Thursday, March 15, 2007

Duck Hunt - Part 1

A few weekends ago, my dad, brother (Brother G) and I (Yours Truly) headed south of the metroplex in search of big game. By "big game" I mean "tiny ducks that are crafty buggers" and the weather couldn't have been nicer for the last weekend of the season. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the temperature was in the mid-60's.

If you know anything about duck hunting, this is the absolute worst weather for it. In an ideal world, it would have been raining, or at least about to, the temperature would have been down in the 20s or 30s, and we'd have been hating life so much that blasting anything out of the sky would have brought instant relief.

Male bonding at its finest, ladies and gents.

Since Brother G was coming from Cow Town he was going to meet dad and Yours Truly at the ranch we were staying at. In the meantime, dad and I braved getting out of Big D alive in south-bound rush hour traffic at 3:30 p.m. on a Friday while the North Dallas Autobahn was under construction. In short, we were so monumentally screwed right from the start it was a wonder we made it through at all.
"Oh don't worry, just hop on the Tollway and you'll be fine," Mother Dearest assured us before we left. "All that construction... surely they wouldn't be doing it during rush hour!"
Ahh, but this is Big D, boys and girls, and performing large-scale construction projects on major thoroughfares at the absolute worst time imaginable is what they specialize in. It also helps that seldom does one see a construction worker actually working. For the most part, things are just blocked off thus diverting traffic into one or two lanes when six would not be enough. Meanwhile, the road crew is off getting a brew.

In short, Big D has its head up its rear end so far that when it opens it's mouth you can talk to the head resting on the tongue.

It took us roughly half an hour to cover the few miles from where we entered to the southern-most toll plaza and by the time we arrived we were thankful the guns were stowed in the back because we were ready to start blasting. When we managed to make it through that nightmare, we crossed over onto I-35E south-bound and that actually flowed for a little bit. Once we crossed over Frozen Trinity and continued south we saw a seconds-old wreck in the north-bound lane.
"Man, what is it about being with you and seeing wrecks?" dad asked me.

"Hey, at least we're not in them," I replied.

Just kidding.

But he was right. Usually whenever it's just the two of us driving somewhere we see a wreck as it happens at which point he whips out his cell and rings 911. It's the oddest thing too, because neither of us has an explanation for it. Sort of like Bigfoot and Roswell, and how three people unrelated to my company are standing outside my office right this second having a very loud conversation for no apparent reason. If they're trying to feel cool by discussing the latest financial market forecasts then they need a) new subject matter, and b) to recognize that financial statements are the last thing on this planet I care about. Well, that and tapioca.

Traffic flowed southbound up to a point just south of the 67 split and there we came to a dead stop... for close to an hour. When we finally were moving again we covered a matter of inches, not feet, and we could not figure out what was going on. Also, it is important to note that while I have a flash temper, it is nothing compared to the short fuse my dad has especially when it comes to ridiculous traffic congestion. He pealed off on the side road and we flew past the stacked up cars and trucks. One Wal-Mart truck driver in particular was leaning out his window waving his fists and shouting. Any normal person would have mistaken his pleasant approach as the Texan way of saying "hello," but an observant fellow like Yours Truly noted the firearm in his hand and chose not to wave back.

Actually, this is the Texan way of saying hello on the freeway, now that I think about it.

We did this for roughly another half hour, too. When we managed to get south of a small town I noticed on the road that the three available lanes funneled down to one and that the line was stacked up for several miles. Fortunately, we found a spot to get back on I-35 that was far enough south that the lanes opened back up. Dad gunned it and we raced the encroaching darkness trying to get to the ranch before sundown. The goal? Put me on the gun range and have me knock out some shooting since the last time I'd fired a gun was when I was 15.

Let's just say it's been a while.

We hit Hillsboro and hung a right then gunned it along some winding two lane road that lasted for-freaking-ever, but at this point I'd resigned myself to never leaving the road again. I figured by this point we may as well go all Mad Max on everyone we saw because weren't getting out of that truck anytime soon. At least it had butt warmers and satellite radio, though listening to Kelly Clarkson with your dad while on a road trip to kill ducks is a new experience in awkwardness that I wouldn't recommend to the faint of heart.

When we made it to the WB Ranch (no affiliation to the studio) we pulled up in front of the very large resort-style main house. I opened the door and fell out of the car since I'd been unable to feel my legs for the last half hour. Dad, of course, walked around like it was nothing and he went to check us in. He came back out a few minutes later and kicked me in the leg.
"Hey, let's get some shooting in while it's still light out. They've got a gun for you to use so let's go."
So I climbed back in the truck and Dad drove us out to the gun range which was about a minute west of the house. By this point, I'd regained enough feeling from the waist down to be able to stand on my own so we got out and Dad tossed me the shotgun. It was a very nice over/under double-barrel shotgun made in Italy, which means it fires cleanly and efficiently and doesn't have much of a kick.

For the record, the last time I'd fired anything comparable I was roughly 14 or 15 and wasn't the strongest lad on the block. As such, the rifles and shotguns I fired back then tended to hurt me far more than they probably should have. It took me a few shots to get the feel of firing a weapon again after so long, but my eyesight and instincts quickly regained their focus. Dad pulled the trap trigger and shot a clay pidgeon up into the air.


Tagged it with the first shot and blew it up nicely. Aww, yeah.

We stood out there for the next 20 minutes while I warmed up to shooting again and my aim was spot-on for the most part. If I wasn't blasting the targets dead-on I was at least clipping them enough to send chunks flying, so I was feeling pretty good about myself. Brother G drove up and we caravaned back to the main house where we met the other guests. Apparently this is a pretty big thing to do for people and this group were going out on a mixed-game hunt the next morning. Translation: Over the course of a day they'd be presented with a variety of animals to blast out of the sky whereas our hunt was more, uh, specialized.

The three of us drove back to the hacienda and unloaded our trucks. We each had our own room and the beds were nice and comfortable. While I wouldn't go so far as to describe them as "spacious" I would say that comfort was foremost in the designer's mind. As was "garish Western theme" but to paint a more accurate picture we must return to the main entry.

Imagine you're standing two feet away from a bison. You look it in the eyes, it stares back at you then snorts, its tail swatting the flies away from its backside. All this time you're also holding your nose with both hands because the thing smells so awful the only thing your brain has a desire for is an immediate and lengthy shower. Now take that thing's head and stick it on a wall. Now put another on the opposite wall. Add roughly a hundred variety of antlers and horns to the general decor be it chandeliers or even tables, then throw some stretched cow hide over most of the furniture and tile floors and call it a day.

Basically it's what happens when someone who used to work as a sales clerk for Western Warehouse designs a room, then throws a gourmet chef in the kitchen because the place wasn't ostentatious enough.

On the flip side, they did have a nice fireplace as well as a good chef who served up some very tasty strip steak. Outside there was a roaring fireplace surrounded by three of the biggest, widest, and deepest leather benches I've ever sat on. Correction - you don't sit on these, you lay back on them. I'm 6'1" and sitting so my back was against the rear of the bench meant my legs were pointed straight out in the air. My dad and Brother G both lit up cigars, Cubans of course, while the three of us talked and enjoyed the night air. We retired shortly thereafter and hit the sack because morning was going to be on us soon enough.

Oh, did it ever.

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