James, Chapter II

Certain aspects of life are bracketed. Bookended. Beginning and end. Sometimes it is not that simple. Sometimes it is. It is the human experience. Things begin. Things end. The day you met her and the day your divorce was final. The moment a new puppy snuggles into your folded arms and the moment you put a spade into soil as you say goodbye to an old friend. The first day of college orientation and graduation day. Like that.


If this desert is the end, the beginning was all high country. Wild currants growing beneath old growth Doug fir. Ned and Jed–setters of the Llewelyn strain—led us. A landscape of ridges at the top of the world, spines sprinkled with those big firs, sides falling away to grass and forb and berry. Snow on tall and distant peak.

It was September with frost and sunshine in combat. Sunshine winning the battle, frost the war. Chilled in a light jacket, but sweating as we climbed. Jacket coming off soon. Jed, a young dog with fire and drive. Ned, a tottering old man who somehow ended up on my side of the ridge. Hunting for me, or maybe just hunting for his old stubborn self and me just being in the right dumb place. Jim carrying that Browning double. A blue Rockies sky warming and as clear as headwater.

I was young then and full of what Aldo Leopold called “trigger itch.” Impressionable. Pliable. In need, if not want, of a mentor.

wyo. range trail 011Ned pointed and a big old male blue grouse clattered up and I swung on him and folded him and Ned pointed again and that one went up and then down too. The sky blued on and we went on. Stopped for an elk meatloaf sandwich. Olives. A crisp fresh red and yellow apple. Leaned against one of those old trees. Got acquainted as men do when they are new to one another. Treading somewhat carefully. Finding commonalities. He talked of pointing dogs and double guns and somehow, even at that pup stage of my life, I knew where I would be heading.

Author: Tom Reed

Four English setters tell me what to do.

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