THE ONLY PROBLEM with this lease is a distinct lack of water,” Doc observed, standing on the edge of a sheer ridge. Below us, cactus, salt cedars and grass spread down to a very, very dry wash. In our continuing search for a deer lease, we’ve examined dozens of potential candidates. They’ve all failed in some way.
It was an unusually cool spring day, but we knew that it would be soon be hot and dry. I drained a plastic water bottle and pitched it into the back of the truck.
“Mr. Tom Mills said that draw down here had water most of the time,” Woodrow recalled.
“It must be underground,” I said.
“Let’s hike down there and take a look at it,” the Cap’n suggested.
“Can’t we drive down there instead?” Jerry Wayne asked. He doesn’t like to walk when he can ride.
This eleven-hundred-acre lease had potential, as Doc said, water was an issue. Animals need a continuous drinking source, or they won’t hang around an area. Without stock tanks to provide water, I wasn’t sure we’d see much game at the end of a long, hot summer.
Woodrow found the lease in the newspaper, and set up the tour after a long telephone visit in which he expressed our desire for a quality lease and continuous water. The Hunting Club members all lean toward what we call “wet” leases, or those with a creek or stream.
To avoid a crisis with Jerry Wayne, we climbed in the truck and made our slow, four-wheel way through the rocky country.
“Mr. Mills said he’d meet us here in a little while,” Woodrow said as we bounced over a particularly rough section. “He and his wife wanted to visit with us after the checked the cows over on that section beyond those trees.”
“He’ll have trouble finding us,” Wrong Willie said.
I looked over my shoulder at the tire tracks through the dry, crushed grass. “Nope, they’ll find us all right.”
Half an hour later we finally coasted to a stop near the creek bed. The boys scattered to walk the country and get a feel for the lease. I joined Willie after a while, and we ran across Jerry Wayne sitting on a rocky outcrop overlooking the creek bed about half a mile from the truck.
“What do you think?” Willie asked, stopping under a live oak.
Jerry Wayne shook his head. “I’ve found a lot of game trails that lead down to this creek bed. But I haven’t seen a drop of water. It’s scary for this time of the year. It doesn’t look good for the hot months.”
A hen turkey couldn’t stand hiding anymore and she burst from the cover of a small shin oak grove. We watched her run down the creek bed and disappear into the distance.
“That was cool,” Jerry Wayne said and stood up. He carefully picked his way around the rocks and followed the tiny trail to the bottom. “This looks a little damp right here,” he said. “Maybe the deer can paw a little water in the dry months.”
Willie snorted. “They’ll more than likely just wander into someone else’s lease. Let’s get out of here.”
He turned to leave and Jerry Wayne stepped onto the carpet of fallen leaves covering the damp ground. In a slow-motion move that reminded me of a Jack Woo movie, Jerry Wayne’s lower extremities disappeared into a foul smelling muck reminiscent of a pig pen.
Not a tiny person, Jerry Wayne’s considerable bulk propelled him forward and he splatted face-first into the mud with a splat so satisfying, the only thing I could think to do was clap.
He flopped over on his side, covering still more of his body; and by the time we grabbed his hands and hauled his stinking, muddy carcass out of the morass, the only thing not muddy was the back of his head.
Sympathy isn’t one of the Hunting Club’s greatest attributes, so Willie and I laughed the whole way back to the truck, while Jerry Wayne grumbled, stank and squished.
“Thought there wasn’t any water on this lease,” Doc deadpanned when we arrived at the truck.
“There isn’t,” I said. “Only mud.”
“How am I gonna get this off?” Jerry Wayne asked miserably. His sinuses had closed up from the stench, and he sounded like Don Meredith with a head cold.
“You can ride home in the back,” the Cap’n suggested.
“Won’t work,” Jerry Wayne complained. “I’m already getting cold.”
Struck with an idea, I opened our cooler full of bottled water and twisted the top off. “Peel down, boy. We’ll rinse you off best we can.”
He looked at the cooler full of ice and water. “I’ll freeze.”
“Better than stinking,” Doc said.
While Jerry Wayne peeled down to his skivvies, we uncapped bottles and began to rinse him off. He was right, the cold water made him scream like a little girl. He jumped, wriggled and shrieked, and before you know it, we were all laughing insanely while pouring water on him at a ferocious rate.
The whole thing stopped when an old pickup rattled around our grove of trees. Mr. Mills and his wife stopped in shock at the sight of Jerry Wayne, wearing nothing but tighty-whities and goosebumps. I walked up to the open driver’s window.
“I know you boys said water was important to you, but I didn’t realize y’all did something … special with it.”
Before I could answer, he shifted into reverse. “I’ll find somebody else,” he called and gunned the motor.
“Give me an unopened bottle,” I told Doc.
“Have you ever seen them launch a ship?” I asked, and advanced, intending to christen Jerry Wayne in a good, old-fashioned way.
Email Reavis Wortham at [email protected]