Do you want to hear another version about the hunting season at a Kansas household for "Closing Time?"
I'm a forty-five year old housewife, an ex-city girl, who never knew the difference between a mallard, a pintail, a woodduck, a dove, let alone a Pointer, a Black Lab, or a 12-gauge or a .22, until I married my hunter twenty-eight years ago. Now the mother of three sons, also avid hunters, I feel I've been through it all.
First, I had to learn to look at a cottontail, that reminded me of the storybook rabbit, with blood-stained fur and limp as a dishrag. I had to do this without throwing up while proud little hunters beamed about their great shots. Then came that cute little brown squirrel that stole most of our walnuts and wound up at our house for dinner one night (not as a guest). But when they brought home the doves, I was heartbroken. I couldn't believe they could eat the dove, a symbol of love. Oh yes, the rule at our house is: you shoot it, you eat it.
In the meantime, I'm looking at all these strange pieces of meat and wondering how to make something delectable out of them. Boy, did I learn!
Then we all were inducted into the duck and goose hunter's club. Believe me, you haven't lived until you enter the garage and basement and wade through dozens of bleach bottles made into decoys and dripping with fresh paint, because years ago that's what one magazine said you needed to spread around in the water if you wanted to limit out.
A few years later, out went the bleach bottles and in came the real thing, plastic ducks, and not just a dozen either. Did you know those mallards can count, and if you don't have at least twelve dozen decoys floating on the lake, they won't fly down so you can take a shot at them?
In the meantime, the sporting goods stores loved us. We spent a lot of money trying to find a duck call that worked. We finally bought a learn-how-to record that was absolutely wonderful to the ears. It was one live quack after another and then my four fellas would practice what they heard. It didn't matter where they practiced either, because somehow they thought a duck hunter's call was sacred and everyone around was honored with their harmonious sounds.
One Christmas, I was entertained with the lovely sounds of three new duck calls, three new hand-operated goose calls, and one turkey mouth-piece call. Also surrounding me and staring with their beady little eyes were two more dozen plastic ducks and a dozen plastic geese. Because you see, I found you have to replace those plastic ducks because those smart mallards know the difference between the old and the new.
And what do you do with four pairs of wet and muddy chest waders and four pairs of wet and muddy coveralls? Well, they take priority, of course! They have to be ready at all times for another trip.
But at the top of the list of importance is Coty, Drake, Poncho, and Peaches, my men's best friends. Coty and Drake are still borrowing things from the neighbors, like newspapers, ball gloves, tennis shoes, boots, a billfold with a dollar in it, etc. They don't remember where they got it so their masters knock on doors. Contrary to the old saying, I think my men are their dogs' best friends because I'm sure a lot of neighbors would like to shoot these dogs.
Did you know registered dogs can only eat the very best dog food for growing purposes, but then their masters aren't looking, they are chewing on a badly distorted, stinky, dead something they drug home from the timber or the neighbors? And did you know you can't give them table scraps or bones, but instead you buys those cut little expensive rawhide things from them to chew on? Drake ate his. And did you know new hunting puppies should never be kept away any farther than the garage because they need to see and hear their new masters? Very soon you learn to turn on a light before entering so you don't step on the dog or step into you-know-what!
Well, got to go now. Number two son just came in with some Western Kansas pheasant and a Lake Perry mallard that needs to be put into the freezer, and I want to hear about this hunting trip. Last year, that opening weekend trip cost my two sons over $10,000. They truly ran into each other on the highway, 300 miles from home, while sky watching a flock of geese. They totaled out the Jeep and did over $3000 damage to the Bronco. Thank God, not one of the eight hunters were seriously hurt. This year they limited out and are home safe and sound one more time.
I can sigh relief and start collecting those little feathers that somehow escape out of their hunting gear and float all over the house.
Grandma and Grandpa Rouse continued to pass on their knowledge of the outdoors, starting two years later when I was born in 1988. They often took us grandkids fishing to different spots around the state and spent many Christmases and birthdays shopping at places like Cabela's and Bass Pro Shop to find duck calls, shotgun shells, decoys, waders, fishing lures, poles, tackle boxes and a variety of other outdoors-related gear. She is perhaps one of the foremost wildlife cooking experts in the state, with recipes ranging from bass to whitetail, wild turkey to wild mushrooms and anything in between. My grandpa taught me how to skin my first fish, but after his death in May 2007, my grandma spent many nights helping me clean catfish in the kitchen (and cooking them up).