Category Archives: Hunting

Horsing Around

I was never very fond of horses. My uncle had a couple of workhorses on the farm where I spent a lot of time in my youth.

They were huge, especially for a kid, and ill tempered. I suppose if you had at pull wagon loads of manure and hay around all day you too would have reason to be a little grumpy.

My dislike for the horses started when one of them walked into his stall while I was sitting with my back to him on the outer edge of his manger. He reached over, clamped his huge teeth into the cubby right cheek of my ass and hoisted me into the air. He then dropped me on my face on the barn floor. His partner in the traces was no better. One day he chomped on to my bicep and gave me a nice colorful bruise to remind me to steer clear of him too.

My cousin had a “riding horse”, really a broken down nag that we occasionally tried to ride. Getting the horse to go away from the barn was nearly impossible but once aimed in the direction of the barn, she turned into Seabiscuit. Next stop? The stall. And be sure to keep your head down or lose it going through the barn door at top speed.

One of my jobs consisted of hooking up this tired steed to a small wagon and taking the milk cans out to the main road, about one mile distant. Although the horse surely considered herself retired, she did not seem to mind these early morning plods down the muddy track to the main road and back. She knew the drill and did not require much guidance from me.

Although I tried with little success to ride my uncle’s heifers my main goal in life at that time was to get a ride on Cy the pig. Cy lived in a large enclosure filled with bushes, small trees and tall grass. My strategy: to sneak into the enclosure and lie in wait for Cy to stroll past. Cy tipped the scales at about the same weight as the average NFL nose tackle and his back stood taller than my waist.

While Cy, like most pigs, possessed keen intelligence, he had poor eyesight. I had discovered that if I surprised him and got started scratching his back, he would stand still long enough for me to swing up on his back. I’d grab his ears we would be off on a brief but exhilarating ride. He’d usually quickly wipe me off on one of the bushes or small trees that populated his pen and I doubt that I ever came close to the mandatory 8 seconds that constitutes a competitive bull ride. My Grandma never seemed pleased when I returned to the house covered in dirt and pig crap after a successful ride on Cy.

It would be many years before I once again climbed on the back of anything that had four legs instead of a motor. I went on an elk hunting trip in the mountains of Montana and riding horses would be part of the experience. They put me on a gentle and obedient horse and off we went. I figured the horse knew what he was doing so I let him do it. We were on roads, well-maintained trails and open country. My valiant steed simply followed the guide’s horse. No problem.

This trouble free experience lulled me into complacency when some years later I scheduled a moose hunting expedition to Northern BC with my friend Daniel from Paris. This hunt would also require the use of horses. Based on my Montana expedition, I had few worries.

When we arrived I noted that the horses for this trip were considerably larger than the sure-footed ponies we used in MT.

The guide rode a young horse that he had “in training” and Daniel and I drew a couple of beasts supposedly accustomed to dealing with novice riders like us. As we headed off into the forest on that first morning, my first thought was, “You can’t take horses in there. There is no trail.” We forced our way through thick brush and numerous logs, some nearly belly high on the horses, blocked the faint track through the dense pines.

The guide led with Daniel in second place and me riding rear security. When we came to a log the horses would carefully step over. Well, no problem. We came to a two-log combo and the guide’s horse stepped over with no issues. (How they knew what their back legs were doing remained a mystery to me.) Daniel’s horse followed suit. My nag hesitated for a second and then jumped clean over both logs. Since I sat nice and relaxed in the saddle, when he landed my crotch jammed forward against the pommel crushing Mr. Happy and his two fuzzy friends. I gave silent thanks that my procreation days had long since past. But, the pain….!

With my eyes watering we rode on for some miles, the guide stopping periodically to give the long mournful cry of a cow moose in heat. Didn’t work. No bulls came running.

As we started back the guide pointed out a tree where “a grizzly had marked his territory”. Deep gouges raked the tree from the grizzly’s massive claws. Impressive. Earlier we had seen a grizzly track the size of a serving platter in some soft sand. Imagining the size of the critter that made those tracks and gouges convinced me I had no interest in meeting up with him, especially astride a horse and with my rifle securely tucked away in the scabbard.

As we rode on in single file and entered a large clearing the guide’s horse suddenly went nuts, rearing, jumping and bucking. Daniel’s and my horse immediately took off, racing side by side toward the far end of the clearing. It was like the final stretch of the Belmont, except that we were shouting and hauling on the reins to get the horses to stop. I doubt we had much influence but we finally came to the edge of the clearing and the horses stumbled to a nervous halt. As the guide approached with all three horses dancing around and clearly agitated, I asked him, “What the Hell was that about?”

“There’s a grizzly tracking us up on that ridge. The horses got a whiff of him.” He said.


The horses stayed skittish all the way back with their ears twitching this way and that and their eyeballs rolling. Bringing up the rear, my eyeballs were doing a bit of rolling too as I kept a wary eye on our back trail.

Finally we came to a small stream where the horses would have to drop down about 6 feet to the streambed to get across. The guide and Daniel’s horses carefully negotiated the drop. I should have suspected it. My horse never hesitated and just jumped the thing. We landed with a jolt. Unprepared and relaxed I once again jammed my crotch into the pommel and nearly fell off the horse in pain. Two weeks after we returned home I still walked gingerly.

I think the moral of this story is: if you have a choice, take a 4 wheeler… or walk.


Filed under Dick, Horses, Hunting


The sun was well up and the frost melted by the time the old man loaded his gear in the Jeep and pulled out of the driveway. He had lingered over breakfast, taking a second and a third cup of coffee. Millie left him alone, knowing he had to do this at his own pace and feared that if she talked about it, she might lose her tenuous grip on her own emotions.

The knobby tires hissed and sang on the damp blacktop as the old man headed east into the countryside, passing woodlots and stubble cornfields, pasture and the fallow fields of the CRP Program. He drove slowly dreading the three-act play he had scripted for this day.
The small brass bell on Tom’s collar tinkled as he attempted to rise. He whimpered with the anticipation he always showed when they were going hunting. But, this time his whines were tinged with pain. Tom’s hips had deteriorated badly in the last couple of years. The old man had started giving him aspirins imbedded in soft cheese after each hunt. It helped.
But now, the cancer thing …. The vet tried to break it to him gently, “Hell, Tom’s twelve years old—nearly thirteen. That’s old for an English Setter.” Then he said, “You’ll know when it’s time to bring him in.”
Tom struggled to his feet and shuffled unsteadily forward until he could rest his chin on the old man’s shoulder. He choked back a sob. They had often traveled like this, with Tom whining in his ear, seemingly urging him to drive faster. The Jeep swung into a tight curve on the narrow country road and Tom lost his footing and toppled over. The old man swore, “Dammit. Lay down, Tom. Stay!”
In the month since the visit to the vet Tom had gone downhill fast and the old man knew it was time. Hated it, but knew. The vet said he’d wait for him.
He’d hunted alone in the early season leaving Tom behind. The dog had not appreciated that. Over the years he always knew that when the hunting coat and boots came out, it was time to go hunting. Even if sound asleep at Millie’s feet in the sewing room, he would come bounding into the hall like a three year old hopped up on Sugar Pops. Not wanting to torment Tom, the old man had started sneaking his gear out to the truck at night when the dog was zonked on his bed by the fireplace. Full of painkillers, Tom never noticed.
Hunting without your dog, he found, was like dancing alone. He’d enjoyed the brisk autumn days walking the hardwoods for grouse and stomping the ditches for pheasant, but it was not the same. His bag was lighter too. He had cursed two weeks ago when he lost a downed rooster. Tom, even a year ago, would have found that bird. He always did.
He braked the Jeep and swung into the farm drive way. Past the white clapboard house and around behind the weathered barn, he turned on to a dirt lane angling up the hill. He slipped the Jeep into four-wheel drive and slowly made his way up the rutted track. At the crest of the hill he spotted a battered white Chevy pick-up parked about 100 yards ahead.
Joe, the owner of the farm, crawled out of the truck smoking a cigarette. They were old friends and the old man hoped Joe would forgive him for being late. Joe waved as he pulled the Jeep up and parked on the verge 40 yards short of the pick-up.
Stepping out of the Jeep, the old man watched Joe signal the direction of the wind with a sweep of his arm and he waved in acknowledgement as he felt the light breeze on his face. Joe went to the back of the pick-up and reached into a wooden crate and after a bit of a struggle, extracted a rooster pheasant. Cradling the pheasant in his arms, Joe started walking down into the field of grass and low brush. He stopped at a thick bush about 20 yards in and after tucking the bird’s head beneath his wing, spun the bird in a circle half a dozen times. He then tucked the pheasant down into the bush and started back toward the truck.
“He’ll sit there a little while,” thought the old man. He opened the back gate of the Jeep and reached for his tattered hunting coat. As he shrugged it on Tom made his way to the back and started wagging his tail. When the old man reached for his gun case Tom gave his face a couple of wet licks. “Ready to go, buddy?” He asked. Tom waved his flag-like tail in response.
The gun was an old Fox side-by-side in 20 gauge. The bluing had long ago been worn off and the stock had plenty of dings, but the sheen of oil spoke to how well the old man took care of his gear.
He lifted Tom gently out of the truck and set him on the road. Snapping on his lead and grabbing the shotgun the old man and his dog entered the field. They angled across the wind. The old man wanted to get directly downwind of the bush that held the pheasant. Tom, though unsteady, had his head up, sampling the wind and working that trademark white flag of a tail back and forth. When they were directly downwind and 15 yards from the bird they did a left turn. He reached down and unsnapped Tom’s leash. “Find the bird, Tom,” he said.
Tom moved forward, staggering slightly, but he had caught a whiff and was closing in. Three feet from the bush Tom froze in a classic point, head and tail high with his left foot up and curled. “Whoa,” said the old man quietly. He dropped two shells into the open Fox and snapped it shut. Walking forward slowly past the dog he said “whoa” once again. He gave the bush a vigorous kick. Nothing. He kicked again and took a couple of steps. With a cackle and roar of wings the pheasant burst from the grass 10 feet to his left. The bird had run when he walked in and now was angling back the way they’d come. He brought up the double barrel swiftly and swung, fired and…. Missed! His second shot brought the bird down in a puff of feathers. “I guess we’re both getting old Tom,” he muttered.
Tom had seen the bird go down and was struggling through the thick grass in that direction. The old man quickly overtook the dog and snapped the leash on again. “Easy Tom. We’ll find him.”
The rooster lay in plain sight, gleaming in the fall sunlight, its gaudy colors a stark contrast to the dull brown grass. Tom gently picked it up and they started slowly back to the Jeep. He looked up to wave his thanks to Joe, but the pick-up was gone. He’d have to phone later with his thanks.
Halfway back to the Jeep Tom stopped. He could go no further. He tried to get Tom to release the bird, but Tom would not let it go. “All right you stubborn shit,” he said and picked up the dog. He carried Tom back to the Jeep with the bird dangling from his mouth. Only when the old man had set Tom in the back of the Jeep did Tom release the bird. He then lay down on his blanket, guarding his prize.
The vet was waiting when the old man carried Tom into the office. The place was deserted, as it was Sunday morning. Another debt to be paid. “You ready?” asked the vet.
“Yeah, I guess,” replied the old man. “Shot a bird over him this morning.”
“So I see,” replied the vet with a slight frown, noting the old man’s muddy boots tracking up his spotless floor.
Tom lay calmly on the stainless steel table. He knew the vet and the old man rubbing his speckled head and scratching his black ears soothed him.
“This won’t hurt him,” assured the vet. “He’ll get sleepy and then it will be all over.” The vet slipped the needle into Tom’s paw and the dog jerked at the sting.
The old man gripped Tom’s head and stared into his eyes. “So long old friend” he choked. And then it was done.
The vet said nothing as the old man gathered up Tom’s limp body and carried it out to the Jeep. Tears ran down through the gray stubble on his cheeks and dripped off his chin as he wrapped Tom gently in his blanket. He climbed in the Jeep and drove slowly away.
The Jeep followed the narrow country road lined with hardwoods gaily displaying their fall colors in the bright afternoon sunshine. The old man took no notice. Turning on to little used dirt track the Jeep continued diagonally across the ridgeline, coming to a stop at a small clearing. The old man picked up the blanket wrapped bundle from the back of the truck and set off following a faint game trail through the trees. After 100 yards he emerged into the open. To his right a large meadow sloped down the hill, to his left an extensive stand of second growth hardwoods and mixed pine blanketed the ridge. At the edge of the field stood an ancient and massive birch tree and beneath the protective branches of the birch loomed an open grave. Next to the grave a large pile of stones and small boulders stood like a sentinel.
The old man paused at the edge of the hole before gently lowering his burden into the opening. He removed a dog collar from the pocket of his hunting coat and buckled it around a low hanging branch before removing his coat and grasping the shovel leaning against the tree. He began filling the hole.
Brushing the dirt from his gnarled hands on his jeans, the old man sat on a log and studied the pile of stones. “Those rocks should discourage any coyotes from messin’ with you.” He said. The old man fished a crusted briar pipe from his pocket and stuffed it with dark tobacco from a worn leather pouch. When he finished the ritual of lighting the pipe, he wrested a can of beer from his hunting coat. Popping the top and flicking the foam off his fingers he raised it in a silent toast toward the pile of stones. “I guess you know why I picked this spot, Tom. This is where you finally figured out we were supposed to do this hunting thing together. In those early days I was thinkin’ about renaming you 5K, ‘cause where ever I was, you were about 5K somewhere else.”
Taking a long pull on the beer, the old man continued, “When you pointed that ol’ ruff cock bird right under that birch and brought him back to me with your teeth chattering in excitement, a light bulb went off in your head. You’d figured out that we were doing this as a TEAM. Things got lots better after that.”
The old man drained the beer and relit his dead pipe. “I won’t say you were the world’s greatest setter, but you were a good one. You were a sweet and gentle dog, and Millie loved having you around the house. Jeff loved you too. Hell, the two of you grew up together learning how to hunt. I’m sure he’ll be stopping by once he gets back from Iraq.”

He stood, shook the dregs from the can and stuffed it in his battered hunting coat as he slipped it on. He picked up the shovel and came briefly to attention. “Semper Fi, old pal.”

And with that the old Marine turned and limped back the way he had come.

© 2008
Author’s Note: This is my first attempt to place some fiction on the blog. Certainly a departure from my “right wing rants” as one of my readers so charitably puts it. If you like “Tom”… great. If not, feel free to offer constructive criticism or suggestions on an alternative hobby. Don’t recommend golf. I’ve already proven I’ll never be any good at that damn game.


Filed under Dick, Hunting, Short Stories

The Speckled Pup (A Love Story)

Everybody thinks fuzzy yellow lab puppies are cute. That’s why they use them in TV ads for everything from dog food to feminine beauty products. Personally, I can’t think of anything cuter than white and ticked English Setter pups. Part of that, I think, is my understanding of what happens when the respective pups grow up. The adorable labs grow into barrel chested brutes with tails like runaway fire hoses that knock infants off their feet and sweep everything off the coffee table. Setter pups, on the other hand, grow to be swift, graceful and beautiful with gentle dispositions. (I think I wrote something in this space recently about prejudice… nuff said?)

Growing up as a kid I never had a dog. Of course, there were plenty of dogs on my Uncle Lee’s farm….beagles and cockers. And, I spent a bit of time hunting with my neighbor’s two German Shorthairs, convincing me that pointing dogs were the ultimate in sporting breeds. I also enjoyed some great days hunting with my friend’s full sized poodle named Sardie who was, without question, the best retriever I ever saw. But, for some reason I was attracted to English Setters.

Once I got back from my eight month Med deployment with Third Platoon, and Loi and I got settled in a tiny house (but with a big back yard) in Virginia Beach, we decided to get a dog. An ad in the paper announced “setter pups for sale” and we went to take a look. Eight of the little bundles of white fur and black spots tumbled over each other in their joy at our visit. Going home without one never entered our minds. We picked out a bold and inquisitive male with black ears and tiny black ticking. We named him Zeke after the best hunter and wing shot I knew and he became our first baby.

Romping in our yard the little guy would snap on points at butterflies and flowers. Frozen in place with his tail high and still, he would raise his front paw in the classic pose. I had high hopes and immediately went out and bought a book on training hunting dogs. Basic training was going well and we quickly realized that Zeke had superior intelligence and a desire to please. Then I got sent off on another mission for the Teams for a few months. Loi went down to Florida to spend the time with her Mother taking Zeke with her, of course. By then, he had developed into a gangling teenager and committed a few crimes… like charging through the screened in porch without the benefit of the door a couple of times. He seemed quite enthusiastic about shagging squirrels and birds out of the yard and the screens got in the way. Loi’s Mom was not thrilled.

Back in Virginia Beach, I started working with Zeke in earnest. After dinner, Loi and I would head out to the approaches of the airport where the grass and brush harbored quite a few coveys of bob white quail. Zeke loved these romps but showed no inclination to point the quail. He seemed to find great joy in locating the coveys and running into them, watching them scatter in all directions. I was getting discouraged when one night in the gathering darkness as we headed back to the car, Zeke screeched to a halt on a point. I slowly approached from behind and gave him a nudge. He stood firm like a statue. I peered over him and saw a tightly bunched covey of quail directly beneath his nose. The hot bird scent had him transfixed. My hopes for him soared only to be dashed again. His new game: find the birds, briefly point and then jump in to make them fly.

I had to figure out a way to make him hold point until I got there to flush the birds. Otherwise, he’d find all the birds but I’d never get a shot. I bought six quail and kept them in a cage in the back yard. Leaving Zeke in the car, I would take the quail out in the field, spin them to make them a bit dizzy and plant them in the grass. I tied a 4 ft. piece of string to one foot so I could catch them again. I’d bring Zeke into the field on a long lead and work into the wind. When he pointed the bird I would make him stand there until I flushed the bird. This worked well and I next let him run on his own without the lead. Unfortunately, he had figured the game out. As soon as I let him out of the car he simply followed my scent trail through the grass to precisely where I’d placed the bird. He knew I’d taken the bird out there so he had no need to look for the damn thing. We had six quail for dinner that night.

In the fall I got out of the Navy and we headed home to Buffalo for six weeks before I had to report to my job in Chicago. It was time to introduce Zeke to pheasants. He had become pretty good at pointing quail in Virginia but pheasants were all new to him. He just chased them until they flew. He had also developed the nasty habit of hunting on his own. He’d figured out that by circling he could cross my scent trail and follow it until he found me. I had become simply his ride to and from our little outdoor expeditions. I’d be standing there fuming and I’d hear the tiny brass bell he wore on his collar tinkling as he galloped up my back trail. He was always happy to see me and though angry, it made no sense to punish him. One day when he’d been gone for a long time, I spotted a large lone tree in the middle of the field. I made for the tree, grabbed a low hanging branch and swung up into the tree. I climbed well up in the branches and waited. Soon I heard the tinkling as he jogged up my scent trail. He got to the tree and stopped as my scent track abruptly stopped. Zeke looked around, obviously puzzled, and then set off again to run another circle. Here he came again following the track, got to the tree and stopped, totally confused. I almost fell out of the tree laughing. Now he panicked and headed off again at a dead run. When he came around the third time I was sitting at the bottom of the tree waiting for him. Boy, was he ever happy to see me! I would like to tell you that the exercise in tree climbing cured him, but of course it did not. Since we had never actually hunted yet, he had no idea that we were supposed to be doing this as a team.

With the opening of the pheasant season rapidly approaching, I decided to go to a pheasant farm and buy a couple of birds, shoot them over him and see if he’d catch on to the program. With him on a long lead he’d pointed and I’d shot the two birds, but I was uncertain he’d learned anything. The game farm owner had cautioned me not to shoot any other birds than the ones I’d purchased. But, on the way back to the car with Zeke off the lead he snapped into a solid point. I walked up behind him and a big rooster flushed from under his nose. I capped that bird and Zeke brought him back to me quivering with excitement. I had to beg forgiveness from the farmer and pay for the extra bird but I could care less. A light had gone off in Zeke’s head. From that day forward we hunted as a team. Yes, he had a lot to learn and made mistakes but he knew what we were doing out there and would stand forever on point waiting for me.

One day that season a friend and I were hunting near a small lake. A flock of geese circled and looked like they were going to set down in the lake. I ignored Zeke while watching the geese. After ten minutes or so the geese buggered off and I started looking for the dog. No bell and no white dog bouncing in the field. I spotted a large clump of bushes and walked over. Peering under the brush I saw Zeke locked on a rock solid point. He’d been standing there patiently for about 15 minutes. I kicked the brush and out popped a hen pheasant. Now hens are not legal and I would never shoot one…. except my young dog had just done something extraordinary and he needed to get his reward. I shot the hen and then dug a hole and buried it. May God and the New York DNR forgive me.

Zeke had an exceptional nose and although pheasants are tough and wily buggers and will run like the wind if wounded, he never lost a bird I’d downed. One time he brought me a hen that someone else had shot illegally. He seemed quite pleased with himself. But, we were hunting at a public hunting grounds routinely patrolled by game wardens. I could see myself trying to convince the officer that I had not shot the bird and that my dog had simply found it. Right. I placed the bird in a grassy road that meandered through the field and led Zeke 50 yards further down and turned him loose. He made a big circle and picked up the hen again and brought it to me. He seemed to be saying, “Hey Dick, you forgot this!” Thanks. I dropped the bird on the road and led him about 300 yards away before turning him loose again.

Zeke had had a good first season but it was now November and time to head for Chicago. We rented a small basement apartment and I commuted by train downtown where I worked on the 1st National Bank building setting granite slabs on the side of the building…20 to 30 stories in the air. Working six or seven days a week at 10 hours per day left no time for much of anything much less hunting. Zeke had a long wire strung in the back yard that allowed him to run back and forth. One night the doorbell rang. The man at the door asked if my name was Dick and I gazed past him to the car parked at the curb. There in the back seat between a couple of kids sat Zeke looking quite relaxed. The man explained that Zeke had scaled the fence to their back yard and had his way with their female collie that happened to be in heat. They lived about a mile away and fortunately, Zeke’s collar had our name and address on it. I apologized profusely and vowed it would not happen again.

Two nights later the doorbell rang again. There he was with Zeke. This time he had torn down the wire and made the trip with his 12-foot chain dragging behind him. Missy was inside on this night so Zeke went up on the porch and managed to accidentally (?) ring their doorbell. When they answered there sat Zeke waiting to call on his lady friend. Luckily the guy had a good sense of humor. Some time later, after we’d moved on to Olympia, WA., we got a letter from them. Enclosed we found a snap shot of Missy and her litter of ten white and speckled puppies. Our boy had strong genes. The pups didn’t look like collies.

We made the cross-country trip from Chicago to Olympia in our ’66 Plymouth Barracuda. In the back we had a bassinette containing our new baby daughter, Tara, and Zeke who was somewhat whacked out on Dramamine. He rode most of the way with his chin resting on the edge of the bassinette. Through the big back window of the ‘cuda it must have made a pretty picture. We got a lot of friendly toots and waves from passing motorists.

Like I said, Zeke possessed exceptional intelligence. I calculated that he understood 24 words and commands. Like a lot of exceptionally intelligent humans, he did have his quirks. For some reason he was hypnotized by Loi’s emery board. Whenever she filed her nails he would sit in front of her motionless with a glazed look on his face. Loi could balance the emery board on his nose and he would sit there staring at it cross-eyed and never move. He loved oranges and hated peas. If you peeled an orange, he would sit in front of you and drool like a Great Dane. He would gulp down any slice tossed his way. But peas? Furgetaboutit. We often mixed some gravy and meat scraps in his kibble. He’d wolf down the bowl in seconds, leaving it as clean as fresh out of the dishwasher. If there were any peas in the mix, there they would be, sitting in the bottom of the bowl. I could never figure out how he could gobble the food down and avoid the few peas.

We lived out in the woods on one of the salt-water inlets outside Olympia. We had a gentle and fluffy cat named Phoebe. Zeke and Phoebe got along fine and occasionally could be found cured up together taking an afternoon snooze. Never anything but friendly….except when Zeke was in his kennel. Phoebe would jump up on his doghouse and then vault up on the 2 x 4 that capped the wire enclosure. She would casually stroll the narrow board and stop to wash herself while Zeke went absolutely nuts down below. Why was he so upset? I can’t say.  Territorial maybe? I know why Phoebe did it: just to piss him off. Cats are like that.

For the next four years when we lived near Olympia, Zeke and I did a lot of hunting. Most weekends I would go out with my business partner’s high school aged son. We usually headed over to a nearby valley for a little duck hunting at first light. With his thin coat Zeke was not designed for cold water and he did not appreciate sitting around. He was built to run. But, hunting is hunting and he enjoyed the birds coming in and the excitement of the shooting. He hated the taste of ducks and refused to pick one up on dry land. For some unexplained reason he was OK with swimming out to retrieve a downed duck. Once his feet hit solid land he spit the duck out, refusing to pick it up again. It seemed as if he were saying, “OK, I will do this thing for you, but I refuse to keep this stinky bird in my mouth any longer than absolutely necessary.” I was grateful and told him so.

About 9:30 we would head over to the public hunting grounds to hunt pheasants. By then, most of the early arrivals were leaving. One morning, two guys with two black labs were leaving one of the 40-acre plots. They said, “Don’t bother with this field. We just covered it with our two labs. No birds in there.” As you can expect, we hunted the field and Zeke pointed two nice roosters and we smugly put them in our game pockets.

With each new season Zeke became wiser and wiser about the sneaky pheasant. From painful experience, I gave up trying to tell him where to go and what to do. His exceptional nose and uncanny sense of what the wily birds were attempting never failed and made me look foolish telling him otherwise. He was now six years old and at the peak of his game.

Living as we did, out in the boondocks, with few neighbors, I never worried about letting Zeke out at night for his evening constitutional and a little rambling. One night he didn’t come home. The next morning and for several days thereafter I drove the country roads and searched the ditches for miles around looking for him. We posted rewards. We never saw him again.

Later we learned that a number of purebred dogs had gone missing in our area and a dog-napping ring was suspected. The culprits were never apprehended. I mourned him, as would a parent of a kidnapped child never returned. Over the years we had other hunting dogs. They tried hard, although none could fill the considerable paw prints of ol’ Zeke. I miss him still.


Filed under Dick, Dogs, Hunting