column By: Tom Carney | September, 20
Perhaps I’m getting too old, taking shorter steps, covering less ground in the same amount of time I used to. That could increase the intervals between wing beats.
Maybe my dogs Abbey and Lizzy came along when the grouse numbers were down and had never developed a nose for them. No, that makes no sense, for when I put them on the ground for the first time in Oklahoma to find bobwhite quail, they thrived. And those were dry, unfavorable scenting conditions. No, it’s not the dogs.
Oh, yikes! Worse than getting old, what if I’ve lost my touch for finding likely bird-holding spots? Then again, when I have hunted with others the past few years, we’ve found few birds in covers we had agreed looked good to hunt.
How do I spend my time between flushes, you ask, while I’m waiting to hear the dog bells quit jingling? Check out the three previous paragraphs.
I think about stuff. Usually to the point of distraction.
I’ll entertain whatever topic happens along until the next one pushes it out of mind: classic jokes, long lost and lamented cars, beloved dogs now gone, one of my pal Ron’s stories – the kind that led me to suggest he scour the “Help Wanted” ads for a job as a raconteur, the time I made Patrick F. McManus laugh, partial lyrics to songs from Hamilton. You know, just stuff that clamors for my attention when the birds don’t.
This morning, as I walked the strip between Henry’s Creek and the trail paralleling it, the Irish poet William Butler Yeats popped up. His poem “Easter 1916” is about the uprising when Irish nationalists declared a free state and rebelled against the British.
Haunting, mysterious, vague yet meaningful, one phrase appears throughout the poem and hung this morning in the air made moist by last night’s rainstorm. Yeats says things have:
A terrible beauty is born”
It didn’t take much of an additional leap to think of the year 2020 and to wonder if we all, too, have been transformed utterly.
Throughout the pandemic, no sooner would one person mention “things getting back to normal” than another, informed by things like a summer without meaningful major league baseball would say, “There is no normal anymore.”
It’s easy to think that “normal” is a notion that will be relegated to the past when we also consider things like Americans’ polarization revealed by something as benign as safety regulations suggesting we do something to help keep each other safe, wearing face masks in public – Whoa!
In the flash of a flush, a bird burst from behind a tree, and I threw gun to shoulder. A hesitation. A whew! OK.
A flicker. Nearly sacrificed on the altar of inattentiveness.
Stinking masks, for crying out loud. People have been shot and killed over this. Are we that divided?
The virus also has played a major role in propelling the United States down at least three roads on which it had been just moseying along: working at home and voting by mail as the norm and replacing classroom teachers with computers. And George Floyd’s murder touched off a cultural sea change.
So, yeah. Seems to me for sure this country has been transformed utterly.
Even something as seemingly unrelated as our annual bird hunting camp.
By early August, the nine guys in our group were sitting pretty. Annual dues paid. Just waiting for October. The lodge owner was saving rooms for us. The camp treasurer wanted to know if he should release the funds. So, we had a Zoom chat.
Hey, Zoom! Raise your hand if you had never heard of Zoom before this year! Keep it up if it has now become a regular tool you will use for staying in touch with your family and friends even after the virus goes away. OK, look around. See all those hands in the air?
I think that represents another utter change for us.
In early August, we Zoomed to decide the fate of Camp 2020. I should probably mention at this point that camp is close to 40 years old, so we’re bringing the passion. We tried to wrangle the facts and equivocate and figure out how to have separate sleeping areas for everyone. Dining and conversing without compromising ourselves. Finally one of us said, “You know, guys, I look forward to camp each year as a way to get away from it all. If we go up there, the virus and our precautions will be the only things on our minds.”
With that, we voted.
Things changed utterly.
So, this week I’m in the woods alone –
Abbey’s beeper beckons.