For some reason showing gratitude doesn’t come easily to some people. I don’t know why. Just a simple thank you is all that is really required. But there have been occasions when no matter how far I’ve bent over backwards, my wife, Maxine, refuses to show a lick of appreciation. Case in point. The generous person that I am, I invited her to share the enjoyment of the great outdoors, hunting pheasant being our main objective. But the thanks I received in return was not what I expected. And I must warn the readers who are avid bird hunters, and maybe even a few who are not, the story I am about to relate may cause the eyeballs to roll back in their sockets, and groans of disgust. And once past the pleasantries, cause even worse.
The beginning of that fateful event began with nothing out of the ordinary. Maxine was angry and was giving me one of her patented glares. The tension was so thick it could be cut with a knife. So, as usual, she brought the knife into action. Most people call it a tongue, but I know for a fact that her’s is a knife.
“I can not believe you bought another gun,” she snarled.
“I promise this will be the last one,” I pleaded.
“That’s what you said last year!”
“That was my last rifle. This is my last shotgun. Besides, I bought the extra so you could hunt with me.”
Her eyes widened in surprise. “What?” she said, her face relaxing as she smoothed down what hair that hadn’t pulled out. “You mean you’d actually take me hunting with you?”
I swallowed hard, equally surprise by what I had just said. “Yeah,” I replied with a weak smile. “Do you want to go over to the gravel pit and do some target practicing? I’ll even let you use Ole Kicker.”
“You said that shotgun isn’t safe,” her eyes narrowing in suspicion. “Besides, why do I need target practice? You know as well as me I can hit a bull’s-eye more times than you.”
I pointed a finger at her. “That goes to show you why you need the practice. Birds don’t sit still like a target. That’s why I fan my shots around the bull’s-eye. That way I’m ready to hit a bird no matter which way it flies. And all this time you thought I was trying to hit the bull’s-eye. Ha!”
“Will you teach me how to miss the bull’s-eyes?” she asked.
“Well it might take some time, but if you stick with me long enough I’ll show you how to miss the target all together.”
We drove out to Grubby Pete’s Sand and Gravel Pit. I opened the trunk and handed her Ole Kicker, a vintage double-barreled model.
“I’m not going to use that thing. You said it backfires out the left side of the breach.”
“That was before I fixed it. Now swing it around and get the feel of it.”
“Would you quit making that ridiculous sound and give me some shells.”
“Haven’t you ever heard of simulated target practice?” I indignantly asked.
After she dropped a shell in each chamber I picked up a tin can. “Now I’m going to throw this. You try to hit it.”
“Are you sure you fixed this gun?”
“I’m sure. Besides, if it still fires out the left, it would blow away from you anyway.”
I was totally disgusted with her attitude after the shot. There was no reason to get angry. Anybody can miss on their first attempt, especially when one’s eyebrows are being ignited.
“So you fixed it, huh,” she snarled, the whiteness of her gritted teeth highlighted by the powder smudges.
“I thought I did. Maybe I over compensated when I slapped it across the log. You better use the new shotgun.”
I made certain she was totally calmed down before I handed her a weapon, figuring she might do something she would later regret…Or maybe not. I then picked up another can. “Are you…Dear Lord!”
“Don’t put that gun up to your face until you take that ear-ring off. You’ll scratch the butt!”
We returned home in silence.
“I’m sorry,” she finally said as we pulled into the driveway. I didn’t mean to laugh at you.”
“You don’t have to apologize,” I replied with a raised hand. “You’ve just have to understand, I’m used to shooting birds, and who ever saw a bird fly straight up and straight down like a tin can. When you’ve been around bird hunting as long as me you’ll miss the cans too. Tomorrow will tell the true story….”
“It’s time to get up.”
“The pheasant aren’t going to wait for us all day. Now come on. Up, up , up!”
Grumbling, I drug myself out of bed. It is a pathetic sight to see anyone smiling at that time of the morning. Even worse, looking civilized. Anyone who has been hunting any time at all knows that one is not supposed to look human for at least the first hour of any hunting day. Eyes should be sunken and bloodshot, hair like an abandoned eagle’s nest, face unshaven, and clothes looking as if they were last worn by the victim of an elephant stampede. In time I could possibly forgive her for not being able to sport facial stubble, but the rest is inexcusable.
Once to the field I wordlessly motioned my wife to stay in the truck while I scouted the area. With all the stealth of a deer I moved away, carefully scanning the field, my ears cocked to the slightest sound. Finally I breathed a sigh of relief. Good, none of my cronies were hunting the area to witness me actually bringing my wife on a bird hunt. I would have never heard the end of it. “You can come out now,” I yelled back to her.
As we moved out into the field I pointed to the right. “You take that side, and I’ll start over here.”
“That looks all swampy,” she protested.
I gave her a disgusted look. “What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?”
“Take your arm off my face.”
“No, after that.”
“Push your leg off my belly.”
“You get a drink of water!”
“I’m giving you the best area. Why do you think I told you to wear boots? Why, with those pheasant drinking all that water, they’ll take off so slow you’re bound to get one.”
Within moments a pheasant flushed a hundred feet in front of her. Because it was flying away from me I yelled for her to shoot, but it was no use. She had frozen at the trigger; a common problem with rookie hunters. I attempted to comfort her with this fact while she grabbed the end of the tree limb. Being almost knee-deep in rancid muck, her boots were sucked off her feet.
“I forgot to warn you how tricky those pheasant can be. More than once they’ve lured a hunter into a muddy trap.” I then looked off in the direction of the pheasant’s flight. “They can be tricky that way. Next time try to be a little more careful where you walk.”
I was surprised that the late yet useful information was met with such ingratitude. I was also surprised that Maxine could get such a grip on my adam’s apple with hands so wet and slimy.
Having insisted on returning home to shower and change clothes, I could see no reason to return to the field. The best bird hunting had past. I conveyed this to my wife in terms as politely as possible, adding that I would graciously accept her apology for ruining the day’s hunt, not to mention getting rotting vegetation all over my new shotgun. Looking back, I should have left well enough alone.
Coming to an immediate stop she slowly turned, her eyes dancing with fire. “What did you say?”
Instantly the air filled with tension. And, as usual, my wife brought out the knife to cut it.