“We are not that different you and I.” He caught me off guard with those words. The dogs slipped by the little male Hun without catching his wind and he stuck his head out of the rabbit brush and started his speech. Strutting and proud at 10 yards in front of me. I shouldered my old Fox, looked down the rib and then dropped it to my side in amazement as he continued. He was puffed up now, showing the big brown bar on his chest like a badge of courage. Head up straight and wings tucked back on his hips as he spoke. He tried the big authoritative boom of a Prairie Chicken but he couldn’t help the occasional squeak, like a worn-out washing machine as it spun.
“Don’t look at me like I don’t belong. Maybe my type is not native here but neither is yours. You just act the part because you have a double barrel and some smokeless powder. I am more like you than you care to admit My clan was bounced out of the old country too. We were forced into ship hulls and box cars and spit out in a strange land. Hell, come to find out this is a whole country of immigrants. Who knew? Them bombastic Chinese parrots that your kind loves so much and the red-legged middle easterners…they are all invaders. And then there is you. None of us are exactly Sharptails and Sage Grouse if you know what I mean.”
He was right I thought, Busse might not be Hungarian but it sure as hell is not Blackfeet or Sioux. I’d always felt a kinship with these little birds and now here I was being set straight by a particularly sharp-witted specimen.
He went on, “I’ve seen you out here day after day. You go back to that town when you are done but that place is not you. All of that civilizing has pushed you into the scablands too. I can see it in your eyes. You’re an outcast just like us.”
He was right, I loved the challenge of hunting huns in big country. Didn’t much care for parking lots and traffic lights. He must have been listening as I mumbled to myself in the hills. He went on, “These are the places we have left to live and we like it. Those city songbirds think us partridges are simple country fowl, but we like it out here on our own. They wouldn’t make it a second in this country. A sharp-shinned would gobble them up in a single bite. We eat better too. Seeds and bugs like it ought to be. Not that industrial birdfeed crap they eat. Yeh, this place steep, rocky and dry. But this is real livin’.”
I had always said that my dogs are smarter than a lot of people but now I was confronted with a bird who might have us all beat. He hopped up on a sage brush branch, snuggled down in a squat. His version of kicking back in a lazyboy. He was ready to give me a talkin’ to. I cracked open my gun and tossed it on my shoulder as he expounded.
“I been meaning to tell you. Ya might want to take a message back to all of them puffed up peacock-humans in the big fancy buildings back in your towns. We are getting a little tired of being squeezed around the edges out here. I mean, you guys take the flat spots, the river bottoms, the best grass and the any place that will grow a kernel of grain. We like it out here, but damn! You are going to have to stop the march of progress at some point. I mean we love rocks, but we are not going to make it if you just keep pushing us into the last pile of skree. If we go, then you’ll be stuck in that town morning noon and night. Might want to think about that.”
Before I could think about it I heard the dogs coming back into range. Since I first hunted these birds, I had developed a deep respect for their craftiness and style. They seemed to have an attitude. The lecture from this little guy was only confirming everything I already thought. Just then, Teddy swung downwind and locked up tight. I turned from him and in and instant the professor-Hun was in flight. Up to speed in a single flap just like they always do. I thought I caught him smirk at me as he rose. He zeroed in on the bill of my cap and knocked it off with his tail as he passed. Before I had my gun snapped shut he was out of range. Just before he dipped over the ridge he looked over his wing and chirped back at me. “Gotta be faster than that cupcake! Oh, thanks for spreading that cheatgrass. We love the stuff!”