Thursday, June 29, 2006

Chicken dinner-part 2

by Tom Gaylord

To get me ready for the trip, my father and uncle took me into New York City to the famous Abercrombie & Fitch store downtown, where they bought me a full set of expedition clothes and camping equipment. Since we were there, I was allowed to look at the guns they had on display in their famous gun room. Wall after wall of beautiful walnut-stocked rifles and shotguns from the most famous makers in the world. The brief time we spent in that room was the single most fascinating moment of my young life.

We left New Jersey by train in mid-April and traveled to Bismark, North Dakota, where my uncle hired a car. Our drive to the Mandan site was over some very rustic trails and sometimes even over open ground. I wasn't sure the flivver could make it, but my uncle seemed to know exactly where we were going. It was farm country now, and we were on a huge farm that he had obtained permission from before the trip.

When we finally got where we were going, he located a good place for our camp and we set about to make ourselves "at home." There were some outbuildings nearby, but he wanted to stay away from them. So we camped on the opposite side of a small pond. That was when I learned of my biggest surprise.

After the tent was up and the campfire was going, Uncle Don called me over to have a pow-wow with him. He told me he was going to be very busy in the coming weeks and I would have to take care of the camp for him. I was thrilled to think he would trust me to do that, but that was before I found out all that it meant. Not only was I to keep the fire going all day and night, he also wanted me to haul water, cover the waste pit and to provide some of our rations. I had brought my fishing pole and the small pond near where we were set up looked good, but he said he wanted more than just fish.

From the back of his trunk he produced a long narrow cardboard box that had an exciting look to it. I knew what sort of things came in such boxes because I spent all my time looking at them in the local stores at home. This was a gun box! Only, this wasn't just any gun box. It had an Abercrombie & Fitch label on the cover, so I figured he had gotten it when we were there.

"Jaime," he said, "I want you to hunt for us with this gun. This land abounds with the famed prairie chicken, and I would like to eat some while we are here. So I am giving you this gun to use."

That word "use" struck me as odd. Why buy a new gun, only to loan it to me? Why not just borrow one of my father's many rifles? Why buy a new one? Then, he told me.



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