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Chapter 9:
The Hunt - Part 2

“It’s late fall. The day is overcast and cold; a slight drizzle wets the hardwoods that line the small, rock bed stream. The yellow Lab peers intently into the pool that forms in the bend of the stream. A movement deep within the pool catches the attention of the Lab. The Lab leans forward; muscles tensed as he waits for the blue gill to get closer. The blue gill swims into the shallow portion of the pool and rises to the surface to inhale an insect. Lunging forward, the Lab jumps into the pool and the resulting splash jettisons the blue gill onto the pebbled bank. In an instant the Lab is on the fish; a quick chomp-chomp of the Labs maw and the blue gill joins that mornings breakfast. The dog assumes his place above the pool and waits.”

Bunkie and I were spending a lot of time together on the back patio. It was our guys club I guess. After work I would sit in the lawn chair, play with the kid’s and do yard work or putter around the garage. Bunkie would follow me around and observe what strange man things that I would do. In turn, I’d follow Bunkie around and observe what strange dog things that he would do.

When Bunkie was a pup, we used to play a lot of fetch with the ball. I’d throw the ball and Bunkie would race after the ball and then bring it back to me, his big ears flopping all over. After I took Bunkie pheasant hunting for the first time, he stopped playing fetch. I’d throw the ball and he would just look at it going away and roll his eyes at me and then yawn like he was bored to death.

It seems that he was too good to play ball after he had tasted the real thing while hunting. From that point forward, unless we were out hunting, he didn’t fetch anything that wasn’t alive or freshly killed. The nerve of that dog.
When the weekends would roll around, I would be pretty much free to do what I wanted.

So we went hunting, Bunkie and I; we went hunting a lot. We hunted quail, dove, rabbits, ducks and pheasants. At the end of the day, I would bring the game home and clean it at the guys club; also known as the back patio.

The kid’s and Bunkie would watch while I prepared the game. I would show the kids what was inside the critters and teach them what I knew about the different types of animals, and Bunkie would get some tidbits. They were young enough at the time that they were curious and not grossed out by what they were seeing. They thought that it was cool. As a result of this experience, much doesn’t gross them out, even today.

We’d fire up the barbeque and have a cook out right there. The kids developed a taste for wild game and lead shot. Well, they weren’t that fired up about the lead shot but they got a kick out of digging the shot out of the critters. It became a game to them and an extra dental bill for me.

One of our favorite places to hunt was in the Cleveland National Forest above Lake Elsinore. There were lots of quail and dove and we always got enough for a meal or two. That area off the Ortega Highway was an interesting place; you never knew who or what you were going to run into back in the brush.

One day, Bunkie and I were following a trail trying to kick up some quail when we ran into an old codger back up in the woods. Normally we’d say hello and be on our way but the old codger was different somehow. I tried to figure out what was exactly different about him when it hit me; he was buck naked except for a Bing Crosby feather hat he proudly sported and a pair of shiny black combat boots. I was concerned that he might get sunburned, seeing as how he was naked and all. I figured he was from the nudist camp back up on the Ortega and he’d gotten lost.

Yeah, that’s it.

We talked for a while. He told me he was out looking for gold but he wasn’t having much luck. We never got into why he was running around naked in the middle of the brush. I was afraid to ask him where he would put any gold if he did manage to find some anyway. I walked him back to the truck. I thought about letting him ride in the cab but I didn’t fancy old codger skid marks on my upholstery. So I told him it was the truck bed for him.

He and Bunkie jumped in the truck bed and I went to cart the old guy off to the Ranger Station.

I had forgotten that I taken some dried out pine tree branches to the dump the week before; the truck bed was a couple of inches deep in dried, stiff pine needles. I was wondering why the old man was hollering back there as we bounced down the dirt road; I figured he was just crazy. I guess that I’d be hollering too if I was getting a pine needle enema. Bunkie was barking and having a good time harassing the old guy. I slowed down for a curve and the old man jumped out of the bed of the truck. The last I saw of that old man was a sunburned backside hoofing it down to a stand of live oak trees. He moved pretty well for an old dude.

I went ahead down to the Station and let the Ranger know what had happened. He must have thought I was telling a joke cause all he did was laugh. Once he stopped laughing he said he’d go and check it out. The Ranger gave Bunkie some lunchmeat and we were off; our hunting was pretty much shot for the rest of the day.

All in all it was a pretty good day; lot’s of laughs and God knows I needed some comic relief at that point in my life. We tooled down the mountain into Lake Elsinore and made our way back to Sunnymead.
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