The Hunting Club Membership was gathered in the large round corner table in Doreen’s 24 HR Eat Gas Now Café by the time I arrived on that gloriously rainy morning. It had been hot for the past month, and triple digit temperatures was the weatherman’s main topic until a little cool front dropped across the Red River.
Wrong Willie slid over to make room, causing everyone else to adjust their seats. It looked like an odd wave in a football stadium.
Willie noticed a box under my arm.
“Whatcha got in your box.”
Doreen’s voice floated over the counter.
“There better not be anything alive in there! And if it’s a snake, I’m gonna knock a dent in your head.” She rounded the corner. “That’s not a snake is it? Is it? I don’t want one of them slimy things in there and I don’t even want to see a frog in there, and if it’s a lizard, you’re not coming back in this cafe ever again, you know I hate reptiles and even if it’s an anole…”
“Chill, pill.” I removed the lid. “It’s not anything alive. It’s a box of photos.”
Doc leaned forward.
“Of what? Is it really old pictures? I love to look at stuff from the turn of the century, or older.”
“Y’all are the most talkative bunch I’ve ever seen. These are pictures of us, old hunting photos.”
“What do you have them out for?” Woodrow shifted to get a better angle.
“Y’all know we moved. We built that house and lived in it for twenty years before we bought a bigger place. I had a lot of boxes full of photos and slides, and I just piled them in a closet when we moved into the new house. I just now got around to sorting the boxes, and looking inside.”
I picked up a photo.
“Look, here’s Doc with that big tom turkey he shot the first time we went hunting on the Ivan lease.”
Wearing jeans and a camouflage tee shirt, Doc stared out at us from thirty years earlier, a big chew in one cheek and a camo cap shading his eyes. The turkey’s wings flared out, as if it were flying straight into the ground.
The boys passed it around while I selected another picture. It was a black and white photo of me with two turkeys I’d shot that same morning. I’d lined up on the first with a 12-gauge, but when I pulled the trigger, a second tom sensed movement and jumped into the pattern. Both birds went down graveyard dead.
“Y’all remember this one?”
Jerry Wayne squinted at the photo.
“I’ve never seen this one.”
“That’s why I brought the box.” I shuffled through the stack and found another. “This one is you up in the panhandle, when we hunted dove on that huge ranch in Darrouzette.”
“I don’t remember this one either.”
Wrong Willie punched his cell phone alive.
“I have a shot from last year’s dove hunt here on my phone. It’s Rev and Doc sitting under a big mesquite. I’ve been meaning to show y’all.”
He finally found the right app and scrolled through a blur of images.
“It’s here somewhere. I saw it the other day.”
“That’s what I like about real photos you can hold.” I took out a sheaf of images. The others shuffled through them while Willie hunched over his phone. “One of my favorite things to do when we were kids was sit in the floor of my grandmother’s house and look at old pictures, like you were talking about, Doc.”
“I still do that, but the kids don’t seem to enjoy it as much. They’re always on their phones, trying to find pictures and videos.”
“I’m having all our old VHS tapes converted to digital,” I said. “They’re putting them on DVDs, and yep, I know people are saying they’ll be gone in a few years, so they’re also going on a thumb drive. But think about it, if we want to look at those shots, we’ll have to gather around the computer, or a laptop or iPad to look at them.”
Willie kept scrolling.
“Here’s a cool shot of the grandkids, but I can’t find…” He looked up. “You know you can plug one of those thumb drives into your TV and look at the pictures there.”
Woodrow shook his head.
“I barely know how to use the remote, and now we have a smart TV with a universal remote and I have to get one of the kids to find certain shows.”
“The problem is that they can’t always find their shots. I’m afraid this is a generation that’ll lose their history someday.” I slid a picture from the pile. “Look, here’s a shot of us dove hunting down in Uvalde about twenty years ago. There’s Patrick, back when he could go with us.”
None of us had gray hair, and we looked like kids.
Willie mumbled to himself.
“I know those pictures are on here somewhere.”
Doreen leaned across the table and picked up a picture of us in front of the café that was taken not long after she bought it. Her former waitress, Trixie, who is splendid, was leaning against the wall with her arms crossed.
“How many do you have on that phone?”
“Three or four thousand.”
Photos were scattered all over the table, and we stepped back in time, laughing and remembering old hunts, haunts, and friends that were no longer with us, while Willie went glassy-eyed, trying to find a picture from twelve months ago.
As I’ve said before, I hate technology.
Reavis Z. Wortham is an award-winning outdoor writer with family ties to Lamar County. He is the author of “Hawke’s Target.”