Author Topic: Sophie's Story - Chapter 2  (Read 48 times)

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Offline OffGrid9

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Sophie's Story - Chapter 2
« on: November 07, 2017, 02:27:06 PM »
Chapter 2 ?

4 March, 1989

Not much more to add about Sophie.  She likes hunting pheasant, maybe as much as grouse.  We let her smell some old tail-feathers to give her the scent she was supposed to find, and she figured it out.  She and Jo-Jo must have jumped fifty hens in three trips, spanning six days.  We didn?t find too many roosters, though.  I only hit two pheasant all season. 

Last year wasn?t a good year for pheasant on the Yakima reservation?s feel-free-to-hunt lands.  I had only four legitimate opportunities in the six days of hunting, two of them fairly close, two others that were a little reachy.  I got one easy one, going away from just under my feet, and Sophie picked up her first pheasant.  Nice plump, full-grown bird, likely one of the 1987 hatch.  Then I missed on two longer attempts.  I can't believe I've become such a lousy shot.

I wish to hell I'd missed the next one, the last one. There was this huge ring-neck, big as Dumbo, being pushed in my direction.  He landed right under a sagebrush sixty yards out.  Uncle Bob and Jo-Jo, along with a couple other hunters and dogs, came driving over the hill, and flushed that mongo rooster right toward me, and as I pulled the trigger that sonuvagun turned into a hen.  Yeah, I know, I know, you can count on an old ring-neck to run like Charlie One-Lung the bail-jumper.  That rooster was long gone, and this was another bird?I told you, I KNOW?and I shoulda known better.  Hen or not, Sophie retrieved it with style ? she didn?t know the difference.  She brought it in still alive, as she did many of the birds I got last year.  She has a surprisingly tender game-mouth for a dog that chews up dummies and sticks the way she does.  I was damned if I was going to leave that hen in the field.  They told me I?d lose my shotgun if the Yakima tribal game-police caught me with a hen, but I?ve never left a bird yet, and I?m not going to start now.  I didn?t exactly turn myself in, but I figured I?d take my lumps if I got caught.  I didn?t, and the hen was delicious, but I still feel bad that I could make such a dumb mistake.  I did the same thing a long time ago, in Utah.  A long time ago.  I can?t count the number of young roosters with unclear, hen-like markings that were going straight away and I couldn?t see the length of the tail, where I?ve pulled off rather than shoot another hen.  I thought I was beyond that one.  Oh, well, maybe I?ll be lucky enough to never do it again.

By the way, I bought Sophie a truck?well, you know what I mean ? if a man?s gonna hunt with a dog, he should-oughta have a truck to carry camping and hunting equipment and a kennel (mine?s home-made), so you could say I bought it on account of Sophie?anyway, it?s her truck.  It?s not much of a truck.  In fact, it?s a piece of dog-crap.  It?s the first truck I?ve ever owned, alleged to be a ?72 Chevy.  Some guy pieced it together from the remnants of several accidents, then painted the whole thing a light sky-blue.  The front is sort of Chevy, but the motor isn?t the same year as the chassis, and if you go over 50, the whole front-end shivers and vibrates like a hound-dog $#itting peach-pits.  The back has a Ford bed on a Dodge rear-end?I swear it on my mother?s grave.  My spare wheel only fits the lug-nut pattern on the front brake-drums.  If I have a flat on a rear wheel, I?ll just shoot the truck.  Sophie and I can walk out, and come back later for the stuff I can?t carry.  Hell of a vehicle for a grown man?I?ve told Sophie it?s her truck, so she should replace it with a better one.  She just wags her tail.

I've read over what I wrote last fall, after my first two trips with Sophie.  I said how much it heightened the anticipation of the hunt, having my own dog.  After hunting with Sophie last year, I can honestly say that it increases the enjoyment of the hunt itself even more.  Most of all, though, it multiplies the pleasure of recollection.  The memories themselves are better ? memories are sharper when you think not only of your own activities and performance, but also your dog's. 

Even more than that ? seeing Sophie every day reminds me constantly of the good times I had hunting, and makes me think of Uncle Bob and his lovely wife Sandy and their son Ben and their orchard on the high bluffs just east of Tieton, and the many happy evenings I (and my children, Sage, and Don, and Laura) have spent in their home, before or after a hunt.

?Or waking up Paul Dressel, who overslept on opening day ? and sitting in his living room at 5 o?clock in the morning, watching him put on his socks and boots, listening to the nutty banter between Paul and his pretty young Oklahoma wife, Sharon.  Paul owns a roofing company, but that?s just a living.  What he really does is make world-class beautiful gunstocks, and Sharon is an engraver with a growing reputation.

?Or meeting old George Buckingham (on that same opening day) with his young grandson and two magnificent Belgian Pieper shotguns, 28- and 32-gauge, and coaching George's grandson, watching him get his first dove, busting with pride ("Yep, coulda got a lot more"), and then learning he didn't have a license.  At the end of that day, the tranny on George?s rig failed, so we towed him home, way up Cowiche canyon?and I learned that George has an honest-to-god waterfall just outside his living room door ? Sophie was fascinated by the waterfall.

?Or hunting with Ken Hammer (Bob?s stepbrother) and his daughter, Lindsay, and his two insane Brittany spaniels, Heckle & Jeckle (actually, Cricket and Alfie, but you know, ?if the shoe fits??); listening to Ken whistling, and shouting, and then whistling again for Alfie, just below Clover Spring one hot day when Alfie decided to give up hunting in favor of a splash-down in a ditch.

?Or watching the sun go down behind the trees at the tiny mountain waterhole at the end of the silted up beaver-flat down the long slope below the road to Clover Spring?holding as still as I could, hoping the grouse would come in for a sip (they never did), watching Sophie lying with nothing moving but her eyes and an occasional twitch of her nose, and my daughter, Laura, trying not to fidget as the minutes slid slowly into the dusk, me playing a waiting game with Uncle Bob to see who would give up first (I did).

?Or the wondrous apple-crushing party at Bob?s house in November with the incredible fresh apple-juice, and beer, and my red-hot bean-dip, and my wife, Yoko, taking charge of the preparation of 26 barbequed chickens;  Sophie and Jo-Jo racing around, begging for food, and getting tangled up in everyone?s legs;  and the next marvelous chapter in the ongoing ego-trip stories of Paul Dressel;  listening (later) to Yoko telling of her run-in with Paul's wife, Sharon, who kept trying to move her empty bottles to the front of the line, even though she hadn't done any work and had just arrived, and Paul laughing loud and long and telling his wife to "...get yer lazy butt to work and stop pissing-off Yoko".

...Laughing until I was in tears at Sophie going into Flatiron Lake for the 20th time to look for a stick which had only been thrown 19 times (a dirty trick played by Ken Hammer), and when she couldn?t find the stick, going under water and coming up with a 10-pound flat rock, big as my head.  [ ?no, no, don?t go there, my head isn?t flat, I meant?ah, hell, you know what I meant. ] 

What a season.  It's hard to imagine all those memories, and a thousand others like them, all squeezed into the 100 or so days of the 1988 hunting season. 

I have to say, as much as I love hunting, I don't believe I'd do much of it without two things:  a good dog and a good friend to hunt with.  It is just too damned easy to procrastinate, and put off the next hunt until the chores are all done (they never are), or the truck is running right (it never is), or the kids can come, too (they usually have other plans), or?you name it.  With Sophie and Uncle Bob around, my heart will always beat a little faster when I think of September, October, November....  No more procrastinating.

Sad story about Tucker, though.  He showed no interest in retrieving ? he?d chase a tennis ball once, pick it up, pop it, and chew it in half.  You go through a lot of tennis balls that way.  I never really tried to train him, not consistently.  I told the rest of the family that Sophie was mine, Tucker was theirs ? they should teach him, and give him attention, and feed him, etc.  They didn't.  No one really cared for him (they loved him, but love is cheap ? no one gave him any time).  He turned into a digger, which drove Yoko wild.  We had to keep him chained up all the time.  He was a smart dog, and it slowly soured him to be chained up, and see Sophie and Brandy, our old house-dog, loose.  It finally got so bad I gave up.  I tried to find him another home, but he was so damned BIG, more than 100 pounds at nine months.  No one wanted him, so I took him to King County Animal Control.  I told them he?d had some training, and he had:  I?d taught him to sit, and come, and heel?but he was excited and nervous, and didn't show off very well.  I don?t think they believed he was trained at all.  They said there wasn?t much chance anyone would pick him before the three-day limit.  I told them that if anyone wanted him, I'd pay half the neuter-fee.  Nobody ever called.  It's a pity.  He was a hell of a pup, big and strong and confident and smart.  At the end he was just nervous and feverish and hesitant.  I still feel bad thinking about him.  I'm glad Sophie doesn't know where I took him.
___________________ ___________________ ___________________ ___

23 June, 1989

I'm working with Sophie on her retrieving again, trying to get her better trained before the '89 season starts.  As always, she picks up the training faster than I can give it to her.  Again, she doesn't want to let go of the dummy.  Several months of letting her run loose in the neighborhood ? she's trained several people to throw sticks for her, and then play keep-away and tug-o-war with her.  It's really hard to break her of those habits, but she only does it with dummies ? with real game, she has never chewed up a bird, and she has always given them to me immediately...knock wood.

I finally submitted the application to the AKC for Sophie's registration ? just got it back ? after Sophie's second birthday.  Talk about procrastination.  I plan to breed her next spring, if all is going well ? raising pups is a pain, if you do it right...unless you're a professional dog breeder, or are retired.  It takes care, and focus, and TIME.  But I really want to continue her line, to be able to hunt with her descendants as long as I can.  So I?ll breed her at least once.  Maybe once or twice more.  After that, who knows. 

I can barely wait for September 1st...and I swear Sophie seems to know it's coming, too.  Hope I can shoot a few more birds for her this year.  She has done her part, she has more than earned the opportunity to show her stuff in the field.  I've got to work at being a better shot.  She deserves more game, more chances.  It?s what she lives for.  Hunting, walking, riding together in the truck...we make a good team.  She?s only two.  If my health holds up, and if hers does too, we might get in ten more years hunting together.  More than one man deserves in a good lifetime.
___________________ ___________________ ___________________ ________________

14 December, 1989

It has been a really good bird season. I hunted more this year than last, and I missed fewer shots, so Sophie got a lot more action.

For dove, we returned to Sunnyside ? Uncle Bob and his step-brother Ken, and Paul and Sharon Dressel, and George Buckingham were all there again.  We  were shooting close to where we hunted last year, but that field was closed, bought up by a consortium of wealthy local and not-so-local businessmen for their own private hunting club.  We managed to find a place in the same dove flyway, in a field next to an irrigation ditch.  Sophie did very well, she failed to find only one bird all day, of the 20 or so she was sent for (my ten, and a bunch for other hunters).  Jo-Jo broke and retrieved a couple of my birds, beat Sophie to them, which made Sophie all snarly and ugly. 

As usual, the birds stopped flying about 9:30.  At 11 o?clock, we retired to a deserted area to eat lunch and shoot hand-trap, everybody shooting rounds of 25.  Except for my old ?beater? Winchester 24 and Ken Hammer?s Remington autoloader, every other gun was worth over a thousand dollars ? Bob was shooting his Browning Air-Light over-&-under.  George was shooting one of his Piepers, and the Dressels were shooting a pair of very old Spanish shotguns, nothing I?ll ever be able to afford.  I was running short on 12-gauge shells, so I pulled out a gun I?d picked up for $20 years ago for Sage to shoot, a second-hand 20-gauge single-shot break-open ?Revelation? ? a brand-name Western Electric used to sell, I think.  It?s been a good, reliable little shotgun, and I use it occasionally when a four-pound gun sounds right.  Bob and I threw clays for everybody.  The birds coming out of the hand-trap were a bit unpredictable, as usual, and nobody had shot very well.  I don?t think anyone had hit more than 15 or 16 out of 25.  Ken is normally a dead-eye, and Bob and George are good, too, but it was one of those days.  I was up last.  I only had 17 shells for the 20-gauge, and I hit all 17.  After the first six or seven, Bob was throwing smoke, and in weird directions, but I just couldn?t miss.  Of the 17, I think I vaporized about 12, and shattered the rest pretty well.  They all wanted me to keep shooting with the 12-gauge, but I quit a winner.  If I?d finished the 25-shot round I?m pretty sure I?d have missed four or five out of the last eight.  Seeing all that envy, I went and tossed apple culls into the fast-running irrigation ditch for Sophie to retrieve and cool off.  Then I drank an ice-cold Henry Weinhard, found a little shade under an apple tree, closed my eyes, and took a little happy nap, with Sophie panting cheerfully beside me.  It just doesn?t get any better than that.

There were quite a few grouse this year around all of our favorite areas:  ?Elk Meadow? ? my name for a nice camping area just up from Camp Lindsay on the Clover Springs road ? Little Bald, Clover Springs, Flatiron Lake, and the sloughs between Flatiron Lake and Old Scab Mountain. I think Sophie likes grouse-hunting better than anything else.  I mean, she loves every kind of hunting, but with grouse she also gets to run the high country and go camping ? she loves sleeping in a tent with her head on my mattress, and my arm on her shoulder.  Whenever we step from the tent, or the truck, and take the guns out of the cases, she goes into her happy, spinning, grouse dance.  I love to see it.  It makes everybody laugh, but it tells them how much this means to Sophie, and Sophie has grown to be a fixture in everyone?s heart.

On one hunt Bob and I had our families with us, camping at Elk Meadow.  On a lovely warm September evening, Bob was telling us tales of hunting and shooting accidents, emphasizing the stories by tossing and catching a live .44 Magnum round over the campfire, making everyone nervous.  Bob knew it bothered all of us, especially his wife Sandy, who begged him to stop it.  That was the wrong approach.  Bob thoroughly enjoyed the tension he was causing, right up to the moment he missed the cartridge and it fell into the fire.  Bob snatched unsuccessfully at it in the embers, cursing as he burned his fingers.  Everyone realized at the same moment that we didn?t have a lot of time ? we all jumped up and ran.  About 50 yards away, behind stumps and rocks, we waited for the primer or the powder to go off.  Sophie had been sleeping, and I saw she was still near the fire, looking puzzled.  I called to her, and she stood up and meandered toward us, with all of us yelling for her to come.  And we waited.  Then Bob couldn?t hold it in any more, and started laughing.  He walked back to the fire and used a couple of sticks like chopsticks to retrieve the round.  It was an empty shell, no primer, no powder, just a lead bullet pushed loosely into the mouth.  The bullet was slightly melted.  Bob has a truly bizarre sense of humor, and he was convinced that this practical joke was a real howl.  The rest of us were offended at his juvenile behavior, and sternly told him there was nothing funny about it  ?And I believe every one of us was just praying that someday, somewhere, there would be a chance to get even.  I?m pretty sure that even Sandy would join in, and she is no practical joker.

The next day, Bob and I hunted the steep east slope of the ridge just up from Elk Meadow where the road switchbacks up to the trailhead (I?ve never followed that trail, but it goes over the ridge and down toward Bumping Lake).  We didn?t find any grouse at all.  It was super hot.  Sophie finally got fed up and chased down a young rabbit, brought it back alive.  It was in shock.  I couldn?t find any broken bones, so I put it down under a tree, moved off a few yards, and waited about five minutes.  When the shock wore off it hopped away, seemingly healthy.  Sophie wanted to go after it.  I said, ?Sophie!  No bird!  No bird, Sophie!?  Sophie was absolutely disgusted.

There was a decent crop of pheasant roosters in October, down in the lower Yakima valley, on both sides of the river.  I never got the three-rooster bag limit, but I got seven or eight birds altogether, in six days hunting (three weekend trips).

Just last week, Sophie and I went hunting with Uncle Bob and Jo-Jo for pheasant, down on the Yakama reservation ? and no, that isn?t a typo, I just found out that the Indians spell it ?Yakama?, and not ?Yakima? as us white folks do.  The town and valley are still ?Yakima?.  I?m not gonna go back and correct the errors from earlier episodes.  I?ll just let them stand so anyone reading this narrative can laugh at my ignorance. 

This hunt was different ? it was the first time Sophie and I had hunted in deep snow, with the temperature about 25 degrees.  Depending on the lay of the land, there were between 12 and 18 inches of snow, with deeper drifts here and there.  It was beautiful, almost surreal, completely silent but for the crunching of the snow beneath our feet.  The sun was out, weakly, and there was no wind, so the air temperature felt more like 50 degrees, but boy can your feet get cold if you aren?t prepared.

Uncle Bob had taken me down to the Tieton hardware store, where I bought a pair of rubber boots with half-inch felt booties inside, and with a couple pairs of wool socks my feet stayed warm as toast, and dry.  You don?t get much ankle support, but man are they comfortable.  You would think the dogs? feet would be frozen in five minutes, yet we were out for two hours and whenever I checked Sophie?s paws, they were pretty warm, and she appeared to be in no distress.  I figure maybe dogs have expandable arteries and veins in their legs, capable of opening up as big as garden hoses when the need arises.

Anyway, back to the subject.  Sophie loved the snow, but at first she didn?t have a clue how to hunt in it.  There was no scent at all.  She had hunted in light dustings of snow, and even in maybe three inches of snow, but there had been tracks and scent aplenty.  Here there was nothing.  That?s when experience came into play.  Jo-Jo had been there, done that.  She headed  straight for the nearest ?igloo?.  Each of these igloos was a mound of snow, maybe three or four feet high, where the snow had weighed down and bent over the tops of field grass and low brush and then roofed-over the arched brush/grass, forming a hollow protected space, a perfect refuge for birds.

Jo-Jo went charging through the middle of that igloo.  Nothing happened.  Sophie looked puzzled.  Jo-Jo looked back and barked happily at Sophie, clearly saying, ?Come on, get with the program!?  Sophie was satisfied to just watch.  Jo-Jo ran through a second igloo, and up popped a big rooster.  Bob knocked it end-over-end into the snow, where Jo-Jo joyfully picked it up. 

Sophie blew up:  ?Hey, the birds are in the igloos.  All RIGHT!!?  She bounded over to the next igloo, and charged through it twice?no results?and headed for another one, a really big one.  I got into position and watched carefully as she jumped onto it, and then rammed her way through it, turned back and did it again, and turned back to go through it a third time.  I told her, ?Dang, Sophie, give it up.  Save your energy for the next one.?  I turned to head for another igloo.  Behind my back, Sophie busted not one, not two, but three hens out of that igloo.  She had somehow trapped them the first couple times through, and they?d had no hole to fly through until her third penetration, at which point they exploded out of the igloo, leaving me with my jaw on my chest. 

Sophie purely couldn?t stand it.  She lit off after the last of those hens.  I yelled ?no bird, Sophie, no bird?, but it was no use.  She was still bounding tirelessly as she hove out of sight over the next rise.  Uncle Bob turned to me and noted, dryly, that I should rename her ?TZ?.   ??OK, I?ll bite:  why TZ?? I asked.  ?Well, before she turns around, I believe she?ll be in another Time Zone.?

She was back in five minutes, looking tired and happy and not very damned ashamed of herself for breaking.  She was in such good spirits that I couldn?t scold her too much, and she was tired enough to stay with me the rest of the hunt. It?s awfully hard not to love a dog that gets such joy out of her work.  Bob wound up with two roosters.  Sophie and I got one
The older I get, the better I used to be.  --  I thought my Dad coined that...but he stole it from Lee Trevino

Offline OffGrid9

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Re: Sophie's Story - Chapter 2
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2017, 02:30:10 PM »
Son of a gun...more of those razzenfratzer "?" substitutions.  They weren't in the preview.  I was careful, after chapter 1, I didn't want any repeat of that issue.  But when I submitted it for posting, ? ? ? ? everywhere.  Sorry, I  have no idea how to prevent them, or correct them.
The older I get, the better I used to be.  --  I thought my Dad coined that...but he stole it from Lee Trevino

Offline wolfy

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Re: Sophie's Story - Chapter 2
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2017, 02:59:55 PM »
Yeah, they're a PITA!   I've been having trouble with them ever since the last iPad update, hopefully that glitch will be taken care of in the next update, along with the next new glitch that will need fixing. >:(
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