Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tick, tock

Doves passing overhead draw my eyes.  I squint and sharpen my focus on their heads; it's almost a reflex now.

Mostly they move in pairs, mating pairs, making more doves for the season.

A lot of time between today and the opener.  More than two months, in fact.  Fourth of July, jaunt to Montana, time at the coast, lots and lots of grass to cut.  All the while staring down the calendar.

A few months from now I'll look at these passing birds as targets.  And later as supper.

The days are getting shorter...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

If you need something good to read this summer...

Yes, this is subjective as hell.  Anyone who's traipsed through this blog for a while knows that I'm partial to Guy de la Valdene.  My only complaint with his work is that there's not enough of it for my consumption.  Were he as prolific as some mainstream writers - John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Stephen King - I might never pick up a book written by anyone else.  That's a bit of a stretch I know, but hey, passion runs deep sometimes.

la Valdene's latest release, The Fragrance of Grass, is another memoir of sorts, this time loosely wrapped around the grey partridge.  Following a theme of previous works centered around woodcock and bobwhite quail, he gathers decades of stories from places as distant as his native Normandy and remote Saskatchewan.  Colorful characters from a life lived between the extremes of society offer a glimpse into the realm of people beyond the world of the average reader.  Farmers, poachers, royalty, singers, authors and more find their way into these recollections, each leaving something to ponder.

True to form, la Valdene paints life as it is, himself included.  Very few modern writers are so willing to open up about their transgressions with such candor.  He is as equally understated about his successes and unashamed of either.  While lessons learned early in life did not ward off all mistakes, they did leave impressions that he translates into timeless pieces of knowledge:
"My first bird dog taught me that personalities dictate decisions, which in turn affect events."
This line is not set off from the rest of the text but could easily be.  Many of the areas covered in the book - from learning to shoot to the stocking of bird populations to the excesses displayed in taking game at various points in history - all can be boiled down to this simple observation.  His perspective is that of a man in the third quarter of his life, looking back with the wisdom gained only from having been on the field the previous two quarters.  Widely traveled with plenty of days in the field, the experience is a solid foundation for the reflections he shares.

I remain amazed at his command of the English language, his second language, no less.  Neither blunt nor flowery, he has a knack for choosing the right word or expression to convey the feeling of situations that we as hunters often struggle to voice.  It's hard to summarize this book in a single line, but one in particular stands out from the rest:
"In the quiet of the night I confess to the dog closest to me my heartfelt wish to be a child again."
Don't we all.