Some of my Gentle Readers may not realize how important September 1 is.
It is the first day of Dove Season here in Texas, and for some, a fairly important minor religious holiday.
So, there I was, wearing the (State-mandated) 144 square inches of Daylight Orange on both chest and back,and the (State-mandated) Daylight Orange headgear, tucked contentedly into a nook in a mesquite tree-line.
In front of me, there was this lovely great patch of sunflowers -- crack cocaine to doves -- past that was a lake and behind me was not only a tree-line, but was also east.
The plan was that the doves would wake up, fly out of the trees towards the lake for a morning drink -- crossing my line of fire -- then, thirst slaked -- would fly into the sunflower patch to break their fast -- again crossing my line of fire and affording me the opportunity to blow the feathers off of the UN Symbol of Peace, prior to wrapping his little butt in bacon and searing him over a nice mesquite fire.
Now, since I am a County Employee, there is no way that I can afford a hunting lease. This limits my dove hunting opportunities to Public Land (see orange hunting requirements above), so I was fully cognisant that Reno and I would have a bit of company that morning.
When we had parked Reno's truck, there were no other vehicles anywhere, and I heard nothing as I waited for the sun to come up.
Just as the sun crested the horizon, I heard the double-click from Reno's radio, then the thump of his Mossberg 835 caused the first dove of the day to exclaim, "Holy [deleted], it's September 1 already?!" just before performing a classic Split-S and becoming a brown Mach 2 streak at grasstop level.
Unfortunately, this brought him right past my location, and I'm catching up to him with the brass bead of my 16 gauge* when he pulls a batwing turn that should have been impossible without a G-suit ...
... and I hear this voice on the far side of the dove yell, "Jeff, Jeff, Jeff -- izzat a dove?!"
"Oh," sayeth that little voice in the back of my head, "bugger."
"Shootshootshoot!" shrieks the heretofore unseen Jeff.
I hit the dirt, finding myself nose-to-nose with a spider who -- obviously a veteran of previous dove hunts -- had all eight legs covering his head.
When the shooting died down, I cautiously peered over my comforting tree root as a cattle egret who had been circling overhead -- smugly confident in his neutral status -- dirt-darted into the ground about twenty feet away.
"Jeff, Jeff! I got his butt, Jeff!"
Down above the sunflower patch, the absolutely untouched dove snap-rolled and cut in the afterburner just above the tops of the flowers, leaving -- I swear to God -- petals tossing in his wake -- as the world exploded.
There wasn't that much ground-to-air fire above Baghdad.
The dove went feet-wet over the lake and disappeared in the early-morning fog to the accompaniment of the Top Gun theme.
I spit out some grass, looked sideways at the spider and commented, apropos of nothing: "Sounds like the magazine plug law is more like a magazine plug suggestion around here." The spider cocked a snook in my general direction and hurried off to the local air-raid bunker.
My radio crackled, Reno warbling: "It's raining lead ... Hallelujah! It's raining lead ... Amen!"
I hauled myself to my feet, checked my Remington Model 11, and wandered off to check my buddy. As I walked up, he cocked an eyebrow at me, took off his State-approved Daylight Orange ball cap and brushed 7 1/2 shot off of it.
"Didn't we find a rule that says you've got to wear a certain amount of orange if you're hunting on public land?"
"Of the three thousand [deleted] hunters out here, how many orange vest you see?"
"Yours and mine." I pause meditatively. "How many of those auto-chuckers have magazine plugs, you think?"
He snorts, "Yours."
Long pause, as the gentle patter of falling 7 1/2 shots rustles around us.
"I'll bet the catfish are biting out at Kickapoo."
"You read my mind."
So we took Reno's wife and daughter out to the lake and caught fish on the opening day of Dove Season.
*That one, single statement has at least one reader in Denton County performing a Migraine Salute and mumbling something about my fascination with obsolete calibres. I can't help it -- I like the 16-gauge.