This story was originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Pheasants Forever Journal.
It was barely dawn when Bob pulled my truck off to the side of the road. We had left home before daylight so I let Bob drive because he can see better in the dark than I can. He’s had his cataracts removed and I’ve still got mine.
“It’s good to be pheasant hunting again”, I said as I eased my bulky body out of the truck. I was anxious to run a few rounds through my new ultra-light 20-gauge. The Doc had suggested I trade in the trusty old twelve after my rotator cuff surgery a couple of years ago. I had missed last season because of Tommy John surgery. I should have known not to keep yanking that damn rope when the chainsaw wouldn’t start.
We both had trouble finding hunting clothes to fit because we had gained a lot of weight over the years. I had to leave my pants partially unzipped but Bob had a new pair that fit him perfectly. He pulled up his coat and I could see why. I didn’t even know they made maternity brush busters.
It’s a good thing my old setter Maggie was still snoring in her crate, otherwise I might have forgotten about her.
“Rise and shine, old girl”, I said as I unlatched the door. She opened one eye, stared at me with that “leave me alone” look, then closed it and started snoring again. I decided to let her snooze a bit but I left the crate open so she could join us when she was ready.
We sat on the tailgate and rested a while. It takes a lot of energy for guys our age to get out of a truck.
I noticed Bob rubbing his knees.
“They bothering you?” I asked. ”I thought you had them fixed”.
“I did”, he answered. I could hear his knees creaking as he flexed one leg, then the other. “But they need regular maintenance and I’m overdue.”
“Time to go back to the Doc, huh?”
He slid off the tailgate and hobbled around a little. “Nope. The Doc put these things in.” He pulled one pant leg up to show me.
“Grease nipples. I get the old knees lubed every time I take my car in for service. Works like a charm but I gotta get them lubed every 6000 miles or six months. Don’t want to void the warranty. “
Maggie stood up, yawned, and stretched on the tailgate, her signal that she was ready to roll. We hefted her down and she looked around but couldn’t find anything stinky to roll in so she lay down and went back to sleep.
I put an electric collar on her and we headed out across the field. Since I started wearing support hose and arch supports in my boots I could walk almost thirty minutes without wheezing.
We hadn’t gone fifty yards when we heard the wail of a siren.
“What the hell is that?” Bob wondered aloud.
I grabbed Maggie and turned the knob on her collar down. “Sometimes my pacemaker creates some sort of electronic field with her e-collar and it winds up on the local sheriff’s frequency. Picks up 911 calls too.”
After I adjusted the collar we could still hear a squeaking, grinding, clanking sound.
“Now what?” grumped Bob.
“The squeaking and grinding is my artificial hip”, I said. “It does that at times like this when I’ve walked too long. The clanking is Maggie’s Kevlar stifle joint. She’s had it so long it’s starting to rust. The vet says I should mix a little WD-40 in with her kibbles.”
Suddenly Maggie stopped walking and sat down. “She’s getting birdy”, I whispered.
Bob stared at the dog. “Isn’t she supposed to point?”
“She did when she was younger”, I said. “Now she just sits down. I guess you could say she’s more of a sitter than a setter.”
Bob wasn’t convinced. “How do you know she’s not just resting?”
“When she wants to rest she lies down.”
Bob took a step forward and a cock pheasant burst from the underbrush thirty yards away. We both shouldered our shotguns but not a shot was fired as the bird sailed off into the distance.
“Why didn’t you shoot?” I asked.
Bob swore at his shotgun as though somehow it was the gun’s fault. ”I couldn’t get the damn safety off. Why didn’t you shoot?”
“I forgot to load my gun”.
Maggie gave us a dirty look, then lay down and immediately started snoring.
“Oh well”, I said. “There’ll be more chances.”
I fumbled at the loops on my vest, trying to remember which side the shells were on. I keep shells in the loops on the right side and suppositories on the left. Or is it the other way around?
I woke Maggie up and then, squeaking, grinding, creaking and clanking, the three of us marched off across the field together.