Conversations with a Lab

By Travis Thompson

 

Solo hunts.

There’s something special about a frosty morning, just you and your best friend sitting in the blind, fog hanging low through the timber as your breath hangs in front of you.

You’ve only been out here a little while.  And the Lab looks up at you, whiskey colored eyes just begging you to understand.

You look around for a second, just to double check that no one can hear you.

Yes.  I know I blew the shot on that pair of Gaddies.  It was a tough shot.

Seriously.

Okay.  Okay.  Maybe I should’ve gotten one, but no way I am on the hook for killing both of them.

Stop looking at me that way.  I’ll get it together.  I’m just rusty – it’s been two weeks since we’ve been able to get out here.  There’ll be more birds.  Just hang in there. 

You reach in your blind bag for a bottle of water and some beef jerky.

Here. 

Do NOT tell your mother I gave you this stuff.  Teriakyi flavored beef jerky.  She’s gonna know when you fart.  Oh well.  Too late now.

Do you forgive me now?

Hunh?  Do you?  Oh those are good kisses!

You snap out of googly eyeing your pup just in time to see a squad of mallards lock in.

BOOM!  BOOM!  BOOM!

Son of –

I rushed it okay.

Quit whining.  I just got excited and rushed it. 

I swear.

You act like that damn dog on that video game I played when I was a kid.  You look like you’re laughing at me.  Close your mouth . . .

I don’t know how I missed.  I must have the wrong choke in.  I don’t want to unload and change it right now, though.

The Lab continues to look at you as you keep soliloquizing along.

You think I should lead them more?  That’s tough, though, especially when they’re coming straight in.  And right after I missed those Gaddies going away.  I’m having to work for it this morning, right?

Here, you can have some more jerky.  It’s good isn’t it, Boy?

Okay.  We’re gonna get at least one more flurry and we’re gonna make it count.

In fact – there they are.  Mallards.  Looks like 6 of them.  I’m gonna quack them in – be still . . .

Here they come . . . Here they come . . .

BOOM!  BOOM!  BOOM!

HAHAAAA!  Fetch ’em up boy!

You got ’em – Fetch ’em up!

You watch, an almost paternal pride as he works . . . Long splash out of the dog door, and a straight line for the hen, who’s still swimming.  He brings her to hand, and you give him a line on the drake and off he goes again, a flash, holding up his part of the bargain . . . 2 minutes later and the pair of ducks hang on the strap.

Good job Boy!

That’s a good boy! 

Man, I’m so happy with those retrieves!!!

You’re not rusty, are you?  I didn’t think so.  Perfect lines, chased that hen down like she was standing still.  That had to be 40, 50 yards.  Wait ’til I tell Jeff about that . . .

Alright.  I guess we might as well pack up.  You’re probably freezing.  Ah – who am I kidding, you were made for this, weren’t you?

A few minutes later, the decoys are picked up, the gun sheathed, and you traipse through the mud back to the truck.  The Lab gleefully prances around you, some of his energy sapped off by the two retrieves.

You crank the truck and peel out of your waders while the heat warms up.  It’s overcast, so the temperature hasn’t moved much on the needle.

Don’t even think about it.  Don’t try giving me those big eyes.  You are soaking wet.  You smell like mildew that got wet.  You’re covered in mud.  Plus, you at 6 pieces of beef jerky. 

There is no way – NO WAY – I’m letting you get in the cab of my truck . . . That’s leather up there.

Stop looking at me that way.

It is still pretty cold out here.  And you did make one hell of a retrieve.

Okay.  Look.  This one time.  But do not – NO – DAMMIT – don’t walk across my seat to get over there . . .

Emily’s gonna kill me when she sees the truck.  Oh well.  I’ll tell her you earned it today.

Hey – I’m gonna swing through McDonald’s for some REAL breakfast . . . You want something?

This conversation will only make sense to a waterfowler.

Or his dog.

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