Let Me Be Perfectly Frank
Ever notice how many kids get puppies from Santa for Christmas? It’s a great idea, I’ll grant you that, but just the thought of all of those eager puppies on a global sleigh ride would make a whippet weep from exhaustion, and those dogs never sleep. And then you think about the reproductive timing that has to anticipate holiday delivery, and the math is staggering. Add the six, carry the four, and you have to figure that a lot of dogs spend time under the mistletoe during hunting season.
You should spend the first day of Christmas afield, searching mightily for a partridge or even a pair of quail near a pine tree. Next, a matched set of bespoke double guns—because two are almost always better than one—to celebrate everything from dove season through turkey season. On the third day, in your best French, you should express your exasperation when pheasant hens flush from underfoot, as you walk through the grasses of the Great Plains. Don’t look at me. It’s no easier for me to walk through CRP than it is for you. And yes, I excuse your French.
The fourth day should close around a fire pit as the sun slides slowly through the pines to rest for the night in the wiregrass of South Georgia, as the bobs call their brethren home. As the sun rises on the fifth day, golden rings shimmer through the needled canopy as a brace of happy dogs leads a guide and two guns into the majesty. If all goes well, on the evening of the sixth day, the quail will be a-laying right next to the rice and gravy on your plate, as seven cubes of ice are a-swimming in the glass of 23-year-old Pappy you’ve been saving for just the right occasion—needless to say, this is the right occasion—and eight lovely ladies are hanging on your every word as you milk every detail of your hunting story for effect.
I should probably pause here to bear witness to the precision and genius of this little thought experiment. If you’ve read this far, you’ve no doubt been lulled into some cognitive dissonance. After all, a very articulate dog is now giving voice to some strange amalgam of Outdoor Channel travel infomercial and upland Christmas carol. Your pulse has quickened, but you keep looking at your dozing dog with incredulity that borders on scorn—why hasn’t he been suggesting these things? Don’t look at him. Stay focused on me. Eyes up here. Work with me. Let the innocent sleep as we continue with our story.
Now along about nine o’clock in the evening, the ladies are well-nigh impressed with your prowess, your poetry, and your Pappy—especially your Pappy—and next thing you know they’re dancing and carrying on like everything in the store’s free today. By ten, Lord have mercy, the whole room has leapt to the floor and commenced celebrating. Pretty soon, a separate hunting party, a group of 11 plumbers and pipefitters from the local union who had been sitting quietly in the corner, is singing German folk songs accompanied by a large bearded man on a very colorful accordion. There’s holiday spirit in every glass as the entire room sings and dances past midnight and into the wee hours and you try to remember the last time you had this much fun on a hunting trip.
The clock reads 12, both hands reaching for the stars, but that can’t be right. A hint of sunshine sneaks in through the sliver in the curtain. It’s 12, all right. Noon. And there’s a pounding in your head that would make a bass drum blush. The dog, still innocent but desperate for a run in the yard, eyes you carefully between licks. “Time to go,” he seems to say with some urgency. You look around the room as you rise from the recliner. There are no matched double guns, no dancing girls, and no accordion. There is, however, an empty glass on the table, next to a bottle of Pappy one might characterize as half empty but optimistic. You are really confused. That’s when the dog looks you in the eye and says, “I didn’t know you spoke German.”