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"Sounds like great sport."
"Well, anyway," I told Kimbrough, "I've hunted them, and I have a friend in town here who hunts them, too, and he has a good young Brittany, so if you really want to do it, we can show you where they are."
"I'm going to give it some serious thought," he said. "And then I'll call you back. Believe me."
Not long after Kimbrough phoned, my wife and I traveled to Mexico to fish, but before we left I told my friend and hunting partner, Rob Carey, what had happened, and I left instructions for my son and daughter at home. If anyone with a Texas accent called to talk about quail, they were to give him Rob's number.
By the time we got back from Mexico, I'd all but forgotten about this business, but my son, who picked us up at the Med-ford airport, told me that Kimbrough had indeed called back, that he'd given Kimbrough Rob's number, that Rob had made the arrangements and that two mountain-quail hunters would arrive in Medford the night of Dec. 16.
That was when I began to have misgivings. It's true that I feel a kinship with bird hunters, and fly-fishermen, too, but this time maybe I'd gone too far. "I have this stereotypical image of Texans," I told my wife, Hilde, when we were talking it over one afternoon. "I guess the image is part folklore, part Lyndon Johnson and part what I remember from when I spent a summer with my aunt and uncle in Dallas when I was 10. It adds up to a picture of two red-faced guys in 10-gallon hats, plaid shirts, blue jeans and lizard-skin boots with pointy toes. I can even imagine them wearing chaps and silver spurs. If they don't ride horses down there in Houston, they probably drive huge white Cadillacs with steer horns for hood ornaments—or maybe miniature oil derricks. I'll bet they have sterling silver flasks of booze they take with them hunting, and customized shotguns inlaid with gold."
Hilde just looked at me. "You're probably right," she said in her lovely German accent. "And all Germans are mad scientists, too."
But I couldn't shake my misgivings. I remembered a quail hunting story I'd heard about Texans once. I'd heard it from a man who claimed to have been there, and it concerned rich men on a cattle ranch. "The first thing they did," the fishing lodge fellow told me, "was drive up and down the roads of the ranch with a fertilizer spreader loaded with 10,000 pounds of grain. They sprayed that grain along both sides of the roads to attract the quail—bobwhites they are down there—and the next morning we started off hunting. There were six cars in a line—Caddies, of course. The first car in line had a peon in it to open the gates as we went along. The second car had pointing dogs in it. Then we came along in the third and fourth cars—customized, lowered and with the tops cut off so we could see in under the trees. And there were leather scabbards for the guns, compartments to hold our shells, and bars in the backseats. When the pointers got on birds, we pulled up behind them and got out and shot. Then the pointers got back in their car, and so did we, to have another belt. The car behind us had retrievers in it to pick up the dead birds. The last car had another peon to close the gates behind us. We went at it like that all day."
But even assuming there were people alive who killed birds that way and had the nerve to call it hunting, Kimbrough had told me that he and his brother had already been after mountain quail. They couldn't expect to send a caravan of Cadillacs, or even Jeeps, winding up through the hills and rocky draws.