The nearest field from our new house is about a mile away and the distant pops of dove hunters told me someone was getting shots at birds on opening morning.
The Hunting Club Membership and I were unable to schedule a hunt on opening day, so I had to listen to others have fun until we could get out to the field a week later.
With nothing else to do, I placed a pellet target at one end of the back yard, 70 feet from my makeshift bench rest. The almost electric yellow paint on the paper attached to the rubber square stood out against the bright St. Augustine grass.
Returning to the rest, I picked up my Big Cat Maxxim 1400 pellet rifle the War Department gave me last Christmas. Bracing my elbow on the bottom of her chaise lounge, I lined the scope’s crosshairs up on the center of the target.
A satisfying crack echoed off the wooden fence and Leland Cypress trees that surround the back yard. Keeping my eye at the scope, I studied the target for impact points.
“You’re shooting high and to the right.”
Surprise to hear a voice, I glanced to the side to see Wrong Willie standing beside the pool, in a pair of swim trunks.
“When’d you get here?”
“About the time you started setting up your target.”
“I didn’t hear you. Why’d you wait so long to tell me?”
“I didn’t want to be your lackey and tote that target out there.”
“It’s not that far.”
“Far enough in this heat.”
“But not too far you can’t see where that pellet hit the paper. You can see it that clear without a scope?”
“My hair’s turning gray, but I’m not going blind.”
I squinted back into the scope at the same time a splash told me he’d stepped off into the pool. I hoped it was an accident, but when I looked over, he was standing in the water up to his neck, holding a koozy-wrapped can just out of the water.
I cocked the rifle by breaking down the barrel and snapping it back up.
“I hoped you fell in.”
“You oughta get in yourself. It’s cooler.”
“Sighting in this rifle here.”
“I can see that, but I can also see the target from where I am. You won’t sweat as bad.”
I fired again.
“Still high right. Didn’t you adjust the scope first?”
Before I could answer, another splash caught my attention. Woodrow was also in the middle of the pool.
“When’d you get here?”
“About the time Willie fell in.”
“All right. Here’s another question. Why are y’all here?”
Woodrow shucked off his jeans and waded into the shallow end. I was thankful he had on swim trunks.
“I’m here because I don’t have a pool and my better half is off shopping with your bride.”
Returning to my rifle, I cocked it again and adjusted the scope. Tucking the stock into my shoulder, I squeezed the trigger.
“Hey Rev! Howdy boys. I didn’t know we were all getting together today.”
I didn’t have to take my eye off the scope to know it was Jerry Wayne. I fired and noted the pellet struck a couple of inches above the bullseye. Adjusting the scope again, I glanced over to see Woodrow and Wrong Willie in the pool and Jerry Wayne sitting waist-deep in the water under the Baja umbrella.
He held out a hand.
“Lemme have a shot.”
“I’m sighting this in.”
“You’re doing a pretty poor job of it.” Jerry Wayne sighed. “This isn’t bad. Sittin’ here’s a lot cooler than standing under a shade tree waiting for some dove to fly by.”
“You won’t be saying that next week, when we’re really standing under a tree.”
More pops drifted to us on the breeze and we all stopped, noses toward the east, like dogs winding quail. Wrong Willie held out a hand.
“Pass me that rifle.”
“You’ll get it wet.”
“I helped the War Department pick it out for you. The stock’s plastic. Pass it over.”
I adjusted the scope’s turret, loaded the pellet gun, and handed it over.
“This should be close.”
Still standing in the water, he took a rest on the Oklahoma stone coping and squeezed the trigger. The round impacted the target dead center.
He handed it up.
“Now, quit wasting time and get in here with us. We need to plan next week’s trip.”
“We already have the guide and motel booked. What other plans do we need to make?”
Willie looked crestfallen.
“Just get in so we can talk about it.”
I put the rifle inside, and when I came back out in my trunks, Doc was also in the pool.
“Looks like the gang’s all here.”
Doc grinned and settled in up to his neck.
“This is what dove season is all about. Getting together with friends. And to think, we get to hunt from now until the middle of February.”
Wrong Willie laughed.
“And we haven’t even made it to the field, yet. This is like the first day of summer for kids, we have so much we can look forward to. Now, here’s my plan, Rev, we’ll be at your house by eight Wednesday morning…”
More pops from the distant shotguns made me grin. Two dove peeped by overhead. I slipped into the cool water
“Ahhhh. I love dove season.”