My brother-in law, Dick Harriss, was a bit older than me, an Air Force veteran of the Korean War. I was a surprise that arrived to my mother when my sister was fifteen. Dick married my sister in 1954 and was an avid hunter and fisherman and was outdoors at every opportunity.
Dad owned a Remington Model 11, 12 gauge shotgun that he’d acquired at some point. It was one of the early models and most of the bluing had worn off. The stock and forearm bore dings and scratches from years of use. Dick received a J.C. Higgins bolt action 16 gauge shotgun from my sister on their first Christmas together. It was the first shotgun I’d seen with a variable choke.
That Saturday, Dick arrived just before sunup. Today it would just be me and Dick because Dad wouldn’t be going. He would be working overtime in the mines. He gave me permission to use his Remington. My usual shotgun was a Stevens break-open single shot 12 gauge.
Dick’s brother raised Labs and Dick arrived with two for the Quail hunt. We finished off a quick breakfast, filled a couple of thermos with coffee and left the house. The hunting area was in the back of our farm—an area that bordered our neighbor and was overgrown with grass, weeds, briars and brush piles. The two Labs lead out nosing around the brush piles and briar patches. From time to time we could hear something take out through the grass and weeds but we didn’t flush any birds.
Around 10 o’clock, we’d covered the back of our farm and crossed over to our neighbor’s side. He had bulldozed a couple of acres free of trees leaving several large piles. A couple of times a year he’d burn them and clear a few more acres. These brush piles were the equivalent of a multi-story apartment giving shelter to various kinds of critters from Quail up to deer and an occasional feral hog.
Dick and I approached one. We sent the dogs ahead—one to the right and the other to the left. Dick approached the brush pile on the right and would shoot center to the right. I would shoot center to the left. The dogs sniffed up to the pile, something was hiding inside. We were stepping closer when the brush pile exploded!
Critters flew and ran in all directions. A covey of Quail rose in front of me scaring me half to death! I got off two shots dropping one Quail. Several rabbits took off running between us and a deer rose up in front of Dick knocking him to the side as it tried to jump over him. Dick went to his knees and jammed the barrel of his shotgun into the dirt.
I had one shotshell left in my shotgun when a second Quail covey rose. I fired and got two Quail. They must have been lined up for me to pick them off with a single shot.
Dick had gotten tangled in some old barbed wire that was mixed in with the brush and was not having a good time. He’d ripped his jacket, jammed the barrel of his shotgun, and hadn’t gotten any game. Just as he straightened up, one of the Labs ran over, got tangled up in amongst Dick’s legs and down Dick went again.
He finally gained his feet. His jeans were dirty, covered with dirt and mud. His hunting jacket was ripped from the barbed wire and his shotgun’s barrel was blocked with dirt. He’d not had a good morning. In addition to all that, he hadn’t gotten any Quail.
It was near noon by that time. I’d only brought the three shotshells in the shotgun. Dick’s shotgun wasn’t usable, so we headed back to the house. Dick spent a couple of hours cleaning his shotgun. The dirt had been jammed tight in the barrel. Mom sewed up the rips in Dick’s jacket. I got to clean three Quail. Quail are so much smaller after they’d been cleaned. Mom fried them for me for supper that night.
The next day I found a large purple bruise on my shoulder. It had been a great hunt.