Monday, January 25, 2016

McGuane goes bird hunting

I can't seem to get enough of Tom McGuane. His writing, anyway. His pithy, pointed and pungent phrasing - please note the alliteration here - always seems to be on target. In this short, self deprecating essay Tom is going pheasant hunting with his pointer, Molly…

    ...As I get ready Molly stays close to me, prancing like a cheerleader. A small cloud of butterflies dances across the tractor ruts and Molly makes after them like a rocking horse but returns to my side when I whistle.
   All right, ready to go. "find some birds," I tell her. She gives me one last look, as though from the cockpit of a fighter plane, and pours it on. I don't believe this. My heart begins to sink as she ticks off the first 880 and I realize nothing has changed. 
   I walk gloomily along a shelter belt of Lombardy poplars with only the vaguest reference to the to the shrinking liver-and-white form in the distance. At the far end of the field, I see her stop, lock up on point, then selfishly pounce into the middle of the birds. Gloom. Gloom. Pheasants scatter. But wait -- my God! They're flying this way.
   Like the lowest kind of dry-gulch artist, I crouch in the hedgerow. The pheasants keep coming, Molly yelping along behind. At fifty yards I rise to the balls of my feet. At twenty I stand up out of the brambles and… shoot a double! Two cock pheasants tumble. I scramble around to gather them up before my dog can rend and eat them. 
   I hang the handsome birds from my belt. Their rich, satisfying odor keeps man's best friend trot ting along at my side. Now and again I hear her teeth click lightly. There is a spring I know near the thorn grove where I can gather some wild, peppery watercress for our game dinner.
   At last that perfect symbiosis between man and his dog! I finally feel Molly is as good a hunter as I am. 
   We approach the Land Rover. The cloud of butterflies blows across the tractor ruts again, and I check myself from pursuit.

MOLLY from An Outside Chance by Thomas McGuane

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