We climbed, this morning, on a rising bench from camp. The dog and I. We. We is just her and I.
I followed her into the tall grass and the coming sunlight, sometimes seeing her bounce through, then gone again. Pushing past Spanish dagger and catclaw, hoping for desert quail, heading toward a distant patch of oak up the mountain. The ache of two days of hard driving, of nights spent in a cold trailer on the side of a road, of more road, and more ‘truck butt’ and a diet of spitters and Mountain Dew is not even really a memory. Or an ache. It is winter and I am wearing a t-shirt and worrying about the heat on a dog that is used to Montana late pheasants.
Now, with two Mearns in the bag, we are above the bench and several miles from camp. The morning produced no desert quail and no points. Two quail shot off wild flushes, two “training birds.”
We sit for a time, me to slow pulse, her just because I make her. She waits. Doesn’t want to. She leaps to her feet every time I shift. And I make her sit down again. And finally I rise for good, and we work down off the mountain, trying for new country, new cover.
At the base, down from the oak savannah, we hit the century plants and mesquite of a different life zone, and work past the remnants of an old mine. The shell of a Model A Ford rusts away in a dry climate, intact save being shot full of number eights from what no doubt was a frustrated quail hunter.
I whistle her in again, calling her close as we head toward a water hole where I’m hoping she can cool off. The heat is rising now, full sun and pushing up into the 60s, maybe even the 70s. Coming up.
She has only a moment to lap muddy water when a covey of Gambel quail burst from the other side of the arroyo and fly one hundred or so yards. I mark them down, call the dog in, keep her close, and move in, knowing they probably won’t be there when we get there. Nevertheless.
We drop into the leavings of the most recent flash flood, then scramble out, moving closer to the place the covey went down. Thirty birds, maybe? I talk to her softly now, keeping her close, trying to walk light on soil that is more granite crumble than dirt.
She flanks left, then slams to a stop, tail up. Point. Point! By God.
Three birds burst from the cover.