The first morning I saw the white kid cruiser in my spot I’ll admit I was a bit confused. You see, this spot, well, no one else comes here. Especially before sun up. Nope, this is my parking spot on this empty dirt road with nothing but a lone silo for miles.
I drive precisely two and one half hours to get to this spot. I leave my house at 4 a.m. in order to get here for the sunrise and catch the birds in their pajamas. My alarm is set to go off at 3:45 and I creep around so as not to wake the wife and kids. No one else wants to be awake at this hour, except sometimes a five year old and Obi the wonder dog. Obi knows whats up. There is only one reason to be up this early and his excitement, scampering about and dashing up and down the stairs, all run the risk of destroying my stealth mission out of the neighborhood.
I quietly make my coffee, load the cooler, gun and dog. Everything else is packed the night before. Sometimes I might check the weather, but this season has been nothing but dry and warm, so I’m banking on more of the same.
First stop is for fuel at the Diamond Shamrock on the way out of town. If the weather isn’t bad, the night guy will come out and chat while I fill up, paying at the pump. He likes to talk and probably gets pretty lonely at this little outpost in the foothills over night. Usually he likes to carry on about the station’s resident cat, whose name I can’t recall. What I do remember are the stories about the cat staring down a mountain lion in the parking lot. Always with the mountain lion story, every morning. With the tank full we’re ready to roll east. Out of the mountains and onto the plains. In two hours as the sun comes up, the mountains won’t be visible in the rear view mirror anymore, not even a vague outline.
So it’s after all of this that I now roll up on the white Chrysler in my spot. It’s not that the field isn’t big enough for us both if I were to circle around to the other end. But MVM is already out there, with his lab none the less and he’s either getting the birds or watching them jump to the neighboring properties. The fact he’s got a dog is significant here. If it was just a lone guy, I’d give him some time and then go in for seconds. But I’ve watched his lab work the field with nice long casts back and forth out in front and by my assessment I think he’s a good dog and so on this day I’ll move on down the road to some other spots.
Now, minivan man doesn’t always win. There have been a few days I’m happy to report that I’ve arrived first. This doesn’t happen too often, but when I spot the van drive by from a distance and keep on rolling past, I feel a tinge of satisfaction. Now if we could just find some birds.
On my last day of the season, I arrived at the field at the usual time.The wind was blowing pretty good from the west this morning, so I drove over a rise to the east end and geared up. As Obi and I worked west into the wind, we crested the rise and there it was, parked in the northwest corner, the minivan. We stopped and scanned the field and I saw MVM and his dog working south pushing the birds to the southwest corner, my usual first pass here too. Upon seeing the duo, I decided to declare a bit of a personal truce on this day. So the dog and I took a left and began working to the north, the opposite direction. It wasn’t the best course for Obi as his nose kept pulling him into the wind, but we worked north and then a little west, splitting the difference. Obi began to show his tell tale birdy signs and I got prepped to see the first pheasants of the morning. Sure enough as Obi locked up and I took a step in his direction two birds flushed, a hen and rooster, flying low and across the horizon. Directly in front of the rising sun. The scene would have made a nice postcard or maybe a motivational poster – “Success. Is making the guy pointing a gun at you squint into the sun.” By the time I identified the rooster in the pair and got off a shot, I didn’t have a chance of connecting. Unhappy dog, but I’m not going to beat myself up over it, being only 7:00 am we’ve got a long day ahead of us.
We end up at the edge of the field now and it’s time to circle back to the car. As we walk I’m listening for other shots coming from the field. When I glance back over my shoulder I see the minivan getting loaded up. He hadn’t had any shots, I had one and maybe he thinks I got a bird. So I win? Well as we walked back to the car the minivan drove past us, we gave each other the friendly wave, but damn it, he’s going to make it to the next spot before us.
And so it goes, I guess it’s better to focus on the birds and not worry about what the other guy is up to, because as I’ve learned, you mess with the minivan man, you get the scraps.