A confession of sorts years ago from a coworker, during my half year working on the railroad track gang.

The youngest in the family, being a preteen, placed him out of his teenage brothers’ hunting circle. Thus he was told to stay home for their venture to hunt ducks. Knowing a potential good spot within walking distance of town, however, the youngest felt he could upstage them.

Arriving at the small lake, he noticed a flock of ducks at the other end, so he snuck closer unseen. With only .410 single shot, he would have to make it count. After one shot, not certain of success, but no sudden flurry of the flock in panic, he reloaded for another, firing again. This was followed by a ceasing of quacking and a loud curse from his two brothers, who had set their decoys up there, using duck calls from nearby reeds. He had shot their decoys! That day didn’t turn out well for him.

Someone I worked with later that year on a construction site told me a story about the hunting dog he bought. With an excellent pedigree, and assurances from the breeder, he took in a six-month old pup and soon began field training. For those of you not familiar with this process, it involves teaching commands, with “stay” and “fetch” being paramount, along with making certain there is no gun-shyness or fear of loud noises.

The dog took to the training with vigor and intelligence, holding until asked to retrieve, being quite prompt in returning the dummy bird, and having no apparent issues in the field.

The big test came in the duck boat/blind on the opening day of the season. Lucky enough to quack in some game ducks, firing accurately and downing a couple, the “fetch” command was given. The dog sat at the edge of the boat, quivering, but not springing forward into the water. Finally the owner pushed it in, and the flaw became obvious: the dog could not swim!

They managed to help fish the near-drowned dog out of the lake, but had to collect the downed ducks on their own with the boat.

With a segue based on the word “fish,” the next tale up is from a long-time friend, Richard, who told me this past summer after a long day of fishing that produced more conversation than dinner. He was fishing with another friend, the third of our childhood fishing trio, in a pretty good place. Ted lit up a cigarette and started casting. Almost immediately he got a strike, and the battle began.

Clearly a good sized fish, several minutes were needed to reel it close enough for netting. As Richard got the landing net ready, Ted, needing both hands and full concentration, flicked his nearly finished cigarette butt into the air, its glowing end contacted the monofilament line and POOF! The line melted from the touch of heated tobacco and the lunker got away.

For all the years I’ve known those two, this is the first time I heard the story. Now you know it as well.

Although officially retired, Don Nollet does occasional work as a substitute teacher in area schools and is an instructor of traditional Japanese arts of Karate-do and aikido.

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