Seventy

In the span of eight decades on Earth, the man has seen much. World history, to be sure. But pheasant history too. He has seen the rise and fall of borrow ditch and shelter belt. He has seen the eradication of weedy fence lines and weedy row crops. He has seen the genesis of CRP and, in the next Farm Bill, its possible extinction. Pheasants have come and gone, risen and fallen, risen again, and fallen again. Each time, the peak of the curve is significantly lower than the last peak years before. He has seen fields where he hunted pheasants as a child in eastern Colorado and western Kansas turn dry and barren and fill with weeds. The rows of corn he hunted in college have sprouted condos and shopping malls. He has seen the termination of a time when one simply found a patch of good cover and started hunting and the emergence of orange-painted fence posts and red-faced farmers. The end of “go ahead and hunt” and the onset of “it’s one hundred dollars a day.” He has seen the team-drawn plow fade into rusty history and the dawn of the $100,000 combine. He has seen the birth of pesticides and herbicides and the death of many living things as the result.
For seven decades, he has been hunting these Chinese ditch parrots. He hunted the first-ever season in Colorado, shooting his single-shot 20 at everything that rose before a black pointer of mixed lineage. When he finally started hitting, Dad told him, “Okay, that’s enough. Now you can shoot only roosters.”
He doesn’t lament the fields turned under, the loss of shelter belt, the consumptive appetite of clean farming. Instead, he looks back on seventy years of pheasant hunting and says, “I’ve been lucky.”
Today, with the wind whipping off the Rocky Mountain Front, drawing tears to the eye, snot to the nose, he turns his young setter into the wind and walks the tree rows on the lee side of a 40 mile per hour blast. There’s a walking stick in the truck, just in case, but he doesn’t reach for it. Instead, he balances a Belgian Browning, bluing worn to bare steel, in a gloved hand and he follows his young girl. She points.
A pheasant rises, banks, and falls. She brings it in. Seventy years before the gun, memories like elm leaves on a west wind.

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8 Comments

Filed under Ditch Parrots, Talegate, True stories

8 responses to “Seventy

  1. As one who is approaching my 7th decade, I can relate. I have been lucky as hell. May I hit the next one I see.

  2. zac

    Great writing. I am familiar with most of the references but what do orange painted fence posts signify? Do they indicate areas where hunting is not permitted?

  3. Orange painted fence posts in states like Montana mean no trespassing. There was a time, not so long ago, when they were scarce. Not so today.

  4. Just a great story, I hope we all get to make that hunt. Thanks for the effort.

  5. Taku

    Beautiful. While not quite near the age yet, I am old enough to “remember when” some myself. Especially the pre-orange posts and being able to duck hunt almost anywhere on the Bitterroot. A good melancholy setting in – time for a bedtime single malt.

  6. baadtom

    In Montana a few years back the private landowners pushed through the current law which means no trespassing even without any painted posts or signs.
    The longstanding previous law permitted entry to fish or hunt birds, unless it was posted by paint or sign.

  7. David M. Burns

    Poetry.

    And a lot of honest hunting history.

    I am not a hunter because I see no value in killing anything.

    But I’m not going to jump up in the face of those who do. . .

    Regards from No Gun Dad. . .

    “The Colonel”

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