Things have been different since the Hunting Club let the deer lease go. It has also been difficult to adjust to dramatically new ways of doing things.
Instead of joining the guys for several dove hunts this year, I spent only one day with them, shooting birds, laughing and having a great time. Dove hunting is a social event, therefore, most of us spend a considerable amount of time visiting and making fun of the other person's shooting skills.
I took my two teenage daughters with me the next weekend and found that the vast gulf between our ages sometimes becomes startlingly clear. For example, hunting with girls requires more planning during the initial stages of the activity.
"Let's go!" I shouted at the empty living room. "We need to get out there."
"Just a minute!" came the call from someone's bedroom.
"You've had plenty of time. What are you doing!!??"
The Redhead came around the corner. "I was fixing my hair."
"We're going hunting. No one is paying any attention to hair. Where's your sister?"
She stomped around the corner and stopped in front of the mirror. "Just getting ready. Have you seen my iPod?"
"Don't need it. We're going hunting" I looked at her flip-flops "Where are your hiking shoes?"
"I don't know. They were on the floor the last time I saw them."
"That was six months ago," I answered, thinking of the thousands of pairs of shoes I've kicked out of the way.
"Did anyone get toilet paper?"
"Get in the car."
Unlike typical trips to the field with the guys, our drive was quiet. It smelled better, though, in the car.
Once there, we gathered shotguns, shooting belts and shells. They made me proud by carrying the shotguns properly.
"Let's scatter along the fence, here," I said. The Redhead settled beside a corner fencepost. I stood beside her and explained her field of fire. "You shoot from hereto here and then you stop. Don't swing in this direction, because that's where Taz is shooting."
"Right," she said and examined the ground at her feet.
"The birds will be higher," I said.
Turning to Taz, I waved my arm. "You shoot from here to here."
"Where are you going to be?" she asked.
"Right behind you guys," I answered and squatted in the shade.
Since bird hunting is sometimes a waiting game, we waited. Nothing showed up, so following well-established hunting tradition, I initiated a conversation.
"Who is your favorite band?" I asked, throwing the question open to either girls.
I stared at the sky, somewhat defeated. "It's hot. I'd like some ice cream when we get back." Guys usually don't talk about ice cream, but it seemed safe.
"You guys ever wonder why you can have banana ice cream, but no one ever makes it with apples?"
"That would be disgusting," the Redhead answered. "Whoever heard of apple ice cream?"
"I was just wondering. I mean, they put ice cream on apple pie. You can buy peach or cherry ice cream, but I've never heard of anyone making it with grapes. Grape might be good."
"Mom says he talks too much, sometimes," Taz said to the Redhead as if I were somewhere in the next county.
"Do you talk about ice cream with Doc and the guys?" the Redhead asked.
I thought back over 30 years worth of hunting conversations, and blushed. "No."
"Is that a dove?" Taz asked.
"It was," I said. "Y'all need to watch a little better."
We sat in silence for a while. "You guys are quiet."
"Why did you block MTV on the television?"
"I hate that answer. It's lame."
Another dove flew by and the girls laid down a pretty solid suppressing fire. The dove flew on.
"You shot behind them," I said, as I would have told some of the Hunting Club members. "Try shooting in front of the dove." I waited for tart, witty responses.
The silence became frosty, despite the 100-plus heat. I snuck a glance. Taz had her bottom lip pooched out and the Redhead looked tearful.
"I was just kidding."
"That was mean," they said in unison.
Another dove flew past. I missed three times. The girls shrieked in laughter. "Why can you laugh at me when I can't gig you?"
"Because you're older and have a thicker skin" one said.
"Like an old wrinkled rhino" said the other. "Hey Dad, what are you doing?"
"Laying down to take a nap. At my age, conversation kinda wears me out," I said and closed my eyes, hoping to dream about hunting with the boys.