Dove Season

dove

The first of September has always been the opening of dove season in Texas. So all of my young life, that week before was the time Daddy got his shotguns out to clean and rummaged around to pull his hunting vests out of the closet. And many times it meant heading to my grandparents in Waco for the weekend.
Daddy, his dad, my Pampa, and maybe an uncle or cousin, and my brothers (when they were old enough) would wake and head out in the dark of the morning to the leases – property where they had permission to hunt. I imagine they would begin their day at a truck stop or small cafe for a big breakfast, stock up on vienna sausages and saltines for lunch – the beer and cokes were already in the coolers-and then head down a dusty dirt road to a likely spot to start the day.
The dogs would be let out of the cages or the trunks of the cars, given a drink and turned loose to scent the birds. And they would find them.
Dove are ground feeders, so the best leases were grain fields with stock ponds, where there would be plenty of food and water. And doves make a whistling sound as they rise up from the ground. The sound of their wings, loud and furious, as the dogs startled them from their hiding places.
And so the hunt would begin.
It would be dark thirty, as we say in our family, before the sweaty and dusty hunters would be back from their day. And I loved that smell (I know its an odd thing to love) the dust and sweat, the smell of stale beer and cigarettes, the heavy canvas bags, the dead birds, the blood. I would sit on the concrete steps and watch the tiny feathers float in the air as the men cleaned the birds.
Mom and Mamma, my grandmother, would always do the final cleaning, trying to get the very last piece of birdshot out of the meat (though most of the time somebody would bite down on a tiny piece of lead!)
Then it was time to start the cooking. The birds were pan fried with just salt and pepper and a dusting of flour. Mashed potatoes, cream gravy, biscuits and fruit salad rounded out the feast.
On a good hunting day, everyone would get their fill of dove – with the hearts a choice treat. It was a special time for our family.

I guess I am telling you this story because its that time of year and I miss my dad and that sense of belonging in that particular autumn ritual of our family.

And the dove are feeding in my yard.

Here is a poem I wrote years ago about –

Dove Season

My people were dog people.
Hunting dogs, mostly,
Shorthaired pointers, lemon and red,
With royal names, Duchess and Princess-
English setters, liver and white,
Each successor named Zip.

September was dove season-
Guns would be cleaned,
Trips to the leases planned.
Daddy and PamPa, with uncles and brothers in tow,
Leave in the dark morning
With dogs, guns and coolers in the trunk.

Late afternoon in the deepening dusk,
The hunters arrive home
Smelling of fields and gunpowder and beer.
Small still birds spill from canvas bags,
Tiny feathers and the scent of blood
Float in the air–
A pitying of dove.

(revision)

The Last Really Good Shack #36

The Last Really Good Shack - porch
It has been a while since we talked about the shack. But it’s spring cleaning time around here and it reminded me of the springtimes we enjoyed in our little piece of Ozarks paradise.
I would want to start my spring cleaning in early April but always waited until most of the pollen had let loose from our old white oaks. They were huge and really just about the last to flower, tassel and then pour out all that gritty green goodness that covered every possible inch of everything. My car and Bob’s truck would change colors to this dusty yellow green – thick as West Texas dust. It would make you sneeze just to look at it. And you know, the owners of every car wash for miles would be grinning from ear to ear and taking wheelbarrows full of rolled quarters to the bank every night.
Anyway, after the worst was over, I would scrub every inch of my house, washing walls and scrubbing floors, changing the linens from the warm woolens of the winter to the light cottons of spring. Furniture would be cleaned, rugs taken up and stored and light curtains hung in all the windows. Even the scented candles would be changed from sandalwood to lavender. And after all the inside of the house was fresh and airy, perfumned with the scent of Murphy’s Oil Soap and bleach, we would start working on the outside.
Now as you remember, our front porch was humongous – 10 foot wide and 35 feet long, covered with a tin metal roof and furnished with the rattan furniture given to us by Mom when she moved to the townhouse.
For the first couple of years, the spring cleaning would begin with shucking the slip covers off to wash, scrubbing the furniture and floor with Murphy’s (just love that stuff) washing all the decorative things that were left out to get covered in the oak pollen. And then after washing the railings and front of the house, the windows would be washed. Then the newly laundered slip covers were shimmied back onto the cushions, spring pillows plumped and arranged, newly washed accessories returned to their places, well shaken rugs laid back in their place and we were done!
In the third spring of the porch, a little more elbow grease was called for. We re-stained the floor and the railings and paint the trim. We used a transparent gray stain for the flooring and the bottom rails and stiles. Then the trim and top rails were painted a wonderful shade of burgundy called merlot. These colors just sang against the white siding. And in an area that believed in earth tones only – seriously every house and building was painted in shades of brown and beige – yikes – well, our color choices stood out.
After the porch was done, the rattan furniture was carried out to the side yard, scrubbed with bleach water and painted with a couple of coats of clear satin poly. Then all the other spring cleaning rituals insued with the slip covers etc etc.
And I loved my slipcovers! My mom helped me make them. We picked out gray and white striped pillow ticking and made big huge envelopes to tuck the cushions into. I found colorful flowered pillows to add to the comfort and locally made rag rugs on the floor. Now remember, this was the early 90s, and country was a very ‘in vogue’ look and we DID live in a country house in the country. So no snickers.
It was a comfortable porch, where we would eat as many meals as possible, sit and read or just while away the day. If family was visiting, there were always bubbles to blow, games to play and stories to tell. A magical perch to watch the seasons move across the ridge, be delighted by evenings illuminated by fireflies, and to watch comets in the starry night sky.
I will close for now but will write again soon about the spring visitors we would see each season.
Until then……