Over the crunch of dry grass underfoot there is a distant, creepy moan.
Like Keith Richards dropping in over Ronnie Wood’s steady strum, the cry floats above the sound of the wind rolling through the gentle folds of CRP.

My mind races through the possibilities…a lost moose calf down in one of the dense cover drainages? Mating cats? The ghost of a jilted lover, screaming from the tumbledown remnants of the farmhouse over the rise? I try to keep track of the dog as he works the currents, and for a while the distraction abates.

There can be an expansive, desolate melancholy to big empty places like this, so different than the claustrophobic disquiet of being alone in thick, dark woods, though it can be none the less unsettling. The dog and I continue to work the field, but something still feels odd. And then the caterwauling returns, so far-flung and ethereal, carried on sporadic wisps of gust, that I’m second-guessing whether I’m imagining it.

The rusty windmill in the distance continues to slowly spin, keening out its unearthly wail. The dog goes on point, but there is nothing there.

6 thoughts on “Ghosts”

  1. That was an exceptionally good post there Smithhammer. At least it hit one person pretty hard-me.
    It evoked hunting birds alone in vast wide clear tall grass spaces, and the pleasure of it all with dog and gun afield. You nailed the acute senses and thoughts that can come from such endeavors while following a bird dog without worrying about hunting buddies or a damn thing but the experience.
    I can visualize North Dakota bird hunting and my dog working there just last week, and I heard the same cranky creepy windmill sound calling. There were no cattle there for years to drink from the rusty tank, the windmill didn’t even pump water anymore I thought, the leathers were probably shot anyway decades ago, and the sucker rod didn’t move up and down, and was it shut off and tilted out of the wind, but 70 mile an hour winds brought her back to a creaking sort of short lived glory just for me and my dog. I watched and listened to it for a while and thought about all the times I used to have to climb up the windmill tower to grease the bearings and work it out on the ranch years ago. My dog Lexie was sniffing the cover around the tower and not showing birds. The wind I found out later, was around 70 mph. Nothing for someone from Cody, Wyo.
    Then the powerlines by the highway down there five miles away swung back and forth and sparked together and burned fields for ten miles. The fire put a bunch of people homeless in the little town of Bucyrus and nearby. Didn’t see that on CNN?? Some very nice farm houses burned to the ground, with all their outbuildings and winter feed hay stacks. Five farmers saddled up their massive tractors and disks and went out ahead of the fire at midnight and tore the living hell out of the stubble and grass and their equipment and put an end to the “act of God” nonsense. One guy did over $10K damage to his huge disk when he hit the petrified wood outcrops that he couldn’t see through the smoke. 27 people were left farmless and homeless. Disks ruined, and tractors that require a lot of fix up and airing out sat along the highway the day after. A little farm town sort of saved. That stuff doesn’t even make national news.
    Such was my first bird hunt this year.
    It was hot and windy the whole trip, too hot to hunt the dogs very long, and the dogs were our main concern. The cover was very poor due to the drought, the CRP largely converted to farm land or cut for emergency haying, and the hunting was extremely tough. All the while the local people came out of the smoke and perservered. My shotgun functioned when required which wasn’t much. My dog was excellent, and I didn’t know her tongue was that long.
    I heard the windmill screech. I shot four pheasants in four days, and celebrated my life, my dog, and freedom to be there hunting, and big open spaces with no timber. Five days later, I missed my mountains and timber. I almost cried for those who lost their farmsteads, their land, their hay.
    The Lutheran churches on remote hillsides, roads with no reflector posts along the highways, and lefse were still there as always. “Have lefse, will travel to hunt birds.” I’ll be back up there in a couple weeks for a better go at it when it cools down a bit.
    TR and I smoked a good cigar on the head of the Yellowstone a few years back, and had a chuckar hunt that is worthy of HIM writing about just to see if he remembers it correctly. That was a day to remember.
    Swing your partner all season long Smithhammer. Keep writing. you and TR are unique.
    Happy trails and keep it up, SR
    (PS wow that was a long attempt –to say nice article)

  2. Hello. Very much enjoyed the read. I have been perusing your
    site for sometime…i’ve added a link on my friend Don Webster’s
    site… i recently illustrated his book,
    ‘Bury Me in my Waders’.

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