by Duncan Hill of Hill Rod and Gun
Candid snapshots into the quirky life of an English shotgun importer materialize just ahead. Brace yourself. In the misty twilight that must suffice as my recent past, I fish for relevant tidbits to disclose, knowing full well I may get skunked. Firstly, I suppose it prudent to reveal that I am, always have been, a hunter: I like to shoot, LOVE to hunt. The predator thing. Pursuit .
"La chasse" - It began with a cumbersome fire-stick some felt was the epitome of industrial function: the tragically unwieldy Remington automatic. I quickly adapted (mutated) myself to a shut-eyed rifleman's posture of inadequacy and killed a duck once.
As a blossoming drunk, reeking of insecurity and lennui (fresh spawn skimmed off the foul crucible called fraternity squalor), I took to Hemingway like a fly to ka-ka. I HAD to have a Browning O/U. Streaky at best, I still shot squinty and the only accuracy involved is in the following description: I couldn't hit my butt with both hands. Papa, your self-absorbed boozing AND your shotgun were bitter disappointments. The only good fruit of the Ernie pursuit was a manly migration from the corn belt to the high plains twenty years back. Here, I immediately glommed onto a Christian dentist from Georgia and discovered Hungarian partridge, wild roosters, the sixteen-bore pump and Docıs mysterious affliction.
As an aside, the first western birds actually dispatched were the ill-fated members of a blue grouse brood I happened upon one day-off during our dude ranch wrangler stint in 1979. The soon-to-be-jilted Browning was my unreliable tool that sad afternoon. Ammo depleted and cripples scuttling, my compatriot and I jettisoned our spent cannons in favor of blown down aspen limbs. Cackling and hooting with primal lust, we shuffled after our hapless quarry, whacking and flailing pathetically. Neo-primitives is what we is, muttered my companion, always the intellectual. Sure was swell being manly in Montana. A pseudo-gentleman, the good tooth-doc learnt me Bull of the Woods plug tobacco, the art of thinly veneered obsessive-compulsive bird hunting, and how not to woo your woman. As invaluable as these impartation's were, it was the hun-rooster-16 bore trilogy that irrevocably altered my world view. The man could shoot. I have never seen better ever! His preferred arm was a sixteen gauge corn-cob Winchester Model 12 pump bored modified. That southern boy could spank'em out to fifty yards, perhaps beyond. Every time It was brilliant, or rather, mindless. He was an automatic meat machine. His old pink-balled, barrel-chested pointer would lock up, we'd approach, and it was money in the bank that the ensuing reports would bring fresh bulges to Doc's soiled game bag ..kinda spooky.
Between Hun coveys and pheasant covers, Doc rambled incessantly about the fluids draining undeterred from his sinus cavities down his gullet. As he was rather well-equipped in the nasal arena, I could imagine that Doc's alleged un-checked seepage's were indeed significant. His lengthy complaints and belabored observations typically culminated in the emphatic conclusion that tobacco juice somehow activated the production of inordinate amounts of mucus and nasal discharge, hence the consistently aggravating back-wash. Now Doc was an intelligent, sound thinking and discerning man in most respects, and it tickled me to listen to these expansive ramblings. I never offered any assistance, opting to nod dumbly. I felt like Dustin Hoffman enduring General Custer's irrational mutterings about the ill-effects of bile secreted by the gonads in Little Big Man. So after all these years, I offer Doc my angle on his perplexing phenomenon: Under normal conditions, one unconsciously and involuntarily swallows all day long as the sinuses ooze. It's brainless, like breathing. Well, Doc always had this mountainous chaw going and his involuntary swallowed knew that if it were to go after the offending mucous flow, aggravated not by chew, but by exercise and brisk weather, his belly would violently reject the inevitably co-mingled black bacca spunk, rendering old Doc down on all fours, blowing and going like a party drunk. It still baffles me that he never arrived at this truth himself, learned and insightful though he was.
But it was Doc who told me about Jesus Christ in between post nasal drip treatises, and t'was Doc who sat across the table from me weeping shamelessly some years later, pleading that I do whatever it took to hold my marriage together, having just lost his to an unquenchable drive to bird hunt. I was precariously close to losing mine to an unquenchable drive for numbing drunkenness and self-indulgence, which had just crescendo in my wife's discovery of a brazen, shameless extramarital affair.
But it was actually Fred, an ear nose and throat specialist and close friend of Doc's who relentlessly, yet lovingly, told me I needed Jesus until one day, mostly to get him off my back and out of my face, I knelt down with him in his study over sack lunches and asked Jesus Christ into my heart as lord and savior. That, I surmised, would be that. Evidently, this Jesus feller saw it different. A deeply spiritual, yet oddly macabre man, Fred's past is liberally flecked with the bizarre. To wit, as a college student on summer break, Fred did hard time in his father's machine shop. One day, the index finger on Fred's right hand was shorn off at the hilt.
A friend hastily collected Fred and the severed digit and whisked both to the emergency room. Unfortunately, the attending physicians were unable to reattach the hacked finger. Undaunted, the unflappable Freddy poured clear polyurethane into an inverted vase, pushing the lonely, lost unit down inside. After hardening, the vase was broken, exposing a freakish wonder. One can still clearly see the machine shop grime accentuating the finger print swirls on Fred's perfectly preserved plastic pointer. Quite the novelty. As I reflect upon this particular set of resurfacing occurrences, I remain confronted by one baffling question: Why didn't Doc go to his otolaryngolical friend Freddy with his leaky beak plight?
Part 2...Baby's First Double
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