Duck season started slowly that year, so when the invitation to head to north Texas came, it was enthusiastically accepted. My twelve year- old son and I packed the truck with all the essentials. My two young daughters came along as well, to spend the weekend with their aunt, whom they adored.
Our home in central Texas was only a few hours’ drive from my brother- in- law’s home, but the difference in good duck habitat is considerable. My stomping grounds are more conducive to hunting turkey and deer, since we have more rocks than water. My brother- in- law lived on the blackland prairies, where water is more abundant.
Upon our arrival in north Texas we immediately began preparations of the john boat for our early morning departure. The hunting party numbered five in total, not counting the retriever. Decoy lines were checked, gas tanks filled and the coffee pot was set to begin brewing at 3AM.
After a hearty supper, we turned in. I never can sleep before a hunt or a fishing excursion; this night was no exception. I tossed and turned in the guest bedroom, as if by so doing I could speed up the clock on the nightstand.
I was up before the alarm, and the other duck slayers soon began assembling in the kitchen. Dogs were fed as we tanked up on coffee to warm us for the morning campaign.
A local 24 hour convenience store served as our breakfast stop. I spied huge sausage breakfast burritos under a heat lamp so large that it looked like it belonged in a mad scientist’s laboratory. My companions bought several without remorse. I was a little worried how those would sit on top of the beers they killed the night before, but they were younger than me. Maybe they still had some cast iron left in their stomachs. I opted for a cinnamon roll and more coffee.
At the boat launch it became evident that we had more stuff in the boat than we should, and once five hunters and a dog were added to the bags of decoys, guns and shells, we looked like the Clampetts going duck hunting. I thought I even saw a toilet seat in the boat, but it was pitch dark still, and I couldn’t be sure.
We arrived at our hunting spot as the sun rolled over and pulled the blankets over his head. Quickly we threw out our decoys. Only my brother- in-law and I had waders, so we set the decoys and opted to hunt standing in the thigh deep water using some short bushes that grew in the shallow water for our blind. The other three hunters stayed on the boat, which was equipped with a pop-up blind of its own.
A few ducks trickled in, and we got some of them, but the hunting was generally slow. The early morning flight had subsided, so I began to look around a bit more at my surroundings, being my first hunt on this public venue.
As I turned, to my horror, my gaze fell upon one of my companions seated on a camp stool that was perched on the casting deck of the boat, outside the blind.
His camo pants were around his ankles, and he was in the throes of answering nature’s call. I discovered later that this was normal for him. Every morning at 9:00 he had to go, and it didn’t matter if he was on the job site or in a duck blind.
For the uninitiated, this particular type of camp stool is of the folding sort with an approximation of a toilet seat on it. A large trash bag is hung underneath to serve as the, ah, receptacle.
Now as if that weren’t enough to ruin your morning, his next stunt was.
Finished communing with nature, our companion decided that the best option for the offending trash bag was to fling it as far from the boat as possible. Being an astute student of physics, our intrepid poster child for regularity began swinging the bag overhead like David wielding his sling before rocking Goliath’s world.
There are moments in your life where time seems to slow as you see with perfect clarity how an impending disaster will unfold. This was such a time.
Much can be said about bargain shopping, but I implore you, if you are buying garbage bags for a camp toilet, do not buy generic bags. When employed as a sling they tend to split and distribute fertilizer in a 360 degree kill zone. The ensuing mayhem was similar to when troops scramble for cover during mortar attacks.
As the sky cleared of the rain of terror, a look of confusion twisted our companion’s face as he tried to comprehend what he had just done to four heavily armed men in ill humor.
I always wondered why they called them “john” boats.