Autumn

Autumn

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Ramble

The month of September fulfills me. It primes then gives me October which in turn prepares and loads me for hunting season and cooler weather. As a child Autumn meant a slight change to the color of our trees and chilly rain and windy dark mornings which kept the ducks low beneath the clouds, susceptible to the slightest squeak of my uncle's old and worn duckcall.

Long before sunrise he'd step into my bedroom, where I dreamed of sixteen point bucks and canvasbacks, to roughly shack the bed which inevitably spoiled my aim; I missed many shots while lost in dreamland. I'd tumble from bed and dress to find the house warm and filled with the wonderful scents of  perked coffee and fried bacon backed with a ting of Hoppe's Number Nine. His shotguns were always laid across the breakfast table, game bags hung from kitchen chairs, coats and boots spread at the door - a bed for the dogs.

She, his wife, made our lunch. He required bacon biscuits which she'd tightly wrap in old paper sacks and then pack inside a canvas bag along with two large Alladins filled with doctored coffee. Her biscuits were as large as my fist. For some reason she'd say, "I don't know what's wrong with ham..." She was strange, that way.

I was barely fourteen but still remember his International, a rust bucket of a truck that rode high for the ruts and how the drive to the blind took almost an hour with the constant flip and flap of the wipers - how the rain sheeted with the wind, the rattle of hard green seats and how I kept my shotgun cradled against the jar of the dirt road.

I too remember how I'd wipe the window for a glimpse of swamp or occasional peek of cattail filled canals - an indication of arrival. When you're a boy the anticipation of decoy placement and duck thick skies wears upon you. I was puckered for the kill.

It fell to me to hump the smelly burlap sack of decoys. I'd stand deep in the mud and reach over the bed for the wet sack of heavy and then make my way along the trail of cold water as the Nor'easter slammed my bent form. There was the thick salty smell of tidal marsh, the crunch of oyster shell, the faintly lighted horizon where deep dark clouds scudded before the wind and in the distance often the whistle of pintails. I was happy for my Woolworths heavy shirt. Still I shivered.

It was the rain and wind which kept the flights low as they sought shelter. The sixteen old wooden decoys and the small cove of sheltered water gave us our shots. We'd tuck inside the blind and find a place on the board, our seat. My one and only box of twenty gauge sat to my right, opened and ready. Then, we'd wait for sunrise.

Years have melted my memory of the shotgun. I remember it was a double, fairly heavy for a teen. Other than its gauge, it lines escape me. Probably a Savage or Mossberg, doesn't matter, it filled my dreams of ducks on the water. Even the hunt isn't important to me now. The dogs are long gone, as is my Uncle, a man I didn't truly like. He was just my ride. Whatever became of the shotgun I'll never know, it too isn't important.

It's the captured mental picture of the cold mornings, the Nor'easter, scents of an Autumn breakfast, gun oils, decoys and flannel shirts, and oysters and saltmarsh - the feel of a still warm drake, the clunk of spent and fallen shotshells, the rise and fall of tides and the push of a good 'ole double against my shoulder - these I shall always remember. That, is what's important to me. 

18 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing.

    I have many fond memories with my dad and brother duck hunting.

    One in which my brother had been teasing my dad about not shooting, so the next bird on the right flight path was shot. Its flight path was such that my brother had to turn or risk a painful hit to his groin...

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    1. Your Dad understood the hunt wasn't necessarily the kill. Thanks, my friend.

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  2. That's a great memory; thanks for sharing. It puts me in mind of all those whitetail seasons with my bro-in-law. Good weather, bad weather, rain, snow, whatever ... the joy was in being out in the woods, the fresh air, the thermos of coffee, and the various critters just cream on top.

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    1. Thank you for the nice compliment...I do so miss those vignettes of joy.

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  3. Time stands still for memories like that.

    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, my friend....it was my pleasure.

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  4. Beautiful post, Stephen.

    I never cared for duck hunting. I went a few times with my Dad and Uncles, but didn't like the cold and the wet,

    But pheasant hunting....OH YEAH!

    Out tromping around through the freshly harvested fields, dogs sniffing and scouting, beautiful autumn days and afternoons, big homemade lunches, and yep, that "doctored" coffee!

    And we always got our limit, thanks to my Uncle Don's great dogs.

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    1. Thanks, my friend...I too miss the cornfields. I was an adult when I first stalked the stalks...and the pheasant rise had a way of putting my heart in my throat.

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  5. You almost make me regret skipping hunting season to go sailing this fall.

    . . . almost.

    Next year, god willing.

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    1. Peace is where we find it...be it a full sail or warm shotgun. Thank you, my good friend.

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  6. Stephen,

    Now I hate to say it, your post is a Kodak moment in time.

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  7. I think the best part of our lives are behind us.

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    1. Yes, regrettably....but hey, we've moments still. Thank you, my good friend.

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  8. Funny what jogs memories. A scent. A sound. Or even the weather. We tend to remember more of the good stuff as we get older. The bad moments aren't worth dwelling on anymore anyway. Recalling those good times is like wearing an old sweater. Comfortable and savoring it's warmth. Good story, Stephen.

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    1. Thank you, my lovely friend. I slip into my old sweater often of late.

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  9. Great story! Memories like that stick with us forever!!!

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    1. Indeed they do, at least the good memories...thanks, my friend. Are you back among us?

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