It was a first for all of us. All of us being Sister Duvall, Brother-in-Law Rex, His Grace (aka my husband Tom, for new readers) and me. Not the first quail hunting per se, but quail hunting the Southern old-fashioned way, on horseback and mule-drawn wagons like they do down around Thomasville and Tallahassee. I reckon it is about the only place in the world they still do it like this, and it is something to see–and to do.
Moreover there’s something gratifying and beautiful about the preservation of a sporting tradition that harkens both to a by-gone way of life and to a present-day livelihood.
Hundreds if not thousands of folks are employed on the big plantations here. Some dating to ante-bellum days, the old places were in many cases revived by wealthy Northerners in the 1920s who wanted to come South in the winter and ride and shoot. In addition to hunting they also grew crops and farmed timber, and still do.
The bird dogs–these were all pointers–ride on the wagon in cages where they are all ’bout to bust their britches until they get out there and hunt, giving new meaning to the term “hell bent for leather,” despite their having un-hell-bent-sounding names like Bob and Sue.
Their yeoman names belie their magnificence. They streak and leap through very kind of brush and briar ’til they smell a covey of birds, then they point and hold quivering still, while the hunters walk up. When the covey flushes, the hunter shoots.
I missed and made a face. “You act like this is easy,” said Reid, meaning it ain’t.
But honestly what I love most is being outside and watching the dogs work. Could do it all day. The thing about nature, however, is that sometimes, as they say in hunting circles, “it rains.” And then you have to put on, as the shooting crowd calls it, “rain gear.”
Sometimes you don’t have rain gear and you have to, to use another hunting term, “wear your husband’s hideous poncho.”
Not that I wasn’t grateful. (Silver Lining: I learned I could re-touch my laugh-lines in i-Photo, in case you were wondering how I took such a flattering picture.)
Just about the time we were going to call it a day, it cleared up, and we carried on.
Our hunt was a generous gift from Rex to His Grace, who is kinda hard to buy for. Rex figures this trip covers His Grace’s next 35 Christmases and birthdays. For the record Sister and I, while really happy to come along, personally were not planning to be covered for the next 35 Christmases and birthdays. Just saying.
The best thing, though, was a sign in the store where we stopped to get a cup of coffee. I’ll post that next time…