W rong Willie came around the pop-up trailer, buttoning his coat. The skies were dark and gray. “There’s no electricity.”
“Probably the ice storm from two days ago. You know how rural electric is,” I replied.
“I know I’m gonna freeze to death while we’re here.”
“You have those fancy new sleeping bags Jan bought you.”
He stomped his feet and glared at me. “My feet nearly froze off last weekend.”
“It’s deer camp. It’s supposed to be cold. That makes deer hunting good. Buy some new socks.”
“Jan bought me some, but then again, she’s the one who gave me the sleeping bag last Christmas.” He shifted from one foot to the other. “I’m wondering if she’s trying to kill me for the insurance money.”
“Never mind. Put on your new socks and let’s go hunt some quail.”
His eyes lit up, and Willie hurried into the trailer. I saw it bounce and shift from his weight. The fire refused to start because all the wood was soaked from the rain and ice storm, so I dug out a block of Firestarter and piled some kindling on top.
Willie’s voice came through the canvas walls. “These are called Blizzard Socks.”
“They probably won’t work.”
He came out. “I told you this was going to be the coldest lease we ever had.” He walked around the smoking wood like a toddler, raising his feet high, trying his new socks. “These feel pretty good.”
“Most socks are going to feel good until you get still. Then your feet’ll get cold again.”
He opened his truck door and unshucked a shotgun from the case. “I can’t wait to shoot some quail. How long has it been?”
“About twenty-five years.”
I left the fire to get my own shotgun. “There’s a covey right over there by the windmill. I was gathering wood the last two times we were here and jumped ’em in the same place each time.”
His face widened in delight. “Think about it. Quail hunting again only a hundred and fifty yards from camp. Man, I missed that!”
He thumbed shells into his gun while I strapped a game belt around my waist. “You know, my old vest wore out. I might need to get a new one.”
“You probably need to get you a new facemask, too, after yours fell in the fire last weekend.”
I shuddered. I’d tucked the 20-something year-old camo facemask into my coat, and it dropped out while I added wood to the fire late one night. The knit mask hissed and burst into flame, looking like it had been soaked in bacon grease all night.
I pulled my backup ski cap over my ears. “I never saw anything burn that good.”
“I have. Firestarters that are better than the ones you just used. You should have saved it, because that fire’s still not going.”
Staring at the windmill, I reached into the shell pocket of my vest and plucked one out. Flipping the Remington over, I poked it into the loading gate, but something was wrong.
I stopped while Willie loaded his own shotgun. “You know, I haven’t used this one in a couple of years. I’ll have to remember where the bolt release is.”
“Right there under your thumb. Don’t push…”
He thumbed it and the bolt snapped shut, pinching his finger. Willie hopped around like a bunny, shaking his finger like he could flick the pain off.
I examined the shell in my hand, wondering if it was out of round, but no, it was a pristine 12-gauge shell. Then it hit me. I’d done it again.
The weekend before, I brought the twelve gauge, and mistakenly picked up the range bag full of 16-gauge shells. Because of that, I didn’t get to hunt, and had to act as Willie’s bird dog. He didn’t like the way I stopped and pointed with my finger.
To make sure I didn’t make the same mistake again, I decided to go with my trusty old Remington 1100, the one I bought back in 1976 for $189 dollars.
I turned the shotgun in my hands. It was a Remington all right, but I’d picked up the War Department’s 20-gauge.
I sighed, checked the shells in the belt, and they were all for sure 12-gauge. “Uh, you didn’t bring any 20-gauge shells, did you?”
“No. We agreed to keep it consistent this weekend.”
I sighed again. “Oh, we’re consistent all right.” I led off. “I’ll flush and you shoot.”
He laughed loud and long, despite his injured finger. “You hold when I tell you.”
“Shut up.” I struck off.
I stopped. “What?”
“Keep your tail up while you retrieve, so I’ll know where you are.”
I showed him the tail a little early and stepped into the covey, laughing like a loon as they flushed and Willie missed every…single…shot.
Claimed it was because his feet were cold.
Email Reavis Wortham at [email protected]