2017-11-15 / Editorials

Don Lively


The invitation took me by surprise.

I was contacted by a gentleman who owns the property right across the road from mine.

There’s quite a difference in his tract and mine.

Hundreds of acres difference.

The owner, a retired attorney, has deep roots in our neck of the woods. When I was growing up we referred to his property as “The Judge’s” since at that time it was owned by his father who was, not coincidentally, a judge.

Law runs in the family.

It turns out that the owner, George, is a regular reader of my scribblings and he was inviting me to go quail hunting.

My first reaction was total, unabashed pride.

Not the good kind of pride, like being proud of your grandchild winning the spelling bee.

This was the other kind, as in “pride goeth before a fall”.

The "seven deadly sins" kind of pride.

Don't judge.

My wordsmithing occasionally has some perks and here was another.

Somebody appreciated my efforts enough to offer me the highest compliment that can be paid to a son of the Blessed South, inviting me to hunt on private property.

I was all puffed up.

For a minute.

Till I remembered that I hadn’t shot at a bird in flight since before Gerald Ford became the first asterisked president.

The last quail I killed was when a covey flew in front of my Avalanche one summer morning on Interstate 94 near Miles City, Montana.

I got several that day but I didn’t stop to pick them up.

So, after my initial burst of vainglory I felt a bit of trepidation.

Still, I was once a pretty fair wing shot so I accepted the invite.

I was told that they would provide the weapon and ammo, all I had to do was show up.

So I did.

George and I spent a few minutes chatting before the hunt. We knew some of the same folks though he and I had never met.

Then I was handed a sweet, Remington 20 gauge, over/under and a vest full of extra shells.

I was also offered a pair of hunting chaps to wear over my camo pants but I declined.

That was a mistake I'll expound on later.

Our guide and dog handler, Darrell, gave me a brief safety lecture.

Then we were off.

I said a silent prayer that I would hit my first shot.

Either the Lord answered my entreaty or muscle memory is more than a theory.

One of the dogs made a textbook point and when the bird flushed it flew in front of me from right to left.

Dead bird.

Nothing spectacular but still gratifying after a forty year layoff.

I'd like to report that I hit every shot the rest of the day but, even though my creative endeavors occasionally involve stretching the truth to make a story fun, saying that I never missed would require prodigious exaggeration that even I am incapable of.

Plus, there were witnesses.

I missed a few but I hit more.

The shooting advice that my cousin, Uncle Hayward, gave me during my early years all came back.

Breathe easy.

Gun butt tight against the shoulder.

Quail are slower than doves, don't lead.

Let the gun do its job.

It worked.

Especially on one particular shot.

A single quail got up straight out to my left and flew away from my position. Being right-handed, I had to twist completely around at the waist to attempt the shot and I fired when the bird was between two pines not three feet apart.

Dead bird again.

You know that feeling when you're playing dreadful golf but then you hole an impossible birdie?

Or you're bowling splits all night when suddenly you manage three strikes in a row?

You think, "Yeah, I can do this".

It's the same way with bird hunting.

That miraculous shot made me think I could shoot.

And made me want to buy a sweet, Remington 20 gauge, over/under.

I confessed to George that I had trespassed on his property a few times but only to hike.

He just chuckled.

We also discovered that we are polar opposites when it comes to politics.

We didn't talk much politics.

I had a ball even though my britches collected so many beggar lice that I ended up throwing them away.

I'll take those proffered chaps next time I go.

If I'm ever invited again.

So, George, if you're reading...

Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of two books of Southern Humor, Howlin’At The Dixie Moon, and South O’Yonder. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.com.

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