14 Years Ago

Bill Burkett
4 min readMar 19, 2024

--

A text from my son about my now-married eldest granddaughter’s interest in family medical history reminded me how fast time flies. Seems only yesterday she went duck-hunting with us. From my Diaries:

December 14, 2010 — Three days ago Suzanna, my eleven-year-old granddaughter, gave me a feather for my Stormy Kromer cap — tail feather of a big old yellow-crown widgeon drake Beau and I doubled on from the Webster blind. It was the only duck we shot — yet one of the best days I ever had duck-hunting.

The joy of having Suzanna with us was so pure, so undiluted that even my crippled foot paused in its steady pain signals for the day. The feather is here in my log to mark the day.

“Three generations in the blind,” Beau said, grinning.

Suzanna wanted to see what this duck hunting is all about. She was so alive with excitement, so serious about checking to make sure her surviving grandfather was okay — wanting to know how could she help to make it easier for me?

I put the larger of the two decoy sleds in the Bronco and Beau used it to float Suzanna across the thigh-deep creek at the bottom of the hill, sitting carefully to keep it trim, and holding the tether to the smaller sled with decoys.

She wore borrowed rubber “barn boots.” Beau couldn’t find the chest waders I gave him, so he had to tread very carefully in hip boots. Suzanna had her very own scaled-down GameHide waterproof camo jacket.

After they crossed the creek, she towed the smaller sled with the FeatherFlex decoys over the bridge and to the tops of her barn boots in the back field before Beau put her back in the larger sled to ride to the blind; knee-deep back there.

While Beau put out decoys, she efficiently organized the guns, the blind bags, the lunches. He put out all the Feather-Flex and added nine hard decoys that he carried in my old Eddie Bauer decoy poncho, purchased the year he was born. All I had to do was hobble to the blind on my crutch with a ski pole in my other hand for balance.

We were late getting set, but it didn’t matter; we were there. A mild gray rain-dappled day with small breezes that came and went and moved the decoys. Large flocks of ducks seem to have left the valley, though I worked a couple of nice bunches of pins that refused to commit.

Ducks were flaring overhead when other blinds shot, a sure sign they’re locals. I had a serous conversation with one flight of honkers but they moved on.

Suzanna brought her .410 and I had her aim at a FeatherFlex decoy for a target. She said to me: are you serious? I can shoot one of your decoys? It went under in a welter of spray, popped back up. The report hurt her ears and the gun kicked her and she was sullen for a few minutes but got over it. Beau conceded he should have brought ear plugs for her. “No!” she said firmly. “They make my ears feel funny!”

Beau missed a big old mallard drake three straight times. Suzanna: “Good job, Dad.”

I laughed pretty hard at that and so did the old dogs at the Grange when I told them the story. “No,” she insisted. “I thought he got it! That’s why I said it.” Such an innocent child to begin prevaricating so early around ducks.

Three mallards landed in front of the back blind. They were specks to me. I said you can see the colors and feathers plainly, right?

She was surprised: “How do you know that? I didn’t tell you!”

Beau said he knows because you have our vision. I said the vision I used to have. She said “but I wear glasses to read!” I said good; I didn’t start until I was 30, so maybe you’ll never need distance glasses. She studied the far-away ducks and said, “Dad, I could get them with that .22–250 we shot.” I have no doubt she could.

I gave her Wanda’s old burnt-orange face mask to keep. Beau shot pictures of us in the blind and of her towing the decoy sled. Watching her tow that sled, and them cross the creek together so precisely, created a powerful emotion. My foot seemed to mend itself as the day wore on. We stopped at the gun show and I walked every aisle. That lasted almost 24 hours before pain flared up again. “You’re running on love,” N. said, and it must have been true.

--

--

Bill Burkett

Professional writer, Pacific Northwest. 20 Books: “Sleeping Planet” 1964 to “Venus Mons Iliad” 2018–19. Most on Amazon for sale. Il faut d’abord durer.