After a time I heard the mighty rattle of the Invigorator, and the Captain’s voice shouting. Reluctantly I disentangled myself from my blind and went over to see what all the row was about.
“Had enough?” he demanded, cheerily.
I saw that I was supposed to say yes; so I said it. The ducks were still coming in fast. You see, I was not yet free from the traditions to which I had been brought up. Back in Michigan, when a man went for a day’s shoot, he stayed with it all day. It was serious business. I was not yet accustomed to being so close to the game that the casual expedition was after all the most fun.
So I pulled up my rubber boots, and waded out, gathering in the game. To my immense surprise I found that I had thirty-seven ducks down. It had not occurred to me that I had shot half that number, which is perhaps commentary on how fast ducks had been coming in. It was then only about eight o’clock. After gathering them in, next we performed the slow and very moist task of lifting the wooden decoys and winding their anchor cords around their placid necks. Lastly we gathered in the live ducks. They came, towed at the end of their tethers, with manifest reluctance; hanging back at their strings, flapping their wings, and hissing at us indignantly. I do not think they were frightened, for once we had our hands on them, they resumed their dignified calm. Only they enjoyed the fun outside; and they did not fancy the bags inside; a choice eminently creditable to their sense.
So back we drove to the ranch. The Captain, too, had had good shooting. Redmond appeared with an immense open hamper into which he dumped the birds two by two, keeping tally in a loud voice. Redmond thoroughly enjoyed all the small details.
Each morning, while we still sat at breakfast, Uncle Jim drove up from the General’s in his two-wheeled cart to see if there might be anything doing. Uncle Jim was a solidly built elderly man, with the brown complexion and the quizzical, good-humoured eye of the habitual sportsman. He wore invariably an old shooting coat and a cap that had seen younger, but perhaps not better, days. His vehicle was a battered but serviceable two-wheeled cart drawn by a placid though adequate horse. His weapon for all purposes was a rather ponderous twelve-gauge.
If we projected some sporting expedition Uncle Jim was our man; but if there proved to be nothing in the wind, he disappeared promptly. He conducted various trapping ventures for “varmints,” at which he seemed to have moderate success, for he often brought in a wildcat or coyote. In fact, he maintained one of the former in a cage, to what end nobody knew, for it was a harsh and unsociable character. Uncle Jim began to show signs of life about July fifteenth when the dove season opened; he came into his own from the middle of October until the first of February, during which period one can shoot both ducks and quail; he died down to the bare earth when the game season was over, and only sent up a few green shoots of interest in the matter of supplying his wildcat with that innumerable agricultural pest, the blackbird.