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He was certainly not an old man to appeal to sentimentalists, no subject for a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover or a candidate for the role of Grandpa Walton. He was white-haired, dark-skinned, short, lean and foul-mouthed. I hunted with him only once, on a southern Oregon fall afternoon.
It was hot, and I was walking an old and deeply rutted logging road into some steep, rough country. Otto, my year-old retriever, was somewhere up ahead in the trees, probably chasing squirrels.
"You ought to keep your mutt close," the harsh voice said from behind me.
I jumped and turned. He must have been 75, could have been 80, and he stood there glowering at me, dressed in tattered, baggy denim pants and a much too large green T shirt. Protruding from the sleeves were two arms so lean they looked to be made of brown leather stretched over networks of cables and wires. The double-barreled 12-gauge that he carried across his shoulder looked huge, creating the impression of a child packing a small cannon. His own dog was closely at heel. "There's grouse along this road," he said, "if that's what you're looking for."
"I've been in here four or five times and never seen a bird along here yet."
He swore. Then he said, "I've been in here four or five hundred times."
"Then I guess you should know."
"I do. They're here. But I don't hunt roads myself."
I whistled Otto back and scolded him to heel. He was interested in the other dog, a female, but he obeyed.
"Young dog," the old man said. "At least he's trained some."