My hands are in the kitchen sink, so are a few memories, I grab a thawing pheasant. I start with real images of my pheasant pen behind my pole shed where I raise them, and then I flip through mental crib notes on past hunting trips, still further, like a stack of moving watercolor 3-d slides, great shots reverb inside me. Iâm mentally floating out the kitchen window, entering the dream field.
The ruckus calls from the roosters throatâs echoing in my hearing and the wingâs beating with tails pumping and long tailed roosters trying to get back to china, but one getâs smacked with some number fourâs, feathers float and drift. Then a separation in the Montana sky. The spirit of the bird is forever freed and the feathered flesh drops to the earth.
Next memory slide is coming into focus.
With dogâs breath all over the bird I'm bending and tussling the dogâs ear, English setter, mostly white, now stroking the roosterâs feathers back in regal order. Bags are stuffed with feathers for fly tying this up coming winter. The roosters tail feathers line the dash of my pick-up truck. The bird is dressed and washed, wrapped and laid in a cooler bound for my Minnesota dinner table.
Next slide please.
I'm at the cafÃ© in Plentywood, Montana. For the past three days this loner comes in and sits down. He orders his coffee and pancakes and eats and pays and departs. Heâs dressed as I am and everybody in the place knows heâs hunting. Today I ask him to join us at our table and says that would be great.
We exchange the usual safe conversation, and then itâs all hunting talk. He has two dogs with and he has been hunting all over the good ole USA, for the entire fall. Ruffed grouse in Michigan and South Dakota pheasants, heâs going west for sharpies, which explains Montana, and when he ends the season, some quail in Arizona. He has two dogs. Little pair of cocker spaniels. One is named Sarg, the other is named Gent. But he says when they donât hunt so good he just calls themâ the a**hole brothersâ. This is the part where my orange juice went ocean spray. We laughed so hard other people having breakfast couldnât help smiling.
Projector turned off.
Iâm cooking some pheasant for dinner. I go between actual and virtual. Thawing frozen birds, picking stray shot and I wonder at times how long I just blankly stared out the window replaying the hunting tape.
Shooting a rooster is one thing. Taking the trip to Montana is one thing. These are real events that actually took place. Then when I replay the memories, they have this fading away feeling and a soft edge glow. The bird falling and shot placement like a hunting video that I somehow get the starring role. I do not know if itâs the mind thatâs a terrible thing to waste or the unrecalled memories. Going back for second and third helpings of my memories is delicious, and we pray I do not screw up dinner for the same reason this evening.
The Trout Whisperer
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