The Old Man had asked for a report on my hunt from the prior afternoon, but what he got was a long, rumbling gripe about the landowner on whose place we’d been.
One of my cohorts and I ran his grandaddy’s pack of rabbit beagles as often as we could make ourselves go, which turned out to be every winter weekend and the near entirety of Christmas break. Our pack included the two of us and more or less seven beagles, the number of beagles being seven, more or less, and all being more or less beagles. Through our season’s combined efforts, we had left dog and boy footprints on practically every square yard of printable ground in the community, and on several square yards beyond.
Now it was February, when winter did its best to leave a mark on body and mind, and by which time every rabbit hunter around had long since bagged all the easy rabbits the year was going to produce. The cottontails that remained in the briar thickets were veterans of many a chase, rabbits that didn’t leave cover easily or stay out long. Most beagle packs had called it a year the month before, in fact, but we still had good hunting on one particular spot near home. The only catch was, we were required to speak to the landowner in person every single time, a tedious and much-dreaded chore.
“He drags me into a long conversation every time we go, and he insists we knock on the door and ask every time we’re there,” I said, mentioning the fact my hunting partner and I routinely argued about who had to do the honors each given day.
“It wears me out,” I added, winding to a close.
“Why do y’all keep going back there?” the Old Man asked.
“Because we find rabbits every time we go,” I said.
“Why do you think that is?” he asked. “Is the land any different from anywhere else?”
“No sir,” I said. “It’s pretty much the same as everywhere else.”
“That’s what I thought,” he said. “What’s different about that place is he doesn’t let anyone else set foot on the property. Did you know that?”
“No sir,” I said, already beginning to feel ashamed.
“Uh huh,” the Old Man said. “He called yesterday and mentioned how polite you boys always are and how welcome you are to always come back. I assume you’ve been offering to help out around his house, asking if there’s anything you can tote or lift or fix for him and his feeble little wife.”
“No sir,” I said, growing red, “I just tell him we’re there to hunt and he turns us loose.”
“That’s what I figured,” he said. “You ought to go by there sometime when you’re not asking to hunt and just see if there’s anything you can do. He probably won’t let you, but it would be a good gesture.”
“Yes sir,” I said to my shoes.
“Might even teach you some patience and appreciation,” he rounded off. “You never know. If you’re lucky, you might get to be an old man yourself some day.”