Case Of The Missing Tale
Garry’s Outdoor Kicks & Grins - May 2022
It was a dark and stormy night. The seven or eight of us had arrived at our deer club cabin on Friday evening to get a good night’s sleep before our big weekend whitetail hunt. The cabin isn’t much to look at. The roof and outside walls are interchangeable, but we have four large rooms, two of which are dedicated to sleeping cots and single-wide beds, plus a closet with a toilet in it and a really big fireplace in the main room.
And despite the current prevailing political atmosphere, there is a sign on the front door that reads “No Women Allowed.” They would never find us out there anyway.
Someone mentioned that on the way there they had listened to the weather forecast on the radio, and it looked as if the cold wind and rain and thunder and lightning would last all night. That was OK. We had assigned our newest member, Mark, as per protocol, to provide supper, and he had responded with a half-dozen pizzas. Meals for the remainder of the weekend would either be fresh venison or the canned beans and Vienna Sausage we had purchased in quantity at the beginning of the season and kept stored at the cabin. Due to either bad luck or bad aim, we were running real, real low on the canned goods.
Ducky and Jake Jenkins and I are legacy members of the club, and we can pick and choose who we want for membership without a club vote. We had met the bearer of the pizzas, Mark, a couple of weeks earlier at a local watering hole, and Jake and I had taken an instant liking to him and wanted to invite him for membership. Ducky, being Ducky, was reluctant and suspicious. So, he tested the new guy as only Ducky could or would. Now, Mark is a large, muscular and imposing younger man, but Ducky told him his name sounded like a dog with a speech defect. Instead of getting up and beating the snot out of Ducky, Mark laughed and said he was just happy not to be named after a waterfowl. He was in the club.
Did I mention it was a dark and stormy night? I realize that was Snoopy’s opening line for every novel he pounded out on his typewriter while he sat on his doghouse, but it is very important for this storyline, since it sets the mood for a spooky, mysterious narrative. Since we have no radio or TV in the cabin due to club rules—obviously created after several rounds of Tennessee’s finest—we had to rely on conversation for entertainment. In our initial quest for really “roughing it” and removing ourselves from civilization, we don’t even allow cell phones there.
Not that Ducky or Jenkins or I even have one. When you are old and retired and boring and tired of answering robo calls from Medicare providers, there is no longer a need for a cell phone. I mentioned this little fact to a pharmacist one day, when he requested my cell number for some reason only pharmacists and bankers and insurance agents know, and when I told him of my lack thereof, I might as well have said I came from a planet in the Borzak star system and had a third eye in the back of my head. He was speechless. Which he would have been had he called my non-existent cell phone anyway.
Back to the dark and stormy night. We had the fireplace roaring in no time with a treasured particulate processed starter log. No more lighterd, shavings, twigs and precise stacking. Just put a store-bought fake on the grate, cover it with split wood, and fire it up. We gathered around the fireplace on various pieces of used furniture and munched pepperoni pizza.
Jake said, “This will be a good evening for some ‘dark and stormy night’ stories, boys.”
Somebody added, “And cold.”
Mark snorted and said, “You don’t know what cold is.”
Everyone looked at the new guy Mark with raised eyebrows, as if to take exception to that particular statement.
He explained, “Now it doesn’t get really cold in LA very often, but when it does…”
Someone interrupted, “I didn’t know you were from California!” (That last word sounded as if he had something nasty in his mouth)
I countered, “He’s not, you dufus! LA is Lower Alabama.”
“Oh,” the interrupter muttered.
Mack nodded his approval and continued.
“It is open plains country. Nothing stops the wind. And as I said, it doesn’t get cold very often, but when it does, it would scare an Eskimo. And they put duck season right in the middle of it. One day, my older brother and I went out to a series of little farm ponds, and without the wind chill, it was 15 degrees that morning. All the ponds had a rim of ice around the edges. We sat on the dam of one in the broomsedge and waited. They started pouring in, mostly mallards and canvasbacks with a few woodies mixed in. We picked our shots so they would fall on dry land. We had almost gotten our limit when I got a little anxious and nailed one that fell in the water, about 10 yards from shore. We were on the lee side, so the wind would not blow him in or out. He just floated there in one spot.
“My brother said, ‘OK, bird dog, go get him.’ I told him he was crazier than a run over cat and there was no way I was going in that water.
“He said, ‘Strip down, jump in, grab the duck, get out and put your dry clothes back on. It’ll take less than a minute.’ I told him he had the attention span of a brainless goldfish and repeated that I was not going in that water. Then he said it. The magic words that all older siblings know and use to win every argument ever instigated. ‘I’ll tell Dad.’
“Now, you’ve got to understand that my father is not only a military veteran, but an upright, upstanding proponent of rules and regulations, especially when it comes to sportsmanship. And he ruled us boys with all the subtlety of a deranged drill sergeant. His words regarding hunting were branded in our little brains. ‘Never shoot anything you are not going to eat.’”
Someone asked, “What did you do Mark?”
He answered in a tone that implied an idiot had asked the question. “I played bird dog.”
Ducky said, “You know, Mark, in some states, it would not have been illegal to kill your brother.”
Jenkins opined, “Well, Mark, that was an interesting story. Actually, it was kind of sad more than anything. I was expecting something a little more spine-tingling. You know, bone-chilling. After all, it’s a dark and stormy night.”
Mark replied, “Oh, I guarantee it chilled my bones! And I promise you my spine tingled for a week. You’ve never been so cold you couldn’t breathe, have you Jake?”
Jake said, “Well, once my mother-in-law walked in on me when I was naked in my bedroom and I swear the temperature dropped 20 degrees. And I had a hard time breathing then. But I wanted someone to regale us with a truly terrifying adventure.”
Ducky spoke up. “I’ve been married eight times.”
Most of the crowd did not know this and there was stunned silence. Then came the comments. “That is terrifying!” “To different women?!?” “And you’re still here to tell about it!” “How on earth did you manage that?”
I interjected. “I’ll give you a hint. I was at his house yesterday when his wife came in from shopping and asked if she had any messages. Ducky said, ‘Yeah, Satan called and wants you to come back immediately. Any more questions?”
Everybody’s eyes got big and they looked at Ducky in awe (some with admiration). Ducky grinned and shrugged and stated, “Someone once said that you can never be a good philosopher unless you’ve been married twice. I, gentlemen, am a veritable Socrates.” A couple of guys applauded.
Another guy said, “I’ve got a mystery story, Jake. I once shot a buck that didn’t have any horns.” There was silence for a moment and everybody just sort of looked at him and then at each other incredulously. The men sitting on either side of him scooted away.
Jake said, “You’re an moron.”
I jumped in. “Did I ever tell you guys about the time I got lost in the oxbow swamp?”
“Counting today, 23 times.”
“Do you even remember what you had for breakfast this morning?”
I replied, “As a matter of fact, I do. I have the same thing for breakfast every morning so I can remember what I had for breakfast this morning.”
It seemed to be the prevailing opinion that I had indeed related that tale before, so I shut up.
Jake’s young nephew spoke up from the back of the room and said, “Uncle Jake, you remember the time when I was a kid and you took us hunting in the Florida panhandle and you came screaming back into camp one evening…”
“No, son, I don’t rememb…”
“And you didn’t have your gun and…”
“I don’t recollect that at…”
“And you were trying to yell Skunk Ape, but all that came out was…”
“I told you, boy, I don’t know what…”
“Stump Ache, Stunk Scape…”
Jake yelled, “You must be talking about another Uncle!” He stood up quickly, stretched and said, “Time to hit the sack.”
As he walked off, Ducky said, “You mean ‘sit the hack’ don’t you?”
We all sat and giggled a while.
Then we, too, drifted off to bed. The wind was howling around the corner, the rain pattered on the tin roof and the thunder rumbled softly in the distance. We each dreamed of the 8-pointer we would get tomorrow. It was good sleeping. After all, it was a dark and stormy night.
To order your copy of Garry’s book “Dixie Days,” go to Amazon.com and enter the book title and author’s name. Soft cover is $12.