Of mentors, busted flocks and pocketsful of Twinkies
A person turning left must yield to oncoming traffic, or to the person turning right.
It’s a simple traffic rule that too many people either don’t know, or neglect.
If you’re the person turning right or going straight, and if you follow the rule, you’ll often be greeted by the bird.
The bird is a simple hand gesture of people who don’t know the rules, neglect them, or abandon the courtesy of neighborliness.
Courtesy and rules are words that can often be interchanged.
A similar foul applies to chasing fowl — or any other game — afield, where courtesy and rules are often unwritten, handed down by mentors wearing wool, stout boots and cammo face paint.
Any novice hunter without a mentor would be well served to find one.
Building a fire by rubbing sticks together isn’t a prerequisite for a mentor, because a butane lighter will do just fine, thankee very much.
The Fish and Game rule book is, however, a prerequisite for novice hunters despite its place stuffed into the moldy dip under the car seat. Leaf through its neglected pages to the paragraph that starts, “No person may …”.
Idaho, you might say, is a common-sense state where courtesy and rules come down to what’s sensible, such as don’t harass game animals, or, when in the woods, yield to others. And don’t approach someone’s decoys, blind or stand in an effort to trade a golden sponge cake with creamy filling, for a chocolate one with white filling.
Never do that.
There are other things a mentor can teach when the both of youze is sitting in a blind watching a flock of turkeys approach as your mentor works magic on a slate call — or a mouth reed or any number of Dr. Doolittle entrapments that allow communication with animals.
It’s imperative that you remain motionless.
Let the flock be the only thing moving, as long as it’s moving toward you.
The spinning earth will be moving too, allowing the sun to rise achingly slow over the wave-curves of the surrounding hills.
And the grouse near the creek that thump, thump thumps before whirring its wings in a frenzy seldom observed by mortals, it’ll move too, and that’s OK.
And maybe the field sparrows, or a varied thrush in a bush spotted by sunlight will twitter.
But not you.
Or your mentor.
You are still as bark. A gun barrel points at your decoys as it rides the Y your knees make as they press, unmoving, together.
Yelp-yelp, cutt, cutt, purr, your mentor tells the flock of birds that move toward you, stopping only for toms to glub, drag their wings, fan their tails, and dance famously like Oliver Hardy at a Decatur bourbon tasting.
These are the glorious days of spring your mentor has told you about. So, you’ve prepared by tucking two turkey tags into your vest, dropping the heavy 12 gauge shells — the ones that pattern and have punch — into the deep pockets where they won’t rub or click together. You painted your face … Looky there. Where? I can’t see you.
In a few minutes you will cut your tag, high five your mentor, and admire the beard and fanned tail of your quarry.
But wait a minute. What’s this?
Sounds like a two-stroke engine. Nope. It’s several two stroke engines and they are farming the earth and getting louder as they till the soft, spring soil down by the creek and wet meadow you crossed in the dark to get here.
You see them now gaily outfitted in reds and glow-green as they dart through the trees, speedily approaching the field, the edge of which you have staked as your own. And they rumble toward the turkeys that were moving your way, until now.
The birds begin to putt putt loudly and chaotically as the toms fold their sails and along with the hens, begin a slow trot toward the tree line. Then their scrawny bird legs more rapidly kick grass as the whole rafter scampers full bore and takes wing like a bevy of herons while the motorbikes and four-wheelers, a growling and sputtering brick of firecrackers all lit to bang at once, yeehaw and holler as they bust — nay — scare the body fluids out of the birds in a festive, rodeo, hullabaloo.
When the fracas breaks over the hill and into the canyon, its clatter fading, and the gang of turkeys glide into the next county, the only thing moving are the decoys in front of you. They silently nod in the breeze.
This is where a mentor really comes in handy.
Because instead of crying foul, or raising the bird in a hand gesture accompanied by the guttaral howl such a situation deserves, he or she remains completely undiscomfited.
Mentors have seen this sort of thing before.
Maybe many times.
That is why they wear wool, which reminds them of discomfort.
They will turn to you eventually and smile.
And ask to trade their golden sponge cake snack with creamy filling for yours, a small chocolate cake with white filling.
It is this unemotional composure that won them the title of mentor.
Ralph Bartholdt is a staff writer for the Hagadone News Network He can be reched at firstname.lastname@example.org