In the Blind: It's Not the Things, But the Times
Bubba and I arrived back at the duck blind at New Holland a little before three in the afternoon, giving us two hours of shooting time before sunset.
It had been a duckless season, thanks to a winter with spring-like weather. Waterfowl that would normally be rafted up on the Pamlico Sound and Lake Matamuskeet were still up north somewhere waiting for the ice-over that would hurry them south.
We had just settled in the blind after rearranging some of the decoys to suit a changing wind that had shifted while we were back at the lodge enjoying lunch and a nap.
“Well, Cooter. What do you think?” Bubba asked. “Reckon we might see a duck this afternoon?”
Bubba had hung the nickname Cooter on me years ago, and it was easier to answer to it than argue. “The way our luck is running this season, the nearest duck is probably catching some rays up around New Jersey.”
“Yeah,” he said, “but we’ll see another pretty sunset the way these clouds are moving in. It even might rain some this evening.”
I leaned back on the bench in the blind and remarked about what a good job Mark had done building it. Mark Carawan is the owner of the lodge and impoundments we have leased for the last several years. “Another two weeks of the season, and it’ll be time to break out the fishing gear,” I said.
We had propped our shotguns in the holders right in front of us, not even loading them. We figured that if a duck did decoy, he deserved to keep on flying; he would be such a rare sight.
“What are you gonna do when you get home next week?” I asked.
“Cooter, I’ve got this major project I’ve been meaning to tell you about, and I’m getting started on it this Monday. I’m gonna get rid of a lot of stuff that I’ve accumulated over the last many hunting years. I’m simplifying.”
“If you’re getting rid of any of those Holland and Holland shotguns, keep me in mind,” I replied. Bubba had become something of a collector of rare old black powder guns and had several in his gun safe. “I can remember when you used to shoot an 870 like me and could even hit a duck every now and then.”
We had both begun our duck hunting careers using Remington 870s.
“Yeah, look at you with that new automatic,” he replied. “I never thought I’d see you put aside the pump.” He was referring to the Winchester that the newspaper had given me when I retired.
“It doesn’t kick like that 870, not that it makes much difference this season. I’d be happy to fire any gun this year. But tell me more about that sports gear you’re purging. I really need to do the same thing.”
“I’ve just got too much stuff,” he said. “Hunting coats, boots, waders, bird hunting trousers, shirts, decoys. As a matter of fact, I’ve got some decoys that have never been in the water. You remember those canvasbacks that I bought when we were goose hunting up on the Eastern Shore years ago? Well, I’m getting rid of as much of it as I can.”
We could hear swans moving from the lake to the sound. Their plaintive calls echoed off the tree line. We watched as they formed their classic V, silhouetted in the setting sun.
“Those are probably the prettiest birds flying,” Bubba said.
“Yes, sir, I agree. Just seeing those swans made the trip worthwhile.” I replied.
“A duck or two mixed in would have helped,” he answered. “Let’s pick up the decoys and go get some supper. I need to get an early start in the morning.”
We would be leaving the next day and were already anticipating the final duck hunting week that was rapidly approaching. On the way back to the lodge, Bubba was still talking about getting rid of stuff, and I remembered a quote from one of one of my favorite outdoor writers.
“Bubba, Gene Hill said it better than I ever could, and it’s kinda what you’re talking about. He wrote, ‘Our greatest trophies are not things but times.’”
“’Nuff said,” Bubba replied.
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