It’s this. I spent most of today’s hike weaving together phrases of future, present, and past memory fragments: stressing to keep up with the dogs through backlit bunchgrass on 45-degree slopes toward the water punctuated by dried cattle hoove divots; no concept of my identity but just a pursuit; no concept of the fact that I’m in an environment that’s not “usual”; the occasional, hysterical interruption of the sudden realization I don’t know where my wife is, or where I am, or where the dogs are, or — oh, yeah — eruptions of birds, unannounced, interwoven with the sky, lenticular wisps of clouds, glint of the barrel swinging, sun stinging my eyes on the miss, the diminishing blur of reddish tailfeathers, shadow patterns careening off puckering water, basalt outcrops, redlined heart-rate, heaving chest, butt on dirt and parched cheatgrass, a smiling dog with a matted feather stuck to his gluey gum wondering, “what now?”
Ten minutes in on this second day of the season, after a gorgeous mistake yesterday, Peat bee-lined from the shore up a wee crotch of a draw and froze. Angus soon joined him and validated the point. Both held solid until I hoisted myself the hundred or so yards, and then they burst. It’s on the video, in slo-mo, even. I hit the first three, not even sure how many birds took off, then watched more waves of ones and twos going every direction, in the air, on the ground, in my memory. Fantasy start. We worked hard chasing them, finding new coveys, dogs going nuts, and Leslie made the shot of the day, a crosser across a ravine. She saw it land but couldn’t find it. Then Peat pointed it (it’s on the video, too). What a day.