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    Day's End

    Maggie's Pa'tridge

    “Morning Drummer,” Leah Brigham, oil on canvas, 11 by 14 inches, prints available at leahbrigham.com.
    “Morning Drummer,” Leah Brigham, oil on canvas, 11 by 14 inches, prints available at leahbrigham.com.
    “Hey you! You’re on private property – my property.”

    “Sorry,” I blurted. “I didn’t see any posters, and I have permission to hunt Sam’s property and Pete’s land.”

    “Pete’s property ends at the white slash on that birch tree,” the man explained.

    “Sorry. I’ll leave, and it will never happen again.”

    “What’s your name?”

     “Anthony. Call me Tony,” I replied. “I live down on Hickory Hill Road near the creek. Your name?” I asked, extending my hand.

    “Walter,” he answered. “I have nothing against grouse hunters, but we only have about fifteen acres. My wife is on a walker. Just the two of us live here, and she gets nervous. If anything happens to me, well, she would be in trouble.”

    “Sorry. I understand and I’ll leave immedia –”

    “Wow!” Walter shouted. “Your dog is on point near my apple tree. Go – go and see . . . Go!”

    As I worked toward my Brittany Rusty, a grouse flushed straightaway, giving me an easy shot. Rusty retrieved the grouse, a gray phase mature male.

    “Wow, great shot!” Walter smiled. “Wow!”

    A door opened, and a woman with a walker appeared.

    “Walter, should I call the police or 911? Are you all right?”

    “No, no, no! Everything is fine. Tony, come and meet Maggie, my wife.”

    “Hi Maggie. I’m Tony,” I answered, extending my hand. “Pleased to meet you. Sorry if I disturbed you.”’

    A slight smile worked across Maggie’ s face. “No problem, as long as Walter is okay.”

    As I turned to leave, I reached into my pouch.

    “Would you like this grouse?”

    Maggie’s eyes lit up as she nodded, “Yes, yes!”

    Walter asked, “How do I cook It?”

    “Just like a chicken, Walter. Gut it, skin it, add mushrooms, sausage and mozzarella, and stuff it with stuffing mix. Then put a few bacon strips on the breast and roast the grouse. It will be delicious. Enjoy!”

    “Thank you,” Maggie added. “Thank you so much!

    I nodded and left.

    The following week, I harvested a grouse on Sam’s property, and Pete’s cover yielded a second bird. I was about to head home when I spotted a slash on another tree. I walked to Walter’s apple tree, set down my Browning and tied up Rusty.

    I approached the house, knocked on the door and Maggie answered.

    “Hi Maggie! I hope I’m not disturbing you. Is Walter home?”

    “No,” Maggie replied. “He’s in Cambridge food shopping and then going to the hardware store. Let me tell you, that grouse was dee-licious!

    “You know, Walter does the cooking, and it’s usually pretty simple. Grilled cheese, soup, hot dogs and an occasional burger. You know – simple. He spent hours preparing that grouse, and he enjoyed every minute.”

    “Glad to hear that. And I’m happy you both enjoyed the meal. I’m pleased and happy to see you again. My best to Walter.”

    As I turned to leave, I hesitated, reached into my pouch and asked Maggie, “Would you like another grouse?”

    Maggie’s eyes widened, and a smile covered her wrinkled face.

    “Yes, yes, absolutely yes! I would love that! You have no idea how much this means to me. You know, I was born and raised in northern Maine. My daddy sold farm equipment. We called grouse pa’tridge. Grouse hunters there would ride the roads and shoot the grouse on the ground. That made them grouse shooters. You shoot them after they flush, and they are on the wing. This makes you a pa’tridge hunter.”

    “Thank you, Maggie. I appreciate that.”

    I smiled as I put the grouse in the sink. I turned to leave, and Maggie opened a book and smiled.

    “You know being on a walker and sort of housebound, I do a lot of reading. Want to see my new bookmarks? Pa’tridge tail feathers … Tony, anytime you hunt near here or are in the area, please stop by and say ‘Hello.’ If you’re hunting, I’ll keep my fingers crossed and listen for the sound of a shot and hope you were successful.”

    As I left, I waved. A smiling Maggie took one hand off the walker and waved back.

    I made my way to the apple tree, picked up my Browning, untied Rusty, patted him on the head, and we headed home.

    “Great day, Rusty. A brace of grou – pa’tridge and we made a new friend.”

                                                      – Anthony J. Conte


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