Lately, when I’m writing, I go for a walk around the block about once an hour. They say that’s enough to offset the negative effects of sitting at a computer. I’m not sure that’s true, but it’s good for my soul to be outside, feeling, hearing, and smelling the natural world – and breathing in the cold air. Today, that’s triggered memories of quail hunting with Dad on days like this. When I got back from my latest walk just now, I checked to see what the weather is like in Ruston, my hometown – it’s overcast, 38º, N 8mph, wind chill 30º.
I can picture Dad holding the Chevy steering wheel with his knee while he unscrewed the top of the thermos that Mabel had filled with hot, black coffee, and drinking it with one hand while maneuvering the blue truck along a dirt path through a pine tree push over. I loved the way the coffee smelled though I could not stand the taste. It’s an acquired taste for many, like whiskey.
Then we’d get to the next place we were going to hunt, pick a couple of quail dogs that weren’t tired yet, and set out on the hunt, shotguns loaded, with safeties on, barrels pointed to the ground. Walking a few yards apart, we stepped over logs and thick underbrush, briars tearing at our thick canvas hunting pants, cold wind chilling our hands and ears, watching where the dogs were running and following their lead.
The way I remember those times now – it feels like I was in a magic place, not just a cold, deserted land where tree-harvesters cut all the pines for pulpwood and tractors pushed up the waste into rows. When they were finished trying to burn the waste, they planted pine seedlings in rows about five feet apart and then left not planning to come back for twenty years. Briars and other seed plants took root, and pretty soon coveys of quail wandered from the woods and made the place their own and multiplied.
Overcast, 38º, N 8mph, wind chill 30º — a perfect day.