Chukker In The Dark

Daryl Gay | May 31, 2021

It’s always easier to keep up with Jake the Hermit­—assuming I really want to—in the daytime. I can slip around with the best of them, the best of them being Ol’ Jake hisself, who taught me how to slip around in the first place.

Got all that?

But at night? Forget it. Unless perchance you happen to be downwind, there’s no way of knowing if he’s even in the same county. He can slide into a backyard coop and swipe a chicken with nary a cluck.

And does. Several nights a month.

So yeah, it was that night thing that got me when he popped up with his latest request. I was stringing shiny new barbed wire around our own aviary on Ma’s command, er, request, despite assuring her that Jake would never stoop to pilfering one of HER chickens.

“He ain’t got to stoop,” she retorted. “He’d probably slither in. Anyways, you’d be putting in a minefield ‘stead of pulling barbed wire if them Army boys would cooperate and lend me a few blasting caps.”

My only reply was one that has proved its worth well over the years, preventing her from rearranging my freckles with a frying pan on several occasions: “Yes ma’am.”

An hour later, I was under the shade of a huge oak, finished with the wire. Except for dabbing turpentine into about a hundred finger pricks and thinking very unkind thoughts of Jake the Hermit.

As usual, that’s exactly when he popped up. There came a slight rustle from the other side of the tree, and my first thought was “RATTLER!!!”

It was a snake all right…

“I wants me one of them chukker chukker thangs.”

Jake has never been known to beat around the bush. ‘Cept maybe when he’s trying to outrun a load of rock salt.

No intro. No parlay. No, “Why you bleedin’ like a stuck hog?”

Chukker chukker thang?

He mean a chukar? He needs a partridge? Or maybe something to catch a partridge? Shoot a partridge?

What about old Long Tom, that behemoth of a 12-gauge hammer gun with the 30-inch barrel that pounds his shoulder into mealie mush with each trigger pull?

“Ain’t no chukars around here, Jake. What’s wrong with bobwhites? Chukar is the national bird of Pakistan; you going over there?”

“Huh? You ‘bout as funny as that war you been wrasslin’ with. Which, by the way, appears to have took you out in about two rounds. I said CHUKKER CHUKKER!”

There’s never a straight-line conversation with Jake, and something kinda popped into my head: an odd smell. Certainly not the usual stench…

“Jake, tell the truth now: you take a bath?”

You’d a thought I’d slapped him in the face with a dead housecat!

“Yer Ma ain’t tolt ye, huh? Well, she shoved me in the crick up at the sinkhole. With a big ol’ oak limb. And ever’ time I ‘most made it to the bank, she’d poke me back down with that chunk’a oak. Then she started tossin’ in slabs of that octygone acid upstream, cacklin’ like she was being tickled.”

Yep, that was the scent what had wafted around the tree: Octagon soap.

“That stuff is worse’n lye; I thought she was gonna skin me afore I could make it to the other side. Ever’ time I’d come up for air that limb would be hoverin’; still got about thirtyleven little round poke bruises. Want to see em?”

“Not on your life. She wouldn’t ever skin you, Jake. Have to put her hands on you to do that, and that ain’t never happening. You’re lucky she just prodded to keep you in long enough to clean up a mite instead of whacking you over the head with that limb. So when was this?”

“Same day you went on that night hog hunt,” he said with a leer. “Thought you’d left me shore ‘nuf in the dark din’t ye?”

Night hog hunt? How in the name of Octagon did he find out about that?

“That was 90 miles from here; how did you… Never mind; I don’t have enough brain cells left to figure it all out. OK, so I couldn’t smell you and certainly couldn’t see you, but what in the world does that have to do with a chukker chukker thang, and what in the world is one of them anyways?”

There I go talking like him again…

“You big dummy, you got one and don’t even know what it is? You was shore chukkering the fool out of it ‘mongst them hogs. And they wasn’t appreciating it none, neither. I did though; filled my cache with pork after you was gone.”

Hmmm. Even after stumbling around in the dark that night, I KNEW there was an unaccounted for pig in that field…

Let us now reason the scenario out to as near a logistical and logical conclusion as is humanly possible. Factoring in Jake, of course.

Step 1: Even though I don’t know what it is, I have one. Step 2. I can chukker the fool out of it. Step 3. Feral hogs don’t appreciate it.

Gadzooks! The answer was cradled in my arms all the time!

“You want a Valkyrie, Jake?”

All I got was a snorting, “You know I can’t drive! What would I do with one of them little German cars what looks like a roach bug rolling down the road? I onts one of them GUNS what chukkers!”

“Don’t get your feeling hurt Jake, but I’d rather give my boys A-bombs for Christmas presents than turn you loose in the middle of the night with a suppressed AR and a 30-round clip.”

He understood. Finally. No need for y’all to thank me; just watch out for Long Tom…

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