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Old December 2, 2002, 06:18 PM   #1
Dave McC
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Pop's Last Dove Shoot....

WARNING, mawkishly sentimental thread ahead....

After one of those late night phone calls, I had caught the first thing smoking back to MD from LA, where I was using the madness of LA to heal me from the madness of the Nam Mess. Pop had had a bad infarction,and was scheduled for a double bypass.So, my life went on hold for a while.

Bypasses are fairly routine now, but the survival rate in 1972 was about 60%. And Pop had other medical concerns. Messed up badly at the end of WWII, he had exceeded his doctor's expectations and lived. Seemingly running on scar tissue and pure will, he had made a good life for himself and was, in my biased and slanted view, one of the finest men that ever lived. We had been through a bad period in my teens,too much alike not to butt heads, but always the love was there.

Anyway,Pop was out of Hopkins, keeping his nitro tablets handy, and needed some help around the farm with the Quarter Horses, German Shorthair Pointers, and Mom.

And as usual, he never complained, but set out to do as much as he could, until he'd get gray in the face and grab for his nitro tabs. After sitting for a few minutes, he'd go back to what he was doing, unless we stridently urged him not to.

The operation was scheduled early in September, and we were down at the stables doing some chores the day before. I could tell Pop was using the mundane,routine jobs to keep his mind off the impending surgery, and then we noted doves were pitching into the spring at the bottom of the pasture.Plans were laid,horses were stabled, and we walked down.

Pop carried his little SKB 20 gauge O/U, I toted a lawn chair,a feed sack, some shells, and a 20 gauge Flite King pump by High Standard. The SKB was a gift to Pop from some friends after his old Savage O/U was stolen at a field trial. I loathed the HS, but my 870 had been left with a trusted friend in LA. It was that or nothing.

We set up some 40 yards apart, a little closer than usual, but I wanted to keep an eye on Pop. He sat in the shade, facing a dirt track leading to the seep. It was the way the doves were coming in. I was a little off the track to give a safety zone, and then the doves started coming in to water.

I went through a box fast, with few birds to show for it. Pop sat there, let some pass, and every time he shot, a dove crashed. He was picking his shots, making even more sure than usual to make a solid,killing hit. The Pointers in the kennel were clamoring to be let out and play. This was not a dog day, though, and we kept on with me doing the retrieving. The dogs lamented our choice.

After a while, a Satori revealed itself to me. Pop was shooting knowing that this could be the very last time, and was concentrating on doing it right. Doing things right was important to him, and so was hunting.

And so it went, until the stream of doves coming to water trickled and died. One of the last ones Pop shot, perhaps the very last, fell so close that he caught in in his hand, causing laughter. About then we packed up. Pop had 10 if memory serves, and I had taken maybe 6 or 7 with maybe 30 shells.

We walked up the gentle slope back to the house as Mom pulled in from work. She greeted us with a smile, but her eyes were worried as she saw Pop, who looked tired but joyous. We told her of the shoot,and as we went into the house, Pop looked around at the farm he loved and said, "It's been a great day".I looked at the man I was to become very much like, and silently agreed.

The operation next day kept most of Pop alive, but enough damage had been done that taking care of his beloved dogs and horses, much less hunting, was beyond him,forever.

He took the news with his usual courage, and spent 19 more years on this earth until God called an old soldier home. No more hunting, but there was fishing, target shooting, long talks and the birth of four grandchildren to fill his days.

If there is a God, and He a Just God, Pop's spirit and that of some good bird dogs I can name get to work through some good cover every now and then. I believe in a Just God...
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Old December 2, 2002, 06:50 PM   #2
C.R.Sam
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An old man's eyes are just naturally watery.
That's my story and I'm stickin to it.

A good man raised a good son.

Again, thanks Dave.

Sam......snif
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Old December 2, 2002, 07:10 PM   #3
HSMITH
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Very touching Dave.
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Old December 2, 2002, 07:14 PM   #4
sm
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Thanks Dave McC

Pop is looking down and proud of what he sees in you. Still, he too remembers that last Dove Shoot...nostalgia.

not ashamed to admit I gotta lump in my throat, my eyes ain't misty, downright wet...where's my kerchief...
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Old December 2, 2002, 09:47 PM   #5
HS/LD
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After a day in the grey world,
it is an immense pleasure to find a glimmer of light.

It is no surprise to me to find it on a forum devoted to shooting.

Thank you Dave.

Regards,
HS/LD

"Do what thy manhood bids thee do:
From none but self expect applause.
He noblest lives and noblest dies,
Who makes and keeps his self-made laws."
- Sir Richard Francis Burton
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Old December 3, 2002, 04:57 AM   #6
Dave McC
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Thanks, glad you liked it.

(Raising coffee cup in a toast) Her's to Fathers and Sons...
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Old December 3, 2002, 09:47 AM   #7
Warren Kent
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Thank you Dave Mc C,

I will carry that thought with me through out the day.

WK
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Old December 3, 2002, 10:10 AM   #8
Matis
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The twilight zone I find myself in

does have some good aspects -- and you're one of them.

Imagine ignorant, macho, gun culture rubes who can write like that! Whoda thunk it?

Thank you,

Matis
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Old December 3, 2002, 07:29 PM   #9
JohnPL
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Dave...thank you. Your memories triggered several of my own, several that I had not recalled for way too long, of special times in special places with a special man.
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Old December 3, 2002, 08:16 PM   #10
labgrade
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Me too.

Not a dry eye in the house .... (sniff) .... but it's a good kinda sad.
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Old December 3, 2002, 10:24 PM   #11
mikey357
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...sniff...Thanks, Dave...I think your Dad would be proud of you...and of the man you've become...GREAT story....mikey357
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Old December 4, 2002, 05:42 AM   #12
Dave McC
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Thanks, folks, It's nice to know this touches so many.

Matis,just about every hunter and target shooter I know over 40 has a broad streak of spirituality. Some write poetry, some live it.Gary Snyder, the Beat Poet, hunts mule deer in between Zen Koans.

Ted Kerasote, the outdoor writer and Author of "Bloodties", a must read for hunters, was a practicing Buddhist and mystic.

I'm not the only deer hunter to note how much the fall woods resemble a cathedral. The light slanting down through the colored leaves is like that coming through stained glass. The geese overhead sing their Hymn as they fly, praising the Creator in their own way. Mediation and prayer come naturally when we're surrounded by beauty.

Pop used to say that we live surrounded by unsung heroes and un-noticed beauty. In this too, he was right....
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Old December 4, 2002, 10:19 AM   #13
labgrade
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... and when God cracks the window on dawn ....
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Old December 4, 2002, 10:37 AM   #14
Drivie
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Dave,

Thanks for sharing. You have a great way with words. That was a wonderful short story that seemed to summarize a lifetime quite eloquently. Give yourself a pat on the back from me.

Thanks!

Drivie
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Old December 4, 2002, 10:42 AM   #15
buzz_knox
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Throughout the history of our culture, many of the best father-son "quality times" have come through adventures just like this.

Thank you for the story, and for allowing us to share in your memories.
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Old December 4, 2002, 02:02 PM   #16
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Thanx for sharing.
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Old December 4, 2002, 02:55 PM   #17
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Thanks Dave. Sounds like you had a good Dad.
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Old December 4, 2002, 05:53 PM   #18
Dave McC
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Thanks back to you, folks. It's nice to be striking this common chord.

And if I do a book, this WILL be in it...
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