Road hunting and coffee with Ray…


Back in the day, I hunted birds.  In my early years it was about the killing but as I aged, it became about the seeing.  There was greater reward in watching pheasants and quail scurry through brush and thickets as they rushed to escape me.  (If they knew of my shooting prowess they could’ve taken flight or moseyed at a leisurely pace or simply stayed put.)  My gun, a fine 20 gauge Beretta, was ideal for the ‘sport’ yet it has resided with my son-in-law, Tim, for half a decade.  I won’t need it again.

Many of my hunting sojourns were with my buddy, Ray.  For a long while he was my boss but was more friend than boss.  Invariably, he’d pick me up before dawn in his forest green Ford Explorer, we’d hit the nearest convenience store for donuts and coffee and off we’d go for the morning’s hunt (if you could call it that).  We’d walk the fields when we could but were perfectly content to cruise the roads ever vigilant for the stray bird that might cross our path or poke his head up from a weedy patch.  If we saw the “prey”, great, if not, it was still a good morning.  It was about road hunting with Ray and a cup of coffee.

I hadn’t seen Ray in a while until I returned to Des Moines a few weeks ago.  I followed up with him on my return to North Carolina.

—————–

May 12, 2011

Ray: It was incredibly great to see you at Hemminger’s on Friday night.  Ironically, if you’d not been there I was planning to stop by your place sometime on Saturday and take my chances that you’d be home.  No doubt that would have taken the new owners of your old home – and me, too – by complete surprise.  Everyone really looked the same, it’s just me that feels the aging process has taken a toll.

I’m glad we had a chance to catch up and go back to the old days.  Jeez, are we really aging that fast?  It would be wonderful to get in the shotgun seat of your Ford Explorer and cruise the back roads toward Winterset sipping coffee and looking for stray birds along the roadside.  Those were the days, they really were.  Glad to hear that you still get down that way.  It’s been an easy 6-7 years since I’ve hunted pheasants.  My Beretta is in the safe hands of my son-in-law in the Twin Cities and it’s never even crossed my mind to go quail hunting down in these parts.  You really don’t see much of that kind of news item in the paper down here.  It’s either fishing or maybe the stray story about killing the small deer they have down in these parts.  But nothing on birds.

It’s been five years down in Charlotte, and most of it has been fine enough.  The job is what it is and I do like most of it.  I’m ensconced in a 3 BR condo that masquerades as a three story townhome (I am starting to rue the multiple flights of stairs.  Better purchase decisions have been made).  I bought for convenience which means my commute to the downtown area is about 20 minutes vs. the smooth 45-60 minutes it would be elsewhere.  Just this week I’ve started to work at home as something of a telecommuter although it is my option to go to the home office when I am so moved.  The bank has several satellite offices around the outskirts of the city and those are options, too.  We have 15,000 employees here, which is actually down a fair number from even a couple of years ago.  I miss those days at Meredith.  I can’t believe what a job the city has done in the formerly ragged stretch from the airport to the downtown.  It is incredible.  Charlotte could learn from that.  It’s very impressive.

The kids are faring just fine.  Ellen is teaching up in St. Paul, and Reid is toiling at some digital ad agency in Chicago and although he tries to explain precisely what he does, all he sees is the dazed look in my eyes.  He gets it and I don’t.  I don’t know when Ellen and her hubby Tim will join the parenting brigade but my guess is it won’t be too far off.  The peer pressure from her friends with babies must be enormous.  I’m not sure I’m ready to be a grandpa or whatever it is the kids would call me.

Still have the Harley, and last year was the first year I’ve put some serious miles on it.  I have a delightful girlfriend, and she and I put about 8,000 miles on the rig.  Great roads down here.  Great.  County road crews don’t have much practice in paving straight lines.  Everything is a curve.  The paths aren’t as maintained as they are in Iowa but it’s been a lot of fun to hit the different ‘bergs down here.  You haven’t seen the South until you get out in the boonies, and believe me, it doesn’t take much to reach the boonies.  Good for you to head back to Sturgis.  Wish I could go.  I’m playing a little golf but my swing is sooo bad that it’s ceased to be as much fun.

Well, listen buddy, it was great to see you.  Say hi to Jan, keep me posted on the lurid days in Sturgis, and maybe I can borrow that stray gun you mentioned when I come back in October.

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