Slanted Sundays

When it comes, the Landscape listens —
Shadows — hold their breath —

Sundays have been the day for me lately. I’m cut in half. I have a herniated disk pinching the L5 nerve that goes down my left leg. After PT and a cortisone shot failed to reduce the fire, brimstone, and other medievalnesses, I’m looking at back surgery. After the season, if I can wait. But I’m cut in half. Half the hunts, half the distance (well, maybe more than that), half the fun. Half the time on my feet. 

Yes, I most definitely feel sorry for myself. I feel sorrier for my wife and even sorrier for my dogs, because they have to put up with me falling on the ground, moaning, stretching, and, eventually, moving on up the hill. I’m slow. Half-speed. This is new. Not only am I trailing Leslie, I’ve been unable to stay close enough even to watch her from a distance bust birds Angus and Peat point. And Peat’s now outrunning Angus for the first time, not because he’s hunting more or running bigger; he’s confused about why I’m so far behind and ping-ponging back and forth between Leslie and me. Still, it’s much better (for me) than not being out. 

Sundays used to be the second or third consecutive day I’d hunt each weekend. Now it’s the day I look forward to all week but dread its arrival. It’s a regression to an earlier time. When I was a kid, Sundays saddened me. It was a day of profound gloom, and Sunday’s dusk was nearly unbearably morose, both the moment itself and my occupation of it. The light oppressed “like the heft of cathedral tunes.” As a middle-aged adult, and until this nerve thing kicked up, I’ve felt pleased by having rescued the day from my adolescent demonization of it. The light felt right, where it should be; there was no “heavenly hurt” to it. Things were in their place, and so was I, perched at the edge of Hells Canyon. The dogs confirmed this, as has Leslie, especially the last two seasons. It’s remarkable how a pastime such as chukar hunting, which occurs for one-third of the year, can dictate an identity perpetually. Until there’s some kind of rupture.

I realize I’m making too much of this, but that’s kind of my MO, for better or worse. Most chukar hunters have been injured. Larry, I believe (correct me if I’m wrong), might be called Full Metal HipsKnees, and he’s the hardest working man in chukar business as far as I know, despite being a couple days older than I. He’s got to have had more comebacks than Broadway Joe. So I expect to solve this and can see the future as rosy. I try to avoid taking things I love for granted, but it’s one of my — and maybe humanity’s — greatest flaws, probably by design: if we constantly stood around in awed appreciation of the thing, we wouldn’t be doing the thing. I’ve been very lucky: aside from paying the price for jumping off a cliff toward a pointing Angus in 2011, I’ve been able to write my chukar-hunting ticket and enjoy taking it sort of for granted.  

So the new project is to refashion Sundays somehow. I’m getting a taste of my own medicine, which is fair: I regularly tell my students that if they don’t feel challenged and frustrated they can’t be learning anything, and just to work through it. Try new ideas. As someone close to me likes to say, “It’s another f&*ng chance to grow.” Or as Emily Dickinson sang about the slanting of light in the winter, a metaphor for challenging changes:

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us —
We can find no scar,
But internal difference —
Where the Meanings, are —

31 Replies to “Slanted Sundays”

  1. Father Time is undefeated! I fell off my front porch getting the newspaper (icy steps and the damn paperboy did not even deliver the paper) and ruptured ankle tendon- season over- Treasure every hunt, treat it like it could be your last – only hunt with dogs and people you like. There are no guarantees for long term chukar hunting

  2. Thanks for turning Chukar hunting and pain into poetry! You write for all the creaking lovers of the hunt! We live for the completely absorbing and fulfilling moment of the point and flush. Like Ortega and Gasset says, we are the “alent man” living for the almost out of body experience of hunting with our dogs. Thank you for reminding me that our aging flesh speaks of mortality and the end of our time.

  3. I know exactly how you feel. Years ago I developed a herniated disk at L5 from wrestling big chunks of firewood onto a wood splitter. Limited my spring gobbler hunting. Fortunately PT did the trick. Particularly exercises to strengthen the core area. Whenever you are in a vehicle put a rolled up towel between the seat and your lumbar area to take pressure off the disk. That really helps. I fully understand the mental anguish from your limitations. Wishing you a speedy and full recovery.

    Cliff Rexrode

    1. Thanks, Cliff. I’ll try the towel thing; driving’s been brutal. Based on the MRI, it’s not looking like anything but surgery will get the disk off of the nerve. But I have some time to see if I can will it away, crunch it away, back extension it away… Drink it away?

  4. Any time you are sitting down, put the rolled up towel behind you. It will take some experimenting to get the right size. I put a couple of wide rubber bands around the towel in 3-4 places to keep it the same.

  5. Hello Bob, my since sympathy to your back problems. It’s seems there is always strong obstacles to over come in our lives. I talked with my brother who is an anesthesiologist he worked in the boise area as an pacu RN. In the past. He says avoid the spinal Institute Dr. Jorgensen’s group. Most surgerys performed by him resulted in more servere complications. If we can do anything for y’all let us know, and we will keep our positive energy focused on your recovery.

  6. REST! Careful U don’t over dose on IB every 4 hr./Tylenol every 4/ 1 Purple pill daily Max 4/5 days at a time

    Did you give up on Quilomene Vest? Find one better?

    Merry Christmas

    1. Thanks, Kent. I’m really not doing any drugs (yet!). Unless beer’s a drug. I gave the Q5 vest to my nephew. Went back to the Badlands vest (see my review). Might try the Wingworks next year…

  7. Bob, my knee replacements were a cake walk compared to what you are going through. From everything I have ever heard the back is not an easy fix. That’s one of the curses to having dog’s you love and a wife (who you love also)that enjoys chasing chukars/huns. It get’s in your blood and is hard to even think about losing the last month and a half of the season. But sometimes the pain brings reality to the situation. My second knee replacement was scheduled for Feb. 2 as was my first one but coming down a hill in late November I called and moved the operation up to as soon as possible. It sounds like you are close to that point. You have a great partner that will keep those two fine dogs exercised and they all will be chomping at the bit to have you back 100% next year.

    Good Luck

    1. I’d expect you to say a knee replacement is a “cakewalk,” Larry! I appreciate your kind words more than you know. My wife will vouch for me not doing well with pain; her pain tolerance is off the charts. Good days ahead, though, for sure. Meantime, I’m switching it up to Friday (tomorrow). Hopefully there’s not too much snow…

  8. Well, if it’s any comfort, I’ve had three of these surgeries, each time resulting from a different outdoor incident (involving soccer, a just-harvested elk, and wildlife field work). Each operation resulted in immediate relief. Unfortunately, they seemed to diminish my intelligence, because it was after the last one, about 15 years ago, that I took up chukar hunting…with a springer spaniel. And I’m still doing it, with spaniel #3, as well as the elk pursuit and field research. But I simply cannot stay inside.
    I’ve owned a Wing Works vest (the same one photographed by Greg Munther (sp?) in Larry’s blog) for ~10 years, and am very satisfied (but not sure they come with a pocket for the bladder you prefer).
    Get well soon.

    1. Michael, thanks for your comment. It is a great comfort to know you’ve dealt with this and have come out the better for it; I can relate to diminishing intelligence. My wife and students will concur. Glad to hear the Wingworks vest report; they look bulletproof. I think they now have a pocket for bladders. Thanks for reading.

  9. Had bi-lateral ruptured achilles at 58. after surgery and 6 weeks in a wheelchair, followed by 6 weeks in walking casts I was able for pt. said I might never hunt again. bs never give up. my 6 mos old gsp would not let me quit. just returned from a 3 day hunt in the sierras of calif. chasing mtn quail successfully. desiring to hunt where you do. some day soon.

    1. Not that’s a rupture! Good for you, and thanks for the inspiration. And good for your puppy; they know, don’t they? Mountain quail share the same flank feather with chukar. You’ll be right at home when you make it up here! Worth the trip, in my biased opinion. Thank you for reading.

  10. Bob, so sorry to hear about this. I wouldn’t wish a herniated disc on anyone. I have a similar problem on L5-S1. Same thing, just down the right leg. The nice thing about chukar hunting is that they are alot easier to pack out than an elk. Ice and ibuprofen are very helpful in getting you through the day, but not curative. Also, if you want to find the best surgeon, get the opinions of as many PTs as you can. They see the patients before surgery and after, and can usually tell you who gets the best results. I really enjoy your writing and videos, so you have my best wishes for recovery

      1. The initial injury was in 2003, I had surgery in 2007. The disc herniated again in 2008. The surgeon wanted to do surgery again, but I had learned to manage it and declined a second surgery. It is at times inconvenient now, but is much better and I can live with it for the most part. If you didn’t get signficant relief with an epidural shot, surgery is likely to be your best option. If it’s only a discectomy/laminectomy, the surgery is not a big deal. In my case, there was arthritic bone in the way and it would never have improved if I had not done surgery. It sounds as if you may have the same problem. If the surgeon wants to do a fusion or put in hardware, that is much different, and I would think long and hard before doing that. If they just want to remove some extruded disc material, go for it. Do your research on the surgeon, because some of them get better results than others. As I said above, PTs and RNs are the best sources of who gets the best results. Multiple opinions aren’t a bad thing either.
        You will have to modify your lifestyle to protect your back(welcome to maturity). Everyone is a bit different this way and your body will teach you what you can and cannot do. Learn as much as you can about the mechanics of your injury so you can know what to avoid. You will go through cycles of “I feel great today” then overdo it, and feel bad later. The bill payment in the form of pain comes 48 to 72 hours after your excess activity. Often, you feel good during the activity. It took a while to figure this out. Also good, in many ways a game changer, to have a good back support belt. I can make recommendations if you are interested.
        If it makes you feel any better, it doesn’t impede my bird hunting in any meaningful way, and 4 months after my surgery I was hunting. It takes a bit longer to set up camp, and I need a much better reason to bend over than I used to.
        I have ready access to other medical opinions, so please keep me posted on whatever treatment is proposed. I live to far away to be able to give any recommendations for a particular doctor. Sorry.
        I live in southern california (try not to hate me for that), have a springer spaniel and hunt chukar and quail. Shots at chukar are hard to come by after opening day. I will do what I can to help a fellow chukar hunter with a back problem

      2. Many thanks for this detailed report. I’ll consult it in the coming months I’m sure. And I’d take your recommendation for a back support belt. Also, I grew up in Laguna Beach, so no apologies necessary; we’re all immigrants anyway in one way or another. 🙂

  11. Bob,

    Best of progress with your back. I am frustrated for you. It doesn’t seem fair when you are in good health and otherwise fit. Don’t let the chukars win. They will be there when you are back to 100%.

  12. Bob, I have had a similar issue and was headed for surgery. I got cured with Prolotherapy & Platelet Rich Plasma treatments. Most likely your issue is caused by your sacrum being out of alignment and the ligaments that hold it in place have been damaged or torn. The treatments i mentioned are natural and help the body heal itself. I urge you to look into this before you go the surgical
    route.

    1. having your sacrum out of alignment is not fun. but luckily i found a physical therapist in Boise who put in back in place – Karin De Benedetto at Body in Balance – she is a miracle worker!

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