Memories from the field
There are very few things in this world that are as beautiful to watch as a well trained dog, no matter what breed or what task they are bred to accomplish. I love watching all of them. As a wide-eyed 8 year old, with shotgun in hand, I watched a pair of exceptional English Pointers scour the east Texas and southwest Louisiana landscape in search of quail and woodcock on a routine basis. The pointers were the pride and joy of my grandfather, Olin Mahfouz of Bridge City. The pair consisted of a large male named Buddy and a younger female named Sue. Both Pointers were adorned with black markings on their heads and various other smaller black patches on their predominately white coats. At the time, I had no idea of just how fortunate I was to be in the company of these dogs and their owner. Iwas hunting with some the finest dogs in the business.
Both Buddy and Sue were descendants of bird dog royalty. Redwater Rex and Riggins White Knight were their respective grandfathers and at the time they stood as first and third on the list of all-time field trial wins.
Each November weekend was the same. My grandfather and I would load up in his truck with Buddy and Sue and head for parts unknown in search of another covey of quail which we almost always seem to find. At this particular time in my life, I was given the “Barney Fife” treatment in the field, one shell at a time. Although it was frustrating only having one shell to shoot, it made me a better shot because I really had to make each one count. After a season or two of this treatment, I had shown I could handle my gun safely and finally graduated to fully loading my gun with three shells. Iwas in the big leagues now. As each hunt unfolded I began to understand and appreciate the talent that these two dogs and their owner possessed a little more. Together in the field they were magical, almost mythical in my eyes. It seemed as if every movement, every subtle little change, was planned out and all part of a master plan
For whatever reason, it appeared as if my grandfather knew what those birds were going to do before they did it. A wild covey rise, with all the chaos and craziness going on, seemed to put him at ease. The world around him moved slower in that moment and he looked like he could do no wrong. If you hesitated for an instant he would make you look foolish with that old Browning. Very few times if ever, can I remember him not knocking down at least one bird if not two.
For over 75 years my grandfather chased quail, trained bird dogs, and did both at an extremely high level. If there was a breed of dog out there that could hunt upland game he had one or trained one. You name it, he had done it. His favorite breed was easily the English Pointer. The classic champ of the field with slick lines and an all business attitude that made them just right for each other. When my grandfather was really in his prime, he purchased some land near Deridder, Louisiana. He made that a camp because ,at the time, that entire part of the country was thriving in agriculture. Soybeans and peas were planted as far as you could see and the fields were full of big bobwhite quail. For years, the routine was the same. As my grandmother would finish the Thanksgiving dishes, my Grandfather would load up the truck. He would leave for the camp where they would stay for weeks until quail season was over. Everyday the weather permitted, he was out there chasing birds and, more often than not, he found them.
As the years progressed, the farming culture began to dwindle and many land owners began to enter the timber industry. Pine plantations now cover much of the areas where we chased quail and that made hunting difficult. Instead of hunting one field all day, now you had to jump around from spot to spot in a more strategic manner. The words “planted pines” were usually followed by a series of curse words spewing from my grandfather’s mouth. But I understood what he meant because the world he lived in and the sport he loved were changing right before his eyes. In later years as he got older we would purchase quail raised in flight pens and plant them in fields so he could work new puppies. The wild quail had become so scarce that it was almost impossible to find them without deep pockets, a big checkbook, or a trip down south. Even though the birds weren’t wild, it was still great to watch him put his dogs through the paces. They both performed well and that would never change.
Some of my fondest memories were formed while I spent time with my grandfather both in the field and on the water. He was the one who cultivated my love for the outdoors. Iwas fortunate enough to have shot some home video of the two of us hunting and fishing together and that in itself is priceless. This past week my grandfather passed away at the age of 91 and all those who knew him will tell you that he looked to be in his 70’s. I guess the old saying that God doesn’t deduct days from a persons life when they hunt or fish is true because my grandfather certainly didn’t look the part of a 91 year old man. For me personally, I feel blessed to have known him the way I did. He meant many things to me and taught me some valuable lessons. I am thankful that my son actually got to hunt with him and also have a relationship with him. Most folks today never know their great grandparents, much less get to share a hunting trip with them. Talk about a great memory. I will truly miss him, but I know each time I hunt or fish that he will be there with me.
That will be enough for me because I have some of the best memories imaginable. Thanks for everything “Pop,” you were the best.