“If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.” - Jimmy Buffett
It’s relatively easy to let the mind wander when you find yourself slumped for a few hours in a hot field of ragweed, waiting for a dove to fly by, so you can unload loud and large clouds of lead, where you think lead should intersect with the dove’s flight pattern.
The mind wanders through the early autumn brilliance of the sun while squinting through massive banks of clouds that don’t quite provide enough decent shade. Jimmy Buffett sang songs in the head that seemed to be coming from the billowing clouds.
“Scratch my back with a lightning bolt
Thunder rolls like a bass drum note
The sound of the weather is heaven’s ragtime band
We all fell down from the Milky Way
Hangin’ ‘round here till the Judgement Day
Heaven only knows who is in command”
Barefoot Children - Jimmy Buffett
The distinctive aroma of ragweed in final full bloom is the sweet scent of the September afternoon. While you drip sweat, linger with what flies, and develop lumbar distress from the torturous contraption you’ve lugged to the field called a “seat” it's also easy to begin to flinch badly at butterflies, dragonflies and devious dickie birds.
Doves do this on purpose. Doves have apparently signed some kind of diabolical compact with everything else with wings just so they can sit in the shade, or on some power line, and laugh out loud at your flinching in the hot ragweed. It clearly appears that this brand of dove humor is just pretty good sport among the doves.
When the first doves of the afternoon finally do decide to fly by, which coincides with the time you’ve come close to killing every dragonfly that has made you debate your need for a new prescription for bifocals, it's also relatively easy to empty your scattergun and not scratch a feather.
Maybe it’s the element of surprise, after what seems to be rather lengthy period of time and distractions from flittering butterflies. Maybe it’s the delirium building slowly from sun stroke and ragweed poisoning.
The third bird you miss starts to shatter what little confidence you have left. The third miss commences a whole new set of distractions. It has to be the gun. Need a new shot gun! If, on the off chance, the gun you are lugging around this field is a new gun, then you wish you had the old tried and true shooter that’s back home in the closet. The gun has to be the problem.
Cheap shells are a pretty handy but somewhat decent excuse. Light weight Italian junk, made by some company you can’t even pronounce, can easily get the blame. Or, there’s that mysterious box of leftovers from last year containing five or six different makes and models that you have absolutely no idea what shot size, powder load or shot load they consist of. Mystery shells make a feeble but useful excuse especially when some other challenged individual shows up saying he is out of ammo. Mystery shells are kindly offered with a smile to the unsuspecting who find themselves void of ammo. Some might call giving away your mystery shells bit disadvantageous but it seems like the right thing to do.
There are a few and sundry atmospheric excuses to be had. The sun was in my eyes. The wind was blowing a terrific tail wind and the bird used tropical storm force winds to dodge the pellets. That bird was too high and likely out of range. Maybe those June Bugs, or dragonflies, or what ever they were, won’t come back.
After you run short on excuses for you failing marksmanship, you find yourself taking note of other shooters nearby. You quickly salve yourself with the realization that you’re not the only goober in the area that can’t hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle. They can’t all have cheap Italian shells, or feeble shotguns that are in bad need of replacement. Maybe you’re not the novice you thought you were after all. Confidence recovers when you’re in a field with equally inept shooting buddies.
“He went to Paris looking for answers
To questions that bothered him so
He was impressive, young and aggressive
Saving the world on his own
But the warm Summer breezes
The French wine and cheeses
Put his ambition at bay
And Summers and Winters
Scattered like splinters
And four or five years slipped away”
He Went to Paris - Jimmy Buffett
There is one exception across the field from me. He’s the guy that brought the pulled pork for the pre-shoot lunch. Mister Ed comes from a long family line of pork cookers and apparently a long line of excellent dove shooters as well.
I was on my third extra fine pulled pork sandwich during lunch when I enquired as to how Mister Ed came by his obvious expertise at cooking pig meat. He said he was the third generation of a long line of hog meat cookers, he said he was mentored by his grandfather. He also mentioned that the old gentleman had a fondness for Old Crow while cooking a pig. I asked if the Old Crow was applied to the pork, as maybe cheap brown liquor was the secret in the family recipe?
Mister Ed replied; “My Grandfather taught us to build a three sided pit out of cinder blocks, rebar and a grill. We use only lump charcoal because it controls the necessary temperature better. You have to keep the heat somewhere consistent between 225 to 250 degrees for 12 hours. I like to cut my hickory the day before the cooking. That ensures the best smoke when the green wood is a day old. The pit has to be covered with sheets of tin barn roofing and you have to slather the pork every two hours with a secret family recipe”. Of course I foolishly asked for the slathering ingredients. Mister Ed chuckled as he told me he would surely have to kill me after he disclosed that particular family secret.
He continued; “The fifth of Old Crow acted as a timing device. My Grandfather babied his pork and his Old Crow as he was cooking in an old easy chair next to the pit for twelve hours. He had both down to a science. When we saw his chin resting on his chest we knew it was time to pull the pork.”
“Mother, mother ocean, after all the years I’ve found
My occupational hazard being my occupation’s just not around
I feel like I’ve drowned, gonna head uptown
I feel like I’ve drowned, gonna head uptown”
A Pirate Looks at Forty - Jimmy Buffett
As the light so subtly faded and the big clouds banking to the West dropped thunder and looked like rain, we gathered the empty hulls. There were many more empties than there were doves to clean. Many claim many empties are the sign of a good day of shooting, but not necessarily shooting well. Just having an opportunity to attempt to shoot well, eat pulled pork and smell hot ragweed makes for a great day. Marksmanship must have more than one meaning to many.
A good dove recipe? Never much of a cook here; but try filleting the breast, wrapping it in bacon, held in place by a toothpick. (some add a water chestnut but that’s a little froo-froo for me) Roll the whole mess in Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning after a sprinkling of Dale’s Steak Seasoning. Then, toss all the meat on the grill.
“It’s important to have as much fun as possible while we’re here. It balances out the times when the minefield of life explodes.” - Jimmy Buffett
WOMR Notes: Spent a couple of years in the Keys working on an old Nuclear Plant down there. The fishing was good in those days and I still can hear Jimmy’s songs in my head. Odd how some songs rumble in memoriam for such a long while.
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