great powers, but they apparently are on vacation, for there is another flush, another shot, another hoarse imprecation.
It is not Spence's day.
On the other hand, it is Dave Mackey's day. Most days belong to Dave, the third member of the party. He is not plagued by the ancient curses that beleaguer the rest of us great wingshots because he doesn't believe in devils and black magic.
He believes that if he points his gun at a quail and pulls the trigger, the quail will drop amid a spray of feathers and so it happens. Simple faith is wondrous.
He pockets bird after bird and by noon he has a limit of eight and is finished. "I'll just walk around with you fellows this afternoon," he says, and I have the uncharitable suspicion that he is seeking cheap entertainment, that he is following to hear me rant at the dogs and Spence curse the gods of gunnery.
Dave once saw me empty my gun at a quail, throw the gun on the ground and stomp on it. He has been interested in watching me quail hunt ever since. "It's better than those funny home videos," he says.
But as it grows late, he says he will get his truck and meet us on the far ridge. There is a birdhunting axiom: the car always is uphill when you come back to it at the end of the day.
And so it is. I see Dave's truck across a steep hollow and up a long slope, parked in the foxtail, and I sigh, for the sun is low and the shadows long and I am leaden with fatigue and drymouthed with thirst.
I have six birds in the bag and at least a dozen good reasons why I don't have the other two to fill a limit. Spence, with several less, is fuming through the grabbushes, swearing and invoking evil on the quail he has missed.
A long day that began at chilly dawn is finishing as the first cold breath of evening dries the sweat on my face.
The truck is Chimney Rock, glimpsed a hundred miles off by dead weary pioneers. It is a landmark so far away as to be discouraging, yet tantalizingly visible.
I take off my cap and let the breeze cool my wet head. Chubbs, the Brittany, lopes down the hill and patrols the ditch edge, hunter to the end, but I am so tired