Sunday, January 1, 2012


This past Friday, December 30, my father would have been 91. I had a challenging piece of work planned, but at sunrise, halfway through my second cup of coffee, I knew I'd be going to the woods.

In Northeast Texas, where Blackland Prairie gives way to the Red River breaks, steep-banked creeks cut fine, broad hardwood bottoms.

After a brutal summer, fall rains reassured us that life might go on.

Early afternoon, in shirtsleeve weather, I cast Cate east along a certain creek in Lamar County. I didn't expect much in the way of game then. There were no pleasant surprises the first couple hours, but no shortage of pleasure. Were I a more efficient hunter, I'd have saved our energy for the last two hours of the day, when squirrels and other diurnal wild things stir before denning.

Someone shake a vine. Cate says there's a squirrel up there.

Late afternoon, things picked up a bit.

Why do dogs always prefer the far side of the creek, especially when you aren't wearing hip boots?

An unexpected gift: A woodcock hen.

Gumbo or burgoo? We added a few more squirrels before dark.

Just after sundown, with barely enough light, I cleaned the day's bounty on the tailgate. For a few minutes, I knew only a snoring dog, tired back, bloody hands, the feel of feathers and fur, the smell of life and death, cedar and a cooling creek bottom. We humans are simple creatures, but we have long memories. 

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