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"Losing those cripples. The dogs should have found them."
"I think it was one of those rains that just washes the scent away," John said.
"We never lost that many cripples before. That would have given us 26 birds today. Almost respectable."
"You aren't happy with 20 birds?" I asked.
"Not on opening day with as many guns as we had," the Lieutenant said. "We should have had 40 birds."
John looked at me and gave me a Michigan-was-never-like-this grin. He'd really meant it about the overhead pheasant being worth the trip.
I tried to recall every pheasant we got and could only remember 12. I tried again and got up to 16. I was dead tired with a belly full of food but still too excited to sleep. It was wonderful lying there being that tired with nothing to think about except the birds we had shot and the birds we would shoot the next day and maybe the day after. I tried to get all 20 birds one more time but fell asleep.
We were in the fields again at sunup and the sky was cloudy but not as dark as the day before, the clouds were high and the rain was gone. Mary got the first bird, her first ever. We drove to a creek bottom they called The Big Thousand because everyone who was there one day in a snowstorm swore that a thousand birds had flushed out of it. It was full of cattle with the good cover beaten down and there was no way we could hunt it.
The Lieutenant stood there looking down at the cows. He placed his hat over his heart.
"The cow is of the bovine ilk; one end is moo, the other milk," he said.