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Today is August 13, 2022

Outdoors

An end and a beginning

By Tony Kinton

An end and a beginning

Spur (left) sleeps on his master’s leg. Finn claimed his favorite chair! Photo courtesy of Bob Rose.

The old year just ended; the new year just began. All entities restricted to this temporal existence have a similar cycle — beginnings that eventually lead to endings. This realization prompts some measure of contemplation should we afford our thoughts the opportunity of mining the depths and looking into shadowed corners that may too often be neglected in favor of comfort. I recently found myself on such an expedition.

The episode was my annual October woodcock hunt in Vermont. This is a challenging regimen and one closely monitored. Three birds daily, not much bounty for the effort some might say, but to go, do, and see firsthand changes the perspective. It really is about the totality of experience.

My first hunt, close to a decade past, found me in the presence of a new acquaintance, Bob Rose. He was at that time a pilot for American Airlines and chose his schedules to keep October open. That was woodcock-hunting month. He is now retired. Bob employs Old Hemlock Setters as his chosen canine companions. The history of this breed is far too expansive for a treatise of this length, so I shall refrain. But one important element is that on that first hunt, Bob had a new dog, a dog that was just beginning his second season. Fionn Mac Cumhail, his registered name and the Old Irish pronunciation. Finn McCool in modern English. He answers to Finn.

Finn was a true marvel. A gentleman. A professional. A dog with perfect discipline and demeanor. I was mesmerized. And that remains the case even now. Finn is 11, not finished yet, but closer to the end than to the beginning.

On this most recent trip, Bob had added another Old Hemlock. Hotspur. He answers to Spur. He is 11 months old. And the makings are there. Spur is destined to the same levels of greatness as Finn has already achieved. This first season Spur still fumbled with the occasional puppy blunder, but not much. I watched and participated in three days of pure wonderment.

And during that watching and participating, I found myself mining those depths. I concluded I was more like Finn than I was like Spur. I am not finished, but I am definitely closer to the end than the beginning. I considered my admiration for Finn and felt a peculiar bond with him, we two on the same path of winding down. I celebrated with Spur, young, ready, and excited as I once was — just beginning an exhilarating life.

And, in all this thinking, I came to some point of resignation. Things would end, some more quickly than others. Regardless, life had been a spectacular experience. Finn knows that; Spur will know that. And I now give a nod of appreciation to both in the varying steps of their journeys.

 

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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