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October 27, 2017

This is the article I mentioned in yesterday’s blog. I was certain I had posted it and was truly surprised to find it in my Unfinished folder. While not a typical Faith Filled Friday blog, maybe we could consider that God always loves us not matter how stupid or senile we get.  ~ Connie

When Kristen, the Greenwood Magazine publisher, asked me to do an article on the pointing dog field trials I got excited. I’ve never been to any field trials and had no clue what to expect. All I knew about hunting dogs was from historical novels.
I imagined a beautiful country home surrounded by a well-groomed lawn with fashionably dressed women casually strolling about; and men carrying their shotguns over their shoulder waiting for the next quail to fly off from its hiding place beneath small bushes tucked neatly around the edges of the lawn. Horses would be neighing in a nearby barn adding to the calls of children as they played stick ball along the far side of the house. Truly a genteel setting.
Reality was a little different. Turning into the driveway, the first sight was a beautiful home with its neatly trimmed lawn. The sight changed dramatically as we went around to the back.
A narrow strip of yellow tape separated the knee-high grasses from the mowed lawn. The thick green tangled mass made it hard to see the dangers in the soft earth–deep hoof impressions from the horses, ruts, puddles of water on the marshy uneven ground, and even the interwoven blades of grass that tangled around my ankles and made walking exceptionally difficult.
Trucks and horse trailers filled up a large portion of the area. A green port-a-potty oddly blended in with the small early pioneer-style log home it stood beside. There were two more pioneer homes and a huge red barn. Completing the scene was a canopied area with a long table and a few lunch items remaining on it.
I found Melissa and Rick, two competitors, and talked briefly to them. I learned a bit about what to expect, but did not understand all the terms. I was surprised to learn that as many women as men enjoyed this competitive sport.
Doug and Heather Miller were the host and hostess of the event. They were both on horseback and Heather wore a lovely pair of pearl earrings. She had planned to wear the matching necklace but forgot to put it on. Pearls should have been incongruous with hunting and mud, but it was a beautiful pairing.
Heather explained to my husband Jack, my photographer, that he could drive the two-track trail around the edge of the woods down to where they were working the dogs. Kristen had a guy taking pictures, but I like to have some of my own so I can refer to them when describing the scene.
We reached the hunting team. They were all on horseback and using blanks in their pistols for the dogs’ training. Jack dropped me off and went his own merry photo-taking way.
The group conversation began with what to do with me since I could not walk around the course. I heard banter about riding with Tony on the mule. I haven’t ridden a horse since my teenage years and have never been on a mule.
My first thought–Anything for an article!
I didn’t see a mule, but that didn’t mean one was not around somewhere, like the barn.
I was fifty-nine when I rode my first quad and headed out to the Grand Canyon to join a group ride only a few weeks later. I figured 67 was not too old to ride a mule for the first time.
My biggest concern was for the poor mule. I’m hefty and was sure a man would add another one hundred and fifty pounds or more. How much can a mule carry?
Heather and her horse Buck trotted over to me. She explained that I could ride with Tony on the mule. I told her my weight and asked out loud this time, “How much can the mule carry?”
At first she looked at me with a blank expression then giggled. “Oh, the mule isn’t an animal, it’s a Kawasaki four-by-four.”
Please, think of me as being simply naive instead of just-plain-stupid.
Riding that “mule” was no easier than riding the real animal! There were no doors. Tony pointed out the handholds he had installed and I gripped one tightly, praying I stayed in the seat. I soon learned I could put my feet up on the metal engine casing, but I still didn’t feel like I was going to stay put unless I held on.
Tony was a great driver and politely kept his chuckling to a minimum. The only time I was truly worried was going over the little creek. The clear water looked so pretty rippling along. My side of the mule dipped into an unseen hole and tilted over pretty far. As the water spilled across the floor, I said a quick prayer they we would not tip all the way over!
We made it across and headed up a steep hill. The little mule seemed reluctant to keep going. Am I going to have to get out to push our little mule up the hill! Tony shifted gears and we were up on top before you knew it.
Tony took me around the course twice. His job was to hide the quails and explain more about the hunt. I tried to make notes, but the vibrations and bumps made legible writing impossible. At times it was hard to see the quail and the dogs because of the overgrowth and the need to keep our distance from the hunters.
I hardly understood most of what they talked about, but I had a good time and learned a lot. While the people were great and it was fun, it’s not a sport I’m going to take up. I’d rather go fishing.

From → Short Stories

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