Thursday, February 28, 2008

Things we lose, things we gain

A successful hunt yesterday. I was watching Maxine and Anya work one in a line of brushpiles leading to the edge of the field, where Stekoa was perched high in a cottonwood tree. The bunny we were searching for apparently snuck out the back door, but unfortunately for him, his intended escape route took him directly beneath the hawk. Stekoa plunged straight down and hit the rabbit like a cinder block.

The hunt over, I followed the usual procedures: Fed the hawk, snacked the dogs, loaded everyone back in the Subaru, field-dressed the rabbit, offered my thanks to the powers that be, and drove home. But as I changed out of my muddy brush jeans, I noticed that my pocketknife—the one I had used to clean the rabbit—was missing.

It's not an expensive knife, in fact just a "gimme" from work, but I'm used to carrying it and it's usually the first one I reach for. So, although I hadn't planned to get out today—I've allowed Stekoa's weight to spiral out of control; he was already overweight yesterday, and then I had to reward him for catching the rabbit—I drove through the drizzle back to the field, well south of Lincoln, to find my knife.

It's odd how a spot remembered as being distinctive—a certain patch of tallgrass between plum thickets, just off the mowed verge of the access road—can expand to encompass so much more ground just a day later. Even knowing exactly where my car had been parked, and working from there, I couldn't find the precise spot where I had knelt to clean the rabbit. The gutpile had already been scavenged, by a coyote probably, and the wood-handled knife (if still there) blended in too perfectly with the brown grass and other vegetation. Lost for good, most likely.

A wasted trip? Not at all. I hadn't planned on getting out, remember, and if not for my fruitless search for the knife I wouldn't have been there when the snow geese arrived. Wave after wave, transiting overhead for a good fifteen minutes, thousands or maybe tens of thousands of geese overall. Their high-pitched barking is somewhat less musical than the sonorous honk of the Canadas, but in some ways more of a treat, since we're fortunate enough (I know not all my neighbors see it this way) to have Canada geese year-round. The arrival of the snow geese twice each year is an occasion. The pocketknife merits a disappointed shrug: easy come, easy go. Days like this, the waves of geese—unless Alzheimer's gets me—are mine forever.


Remchick said...

Wow! What a beautiful description and post! Thanks, Mark :-)

Henry Chappell said...

Nice post. John Gierach wrote something like, "If in doubt, you should always go fishing." I would expand his little aphorism to "If in doubt, head out." Your story makes the point beautifully.

Matt Mullenix said...

I've lost my game shears at least half a dozen times. At some point I started putting a loop of parachute cord through the handle and have only lost it a couple times since then. :-)