For thirty years I did damn little creative writing. I was a newspaperman and then a civil servant, and the only consistent personal writing I did was in my hunting logs. This was my first attempt to turn a log entry into a story, and Ducks Unlimited Magazine published it. First of several, earning me enough “mad money” to buy some new shotguns and hunting gear. Years later, this century, my old newspaper-days pal, now an “e-publisher,” brought my logs to market as “The Duck Hunter Diaires.” The Nisqually story just seemed like the place to start, as first indicator I could write something that sold.

Nisqually River Delta, Washington State

The first unanticipated gust of south wind thumped into me sometime later.

I dug into my lunch and enjoyed the spectacle. This was more like duck-hunting weather, even if the ducks weren’t working my rig.

Only the heavy recoil of the ten-gauge two-ounce loads was familiar; the ten’s big boom was snatched away downwind, leaving behind not much more than a .410 pop. Harry watched all this disconsolately. His downwind ear stood straight out from his head on the wind. The other one flipped back over his head and fluttered like a crippled blackbird wing. The wind had him squinting through red-rimmed eyes. Me, too.

With full dark the wind seemed to redouble its force. I didn’t like that at all.

When I tried to hold the boat bow out to the sea while working back to the stern, the wind simply turned the boat around me. If I tried to halt the turn, it tried to push me under the boat. A thrill of fear ran through me: I was sweating heavily again, but my face was numb with cold. If I fell and got soaked now…

I had one last chance. I walked the boat gingerly out toward the flick of the distant buoy light. If I could reach the end of the spit, and let the wind take me across into deeper water downwind, I could set a course for the ship-channel buoy and hope no big freighters were plowing down the storm-tossed Reach.

The terminal fear of a soaking in frigid water shot through me again.

Only time I ever made a front page without being the reporter who wrote the story. I was called a “36-year-old state worker.” Which really bothered me: pitiful epitaph if things had gone differently. I recalled Pancho Villa allegedly pleading “tell them I said something” as he died. Tell them I WAS something, I wanted to say. Something besides a state worker, for God’s sake!

The water was gone.

The wind had quit. Just like that.

I looked at my watch in the moonlight. It was approaching two a.m.

It was an hour before I believed the wind was gone for good.

I was partnered with a taciturn cowboy from Idaho who told me one dismal ice-fog night that a man could remember every detail of his whole life in one night’s watch; you could get really deep inside your own head until you would almost resent being interrupted by the end of the shift. You could remember your triumphs and regret your mistakes, play them all out in your mind the way you should have played them when you had the chance…

I knew before I was fully awake the sound of helicopter rotors that invaded my dream was real. I opened my eyes to gray dawn. The sun hadn’t started to show yet, but my sensitized body could already feel its impending warmth.

“The payoff, by God,” I told him. “Look at ’em, Harry! Two of ‘em! Two of ’em at once!” I babbled a little. Harry curled back up and I sat down. I was half-considering putting out a few decoys.

“Hey!” one of them yelled. “Hey! You been here all night?”

“I haven’t been anywhere else,” I said.



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.

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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.