"It's kid stuff to live for that sort of thing," I told him.
I had to pull him to his feet. I stayed behind him now. I watched his back, the burlap sack, the way he picked his knee up gingerly and kept the weight off his left leg as much as he could. We sat every so often. "Damn sage," Pop said. "It just sort of fills you up."
I didn't know what to say. So I said nothing. If anyone should have had words for him then, it should have been me. But I couldn't think of any.
Near the end we were hardly moving. "We're at the coot ponds," I pointed out. "It's not more than 200 yards to the fence." But we sat for a long time in the sand, saying nothing. I could see that my own son had put the headlights on. "Just a few more steps," I said to Pop. "Come on."
"You go on ahead," he answered. "I'll get there sooner or later."
"I want to just sit here for a while."
I went ahead and waited with Sean. On the truck's hood, one by one, we laid out the ducks and looked them over. The teal had buffy undertail coverts; one of the mallards had the tightest curl of tail feathers either of us had ever seen. "Not a bad opening day," Sean said. "Eleven birds. Count them."
He kept running his flashlight over them. "Meat for the table," he said. I wanted to tell him how wrong he was, but I didn't because I knew that quite soon enough he would find it out for himself.
At last Pop was at the barbed wire. "All right," he said firmly. "Let's get out of here."