Duck Hunter on Skid Road

October 23, 2008 — Seattle Skid Road (Yessler Way). My own apartment, thanks to Section 8. A new duck season opening in Washington. I was approved for Section 8 based on age and disability; a block off original Skid Road. Appropriate, since I’ve been on the skids for more than ten years.

Coming home after Thanksgiving last year, I tried to arrange a Columbia River duck hunt with an Ellensburg guide. But the trip north, with another malfunctioning U-Haul trailer, turned into a road trip from hell. N. pulled something in her side trying to reach under the dash to replace fuses blown by the U-Haul. My hands were so numb I couldn’t feel them. She was immediately in severe pain; a 911 call brought an ambulance to take her to the ER in Mesquite, Nevada. They diagnosed an impacted bowel. I rewired the U-Haul trailer on my own after U-Haul said I would have to pull it back to Vegas for them to do it. N., not totally recovered from surgery, was so wasted after the ER run we couldn’t travel very far at a time. We had a nice stop at a Royal City motel in a snow storm, after a crazy Utah stop where the toilet flooded our room in the middle of the night and the Indian proprietor absconded with my MagLite while moving us to another room.

I remembered Royal City in 1985’s summer heat when air conditioning blew at the State Patrol detachment in a defunct gas station if the coffee pot was plugged in; long-since replaced by a modern building in Tellevik’s statewide renovation plan.

George B. Tellevik died a few weeks ago.

I read his obits in the paper: cancer, a hard way to go. The obits were all complimentary about how, as State Patrol chief, he made the Patrol “politically invisible” again, after the contentious previous chief cost a sitting governor his job. Some of the obit was lifted from my press release announcing his 1992 retirement. I nominated GBT for public affairs administrator of the year in 1991; a state-government award. He won easily but was honestly confused. “Shouldn’t this be your award?” he said. No, I said, this one is yours — you gave me the authority to do the things necessary to rebuild public trust; any PR guy would kill for a boss like you. So he turned around and nominated me for “Who’s Who in The West” — and I was accepted. I had a longer entry than the governor who appointed GBT chief. When challenged, I fell back on Babe Ruth’s comment about making more money than the U.S. President: “I had a better season.”

What do you do for a guy like GBT? Anything you can; everything you can. He was the best there ever was. RIP, Chief.

And now finally, duck season 2008. I won my Social Security appeal, with full back benefits. So I purchased a Lincoln Creek Hunting Club membership from Lorraine two years after Corky died. For the first time in my life I am a fully paid-up member but the fields have yet to flood, so no opening-day shoot.

We had a fine old-time visit when I went to pay. I may get a “grifador” puppy, since Lorraine’s griffon Gabrielle was impregnated unexpectedly by the family black Lab. Lucky got lucky, but Lorraine says she can’t sell half-breed dogs, though each parent comes from champion stock. N. really loved Gaby, smart and sweet. Lorraine said I am the first male Gaby has taken to since Corky died. She said Gaby thinks I’m Corky’s litter mate; big, gray-bearded and bald.

I’m moving to Chehalis to be near the club, but haven’t moved yet — another damn move. I finally own a three-inch Model 12 Winchester Heavy Duck, $300 and a great find; good shape with minor hunting blemishes. I’ve seen far worse for over twice the price…

(I was sixty-five that year, overly conscious of increasing aches and pains, and officially recognized disabilities like diabetes and sleep apnea and stenosis, that made getting around more and more difficult. Hadn’t had a hunting season in ten years. Which prompted me to weigh my present physical state against that of a decade earlier, still reasonably fit and 90 pounds lighter.

(Way my brain works, I then attempted to project likely atrophy or entropy ten years ahead. I underestimated badly. Now pushing 78 hard, I am largely housebound but for always difficult trips to various doctors. And once more have not had a hunting season in ten years. My decoys gather dust and spiderwebs, my duck boat leans on cracked trailer tires in my son’s yard, my hunting clothes fill an unopened trunk, and the Model 12 sleeps with its companions in my safe.

(This summer — 50 excess pounds shed, a medication change, and physical therapy, gave me a month of more activity, less pain, and a little surge of hope. I spent a vigorous hour scrubbing my dog’s travel kennel free of moss and mildew — and pinched a nerve in my hip that numbed my whole right leg. Back to hobbling behind a wheeled walker, unable to feel the accelerator pedal when I drive, prognosis up to six months for recovery. Well into the coming season. I sure hate giving up, but I am running out of decades.)