~Scrapbooking in the Southern Tier of NY, sharing ideas, comments, and my upcycled art. Also known for being slightly inappropriate, punny, and sarcastic.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Sunday Story: DUCK by Bruce Mero
The morning sun broke the eastern horizon at exactly the moment Eddie
pulled his Tempest onto the gravel shoulder of the road and turned off the
“Well, this is the place,”
I’d been dozing on and off
for the last half hour while he drove and was not aware of where we were until
then. We’d spotted this place a couple
of weeks ago and decided to return on the first day of the season to try our
luck at duck hunting.
“Let’s get the car unpacked
and haul this stuff over to the edge of the pond and set it up,” said
“Set what stuff up,” I
“That stuff,” he said,
nodding toward the back seat.
It had been dark when he
picked me up and I had been only half-awake when I slumped into his car and
closed my eyes. I had not noticed that
the back seat was piled full of gear that he thought we’d need to hunt
ducks. I’d brought a borrowed 16-gauge
shotgun and a pocket full of shells to the hunt, thinking that was all I’d
need. Eddie had another idea, and he’d
filled the back seat and stuffed the trunk of his car with enough gear to
outfit a several week safari.
We started by unpacking the
trunk, or rather, I started. Eddie had
taken his crutches out of the back seat and leaned against the side of the car
while I stacked his gear next to him. Eddie had been a paraplegic since being
injured in a serious car accident while he was in high school. He had broken his back in the accident and
now wore heavy braces on his legs and was unable to stand or walk without his
metal crutches. We were very good
friends and we both were comfortable joking about his disability.
“Who the hell is going to
carry all of this stuff,” I asked?
“You are,” he replied, “why
did you think I asked you to come along? I’ll help,” and he grabbed a backpack
and slung it onto his shoulder. “I’ll carry the beer,” he volunteered, and
started for the pond.
I took his two shotguns from
the trunk and a canvas bag of shells, picked my shotgun out of the front seat
and ran to catch-up with Eddie. He moved
quickly on this braces and crutches, metal parts clanking on one another as he
plunged into the high grass. I drew
along side just as he came to a four-strand, barbed wire fence. Undeterred, he hoisted a crutch and braced
leg over the top wire while holding it down with his other crutch, bounced once
and vaulted over, pivoting on the first crutch over the fence. He fell on his back, rolled once and picked
“Shucks, now the beer will
be all foam,” he said.
And he moved off. I managed to get through the fence with a bit
more grace, adjusted the three shotguns I’d slung over my shoulders and caught
up with him.
“You’re going to have to
make a few more trips with our stuff,” he remarked nonchalantly, and rattled
quickly across the pasture toward the pond.
About 50 feet from the next
barbed wire fence, I heard heavy footsteps and branches breaking behind me and
to my left. I glanced over my shoulder
and spotted a cow emerging from the brush a hundred feet to our right. I realized that the cow was actually a bull
when he shook his horns and bolted for us.
With a yelp, Eddie and I were instantly at a dead run. I made it to the fence only a second or two
ahead of my friend and cleared the wire.
With a great metallic clatter, Eddie vaulted over, catching the tail of
his raincoat on the barbed wire in mid-flight and landing in a heap at the base
of the fence. He rolled once to get away
from the fence, the raincoat ripping into pieces as he did, and stood up. The back of his raincoat had stayed behind on
the barbed wire and he had dropped the backpack of beer on the bull’s side of
the fence. The bull stopped short of the
fence, snorted and feigned a charge at us.
Eddie charged back and grabbed the fence in his hands. He was going back for the beer, but
reconsidered when the bull charged the fence.
Eddie fell back. The bull then
noticed the backpack, lowered his head and gored it. The backpack stuck on the bull’s horn and he
raised his head and shook. Foam spilled
from the bag as the bull threw it down and stomped it with his front
hoofs. Beer cans could be heard popping
with each crash of hoofs.
“Crap,” said Eddie. He ripped off the remainder of his raincoat
from both arms, threw the pieces over the fence at the bull and turned toward
the pond. “Come on,” he said, “you go
back later and see if there are any good cans left.”
We settled on a dry spot
next to the edge of the pond. Eddie sat
on the ground and I handed him the guns and shotgun shells. I went back to the car to get more of his
gear, prudently going around the outside of the pasture to avoid the bull who
was snorting and charging the ripped raincoat piece still hanging on the fence. The beer was a total loss, I figured and besides,
there was no way I was going back into the pasture to see if there were any
good cans left.
At the car, I sorted the
gear. Some stuff I would carry to the
pond, some I would leave in the car.
Only a cooler of sandwiches and a pair of hip waders made the cut. I left behind a portable duck blind, an
inflatable two-man raft with paddles, a canvas pup tent, four rolls of toilet
paper, a huge roll of plastic sheeting, two folding chairs, a cooking kit, a
first-aid kit, a tool box, two sleeping bags, air mattresses, an axe, a
camouflage umbrella, two fishing poles, a tackle box, six more boxes of shotgun
shells, a portable radio, eight duck and three goose decoys and a Boy Scout
manual. The bull was still kicking the
beer bag around when I passed along the pasture fence. I was headed to the spot
where I’d left Eddie when I heard him fire-off three shots.
I ran down to the pond and
Eddie was excited.
“I got one, I think,” he
said, pointing to a spot on the water between two dead trees.
“Got one what? I don’t see
anything,” I responded, annoyed that he’d not waited for me to return before
he’d started hunting.
“A duck,” he said. and
pointed to the same spot. “Put on the
waders and go and get him for me,” said Eddie.
“What do I look like, your
retriever?” I replied.
“How the hell else did you
expect to get the ducks we shoot,” he snorted.
“I brought a raft and hip waders with us, you only brought the waders
back from the car. Either you go back and get the raft or you go out there with
the hip waders on and get my duck.”
I took off my jacket and
grabbed the boots.
I’d never put my feet into
waders before and these were many sizes too big for me. I pulled the straps tight and the boots still
flapped loose at my chest, great rubber wrinkles at my knees and ankles. My first step into the mud was a new
experience. I immediately got both feet
stuck in the mud and lurched forward into the pond. I was unable to get up unassisted, so I
rolled to my side and Eddie poked a crutch in my direction and pulled me onto
firmer ground. I was mud
everywhere. I spit out cold mud and
wiped pond slime from my face with my sleave.
“Come on,” he said
impatiently, “quit screwing around and go get my duck.”
Slowly I gained confidence
wading out into the chest-deep water. I
still couldn’t see where Eddie’s duck was, but he directed me to the spot
between the dead trees he’d thought it had dropped. The mucky pond-bottom was
full of roots and rocks and several times I lost my footing and nearly went
I was about seventy-five
feet from shore when Eddie yelled
“Where?” I yelled, thinking
he was still directing me toward the missing duck.
“Duck” he screamed again and
he fired off three shots, two of which slammed into the dead tree at my right,
a few yards above my head, showering me with wood slivers.
I wasn’t sure what he meant
by “duck”, but when he pulled off three more rounds and the top of the tree to
my left splashed into the water, I ducked…underwater. It was an involuntary action; stupid in
retrospect, but a survival response. I
squatted and my entire body went down as the hip-waders filled with water and
sucked me under. After a moment, I
recovered, stood up and looked back at Eddie.
“Creep, you scared them
away,” he cried, thrusting his shotgun in the air.
“Son-of-a-....., I’m going
to kill you,” I yelled and headed toward him. The water-filled waders were
impossible to maneuver. I stepped on a
slippery log, fell backwards and went under again.
It was precisely at that
moment that I quit duck hunting forever.
I can’t even remember the rest of what happened that morning. I know that by the time I managed to get
myself out of the pond, Eddie was headed back to the car at a clanking,
deliberate pace, carrying everything he could manage to carry. He knew I was pissed. I kept the hip waders on for the return trip
and sloshed muddy pond water onto his car seat with every bump. Eddie kept to himself on the way home. He made a half-hearted attempt to interest
me in another hunting adventure as he left me at my apartment, but he knew from
my silence that the suggestion was going nowhere. We’re still good pals, but we’ve not been
hunting together since, and don’t talk about it much, either.