The season is long gone and there is nothing left in the bird bag. The blood washed out with floating feathers and slivers of shed antlers. It was a whim, and I’m sorry I did it. I never wash my bird vest. This one has a few years on it and the patina of rusted blood and soil on tin cloth made it handsome. It’s not the tween heartthrobs that stare at you at the grocery check out kind of handsome. It’s the Marlboro man kind of handsome. The spit in your eye son of a bitch that creeps out after closing time. He might steal your girl and your teeth. Beware of his ham fists. His right hook that pushes so much air that it moves the hanging light above the bar. God help your mothers gray hairs if he connects.
It may just be a vest. But it is a god damn beautiful thing. It’s job is to hold my shells, birds, and desert scores like sheds or skulls. It is a vessel for various sundries like jerky, TP and dog bandages. It stays comfortable on long days and most likely it will long outlast me. The scars we share and the things we’ve seen aren’t afforded easily. A kinship bound by sweat and blood, razor sharp rocks and ice build up. It may just be a vest. But for now it’s my god damn vest.
I’ve had visions and fever dreams of giving it to my children. I am not married and don’t have any kids that I know about. If I do have unknown spawn I’d start believing in a God if they were also upland hunters.. A knock on the door in a few years by an angry looking ex-bastard with a setter in tow would soften the blow. No ham fists in this exchange, just a vest and an old pump if he needed it. Spending time together in a vast open expanse will close the distance between any two relatively sane people.
Maybe I’ll pass it over to a legitimate son or daughter. That’s if the ham fisted man doesn’t take my girl and my smile and trade them for a lonely and punch drunk life. He swings and misses, passes out as he hits the bar. I’ll take my sweetheart home and brush my teeth twice just for being present. I’ll take our kids to the mountains in ill-fitting apparel and their triumphs will overshadow my own every single time.
Maybe this vest will be my burial coat. I’ll be punch drunk and nearly toothless, long in the few teeth remaining. No ex-bastards, no sweetheart, no little ones. My nose crooked from the ham fists. Air hard to come by. After chasing that sunset chukar who laughed a little too loud I’ll reach the summit and keel over, the dog pointing into eternity. Dog knows where I’ll end up. Someone will undoubtedly find me there, after my dog pulls a Lassie. I hope they leave me for the desert critters and fit my vest to a small bunch of sage. My last hope and wish will be that they take my dog hunting.
I really didn’t wash the damn thing. This is what I thought about while considering the act itself. The old smell of fairly new tin cloth, the dried bloody feathers. My blood on the left strap after slashing my hand on hoar frost. The way the dog reacts when I pick it up.
These features may not be treasures to most, but they are priceless to those who have been a part of their making. It’s not a vest, it’s a time capsule. And for now it’s my god damn time capsule.. ham fists be damned. Ex-bastards and conscious spawn may squabble amongst themselves. Enjoy it and add to this lurid patina, whoever time may hand it to.