The Hunting Club membership was gathered in the large round corner booth in Doreen’s 24 HR Eat Gas Now Café. We were trying to schedule the first dove hunt of the season, and conflicts ran rampant.

Wrong Willie punched at his phone’s screen.

“How does opening day look?”

I shook my head.

“Nope. Can’t do it that day.”

Doc took a sip of coffee.

“Rev, I can’t believe you still use a paper calendar.”

“I don’t trust all this technology.” I picked up the calendar that’s thick as a brick. Tabs allow me to see as far as 2022. I had it in the truck when we started talking about dove hunting. “I forget to put appointments and events in the phone.”

Woodrow drummed his fingers on the table.

“We don’t have to go on opening morning.”

Jerry Wayne’s phone came alive with music, blaring at full volume. The café was busy that morning, and everyone there craned their necks to see what the noise was all about. Jerry Wayne punched and squeezed his phone until the volume dropped.

Doreen roared up.

“Y’all know I don’t like loud phones. Put those things on silent, or I’ll throw ‘em on the grill.”

My mouth engaged before I could stop it.

“Might taste better than…”

Her head snapped around.

“What was that?”

“I said, as well as Potts cooks back there, they’d taste just as good as bacon.”

Her eyes softened for the first time in months.

“You want more coffee?”

“I’d love a fresh mug.”

She smiled and took my empty mug away, returning with a fresh one full of steaming coffee.

Doc shook his head.

“You barely got out of that one alive.”

“Yeah, but look what it got me.” I took a careful sip. “Funny. That song was Thick as a Brick, and I just thought of it when I tapped this calendar.”

The guys missed the connection, so I went back to our conversation.

“Anyway, I don’t trust electronics. I even use paper maps, because when I follow the directions on this infernal thing, I never know where I am, or how to get back.”

“We could set up the hunt for the Monday after opening day.” Woodrow looked hopeful.

“Nope.” Willie shook his head. “We have to keep the grands that day.”

Doc sighed.

“We were in the same boat a few years ago. Now the grandkids are older, but none of ‘em want to hunt. They’d rather fish.”

“Hang on guys. Here are the dates I can’t go.” I read off an extensive list and the boys sat there in shock.

Woodrow sighed.

“You call that retirement?”

“I call it keeping busy. You remember those guys who retired while we were still working? I bet half of them said they were going to travel and play golf all day. Six months later, they were back, looking for any kind of job because they were bored to tears.”

“Boredom hasn’t been a problem for us.”

Willie looked up.

“What was that one stretch of dates you can’t go?”

I repeated them.

“Where will you be that you can’t go hunt with us?”

“The War Department and I are taking a trip to Colorado.”

Doc’s eyebrow rose.

“You going fishing?”

“Partly, but we’re headed up there for cool air.”

“Why don’t you wait a few weeks for the autumn color?”

“We’re going back for that. See, that’s what retirement is all about.”

Willie perked up.

“You know, I have those dates free. Me and Jan can go with y’all, then we can fish while the girls shop.”

Doc agreed.

“Yep, I’m open, but I’ll have to go by myself. Y’all don’t mind if I join you guys, do you?”

Jerry Wayne pumped his fist.

“Yep, Brenda has to pick up the kids from school that week, but I can go.”

Woodrow put his phone face down on the table.

“I’m in. I haven’t fished in Colorado in years.”

“Uh, guys, this is a trip the War Department set up, and I don’t think she planned for any of that. She’s already booked where we’re gonna stay. Let’s all schedule another trip later.”

Silence reigned for a long moment until Willie tapped the table with a finger.

“Here we go. We can go see the trees turn the second week in October.”

Jerry Wayne wilted.

“Not me. I’m out.”

“I’m out too,” Doc sighed.

Willie was quiet for a moment, studying his phone.

“Hey, the dove guide can take us on Thursday and Friday the third week in September.”

The table erupted in huzzahs. We had a hunt scheduled.

Only seconds later, I received a text from the War Department telling me we had to pick up the grandkids on those days and I had the pleasure of texting her back with my regrets, but I had a dove hunt already scheduled.

You don’t get that pleasure very often.

Reavis Z. Wortham is an award-winning outdoor writer with family ties to Lamar County. He is the author of “Hawke’s Target.”

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