Thursday, June 9, 2011

Reflections of Harvey Mallard

   There are times that the world seems to come together succinctly, with no help from anyone except the all mighty himself.  I've felt it before,  from when my parent's divorce turned into the greatest blessing in the world to when I met DU.  Those celestial bonding impacted my life in ways that I never would have fathomed previously. It was a horrible event and a chance meeting that turned into something that shaped the person I am today. Without these occurrences, this blog would never have existed.  In the same token did this story come to be, a chance reading, a comment, and a story that would've been missed, then forgotten forever.  Fortunately, the big guy upstairs knows better.

   The story I posted earlier this week was just like any other story, to me at least.  Another story that implanted itself in my brain, stewing for the perfect moment to make its grand entrance. And just like every other thing I have ever published, save a few, I was not the biggest fan of the piece.  Yes, the diction was lovely and sure, the story was kind of neat, but beyond that, it could've been better.  As you may know, I am the biggest critic of my own work.  While I sat, stewing about the post, a woman worlds away was doing the same thing.  But instead of looking at the story through my eyes, she saw it through her's.  Those eyes took my story in and it transformed into her own.

Rita and her husband pheasant hunting 
   Rita R. Schimpff is the sole owner of Heritage Game Mounts, a Texan company that supplies everything hunting aficionados need, from mount plaques to the mounts themselves. Just by glancing at her website, it is clear that she and her husband love the company almost as much as hunting itself.  Rita connected with me via Twitter after she read over Mounted in North Carolina.  She was quick to remind herself that the harvest of her first duck occurred more than 25 years ago.  Once she mentioned this, I asked if she'd like to write it up for me to post.

   So, without too much pop and circumstance, here it is.  Rita's account of her beloved Harvey Mallard, the first duck she ever had the blessing of harvesting..

Reflections of Harvey Mallard

Reading the Writing Huntress' tweet describing her excitement about her first duck made me think back to my first duck.  I told her it was 25 years ago but that did not seem right.  I went to look it up and I could barely believe when the years added up to a stately 31. 

When I met my husband, I immediately felt lucky that not only did he love to fish and hunt, but so did his family and friends.  While many men would exclude a woman from their party, my husbands group did not, they took me in, accepting that I would be along for the ride.  They are all gentleman hunters, whether or not I am among them or not.  While they may have cleaned up their language a little more around me, they still kept things racy enough to be fun.  Gentlemen they were, overly-nice they were not.  The guys were quick to pick on anyone who fell behind or could not keep up.  After 36 years, we still hunt and fish together, for this I am extremely lucky. 

 Howard, one of the brood, had a gorgeous family ranch near Bandera, Texas, which was not far from San Antonio.  We had all kinds of fun out there, but the one hunt I remember most was my first duck hunt. 

Up in the dark for the drive to Bandera.
Lots of coffee and homemade cookies
(A peace offering that helped with the acceptance thing but didn't save me from being picked on).

The guys set out the decoys in the dark.  Then, we waited, laying on the cold tank dam, still and quiet.  I shall never forget the sound; all of a sudden in the dark coming over my back, low and fast helicopters.   With no warning the sound came,  muffled then so quickly it was loud; they were right on top of me!  The splash, plop followed, one or two at a time.  Then the quacking.  I could almost touch them, if I could see them.  More came in, shots rang out.  I was a little startled and curious at the light coming out of the end of the barrels, the others could see by the dawn's light.  Slowly, the sun came up.  Someone shouted if I was going to shoot.  YOU HAD BETTER GET WITH IT he yelled, ARE YOU WAITING FOR AN ENGRAVED INVITATION? 
31 years makes the memory of those words a little softer than they probably were. 

I remember my nose and fingers being so cold.  I have a glove on my left hand.  Those days, my hunting clothes lacked any sense of fashion.  A ski jacked because it was warm and brown, but the yoke was cream. My knit cap was a pretty jaunty thing, left over from trendy days as a college art student.  So were the expensive, once to die for Frye boots, a throwback from my pseudo-hippie days.  The gun was the best part of my outfit, my husband's Winchester 20 gauge.  I had started using it so much he just gave it to me.  My dowry had not included any guns or fishing equipment.  Although I had enjoyed the outdoors with my grandfather, I would not inherit those treasures until later. 

I was a wonderful hunt, lots of ducks and one, beautiful specimen Mallard, my first duck harvest.  I always have and always will scrutinize the take.  A couple of those long-lost hunt's Mallard curly tail feathers still adorn my hat band. 

Howard teased me that I might as well go ahead and give my kill a name if I was going to play with it that much.  We named him Harvey, and I am sure there was a story there that has been forgotten.  We shared Harvey, like a child of divorced parents.  Howard had him mounted but I was allowed to keep him in my home.  I kept his beak and legs painted, touched up after years of wear.  One day, after he had been remarried, Howard wanted custody of Harvey.  I get to visit my little duck often.  The next time I do so, I'll have to ask Howard how Harvey's name came to be. 

Harvey is still, just as he was 31 years ago, absolutely gorgeous. 

I am so lucky. 

Rita Schimpff**

* A big HLYH thank you goes to Mrs. Schmipff for her story.  It was a blessing to read and even more so to publish for the enjoyment of all who follow this modest blog.  Your story was lovely and I can't thank you enough.

** Rita Schmipff is the founder and owner of Heritage Game Mounts, LLC, a company that provides elegant European mounts, deer mounts to showcase your price trophy antlers.  Rita is an enthusiast of hunting, fishing, cooking, interior decorating and Boykin Spaniels. 

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