Travis's tongue was dragging as he struggled up the bank. It had been a long swim. He stopped next to me, shook himself and plopped his head into my lap. Surely, there'd be a treat this time.
"I swear, I can't believe this," said T.H., looking at his ever-forgiving retriever.
"These birds fly faster than the ones I'm used to," I said lamely. "I haven't been leading them enough." My explanation was for the birds, and T.H. knew it.
"Get set," he said. "Here come some more geese." Honk! Honk! Travis looked up and started to whine. The sky was white with geese. Even I couldn't miss.
BOOOOM! I was so startled by the sound of the 10-gauge that I dropped my gun. Two geese immediately folded and tumbled to the ground. I could see T.H.'s hubris settle as Travis instinctively marked both birds. He fetched one, then flawlessly went back and picked up the other. It was a perfect retrieve, one that had all the markings of a great story.
T.H. beamed with pride as Travis pranced past me with the second bird. Travis didn't even give me a glance. My spicy sausage couldn't compete with the natural taste of warm goose. This dog was a born retriever, a guaranteed star.
"I'm sorry, son," T.H. said, removing the second bird from Travis's mouth. "But I had to shoot. You were wrecking my dog."
I've never been back to Texas. After my trip to Eagle Lake, The Nature Conservancy hired someone specifically to run our Texas program. He was a crack shot and did an outstanding job selling The Conservancy's brand of conservation to the sportsmen of Texas. He told me they remember me at The Farris 1912; that I play a lead role in one of T.H.'s best "dawg" stories. T.H. can't figure out what Travis ever saw in me. Maybe someday I'll call him and tell him about the sausage. It will add spice to his story.