By Jon Wogen, TBC Board member, “used with permission by the Renville County Register”.
It was a Monday evening in December when the call came in. Jordan asked Oscar if he could join himself and Richard who lives in the Twin Cities for a pheasant hunt here in Renville County. They were all “old friends”.
The conversation involved planning the time to meet, place, and where the trio would hunt. They would meet on Wednesday morning.
Jordan said that he had a place lined up that had received little hunting pressure; there should be a lot of birds. Richard was bringing his pointing hunting dog.
The guys were looking forward to this joining of old friends for a pheasant hunt. They hadn’t hunted much lately due to age and its nasty fellow travelers.
Then Jordan dropped a “bomb” on Oscar. He said, “Richard may be showing some signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s; He may not be able to hunt much after this season.”
Oscar cringed as he heard this and then he began to hope that they would have some good hunting luck, for Richard’s sake.
Wednesday morning came quickly and the three friends assembled at Jordan’s home. After the hunt, the trio would gather there for a meal after hunting.
The three well-seasoned friends and the rambunctious pointing dog piled into the truck and drove off to the chosen hunting spot. Upon arrival, the dog was first out of the truck. He quickly made a sweep of the immediate habitat and flushed a rooster and a hen.
When Oscar and Richard had loaded guns and made ready for the hunt, Jordan drove the truck to the end of the field to be a “blocker”. “Where’s the dog? He has way too much energy today”, said Richard. The two friends started to walk into the tall prairie grass and the dog rejoined them, running back and forth in front of them, attempting to sniff out a pheasant for them.
Suddenly the dog showed signs of picking up a scent. Off he went, chasing the sweet smell of the pheasants. Whistles and loud shouting by Richard couldn’t restore common sense and training that the dog had received. Kiss any pheasants goodbye in this prairie. Dogs have a way of embarrassing their owners.
The three friends re-grouped and moved on to another part of this large wildlife area. The dog took off again, followed by a lot of shouting and use of the whistle. Suddenly the dog got “birdy”. He slowly moved ahead and suddenly assumed the classic pose of a good pointer. Nose high, tail rigid and the right front paw lifted and curled back. Oscar wished he had his camera along for this moment. The dog then moved ahead and flushed a hen pheasant. No shot, but the dog assumed he should pursue the bird no matter how far it flew. Richard got desperate that he would lose the dog so he walked as fast as his old legs could go toward where the dog had disappeared in the tall grass. Now the dog went into the neighboring field where the guys had no permission to hunt. Richard followed as fast as he could.
After a while, Oscar looked where Richard had gone, following the dog. No one could be seen, even though Richard was dressed in orange vest and hat. Finally Oscar could see him heading in the wrong direction from where the dog had appeared to go. Oscar hoped he knew what he was doing. Then, Richard was no longer visible at all.
Thoughts of dementia flew into Oscar’s brain and he thought Richard may get lost, even here on the prairie. Oscar could not locate Richard and worried about a heart attack or something. Oscar then quickly contacted Jordan and they hopped into the pickup and drove the trails looking out for Richard in the area he had disappeared into. They both began to fear the worst. Someone wearing orange should be easy to spot, unless he was down on the ground in the tall grass. Worry abounded.
After much frantic searching, an orange blob could be seen out in the neighbor’s tallgrass prairie. The orange blob had to be Richard, either sitting down or lying down. They shouted and waved their arms, but Richard didn’t seem to see them. So, Oscar left the pickup and started to walk over the neighboring prairie to see Richard. When Oscar found the area where Richard had been seen, he wasn’t there. Looking farther in the prairie, nothing could be seen. Then over a rise in the land, there was Richard, staggering along like a drunken sailor, totally lost and a bit panicked. Obviously Richard was very confused and instead of walking back to the area they were hunting, he continued down the path heading away from the other two.
Finally Oscar got close enough to be heard by Richard as he shouted to him. Richard stopped and looked back. A big sigh of relief moved over Richard’s face as he saw a friend coming for him. Richard immediately sat down on the ground, thoroughly exhausted from his blind search for the dog and trying to locate his friends. Richard admitted to being lost and very turned around. The dog had also found Richard.
Oscar and Richard talked a while until Richard seemed to get some strength back and stood up. As they started to walk back to the hunting area, Richard used his shotgun as a cane to steady him. He held the muzzle of the shotgun and it pointed up into his arm pit. So, Oscar asked him if the gun had been unloaded. Richard didn’t think he had done that. Oscar took out the five shells in the gun and checked it. Then they resumed the walk back. Then, along came the pickup with Jordan who had found an opening in the fence between the two properties and came to the rescue. Richard, completely exhausted of energy couldn’t even lift his legs up into the pickup. The two friends feared a heart attack in Richard at any time.
Oscar’s mind ran through the day’s events and his own fears that Richard could have died out there in the tall grass prairie. He realized that unless someone was right along side of Richard, he should never hunt again.
Then, sadness overtook Oscar as he saw himself possibly reaching this point in his hunting life down the road. A lifetime of hunting, dogs and shotguns must come to an end some day.
And so would he.
THE WISDOM OF SVEN
Today Sven quotes Daniel Webster: “God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.”