imageSo I’m sitting right here in my beat up cloth reclining campchair by a long needle pine at Fools Hollow campground in Arizona with the cool wind laying down the tall grass and dancing with the tree tops when I hear the sound of my grandmother’s black typewriter. I am wondering if the lady in the next camp is actually typing in her little pop up tent, and thinking; “cool, she probably has a travel blog too!” when I realize that NOBODY uses a typewriter that sounds like that anymore and when I focus on where the sound is imagecoming from, there is of course a golden headed woodpecker about the size of my hand tapping away at the tree about four feet away from me.
I took it as a clue to get started writing again, though the keystrokes are ever so much quieter and require infinitely less force than those iconic typewriters of Grandmother Ethel Allen’s day. She did a lot of her letter writing with a pen however as I imagine her mother Goldie Danner did.
I wanted to tell you the story of the bad hunter and the frustrated hunting dog, as it played out in our first week in our second cycle of snow bird traveling in our camper. (There goes that woodpecker again, and it’s so funny because he is making it sound like I am typing on an old typewriter now, there is so much accidental sychronization of his work and mine.)
We started our journey driving over Rainy Pass in the Cascades to Colville to visit R’s brother Hal and his family. We also had in mind to do some bird hunting and brought our shotguns and grouse and duck shot, as well as, of course, the microfiber dog Moxy. (We call her that because, this is what our silver-brown standard poodle appears to be constructed of when she is freshly shorn.) Hal gave us a penciled map of some nearby areas where there were lakes, logging roads and forested hills where he had spotted grouse on many occasions. It was a wet but not too cold day, so we set out in his old Scout and wended our way along miles of roads and trails without seeing much at all. This was multi-use land and we saw not a soul while we were out. I was glad of that because it’s so surprising to the birders with their binoculars and cameras when you show up at the same place with a gun and a dog.
There was a particular lookout over a lake with the usual wildlife and habitat for idiots information carved neatly into a board where I was very glad NOT to see folks at, because below, just within sight, but not within range, were some mallards, less than a dozen, but paddling in our direction. We decided to scoot down a dear trail real quiet like and see if we could get close enough to shoot. You have to be surprisingly close. I have to be much closer than most. And it is uncooth to shoot them on the water, so you have to wait till they fly, more’s the pity for me. We made it down to the waters edge, and Moxy stayed right behind me, knowing full well we were putting on the sneak, and her job was to be sneaky, till she got to go retrieve out of the lake. They did get close enough, and R let me walk forward first to see if I could take a shot. I took two and missed. Moxy jumped into the air and said “SHIT, SHIT,SHIT!”in dog language and gazed longingly at the spot the bird should have dropped to in the water if I had done my job correctly. We heaved ourselves back up the hill. We got back in the car, bumped, wound and ground our way up to the top of Black Tail Mountain to see if we would spot a grouse in higher elevation.
R took a snooze in the Scout while Moxy and I hiked the last half hour to the summit. It was quite warm now, and I was hopeful because the grouse, like other birds, often come out when the sun does. They eat berries and spruce seeds and leave little swirls of needles where they have been eating, or packed dust on the roadside where they have been dust bathing. Often they will be near a water source like a culvert. I did hear the whoom whoom sound they make in the distance once, but we saw nothing and flushed nothing, though Moxy quartered the track just the right distance in front of me, indicating with a wagging tail where she smelled them. Her tail wag is just like a Geiger counter and goes faster and faster the fresher the scent. lf it is really going you better be ready to shoot. I actually unlock my saftey when her tail goes that fast. But now I started looking at squirrels, for lack of any other wildlife. I heard they are really good because they taste of the nuts they feed on.
Looking to the right, squirrel, mmmmm, bam, grouse flies out on the left side and the shot is near and clear. I shoot and I miss. Moxy says “DAM DAM DAM” in dog language, and I tell her to sit, so I can see if I can find where it might have landed in the lower branches not too far away, as they often do. I call her near when I don’t see anything and ask her to smell around for the grouse and she obliges eagerly. Whoosh, up the big dark grouse flies and I miss again. Moxy stares at me in disbelief, but stays while I go looking for it some more. I give up and we go back down the hill empty handed. My gunshots, so ineffectual, had not even served to waken R.
Cut to Elko Nevada. Ron getting propane. Moxy and I taking a little leg stretch by the railroad tracks in the industrial area of this little redneck town.
There is an apparition ahead with cotton candy on the tips of it’s long ears. Moxy sees it and the chase is on without further ado. I call her back. two short whistles. works every time. Even if she’s after a deer. Not this time, no way. She has had it with me and is going to have this rabbit if it runs to Kansas. She responds to my calls with two yelps that say in dog language “HELL NO!” I stop as I lose sight of the pair burning over the horizon, only a few yards between them now. I wait. I wait a little longer. In our four year acquaintance, Moxy has never ran off. I wonder if this is going to be the first time. The traveling, just too much for her, my poor shooting, sleeping on the dinette sofa in the camper, cheap dry dog food, whatever. But after about three long minutes I see her odd form on the horizon. She doesn’t look herself. She has extra parts. Oh! She has bunny rabbit parts. She has an entire bunny rabbit, twice the size as the ones I’m accustomed to seeing wild in the Northwest Washington area. She has gotten that rabbit, and gotten it good, and is proudly bringing it back to show us, since we obviously don’t know how it is SUPPOSED to end when you go hunting.
A grizzled old guy in a beat up truck stopped as he pulled out of a driveway in front of us, as Moxy heeled off leash by my side, rabbit in mouth firmly. What kind of dog is that, anyway? ” A poodle” I informed him, trying really hard not to smile.
People often ask if we eat what we shoot. Of course we do! It’s the point, right?
Have R or I ever killed or cleaned a rabbit? No. Is it legal to shoot rabbits? Yes, with the right license, in the right state. Did we do a covert operation? Absolutely. In the camper on the table, we figured it out while Moxy looked on with interest. I only regret not having taken a photo of her with it for posterity. R got a photo of the bunny braising in the frying pan on the stove, and sent to his brother Hal, but it doesn’t capture the aroma of rosemary and ginger, added to onion, carrots and sweet potatoes that went with it in the stew, which was, in fact delicious.


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