My friend Boudreaux and I were so much alike that we could have switched physical bodies and only our wives might have noticed.
We hunted, we got married every seven years, we devoted hours to agrarian pursuits under the intense summer glare of the Tropic of Cancer Solunar migration. And we introduced one another to some of the grandest single malt available to man.
When we made the money we did what money was purposed for. When we were broke, we improvised, and among other acts of parsimony, we drank Christian Brothers on the rocks with a splash. . . of Coke.
Our time at the Bamburg County home place was the epitome of how to do a joyful life. If you were there, laughs were so numerous everybody present had the bellyache. At the breach of the winter solstice, we were still shooting doves or riding the top of the truck's dog box watching for the next “point” and anticipating with smack talk the next covey rise.
Come the holiday season, we were off to Texas to shoot geese on the Rice Bowl flats, south of El Campo. If the timing was right, we headed over to Stuttgart to call and jump shoot the world’s fattest mallards in flooded timber stands or handmade pirogues that only a swamp native could stand up in. Or, we could opt for Central Florida’s Emeralda Marsh for blue winged rockets and kamikaze ringnecks, with wood ducks and tree ducks thrown in.
When hunting, my bud, the inscrutable Boudreaux Barrineau was want to pass up an impromptu nap when the mid morning excitement had worn thin or the ravages of the previous night’s indulgence called for a respite retreat. If Boo’s butt was holding up the upper half of his body and he had a tree or any kind of backrest he was well prepared for a somnolent intermission. Those instantaneous episodes of rapid eye movement unconsciousness lasted maybe ten to fifteen minutes. In the deep woods, a well concealed tree stand, or hidden in the underbrush, he could do this thing without notice, except for one telltale problem; snoring apnea, of the variety thunderclap. It sounded like a boar hog at the discovery of a smashed up pile of watermelons – a growling inhaled snort with a short staccato of deep throated snarking. Sounded like bigfoot being goosed. Small birds and wandering rodents, in the immediate proximity, always started and/or flushed post haste.
One lovely day in late March, with the high noon temps approaching 65 and the crocuses now in decline, we had taken up stations with the hope of fooling a grainfed senior gobbler that we had hooted up before daylight. When I say “hooted” I mean whooping up sonorously the call of a lonely barn owl during the dark interlude before daylight. Turkey’s roost in trees at night and gobblers sleep alone until after springtime. They won’t answer a hen call until light. But, a lonely barn owl within earshot pisses a turkey gobbler off and he lets the world know how much. Go figure. One of Nature’s nuances* that makes nocturnal knocking about worth the effort.
*A subtle or delicate degree of meaning, tone, or feeling.
We had set up on either side of the “valley”, a pasture about two hundred yards wide by a quarter mile long, that was bordered on the north by an elevated one lane dirt path skirting a slash pine grove with perfect rows of eight to ten foot high sentinels. Across this ancient riverbed fronting the far “shoreline” was a patchwork of twenty foot high vegetated dirt and rock piles that gave good cover from the pasture below and the high woods behind. I took a rock pile with a 360 degree field of vision and Boo took the three foot brush next to the road-path a few feet into the pines. He’d brought a canvas beach chair , I could see where his hunt results were headed long before we got there.
Dawn cracked and thirty minutes later Boo rattled forth with a convincing string of gobbler declarations. I could see through the fieldglasses and he’d done a good job of concealment. He even put wads of brown cord grass in his lap.
What we assumed was our live, bearded male quarry thundered right back at us and I could hear him fly down from the roost a good ways into the woods behind me. At 8:00 o’clock I put on my best lovesick hen inspiration and when finished focused on the silence hoping for an acknowledgment that after ten minutes didn’t come. For the next two hours, every thirty minutes I called with my best seduction invitation. Once, Boudreaux joined in and we were a duet of longing, turkey female impersonators. By ten thirty it was obvious our boss turkey had better fields to strut. I couldn’t see where Boo was sitting he was camo’d so well. There was no giveaway fidgeting or hand swiping bugs. Then I noticed a platoon of turkey jakes strolling along the path headed directly to where I thought Boo had his roadside hiding place.
The young males puttered along perfectly upright, at attention like marching sand hill cranes. They were last spring’s young adult poults. None weighed more than eight pounds and only one had the beginning of a beard barely free of its breast feathers. The beard was too short to make him legal.
The group of bachelors made its way to Boudreaux’s hideout. They stopped, several scanned in different directions, they were alarmed. Then it happened. A snort, the equal of a grizzly bear rattled across the valley. The jakes stood their ground, but one took off running back the way they’d come with the dispatch of a Texas Roadrunner. I waved my arm in the air, hoping that the great white hunter might be awake enough to see my alarm.
Then Boo snorted again and in the next breath shouted his surprise realizing there was a crowd of turkeys milling around in front of his beach lounger. At that moment, they began to take flight. I saw straw explode into the air as three birds flew straight into the grove lane where Boudreaux sat. Boo‘s gun went off and a hapless jake standing five yards from him disappeared in an explosion of feathers. I looked through the binoculars and Boo was getting up off the ground.
Turns out, one escapee flew into Boo’s chest, knocking him out of the beach chair. As he hit the ground, he rolled over, shotgun in hand, and blew a turkey teenager into feathered oblivion. Somehow he lost his hat. He swore from that day forward that one of the jakes flew off with it. He could have been right. I found his hat the next year under a tree stand ladder fifty yards into the slash pines. Oh, I forgot. The bird that wumped Boo in the chest crapped in his lap, too.
It was nearly noon as we gathered ourselves up to walk back to the truck. Halfway there a thunderous gobbling rolled up the “valley” behind us. We turned to see our boss gobbler fly across the expanse and into the pine grove, his huge wings crashing through the trees as he landed.
I later stuck one of the dead jake’s tail feathers in my hat band as a remembrance of the day and a reminder to Boudreaux of the importance of a mid-morning nap.
Interveiw with a local outdoor writer:
"Mr. Barrineaux, what do you and your friends do for fun?”
Boudreaux: “We drink – we hunt – we make love.”
Interveiwer: “What do you drink?”
Boudreaux: Scotch . . . Well, actually, anything that’s over ten proof.”
Interveiwer: “Okay. What do you hunt?
Boudreaux: “Somethin’ to make love to.”
Please don’t write and ask about divorces. Thank You.