It never failed. Every time I went to the pen to get Bell, she knew exactly what was in store for her. Anticipating a morning of quail hunting was almost too much for her. Our well trained pointer knew that for the rest of the morning her sole purpose on this earth would be to explore fence rows, hedge apples, buckbrush and wild rose to locate small, well hidden game birds.
Bringing Bell from her pen to the dog box in the back of Dad's truck was more a matter of her dragging me the entire distance. I didn't need to give her the command to jump up, because I barely had time to let go of her collar before she had leapt onto the truck's lowered tailgate. I kept telling Bell to settle down, but it was no use. She was a hunting dog going afield.
She was almost as excited about our hunt for Thanksgiving quail as I was.
I'd gone to bed early the night before, after laying out all my hunting clothes. I knew that once the alarm rang in the morning, it wouldn't be long before Dad would be ready to go.
My favorite piece of clothing was the hunting coat my dad had worn as a boy. The coat's shell holders had lost their elasticity, and the game bag had been ripped by briars and patched by Grandma. The coat was actually a little too big, because Dad had worn it when he was a teenager, and I was only 7 then. But it was heavy and warm, and when I rolled the sleeves up it seemed to fit me perfectly.
The McNabb farm, where we hunted, was just a little south and west of our home in the small town of Brookline in southwest Missouri. Covering a couple hundred acres, it was an upland game hunting paradise. Fence rows of Osage-orange trees provided ample cover near the crops of corn and milo. Small pockets of hardwoods, containing oaks and hickories, also dotted the property. Rabbits and squirrels flourished in these pockets. Several small ponds furnished water for both livestock and wildlife.
We planned to start hunting on the south end of the property, along a fence row next to the corn. There was a little lespedeza along the edge between the hedge apples and corn that we figured would hold a covey.