Merry Christmas from Montana

Flicka and I wish you a Merry Christmas from Montana

‘Twas a couple nights before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, except for the writer pacing the floor, disturbing even the mouse.

“Will you shut down that computer and call it a night?” asked—no, demanded, the writer’s wife. Staying up late, staring at the computer, didn’t seem normal. Now, if he had fallen asleep in the recliner while watching the Kumquat Bowl, or some other ridiculous football game, that would be more typical.

“I’m sorry, dear,” the writer responded, sipping stale coffee. “I’m having a terrible time with my Christmas column. My deadline is tomorrow—and you know how the editor is when my copy is late.”

“So why do you always wait until the last minute to get started? You’ve had all week.”

“I was hoping to have more to write about,” he responded sleepily.

“Write about your last hunting trip. Isn’t that what you usually do?”

“I guess, now that you mention it.” He sipped his coffee and added, “But it’s easier when I have something positive to tell about. It’s difficult when the trip is a failure.”

“This certainly wasn’t the first time you went hunting and didn’t come home with any game. What’s the big deal?”

The writer pondered her question as he poured himself another cup of coffee and mentally reviewed that last pheasant outing.

It was a mild morning when he left to hunt a ranch an hour’s drive away. It was a ranch he usually put off hunting until the late season because the pheasants generally hang out in this big, marshy creek bottom, with thick willows along the creek, with patches of cattails and marsh grass. There are springs that feed the marsh and he liked to wait until cold weather froze all the water and it would be easier to get around.

East of the Continental Divide the weather looked nice, with bright sunshine reflecting off the snow. The wind, however, was roaring down the eastern slopes. The snow was crusted from recent thaws; otherwise there would be a lot of drifting.

He trudged through sagebrush above the creek, noting pheasant tracks in the snow. The birds are around, he thought, and they’ve been out feeding. With the wind, he figured the pheasants would be in heavier cover. With his black Lab leading the way he wandered around in the tangled willows and other trees before coming out to the marshy area. He hadn’t gone far when he broke through the ice and water seeped in over his boot tops.

The treacherous ice didn’t bother the dog. She scampered across the marsh, plowing her way through the cattails, and then went into a big patch of tall grasses next to the creek. A whitetail buck scampered out, followed by a hen pheasant flying to safety, and then a doe and half-grown fawn.

He tried to work himself to where the dog was, but the brush was too thick to get through. The dog put up a few more pheasants from inside the willows. All he could do was think bad thoughts as he heard pheasants fly away. Finally, after slipping on some solid ice, making a hard landing on his hip and elbow, and following that with breaking through more ice, he decided that this trip wasn’t much fun. He and his puzzled dog limped back through the snow to the truck and went home.

Telling the story to his wife he concluded, “See? That’s not much to write about.”

The wife smiled consolingly, but reminded him, “So it wasn’t your best hunt. So what! Just think how lucky you are. You have good places to hunt. You put up some pheasants and you saw lots of other wildlife. It’s Christmas time and you’ve been hunting since the beginning of September. We have game in the freezer.

“Why don’t you just write that you’re having a good hunting season and wish everybody a Merry Christmas?  It can’t be that difficult.“

And so the house eventually grew quiet, though the mouse wondered, “So what was all that about?”