He was quiet and followed directions. We only carried one gun that year. My dad called and called and not a gobble did we hear. My dad was getting frustrated when we saw a hen in the distance possibly attracted by our calls and not long after we began hearing gobbles coming from a long way off. We were sitting in some plum thickets. I was worried they would come from behind us. We kept calling, they kept gobbling coming nearer. The hen was suddenly right in front of us, next to our decoy when my dad tapped me on the shoulder pointing to my left and putting up 1 finger for a turkey coming up the gulley towards us. Then he held 2 fingers up and then 3 and then I could see them coming. There were probably 12 to 15 birds coming. My dad said he had never called that many and we never called that many after. It was a once in a lifetime experience. They just kept coming and I leveled the gun waiting until they were close. Yet I missed. I was in shock. How the hell could I miss? My dad was now screaming hack another shell shoot shoot! I unloaded and managed to shoot one bird. My dad said he would never hunt with me again without hos own gun. My son said he wished we had brought a camera which we all agreed would have been very cool. My son sad it was the coolest experience ever but wished we had not killed anything. I could understand that.
These things for many reasons but vision being at the top I will never be able to do again.
My best days hunting were always next to my dad, when I did see them coming first and I could say “Look Dad, here they come.”