I had a Labrador and my best buddy Knarley Manners had a Chesapeake. The dogs were given to us by people in town, people who found that big dogs make a big mess in small backyards. That was fine by us, we usually had stock dogs and dogs for lion and bear, these bird dogs were exotics to us and really special. There was only one problem; we weren’t bird hunters. Oh sure, we shot prairie chickens (grouse and ptarmigan) for dinner out in the bush, but that was always with a pistol or a 22 and not all that sporting. Head shots at thirty feet or less was the rule, but the skills for shooting ducks and geese had eluded us. Why hunt ducks and geese when you can hunt moose and elk?
Now that we had dogs, we needed to learn how to hunt waterfowl. We made plans, oh how we made plans for weeks and months we made plans; the sort of plans that 13 year old boys make when they are hiding an expedition from their dads.
There was nothing wrong with us going hunting or trapping, but wasting time and ammunition with ducks and geese didn’t make a lot of sense to hard nosed ranchers who operated very close to the bottom line during WWII until 1948. In Canada, there was a prohibition on selling beef to anyone but England for the ruinous price of six cents a pound. In the states beef on the hoof was selling for twenty-four cents a pound and American ranchers were getting rich. My dad was in the Pacific with the US Navy and my grandfather couldn’t get ranch help because everyone was off fighting a war in either the Pacific or Europe. Our seed stock was sold at the artificial low prices to keep the ranch at just below poverty levels. Once the ban was lifted in 1948 and after the men came back from the war, there was a slight hope for recovery.
When I was old enough to trap, the fur prices were high and my fur money helped the ranch become solvent. I was actually regarded as an important part of ranch revenue. There was still no money for the extra things. I bought a Mouser 8×57 surplus rifle because it was a cheap good rifle, I still have it, my only weapon after all these years, I suppose it will be passed on when I cross over. I hate to think that my rifle might have killed allied troops, but that is an enigma that I will always have in the back of my mind.
Consequently, under those conditions, you can see why our fathers didn’t encourage extravagances for us boys. I usually rode or drove a team into town to get supplies several times a year. I was allowed to go to the movie house if there was a western playing, it was usually a double feature. I paid my quarter and watched the same movies over and over, until my dad came looking for me. You could say, I was there to get my money’s worth.
If Knarley or I managed to find a hunting magazine with duck or goose hunting we studied the pictures for hours and made lively conversation on the techniques and skill involved in hunting water fowl. Both of us became hunting guides and professional trappers later on and would live a lifetime of adventure in a few short years. Knarley stayed behind and was a trapper and outfitter for the rest of his life: I became a horseman and traveled the world. I knew his world, but he has no idea of the life I have lived. All things considered, I should have stayed at home and guided and trapped the rest of my life.
But it was ducks and geese that had us fascinated at this time in our young lives. We had almost everything we needed, full choke single shot shotguns, bird dogs, but we needed decoys. You had to be very lucky to get the geese to fly over if you had a boat in a lake. We had no decoys and there was no way we could afford the cost of several decoys, but I had a plan. Knarley’s dad had a pen of white turkeys. We could use turkeys for decoys. I figured we could tie one leg on each turkey to the leg of the next turkey and we would have our decoys. It was a foolproof plan, the decoys in magazines were artificial, our turkeys would be live and swimming, they’d be sure to attract some geese and we would rise up and shoot them.
We had made our own plywood boat out of weathered plywood, it leaked slow enough that it was fairly safe if you kept bailing. I drove Tom and Geraldine over to Knarley’s in the evening on the pretense of us sitting at a moose lick overnight, the plywood boat in the back of the buckboard looked a little incongruent, but my dad didn’t say anything. We loaded up the turkeys in burlap feed sacks; Knarley’s dad would never know they were going hunting. We would return them the next day, it was a perfect plan.
A couple of weeks earlier, we got into a bit of trouble over another foolproof plan of mine, it was simply a mistake in judgement and we both got into hot water over the deal. We were out on a camping hunting trip and Knarley shot an old baloney bull. That’s an old bull moose with a big rack, they aren’t really good for roasts or steaks; it best to just make them into sausage and hamburger, I never really heard of someone making baloney. We only had three horses and it would take all three to pack out the bull. That meant we would need to walk the twenty miles home. I didn’t want to stop hunting, so I suggested we field dress the moose and leave the hide on. We could borrow some harness from a nearby logging camp, there was no one there and they wouldn’t start logging until after freeze up. They wouldn’t know we were borrowing the harness and we could return it before freeze up.
Elsie was terrified of Moose, but I figured if we hid the moose under leaves and grass and hooked the harness up to the hind legs of the moose, Elsie wouldn’t stop until she arrived in the ranch yard. They would realize what had happened and hang the moose until we got back home. It was a perfect plan.
Elsie was nervous, she could smell the moose and she was very skittish as we hitched the single tree up to the moose carcass. We clucked to her to move forward. She took one step and saw the dead moose rise up out of those leaves and took off like a race horse out of the starting gate. Knarley and I looked at each other as the cold feeling that we had just made another major mistake settled over us. Elsie ran until she was out of sight. Actually she ran all the way to the barn yard. There wasn’t much left of the moose carcass and Elsie was a nervous wreck for months.
We were in big trouble after that great idea of mine. Our fathers were beginning to doubt the wisdom of letting us go into the mountains armed with weapons and ideas.
We tied the team and wagon a hundred yards or so from the lake and carried the plywood boat with our sacks of live goose decoys. I was the best rower, so Knarley tied the turkeys together and we went out aways to set up our decoys. It was fairly noisy as Knarley threw the birds into the lake, but the birds settled down once they were comfortable in the darkness and floating on the water. We rowed silently through the dark to our blind in some cattails. The turkeys were quiet until morning. We looked for them, but they were nowhere in sight. No geese flew within shooting range so we rowed out in the middle of the lake to gather up our decoys. We looked and looked and suddenly we saw a strange sight just below the surface. All six decoys were underwater; actually they were all drowned. We didn’t know it, but turkeys are one of the few animals that can’t swim. The situation was looking grim and we were going to need to do a lot of explaining later on that day.
President Obama is now in a similar situation; he is looking down into the water at his failed economic policies. They are drowned and hopeless. Unfortunately, he won’t own up to his mistakes. Knarley and I had to do some fast talking and promising to keep from getting a two by four on the backside like we did from my dad after the moose incident. After the turkey incident, our fathers were wondering if they had raised up a couple of nincompoops and it was hopeless. I think the public has reached that same point with Obama.
There is a major difference in how we handled the disaster and how Obama is handling his situation. We admitted our mistake and promised to make up the loss of six turkeys to Knarley’s dad. Obama is blaming earthquakes, tsunamis, the Euro, and bad luck. If we would have used such lame reasoning we would have not been trusted again for years.
He has promised a new plan to get the country working once again, but the new plan is only a repeat of the old failed plan with mega-taxes thrown in to pay for it all. In the mean time, the country is sitting in a leaky boat staring at the drowned turkeys below just below the surface.