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Holland McCombs
December 10, 1956
On the rolling sandhills and open prairies of the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas, bobwhite hunters of name and fame enjoy a unique hunt
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December 10, 1956

Quail Hunt De Luxe

On the rolling sandhills and open prairies of the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas, bobwhite hunters of name and fame enjoy a unique hunt

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Nig works out the singles as the scattered covey sails out into a grassy flat. Quail fly every which way in this country. One wings high into the wind. It looks as though it's well away, but the major, from far out of position, pulls the bird right down out of the sky. Though it's early in the day that shot has to be "honored." The cars circle around the major's car. Jos� wheels his car in close, opens the chuck box, gets out the bourbon, some ice and the cups.

As the morning wears on, men and dogs find covey after covey. Shooting is as sharp as the coastal breeze off the Gulf of Mexico. Then, as noontime approaches, comes one of the tragedies born of the hazards of quail hunting in south Texas. Kleberg's Spot is down, casting wide, perhaps a mile from the hunters. He suddenly whirls and, clearly, he is fighting something. "It's a coyote," cries Hump. "No! no! He's in a mess of javelinas! Oh, Lord, they'll cut him to pieces." Hump's car streaks away through the sands. There are three javelinas, and Spot has charged into them and has one right in the snout. Hog and dog go round and round, then down and over in the sand. As the cars come up the javelina shakes loose of Spot and runs out through the brush. A car overtakes it and shoots it. But Spot is out for the season, tusk-slashed in the chest and down both front legs. Hump details a car to rush him to the hospital.

Fresh dogs in the box whine to go hunting and as a young dog named Jack is put down, the major, speaking in Spanish, gives Jos� instructions for "nooning up" on Ebony Hill.

When the safari reaches the campsite on Ebony Hill, Jos� has things ready. He has collected wood and made a fire. He has already stripped off some meat from the javelina that nearly killed Spot. The javelina steaks, with quail, doves and snipe, are being broiled over the grill. Table and drinks are set up. Everybody begins honoring everybody's shooting. After luncheon it is siesta time—another Armstrong Ranch ritual.

The day ends, after a lively afternoon of still more quail, with the traditional Armstrong "sundowner." As sunset softens the hardness of the prairieland and the dogs are all tucked away in the dog box, the caravan halts for the warming ritual. Like the honoring of a spectacular shot, it is another gathering around Jos�'s chuck box. At sundowner time the hunters toast everything good that happened during the day's hunt. They also drink damnation to such things as javelinas, hawks, coyotes and whatever made anybody miss a shot. The sundowner sometimes goes on into the moonlight, and the major quotes Rasselas, philosophizing for the birds that got away. The ranch master has had quite a day. He never missed a shot.

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