But why go over
that? It's morbid to think that the past lays its dead hand on all our days.
It's been 20 years since I burned my father's shotgun and more than five since
the wrecker came. I've been in Montana for some seasons now. It's a different
time, a different place. I have a private opening day to look forward to.
Molly is ready,
too. She comes into my room and stares at my hunting boots for long periods of
time. She howls when my 5-year-old son mistakenly shuts her in the bathroom.
But, except that it is bird season, what was she doing in the bathroom anyway?
And she does irresponsible things that indicate that her mind is not on the
routine domesticities of out-of-season dog life. For example, yesterday she ate
a two-volume edition of Anna Karenina.
This will be our
playmates are here, and, as I have trained them, they are throwing things for
the dog to make her run around so that on hunting days like this one she will
be tired before we ever start and not so inclined to clear out on a strafing
I put dog and
gear into the same old Land Rover, now as thoroughly pocked as a Spalding Dot,
and head north of our ranch to an area of fertile, dry-land farming I know to
be full of fat grain-fed pheasants.
The drive lakes
nearly an hour, and from time to time I study my dog's eyes for indications of
lunacy and the grossly unpredictable. She looks as sound as a silver dollar.
Even I feel a trifle seasoned. I wonder if she has noticed that or if, in fact,
she's found any little reason for admiring me.
I leave the Rover
by a grove of thorn-bushes. The open country lies in fast-intersecting
declinations that fall from the foothills of the Crazy Mountains. I am on a
plateau and can see the Absaroka Range to the south, already snowy. It's
slightly stormy, and plumes of snow are whirling out of the higher passes. But
down here the sun plays all around us.
As I get ready
Molly stays close to me, prancing like a cheerleader. A small cloud of
butterflies dances across the tractor ruts and Molly makes after them like a
rocking horse but returns to my side when I whistle.
All right, ready
to go. "Find some birds," I tell her. She gives me one last look, as
though from the cockpit of a fighter plane, and pours it on. I don't believe
this. My heart begins to sink as she ticks off the first 880 and I realize
nothing has changed.
I walk gloomily
along a shelterbelt of Lombardy poplars with only the vaguest reference to the
shrinking liver-and-white form in the distance. At the far edge of the field I
see her stop, lock up on point, then selfishly pounce into the middle of the
birds. Gloom. Gloom. Pheasants scatter. But wait—my God! They're flying this