six-footers with red mustaches."
be hard to find."
Hilde drove with
me to the airport, where the Kimbrough brothers were due in at 8 p.m., but
their plane had been delayed in San Francisco by the weather. For nearly a week
it had been storming up and down the coast, and 30 inches of snow had fallen in
the mountains near Ashland, where I live, the night before. At lower elevations
creeks and rivers were flooding, and roads had been washed out. A two-day break
in the weather was supposed to begin in the morning. If it didn't, we'd be
lucky to find the mountains, not to mention the quail.
The plane arrived
more than an hour late, and even though it was crowded, the Kimbroughs were
indeed the only pair of big guys with red mustaches. Bill and Dick were in
their mid-30s and well dressed, but not ostentatiously. They appeared to be in
decent physical shape, and even looked like hunters. Still, as I walked up to
introduce myself I realized that they didn't have a lot of faith in their
mission. I could tell that they were trying hard to look both friendly and
optimistic, but I could also tell that they were actually nervous,
desperate—and if they'd been chasing mountain quail for three years and hadn't
seen one yet, who could blame them?
The four of us
talked through the long wait for their luggage and guns and then the half-hour
drive back to Ashland. Rain shone on the surface of Interstate 5, and the
windshield wipers were going full speed. I assured them several times that the
weather would clear and that the quail would be there. In truth, though, I was
probably no more confident than they were, and perhaps it showed, because my
assurances drew little response. When we dropped them off at their motel, I
told them that Rob would be by in his van at 8:30 in the morning.
coming," Dick said, trying once again to smile heartily.
grocery store right across the street," I told them, "and restaurants
all over town. But if you want any liquor, you have to buy it at a state store
want liquor," Bill said grimly. "We came to hunt."
And hunt we
did—but first there was more talk. Both Kimbroughs proved to be great talkers.
On the drive out Highway 66, Rob asked if they were by chance a comedy team.
Nope, Dick was an ophthalmologist, Bill an orthodontist.
They talked about
turkey hunting in Texas: "I'm 10th in the wild turkey world-record
book," Dick said. "Bill here, he screws up every way there is on
turkeys—but I'm 10th in the book."