by Eric Blair
In those days, boys had guns and when the fall rains swept across the Pacific Northwest, we would begin to talk about the hunting prospects.
was a tall, skinny kid who drove a pickup.
an odd choice during the Fifties when most sought out the gloriously
coupes and convertibles from recent decades: elegant works of art
round fenders, twin tailpipes and tuck 'n roll upholstery. But,
had a '39 International half ton. It would take him places that a
'50 Ford two-door dropped to the deck would not.
But, then, the rains were here. Like a modern basketball floor closing over a skating rink, the gray clouds closed over the northwest corner of the state. We dug out our hip waders from that last fishing trip, oiled the barrels of our shotguns, donned our war surplus rain gear and headed for the wetlands, large and small.
Jeff, the skinny kid with the pickup, knew all the places. (His last name is a Scottish term for a lonely, rainswept coastal landscape. His first wife came from a family whose surname means "wetlands.") He never ran for school office, went out for any school team, ran with any crowd, attended the periodic beer bashes or bought tickets to the appearances of the new kings of rock and roll that now included Portland in their circuit. If given the choice between dancing in the aisle at the Paramount Theatre to the rhythms of Buddy Holly and the Crickets, or arising before dawn to drive through the rain to an unheated duck blind, there was no angst of decision facing Jeff. The duck blind won, hands down.
Jeff wasn't a loner. If there was somebody to go hunting with, he would do it. But, unlike most, if there wasn't someone to hunt with, he would go, anyway. He rarely had much to say to anybody, but his conversation with the woods and the lakes and the skies went on constantly. You can visualize him alone in an icy rain, sitting in the dark beneath a crude roof made of wheat stalks. It is the silence before a deep and gloomy winter dawn. The clouds to the east lighten, and the wind picks up, sending sprays of raindrops across the surface of the dark pond. As the light builds, you can see the decoys he has set in the shallow water, and now the kehonk of geese can be heard as they begin to circle to get their bearings for the day's flight south.
is a whisper of wings, then two mallards drop amongst
Jeff looks at his watch, which has a radium dial. It will not be
legal to shoot for another fifteen minutes. In silence, he speaks
to the silence around him -- to the thunderingly quiet clouds, to
the cold wind bearing the cold rain, to the cornstalk spears sticking
out of the field pond, to the dark form of the oak in the middle of the
field and the shadow forest of firs on the distant hill.
They are one, and always shall be.
© 2007 Oregon Magazine