Jump to content
OzarkAnglers.Com Forum
Bobwhite

The Way It's Remembered - A Short Story

Recommended Posts

Good morning folks,

The leaves are turning, here in the north country, and it reminds me of one of my favorite autumn reads. I hope that you'll enjoy it.

THE THURSDAY MORNING ART REVIEW

The Way Its Remembered

Memory is a man's real possession...In nothing else is he rich, in nothing else is he poor.

Alexander Smith (1830 - 1867)

Every day in October started the same; Phil shuffled quietly past the couch where I slept to start the first pot of coffee, and I'd pull the sleeping bag up around my shoulders and turn toward the old stone fireplace. The fireplace was the best weather gauge we had, and I was anxious to see what the day might bring. If the dawn was windy, the embers of the last night’s fire would pulse with the gusts, glowing and fading like it was the cabin's ancient and beating heart. The flue was ill designed, and if a storm was on the horizon, the slightest bit of low pressure would send smoke back down the chimney. Phil claimed that he could predict the weather by how smoky the cabin was in the morning.

Set the coffee to boil, wipe the windowpane on the kitchen door to look at the thermometer, pull on a wool shirt, and fill the bird feeders. Phil was a man of habit, and I knew that next, he'd be headed across the yard for a couple of pieces of split oak or swamp ash. As quickly as I could, I'd throw a few pine knots on the dying coals, pull on my hunting pants and meet him at the wood shed. He'd never let me take his load. "I've got these," he'd say. "You grab a couple ‘a more."

By the time I’d filled the wood box on the porch, the frost had melted on my bare feet and they’d be coated with the fine Michigan sand. Standing in the yard and looking out over the South Branch, I'd listen to the river, smell the fire catch, the coffee boiling, and watch Phil on his way to the kennel for his setter, Pat. I remember calling him, Patrick just once. "It's Pat," Phil had told be on that occasion. "Pat, for Pat'ridge."

All the other dogs in camp stayed in the cabin, but Pat was happiest in his kennel. Perhaps he felt that he'd miss something important if he was inside, or maybe he just liked to sleep under the stars. Whatever the reason, it didn’t have anything to do with the lack of a bond between them. Pat was a one-man dog, and Phil was his man. Most likely, they were both just creatures of habit.

Phil would let Pat out of his kennel and then start toward the garden to see if the past night’s frost had done any damage to the few remaining vegetables. Pat would run ahead, circle the garden once to see if a raccoon or skunk had visited, and then stop, to look back over his shoulder at Phil. "All right," he’d say, and Pat's head would cock, his ears up. "Find me a bird."

Before the word, “bird” was out of Phil’s mouth Pat would be off through the bracken and over the hill towards the swamp. "Gonna be a fine day." Phil would say with a smile as we walked back to the cabin to make breakfast.

Today's image is an oil painting with the same title as the story, "The Way It's Remembered". It shows my friend Jay with his girl, "Libby" on a fine day, clear and crisp.

post-6135-1223570235_thumb.jpg

Phil was head "camp keeper", and breakfast was his specialty. The menu would vary; depending upon how smoky the cabin was in the morning. Bacon and eggs meant a fine day, clear and crisp. If the eggs and bacon came with flapjacks, you'd better take a rain jacket. Dan, Phil's son and my English professor, was just about to finish wrapping the lunch sandwiches in waxed paper, when Phil set the bacon and eggs on the table. "Make an extra sandwich for me, will you, son?" He asked. "I believe I'll be joining you boys today."

Lunch suddenly took on a whole new meaning, and we all threw ourselves into its preparation. Dan filled an old leather-covered flask of port and tossed it into the box. Fred, Dan’s good friend and hunting partner, lovingly wrapped one of his Cortland Apple pies into the folds of sackcloth. And, not knowing what else to do, I cut a bigger than usual chunk of Pinconning Cheddar off of the block in the icebox. "What will you shoot today, Pops?" Dan asked, as we gathered up our gear, checked our coat pockets for shells, and laced up the high boots.

"The Parker, I believe. I've got some old paper shells to shoot up. How's Pat been working for you?"

"Right as rain. He'll be glad to have you along today."

Because his eyes had started to cloud with age, Phil had been hunting less and less as the years past. It frustrated him to trip in the cover or not see the birds flush. Never mind that I was in my mid-twenties and was always tripping in the woods, and rarely saw a bird go out. Dan had stopped asking his father to join us as we planned the next day's hunt over dinner. It was easier for all of us that way.

Pat knew from the moment that the extra sandwich was wrapped that the day would be different. It was like old times, and he jumped up on Phil’s chest to have his ears scratched. We'd start with the cover around the Smith Bridge. There was an easy hillside there, on the west side of the river that we could hunt early in the morning with the sun at our backs. The South Branch was running low and clear as we walked from the parking area, back across the old bypassed bridge, and into the cover where the maples and aspen were a riot of color. The three dogs, Pat, and his parents, Jake and Belle, were out well ahead of us, their bells ringing as we dropped in shells, and gently snapped our guns closed. I’ll never forget the sound of Phil’s Parker when the action locked. It sounded like a bank vault being closed; more of a “snick” than a “snap.”

We knew from past experience that any birds that were pointed, would likely flush off of the hillside and cross the road, headed for the cover of the dark tamarack swamp down near the river. The low ground there was so full of blowdowns that it was almost impossible to walk, a perfect refuge. Dan, Fred, and I followed the dogs into the cover, while Phil walked the road and covered the escape route.

To a bird hunter, the only sound nicer than a dog's bell in a sun-dappled wood is the quiet when it stops. "Point here!" Fred yelled. "Pat's on. Where's Belle and Jake?"

"Gone, past the bird. He’s backing from the other side," I answered. "It’s pinned, but good."

"I'll go in," Dan said. "You guys get ready. Pops?"

The bird came out low and climbing to clear a blackberry thicket. Dan was swinging on it, and had the big, red phase male, dead to rights. It broke toward the road, following the contour of the hillside as it passed Fred. It was an easy shot, as grouse go, and he too was swinging smoothly with it. I was in no position to shoot and watched as neither of them did. The bird broke out of the cover of the aspen woods and dipped as it crossed the road to refuge.

Phil was late in picking it up, but reacted without the panic that we all felt. The Parker spoke once, and the bird bounced into the woods on the "safe" side of the road. Phil was backlit by the morning sun as he broke open his shotgun and bent down to take the bird from Pat’s mouth, so it was difficult to see clearly, but I remember them both smiling.

We all came off of the hillside to join Phil in the road and congratulate him. He held the big male grouse in one hand, and the 16 gauge in the other. It was a perfect balance, a perfect moment in time. "This was just right," he said. "And, this is the way that I want to remember it. I'm glad that you were all here for my last hunt."

We stood in silence trying to take it in, wanting to protest, but not ruin the moment. "Dan, this is for you; hunt it well and often," he said, handing him the Parker, a shell still in its left barrel.

The only sound was a late morning breeze building in the tops of the big white pines. "Bob, a dog like Pat deserves to be hunted, and I know that the two of you will get along. He's yours now."

I never remember staring so long nor hard at my boots. When I looked up he was smiling at me. "I think that I’ll just keep this." He said, slipping the grouse into his coat with a wink.

The next day I drove across the UP, to my home in Minnesota, with my first bird dog. Dan and Fred stayed on a few days to help Phil close the cabin, and no doubt, had a thoughtful trip home as well. Nearly a year passed, and I was at work thinking about seeing Phil and the guys in just a few days, when I got the call from Dan. "Phil died this morning," he whispered. “The sheriff stopped by to check in with him, and found him sitting on the front porch. The bird feeders had just been filled and the ice in his whisky hadn’t yet melted... he thought that Phil was napping. We’ll bury him in Jackson in a few days. I know he'd want you there. We'll all be going to the cabin afterwards. He'd want it that way.

I got to Jackson an hour after the funeral. Had I forgotten about the time change? Or, was it just too painful? I don't remember. I don't recall much about the following week either, except that no one said much, and that Dan made breakfasts, and Fred, the lunches.

Later that fall, Pat was poisoned, and I lost him too. I was weeping when I called my friend Jay. “I’ll be at your house in half an hour.” He said. "The woodcock are in, and you need to get out."

We spent that day chasing woodcock, and tumbling the occasional grouse behind Jay's setter. It was hard for me not to think of Pat and Phil while in the woods, but I'm sure that this was the very reason that Jay had taken me to his best cover. I realize, now, that he meant for me to remember them, and remember them well. That night as we drove home, I watched woodcock flight against the dusking sky, and knew that everything was as it should be. For, while Phil had given Pat to me for keeps, Pat must have always thought of it as just a short-term loan.

Thanks for visiting,

Bob White

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/9/2008 at 11:41 AM, Bobwhite said:

Good morning folks,

 

The leaves are turning, here in the north country, and it reminds me of one of my favorite autumn reads. I hope that you'll enjoy it.

 

THE THURSDAY MORNING ART REVIEW

 

The Way Its Remembered

 

Memory is a man's real possession...In nothing else is he rich, in nothing else is he poor.

Alexander Smith (1830 - 1867)

 

Every day in October started the same; Phil shuffled quietly past the couch where I slept to start the first pot of coffee, and I'd pull the sleeping bag up around my shoulders and turn toward the old stone fireplace. The fireplace was the best weather gauge we had, and I was anxious to see what the day might bring. If the dawn was windy, the embers of the last night’s fire would pulse with the gusts, glowing and fading like it was the cabin's ancient and beating heart. The flue was ill designed, and if a storm was on the horizon, the slightest bit of low pressure would send smoke back down the chimney. Phil claimed that he could predict the weather by how smoky the cabin was in the morning.

 

Set the coffee to boil, wipe the windowpane on the kitchen door to look at the thermometer, pull on a wool shirt, and fill the bird feeders. Phil was a man of habit, and I knew that next, he'd be headed across the yard for a couple of pieces of split oak or swamp ash. As quickly as I could, I'd throw a few pine knots on the dying coals, pull on my hunting pants and meet him at the wood shed. He'd never let me take his load. "I've got these," he'd say. "You grab a couple ‘a more."

 

By the time I’d filled the wood box on the porch, the frost had melted on my bare feet and they’d be coated with the fine Michigan sand. Standing in the yard and looking out over the South Branch, I'd listen to the river, smell the fire catch, the coffee boiling, and watch Phil on his way to the kennel for his setter, Pat. I remember calling him, Patrick just once. "It's Pat," Phil had told be on that occasion. "Pat, for Pat'ridge."

 

All the other dogs in camp stayed in the cabin, but Pat was happiest in his kennel. Perhaps he felt that he'd miss something important if he was inside, or maybe he just liked to sleep under the stars. Whatever the reason, it didn’t have anything to do with the lack of a bond between them. Pat was a one-man dog, and Phil was his man. Most likely, they were both just creatures of habit.

 

Phil would let Pat out of his kennel and then start toward the garden to see if the past night’s frost had done any damage to the few remaining vegetables. Pat would run ahead, circle the garden once to see if a raccoon or skunk had visited, and then stop, to look back over his shoulder at Phil. "All right," he’d say, and Pat's head would cock, his ears up. "Find me a bird."

 

Before the word, “bird” was out of Phil’s mouth Pat would be off through the bracken and over the hill towards the swamp. "Gonna be a fine day." Phil would say with a smile as we walked back to the cabin to make breakfast.

 

Today's image is an oil painting with the same title as the story, "The Way It's Remembered". It shows my friend Jay with his girl, "Libby" on a fine day, clear and crisp.

 

 

post-6135-1223570235_thumb.jpg

 

 

Phil was head "camp keeper", and breakfast was his specialty. The menu would vary; depending upon how smoky the cabin was in the morning. Bacon and eggs meant a fine day, clear and crisp. If the eggs and bacon came with flapjacks, you'd better take a rain jacket. Dan, Phil's son and my English professor, was just about to finish wrapping the lunch sandwiches in waxed paper, when Phil set the bacon and eggs on the table. "Make an extra sandwich for me, will you, son?" He asked. "I believe I'll be joining you boys today."

 

Lunch suddenly took on a whole new meaning, and we all threw ourselves into its preparation. Dan filled an old leather-covered flask of port and tossed it into the box. Fred, Dan’s good friend and hunting partner, lovingly wrapped one of his Cortland Apple pies into the folds of sackcloth. And, not knowing what else to do, I cut a bigger than usual chunk of Pinconning Cheddar off of the block in the icebox. "What will you shoot today, Pops?" Dan asked, as we gathered up our gear, checked our coat pockets for shells, and laced up the high boots.

 

"The Parker, I believe. I've got some old paper shells to shoot up. How's Pat been working for you?"

 

"Right as rain. He'll be glad to have you along today."

 

Because his eyes had started to cloud with age, Phil had been hunting less and less as the years past. It frustrated him to trip in the cover or not see the birds flush. Never mind that I was in my mid-twenties and was always tripping in the woods, and rarely saw a bird go out. Dan had stopped asking his father to join us as we planned the next day's hunt over dinner. It was easier for all of us that way.

 

Pat knew from the moment that the extra sandwich was wrapped that the day would be different. It was like old times, and he jumped up on Phil’s chest to have his ears scratched. We'd start with the cover around the Smith Bridge. There was an easy hillside there, on the west side of the river that we could hunt early in the morning with the sun at our backs. The South Branch was running low and clear as we walked from the parking area, back across the old bypassed bridge, and into the cover where the maples and aspen were a riot of color. The three dogs, Pat, and his parents, Jake and Belle, were out well ahead of us, their bells ringing as we dropped in shells, and gently snapped our guns closed. I’ll never forget the sound of Phil’s Parker when the action locked. It sounded like a bank vault being closed; more of a “snick” than a “snap.”

 

We knew from past experience that any birds that were pointed, would likely flush off of the hillside and cross the road, headed for the cover of the dark tamarack swamp down near the river. The low ground there was so full of blowdowns that it was almost impossible to walk, a perfect refuge. Dan, Fred, and I followed the dogs into the cover, while Phil walked the road and covered the escape route.

 

To a bird hunter, the only sound nicer than a dog's bell in a sun-dappled wood is the quiet when it stops. "Point here!" Fred yelled. "Pat's on. Where's Belle and Jake?"

 

"Gone, past the bird. He’s backing from the other side," I answered. "It’s pinned, but good."

 

"I'll go in," Dan said. "You guys get ready. Pops?"

 

The bird came out low and climbing to clear a blackberry thicket. Dan was swinging on it, and had the big, red phase male, dead to rights. It broke toward the road, following the contour of the hillside as it passed Fred. It was an easy shot, as grouse go, and he too was swinging smoothly with it. I was in no position to shoot and watched as neither of them did. The bird broke out of the cover of the aspen woods and dipped as it crossed the road to refuge.

 

Phil was late in picking it up, but reacted without the panic that we all felt. The Parker spoke once, and the bird bounced into the woods on the "safe" side of the road. Phil was backlit by the morning sun as he broke open his shotgun and bent down to take the bird from Pat’s mouth, so it was difficult to see clearly, but I remember them both smiling.

 

We all came off of the hillside to join Phil in the road and congratulate him. He held the big male grouse in one hand, and the 16 gauge in the other. It was a perfect balance, a perfect moment in time. "This was just right," he said. "And, this is the way that I want to remember it. I'm glad that you were all here for my last hunt."

 

We stood in silence trying to take it in, wanting to protest, but not ruin the moment. "Dan, this is for you; hunt it well and often," he said, handing him the Parker, a shell still in its left barrel.

 

The only sound was a late morning breeze building in the tops of the big white pines. "Bob, a dog like Pat deserves to be hunted, and I know that the two of you will get along. He's yours now."

 

I never remember staring so long nor hard at my boots. When I looked up he was smiling at me. "I think that I’ll just keep this." He said, slipping the grouse into his coat with a wink.

 

The next day I drove across the UP, to my home in Minnesota, with my first bird dog. Dan and Fred stayed on a few days to help Phil close the cabin, and no doubt, had a thoughtful trip home as well. Nearly a year passed, and I was at work thinking about seeing Phil and the guys in just a few days, when I got the call from Dan. "Phil died this morning," he whispered. “The sheriff stopped by to check in with him, and found him sitting on the front porch. The bird feeders had just been filled and the ice in his whisky hadn’t yet melted... he thought that Phil was napping. We’ll bury him in Jackson in a few days. I know he'd want you there. We'll all be going to the cabin afterwards. He'd want it that way.

 

I got to Jackson an hour after the funeral. Had I forgotten about the time change? Or, was it just too painful? I don't remember. I don't recall much about the following week either, except that no one said much, and that Dan made breakfasts, and Fred, the lunches.

 

Later that fall, Pat was poisoned, and I lost him too. I was weeping when I called my friend Jay. “I’ll be at your house in half an hour.” He said. "The woodcock are in, and you need to get out."

 

We spent that day chasing woodcock, and tumbling the occasional grouse behind Jay's setter. It was hard for me not to think of Pat and Phil while in the woods, but I'm sure that this was the very reason that Jay had taken me to his best cover. I realize, now, that he meant for me to remember them, and remember them well. That night as we drove home, I watched woodcock flight against the dusking sky, and knew that everything was as it should be. For, while Phil had given Pat to me for keeps, Pat must have always thought of it as just a short-term loan.

 

Thanks for visiting,

Bob White

Hey is this from a book? Id love to read on if so

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.