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Today is September 16, 2021

Outdoors

Dim hope, but hope just the same

By Tony Kinton

Dim hope, but hope just the same

Quail have fallen on hard times over the past several decades. But with ongoing research and positive management practices, the whistles and calls may be a bit more common than these are today. Photo by Garrett Davidson

Six a.m. A slight breeze pushing a spring cool front and brushing new growth with lowered humidity. The sun making way through scattered clouds and spreading daylight across a woodlot. Grand it was that morning.

It was my second and last opportunity to take advantage of the brief spring squirrel season in Mississippi, and I was easing along a familiar woods road watching for movement in the treetops or along the ground. Nothing, but that was of no real consequence.

I thought of an old saw that can be used for a broad assortment of proclamations: “Life is too short to….” Add whatever words you like. For me that morning those words were, “shoot an ugly shotgun!” I toted a nifty little double-barrel configuration; 28 gauge. And it was definitely not ugly. It doesn’t have to be shot to be appreciated.

Never do I amass great fortune while squirrel hunting in spring, if this amassing is measured solely by collecting the basic ingredients for a stew. Nor do I seek such. Wealth comes in increments — a little here, a little there. Add them up and the account soars. That soaring was what had begun immediately after I closed my truck door.

Cool; crisp. Leaves damp enough to afford silent steps. And the birds! Everywhere and of every variety. All singing their reveille. Rain crows were particularly vocal. Cardinals, too. Ample sounds but no noise. The chorus was magnificent.

And then it happened; the portfolio practically burst. I received an unexpected bonus — the best kind. Just along a grassy road to the east perhaps 100 yards the gallant little gentleman spoke, tentatively at first but with much more confi dence afterward. “Bob white.” Musical like; a crescendo and staccato on that last syllable, “white.”

Just below the hill lay a derelict mule-drawn hay mower. I knew it was there and could see its metal tentacles struggling to maintain posture in the honeysuckle and sweetgum thicket but had given it no thought on this morning. Suddenly, the rusting tool seemed to glimmer. I shivered. I was mystified. If the uniqueness of quail call were not adequate to extract nostalgia and romance from the core of an aging hunter, the skeleton of that mower appended to that brilliantly mournful call did the trick. A peculiar element of solemnity abounds when the wild places suggest human laughter and tears and sadness and joy and life. That life now present only in atrophy, the wild now taking back ownership of what was once tamed. Those folks who rode that mower and whose lives were attached to those hills and hollows likely heard the same quail song I was hearing.

The little bird called again. I wished him well. Perhaps there was hope. Dim hope for sure but hope just the same!

 

Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. He lives in Carthage and is a Central Electric member. Visit www.tonykinton.com for more information.

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