Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

Sandy Griswold. January 15, 1922. Omaha Sunday World-Herald 57(15=16): 15-N. Continues: 1/22, 57(15=17): 12-N; 1/29, 57(16=18): 15-N; 2/5, 57(16=19): 14-N; 2/12, 57(17=20): 12-N; 2/19, 57(18=21): 3-W; 2/26, 57(19=22): 3-W; 3/5, 57(20=23): 3-W; and 3/12, 57(21=24): 3-W.

Days in the Rice Beds of Old Hackberry Lake

A Morning in the Canes With the Canvasbacks

With thrills of the most ecstatic kind do I now recall the last day I spent with Roy White and Ernie Holmes in the rice beds and among the yellow cane at the upper end of old Hackberry during our last fall's duck hunt in the ever legendary sandhills. While the bag we accumulated, by diligent work and much patience, was not overly preponderous, we were well paid, more than rewarded by the real camaraderie of the occasion, and that matchless enjoyment desired from a close connection with nature in her many changing and charming forms.

The Petersen Ducking Lodge-one of the most modern of all the numerous structures of the kind, which have sprouted up like mushrooms, in all that wild country during the past decade, was astir, as usual, at daybreak. There was a cool gray light over the lake which lay as silent as if untenanted by living thing, as we gazed out over the broad expanse as we stepped forth to take a look over the scene. The far away bluffs arose indistinctly as if reared in the air, with dark pictures peeping forth from the chiaro oscuro of the farther shores below them. The atmosphere was fresh, even to chilliness, yet redolent with the delightful aroma of the bleached prairie behind us and the oozy, boglike waters in our front. The nearer hills looked ghostly, the whole outlook gloomy, in the wavering pearl seeping up from the eastern horizon. A small bunch of mallards were quacking intermittently in the offing like tame ducks awaiting their morning feed. A marsh hawk was sailing over the reedy point; a drowsy hum was stealing through the fields of tule and cane and the largest stars were still shining, though dimly, through the somber tints of the upper sky, as we gazed upon the scene. And yet, we stood and talked and looked, as we sought to reach a plan for the morning's expedition, the ashy fringe in the east began to clear into semitransparent gray, and then kindle into the palest of yellow. Clumps of tall rice began to creep out of the massed marshlike stretch of the lake and a streak of distant mist to curl over its unruffled bosom. The drowsy hum in the air began to swell into a twitter as the redwings started to move, and a distant dotted line in the southern sky showed where a flock of mallards were cleaving their way to the distant feeding fields. The watery reaches before us began differing, though in still sober hues, here a space of marble gray, there of polished black.

But have you ever stood entranced and watched a sunrise in the sandhills?

At length the cheeks of the vagrant clouds at the zenith blushed into rose, one long feathery mass in the east began to glow into ruby, then burn into richest gold. Gemmed tints-emerald, sapphire, amethyst and coppery lemon-glowed over the old Stilwell hills and gleaned athwart the lake.

Light, like the meadowlark's breast, ran along the eastern crests, the upper rents above them gleamed with royal crimsons and imperial purples, and then, as if by the wand of the Genie of the weird and lonely sandhills, through the wide draws of the background slopes, striking plain and valley, lake and lacustral borders, poured the gladdening light of the October morning, bathing the whole landscape in the lustre of the risen sun!

And then, too, the ducks began to fly, and for a change, the flight was the best we had thus far seen. As if by preconcerted arrangement, the feathery hosts all seemed to get up at once, and we saw many good bunches heading away for the fields, while many others were flying, desultorily, back and forth, over the lake, and for the most part settling, when they did settle, in the rice fields at the head of the lake. Numerous lines came in from off over the hills, small bunches lifted from the rushes as if to meet them, hanging for a moment against the rosy sky then lowering down over the sunlit sea of rice and tules, until they vanished. Over the bluffs, off toward Watt's lake, where the land rolled in a vast expanse of prairie, they came, not singly or in pairs, but in good-sized flocks, and among them, to our insane glee, almost, we noted many long lines of canvasback, and they were coming ito Hackberry, riding down on the beams of the morning sun like pallid streaks of light.

"You see where those birds are settling," remarked Roy, pointing to the west where we saw a dark bunch of mallards settling down among the seedless tassels of the wild rice. "You do, well, that's where we are going to do our day's shooting and we can't get a move on too quick."

One hour later we were all snugly ensconced-in one of the Lodge's big wooded ducking boats-Roy, Ernie and I-among the tall cane bordering the rice beds in the broad waters at the head of the lake. We jumped large numbers of birds as we forced our way into the tangle, but not a gun was lifted until we were perfectly located. Then Roy, standing up in the bow, for a good survey, exclaimed:

"Everything set, brothers? Well, now let's give 'em the best in the shop. Down!"

It was a lone mallard, a big drake, and he came curling in so close that we could see the burnished green of his head and neck, the glistening speculum of green and blue upon his hammering wings, and the delicate curl-the beauty mark of Anas Boschas-of shining emerald on his rump was as distinct as his flashing sloe-like eyes and the milk-white bands on his tail.

Crack! It was Roy's gun, and of course the splendid bird folded his wings and plunked stone dead not ten yards from the front end of the boat. A wonderful shot, for a bird so close, but then, that White man can shoot.

Ernie, porpoise-like, went over the gunwales up to his waist and with an oar pulled the mallard in, and had barely gotten aboard again himself when a pair of widgeon came glistening over the sunlit reeds.

"Get 'em both," commanded Roy. Ernie pulled ahead of the drake and with supreme confidence touched the trigger. But on went Mr. Widg. smooth as a gossamer, not a shining feather ruffled, but the little hen got his second barrel square in her mottled breast and with a bound, struck the open water back of us.

No time to retreive. It was a bunch of pintails, high up, on an investigating tour, with the wily old rooster in the lead craning his long snake-like neck and wagging his graceful head in an effort to make out the meanings of the big opening in the cane where our scow rested. He had evidently heard the reports of Ernie's gun and evidently felt that it was a good idea to keep well up into space, while he further prosecuted his detective business. But his curiosity got the better of his discretion. Mistaking our bobbing decoys for friends, he dropped a trifle, bringing the rest of the bunch down with him, and before he could put the brakes on, Roy broke his neck, while Ernie and I, aided and abetted by explosion after explosion of Colonel White's pump, undoubtedly, cut out four more, all hens, out of the bunch, as they whirled away with spasmodic squeaks and went up and right out of the country.

Ernie, who is one good bird dog, despite his Gargantuan proportions, was over the gunwales again, bound to overshoot the only crip of the quintet before he got into the cover of the canes.

"Stand still!" roared Roy.

The soft swish of the beating wings of a superb bunch of canvasbacks had impelled the mandate.

With Ernie bent over until his necktie floated on the water, we saw the birds approaching in unsuspicious serenity of soul and we saw they were bent on lighting among the decoys. But Roy whispered not to take a chance, and just as they were dropping their light, bluish legs, we poured it into them. We both let out a yelp as we saw four of these magnificent wild fowl join the motionless cock pintail, belly up, not twenty yards from the blind.

While still laughing and congratulating each other, and with Ernie standing pop-eyed in the water, and sinking deeper and deeper every minute, two green-wing teal shot across the void, one about six feet ahead of the other.

A Morning in the Canes With the Canvasbacks

As that pair of greenwings were seen oncoming like veritable rockets through the air, after Roy and I had made such a successful onslaught against the passing canvasbacks, Ernie, who, it will be recalled, was out of the boat after the wounded pintail, ducked so low that he was half submerged and received a good ducking before he was aware of his indiscretion. But it didn't seem to bother him a little bit, and laughing at the spectacle, Roy and I watched him as he straightened up, and tossing his gun ahead of the leading teal, pulled the trigger. The rear duck skipped with a splash over the water, stone dead, while the one he had really shot at sped on over the rice fields with unruffled feather. He had fallen into the common error of even the best of duck shots, underestimating the speed of a greenwing teal, and consequently the distance necessary to hold ahead of it. As is known the motion of the line of sight is faster than that of the bird, and the line of fire is ahead of where it actually seems, on account of the time lost in pulling the trigger and the escape of the shot, during which the muzzle of the gun is moving past the line of the glancing target. To over come this fault is one of the cardinal virtues of duck shooting.

Following the little flurry with the teal and after we had retrieved all the birds down, there was quite a lull. Heavy clouds with bright edges had crowded into the sky and the whole scene for a time was filled with lights and darks. Sometimes a struggling burst of sunshine lighted sudden and startling on one of the dome-like sandhills off to the south, overflowing it with splendor. A fresh shadow leaped from the lonely plain and pealed off the luster until the whole mass frowned again in gloom. So with the crinkly bosom of Hackberry; a gleam would break forth, widening until dazzling gems danced upon the surface, followed by a leaden tint which closed like an enormous lid over its broad and sparkling face. But the wind suddenly stiffened, the vapory curtains broke into feathery fragments and the glorious sunshine once more held undisputed sway.

"Funny, none of those damned birds don't come back," remarked Ernie, turning his aldermatic proportions now this side, now that, to get the fullest benefit of the drying and soothing rays of the sun. "I believe-"

"Down!" sharply interrupted Roy.

We all dropped, not like old experienced duck hunters, but like rank beginners, as if we had been shot, into the hay in the bottom of the boat and peered eagerly up and down the lake.

"There they come-canvasbacks-to your left, down toward the shack," guided White, as he maneuvered for an advantageous position.

Then we saw them, a gray line, probably three or four dozen birds, against the silvery fluff of the lingering clouds, yet like aerial racers, cleaving the air our way.

"Careful there, Sandy, they'll be right on top of us before you know it!" eagerly cautioned White, as I hoisted myself in position where I could quietly gain my feet.

Truly, as Roy had admonished, they were onto us before we could realize it. Swiftly they came in, rather high, and looked as if they were going to pass right over our heads. And they did, that is about half of them. Just out of gun shot, the flock had split into two bands, and while one of them came straight on, and unluckily for me it was these I had my eyes upon, the other fairly dove down over the decoys, with a sibilance of wing that sounded like escaping steam. Roy and Ernie were on their feet in the stern of the boat, and I, upon mine, in the bow, and before I could steady myself and get ahead of the electrical rush over me. I did the best I could, letting go both barrels plumb perpendicular into the air, and then-I found myself head-over-heels in the lake. The burden of years was too much for me, and propelled by the double concussion of my good old gun, over I went backward into the lake, down through the bed of slimy rice and umbellaria, flinging my gun far out into the thick of the cane, and all that was left visible of my august form, when Roy and Ernie did finally turn to see what had happened to all but upset the ponderous old scow, they told me afterwards, in an uncontrollable outburst of wild and derisive laughter, was my two rubbered feet, kicking like a dying goose upon its back, up through the torn tangle of wild rice, smart weed, rushes and camomile, in which our boat had been anchored.

They soon had be back into the boat, minus my gun, however, and it was, indeed, a sorry picture I must have presented as I stood there shivering in the chill air, with the water trickling in rivulets from my canvas raiment, and from corduroy cap to wadered feet, a mass of mud and clinging aquatic shrubbery-flags, bugloss and wild celery-like some strange leviathan of the deep, emerging barnacle covered from the depths of a tropical sea!

"What're you fellows laughing at?" I sputtered irascibly as I discovered that I wasn't drowned; "I suppose you'd laugh if I was stickin' down there in that muck yet, you darned fools, you can just go plumb to hell, I'll go back to the shack!"

"Walk," ironically quizzed Roy, as he and Ernie fairly held themselves together to keep from again exploding, and then, in his characteristic fatherly way, he went on assuringly: "Take off your coat, lie down here; I'll pull your boots off and in this nice arm sun we'll have you good as right off the top shelf in the shop, in the shake of a lamb's tail. Ernie, go overboard, you're already soaked, and get his gun-I tell you I think we are going to have a great shoot yet this morning. Why, Sandy, Ernie and I pulled eight of the grandest canvasbacks you ever saw out of that flock, and demme if you didn't get one yourself, from right out of the zenith, too, if you did knock the silk socks off Annette Kellerman in that back somersault into the lake!"

"There you are," he continued as he emptied about a half gallon of amber-colored aqua out of each of my waders, "and here's Ernie, too, with your gun-well, I call that luck-See them bluebills-cracky that would have been a dandy shot, but let 'em go-they were an awfully lean lot, at that-we're after canvasback, that's what we're after, and now as you're all o.k., Sandy, we'll push out and got our birds, we can't take a chance on losin' any of that kill-not me!"

It took us a good half hour, however, to retreive, and, at that, we only succeeded in recovering seven out of the nine we got down. The one I attended to, for, as Roy had said, I did kill one when I made that disastrous shot, was stone dead, and Ernie pulled it in with an oar before we had shoved the boat back a half dozen yards. But two of the birds that Roy and Ernie had pulled out of the fragment of the flock that had swished over the decoys, were only wing-tipped, and while we got several shots at one of them before he escaped finally into the labyrinth of the cane and rice, and saw the other one, which we were sure of gathering, dive right from under the prow of our boat, as Roy was about to crack him over the head with the oar, and look as hard and long and diligently as we did, it was no use-we never saw him again.

Of the seven we did boat, however, as Roy had proclaimed even before he had had an opportunity to examine them in hand, were the most magnificent canvasbacks-and I have killed hundreds of them, and seen them by the countless thousands in the salad days of my youth, along the old Chesapeake and up at Koshkonong-that I had ever seen in all my long and eventful career. There were four cocks and three hens, and that night, after we had gorged ourselves on one of Jim's chef d'oeuvers of a fish and chicken dinner, and were all assembled about the old red hot range, Roy weighed the four biggest and plumpest of them, three of them hens and one splendid drake, we were fairly paralyzed when he announced that they weighed an even fifteen pounds.

Over the Lake at Twilight and the Morning's Drama

Further Adventures With Roy and Ernie in the Rice Beds of Hackberry-The Second Which Allowed Flock of Bluebills to Escape-Ernie's Snores and Doc's Remarks on the Shooting.

It was really a fair flight that Roy, Ernie and I had gotten into, and it was but a short time after our experience with the canvasbacks, and my unceremonious bath, when there was more doing.

"Mark!" cautioned Ernie, and we saw a good sized bunch of mallards coming straight at us from across the lake. "Roy and I'll take the left end. Sandy, you take the right."

The next instant his gun cracked and a splendid, big greenhead, in the full blazonry of his autumn plumage, and which had led the flock in, let go, and whirling fantastically in the air, came down dead, among the decoys. As the rest of the birds lifted themselves affrightedly, and turned to leave, they received a dual salute from Roy and myself. Four more birds fell, two defunct as the proverbial mackerel, but the third, an old hen, came down slantingly, with a broken wing. She squawked loudly, and began to dig away for the nearest selvedge of the opposite rice bed, almost burying herself in the water as she scurried along. It was but a second's work for Roy, who can do more things in shorter meter than ninety duck hunters in one hundred, to slip in another shell, and a moment later her ashen belly was turned skyward and her orange legs were kicking spasmodically into empty space.

"Great!" shouted Colonel Holmes. "Four mallards, big fat ones-that's not bad; huh?"

"Mark!" White's warning exclamation caused him to squat with such precipitation as to all but turn him over the gunwales, and before he could recover himself and get into shape to shoot, a bunch of blue bills streaked over the decoys, fairy under our noses, but Ernie's contretemps had split the beans, for although we pumped a half dozen loads at their vanishing forms, we failed to loosen a feather. That single second lost was sufficient to carry them out of harm's way.

"That wasn't quite so great," I remarked, with some acerbity. "If you want to knock a duck down, Ernie, You've got to shoot at him before he gets over the next county line. You-"

"Cheese it!" broke in Holmes, "there comes a smear of 'em, right up the channel to your left!"

Gray Speckled Breasts Glistening Like Silver.

Sure enough, there they came, a small bunch of widgeons, with their black and grayish specked breasts glistening like silver sheens against the sun as they came swiftly on over the water from off somewhere down Hackberry.

We were all crouching low with our guns protruding out over the bent cane stalks. Not an elbow did we crook until the softly chattering birds dropped their pale greenish legs and cupped their wings, when together we let them have it.

Like real duck hunters each man had selected his bird, but as is so often the case, every son-of-a-sea-man had selected the same bird! Our pieces cracked like a single gun and the biggest bird in the bunch, a crested and proud old cock, dove down into the muck of reeds and [word n.l.] and moss, head foremost, dead as a door nail, and heavier possibly, by a couple of ounces, from the quantity of lead we had put into him. With that marvelous speed for which he scared widgeon is justly noted, the remaining birds wheeled, as if upon so many pivots, but no swifter than were we, and in less time than it takes to tell it, they got our second shots, and remarkable as it was, we each got one, but none were killed outright. Realizing the abbreviated time it requires a wounded duck to put himself beyond the reach of the most penetrating bore, Roy, with his pump, kept pounding away. One keeled over at his first shot, and another at the next, but the third, notwithstanding White emptied his magazine at him, kept on scuttling toward the rice, which he reached and disappeared within their barrier.

And thus the sport continued, with many long and tiresome waits, and with varying success, throughout the golden October day. Of course there were many little exciting incidents, such as a corking double by [word n.l.] or the other, and plenty of ludicrous misses, and countless other small episodes that always go to make as a glorious day in the rice, and can well be imagined by all those who have been there.

Back to the Lodge, Entrancing Sunset

Tired and hungry as we were, the trip back to the lodge was one that will live always in our memory.

In the entrancing sunset, and with a bigger boat load of ducks than we ever dreamed of getting, how could it be otherwise? As we slowly moved along through the low water and clinging mosses, the sun went down behind the frowning hills, and yet the broad bosom of old Hackberry was still chequered with shifting colors, in the blur of the falling night. The melancholy yipping of a coyote from off on the distant hillside, the eerie good-night scream of a hawk, in perfect keeping with the desolate region, occasionally greeted us. Across the darkening lake we slowly crawled, exquisite twilight pictures gleaming out as we passed. Here a brown muskrat castle, a colonnade of cane, an arbor of matted rice, a sedge hung pool, like a peeping eye, where the gamey bass had his lair; a half-whelmed point, with the water sparkling in the last glints of day against it, an islet of bedraggled and faded water lilies, of a bit of bog, where the cane stalks cut the rising breeze into plaintive mur[n.l.], and wide stretches where the splatter dock curled its spotted dishes among the rushes and fuzzy catoninetails. Sometimes a more playful wind stooped to the surface, brushing it into darksome ripples, than fanning our faces, melted away.

It was good and dark when we reached the lodge, but Jim had a glorious fire roaring away in the stove, and a dinner on the way that would have tempted the gods.

After laying the plans for the morrow, we had our little seance with the papes, a good wholesome nip all around, and then to the hay.

Perhaps all duck hunters, no matter how great their stock of enthusiasm or how great their vitality and endurance, know what a tough thing it is to quit a warm pile of blankets at half-past four on a keen October morning, and after a hasty breakfast, sally forth into the chilly atmosphere for the morning flight. And you bet we had put in a night of it, for Ernie was in his best form and all atune through every hour of it. But wait.

"Say, Holmes," testily demanded Dr. Nichols, as we pulled up at the breakfast table, "aren't you about all in this morning?"

"Who, me? How come, Doc, how come?" inquired Ernie as he speared a huge hunk of fried bass from the big platter near his end of the board.

Innocent Ernie and Irascible Doc.

"Why, that damnable snoring of yours-talk about waking a lot of tired duck hunters, it was enough to wake the dead, and you've got to do something for it!"

"Me? Whatya talkin bout; I never snore-that was White you heard."

"Not on your life," retorted Roy, hotly. "The Doc's got you pegged to a gnat's eyelash, Ernie, and I feel right now as if I was about plumb crazy for the loss of sleep. An' all on account of that infernal bugle of yours. It is simply villainous in you tryin' to shift the thing on me-me, with my delicate nerves, too. If you continue that nefarious serenade, why I'm afraid I'll have nervous prostration, and right at the start of our hunt, too."

"Here, too, Roy," resumed the Doctor. "And what in the hell's name won't he do after he has had a little more of this air out here, an' a few more of Jim's dinners under his belt? I fairly quake at the thought," and turning savagely on Ernie, who was in the act of shovelling a tablespoonful of mashed potatoes into his mouth, "an' by the gods, you've got to clamp a clothes-pin on that nasal promontory of yours tonight, or go out an' sleep with Sport in the dog house!"

"Oh, you fellers are simply jealous-just forget my little talents and you'll yet be happy," returned Ernie, as he sank his harpoon into the last slab of black bass on the platter-"yet be happy."

"Happy! Little talents!" exploded the Doctor, pushing back his chair, kicking it over with a crash and leaping excitedly to his feet. "Be happy! The impudence-it's monumental-an' little talents, who ever heard of deep-chested, air shaking, sleep murdering roars being called 'little talents.' Why, gentlemen," assuming a Chauncey Depew attitude and gesticulating like Bill Bryan in the heat of a prohibition explosion, "this woolly hippopotamus, Holmes, has got 'em all skinned, from the lamented Caruso to Charlie Gardner, with that grand operatic nose of his. He ascends the scale from he double bass of a fabulous bullfrog to a height that Gilroy's kite never dreamed of reaching, an' what I'm afraid of is, that he'll choke to death one of these nights if he doesn't take something for it. There is no use kickin' him in the shins, or sinking your elbow in that stupendous paunch of his, it only fractures the frightful diaphason into minute particles, diffusing them throughout the whole shack, splintering, as it were, one big note into counter, tenor and treble, and catching his breath like a drowning man grabbing a straw, then continuing with more diabolical vigor, resonance and reverberation than ever, an' for one, I'm not goin' to stand for it. You hear me, Ernie's got to sleep with the dog, an' that's all there is to it."

Off to the Lake for Another Day.

"Come off, Docky, old pal," soothed Ernie with all the balm of a June zephyr, and jumping from the table, he got a body scissors on the Doctor, and backing him up against the wall, went on: "Now if you'll cease denouncing your bedfellow and come with me, we'll go down to the lake and bust a few ducks-remember, you haven't brought in a feather yet-haven't killed a single duck."

"That's another," roared the Doctor, "how about those four mallards you claimed the other evening, down at the Neck, when we were in Sandy's blind together? Who killed those four? I'll tell the world it was Dr. Bob Nichols, that's who it was, and he was too damned chicken-hearted to tell you the truth at the time, and permitted you to come back to the lodge here and hog all the glory."

"But, Doc-"

"Just cut the buts," interpolated the irate physician, "an' tell me how a feller's goin' to kill a duck when there hain't any to kill? And the sportin' editor, over there, the grinning chessy-cat, he's another good thing. All the stories he tells his thousands of readers in the Sunday World-Herald about findin' ducks in every teaspoonful of water in these starvation hills, and chickens in every wisp of hay on these rotten prairies, should be scouted at, gentlemen, and denounced by all decent citizens. So far I haven't seen a single flock of ducks as big as his own conscience, and, gentlemen, if you can find anything smaller'n that, you can all take a drink on me."

"Well, there you are-feel better," and Ernie released the Doctor and stepped over and took his gun down from the rack and picking up his shell case, continued, "Hurry, Docky, we've no time to lose-I'll be down at the dock."

Sunrise Over Hackberry From a Crypt in the Tules

Somber Reflection Come to the Hunter as He Gazes Upon His Kill, the Royal Canvasback Drake, King of the Flock-Zest for Sport Gone-Day Dreams in the October Sunshine.

Ernie had barely disappeared through the door, when the doctor, hurriedly getting into his shooting wammus, followed after him. Then, turning to Roy, I said:

"Well, ol' man, what's the program-where are you going this morning?"

"Who, me?" replied White, as he emptied a box of No. 7 1/2s into his shooting coat pocket, "Why Jim's going to drive me up into the hills-I'm going for chicken."

"Too much trampin' for me," I replied, "so I guess I'll go down to the point and try the pass again."

"Just as good a place as any, but I'd like to have you go along with me."

"No, I'll try the shore today."

The next moment I was on my way down to the dock with the doctor's retriever at my heels. ALong the horizon, to the east, the gray line was brightening with each recurring moment. The closer sandhills looked like misty humps hanging in midair, while the lake off to the right yet remained partially hidden in the somber dawn.

I was just in time to see Ernie and the doctor push off, and with a hearty exchange of "good lucks," I stalked off like a ghost, down the shore in the same direction the boat was going.

I soon reached the little crypt in the tules where I had already shot several times, and pulling the long yellow grass and broad flag stalks up around me, started my vigil for the first birds to move. While out exploring the morning after our arrival, while looking around, I followed a narrow coon path along the shore until it led me to this little pocket in the tules. It looked exactly as if a deer had made its fawn there during the night and appreciating the natural advantages it possessed for a shooting blind, I took possession, and of course, I felt very much at home.

Meantime the gray light in the east had changed into delicate amber and the feathery clouds at the zenith had flushed with crimson. Day was rapidly breaking.

Bluffs Creep Out Cold and Distinct.

The bluffs began to creep out, bold and distinct, from the curling mists and a streak of filmy vapor to crawl out into the lake. The barren points thrust themselves out, more plainly, and the twitter of the junco and the marsh blackbird tinkled in the air. The waters of the lake, out beyond the rush line, shortly showed diffusing, though still sober hues; here a slab of marble gray, there a polish green, while the streaky clouds blushed into rose, one long, diaphanous mass in the east glowing into ruby, then beaming with gold.

Sunrise again on Hackberry lake, with its wondrous and mystic beauties.

The limpid waters are glowing with all the colors of a prism-red and orange, green, blue, purple and violet. Topaz lines run along the tops of the gently swaying cane and rice. The orient fairly gleams with royal banners, and at last, the morning breaks. The birds had been unaccountably disinclined to move, and I was just about to step out of my hide for a good stretch, when the incomparable melody of the mallard's wing-beat catches my hearing and turning, I see a bunch of these birds cutting the air southward bound, but out of gunshot. Mine were not the only ears to catch the sound; old Sport lifts his graceful head from out the grass, and he looks up at me, as much as to day:

"Why didn't you shoot?"

Just then a big tanned hawk rose, with a flourish, from the matted tules and swoops around and down by me, so close, that I caught the flash of his wild eyeball. I cover him and follow his graceful flight with my gun, but I do not touch a trigger, for I loved his wild beauty and know too well his value, and with a loud "bon jour," I let him go.

The Sharp Quack of a Frightened Mallard.

That was fortunate. A rustle in the grass and I saw Sport lift his drooping ears, then a sharp quack of an affrighted mallard greets me. Turning, I see a pair which had been coming straight upon me, evidently, but were now turning back upon their course, having undoubtedly detected my rising form. To sling my gun ahead of them was instinct, and at the crack of my first barrel, the hen went whirling into the rushes, and at the second, a little puff of feathers floated dreamily in the wake of the drake. But the kill was a long one and I was satisfied, and I had tickled the other and that was something.

At the word, Sport was up and off, crashing through the dry reeds like some behemoth of the marsh. I heard him as he moved gingerly about within the labyrinth, snuffling here and plunging there, until suddenly all sound ceased for a few seconds; then I heard him coming back. The next instant I caught a glimpse of his spotted coat, then his head and shoulders emerged from the reedy tangle, and holding the dead hen in his square jaws, he walked slowly up to where I crouched, and stood there, erect and proud, like the victorious commander of some great army.

"Good old dog," I exclaimed with fervor, bet ere I had time to bestow the well merited caress, I saw approaching me over the lake to the east, down from the direction of the Dewey lake club house, the old Stilwell home, and where, by the way, were Judge I.C. Dunn, Frank Haskell and Bill Parmenter snugly established-a tremendous flock of birds-mallards, pintails and gadwalls mixed. I heard the distant report of a gun and felt that the judge, or someone of his party, had started them.

They were coming on swiftly over the lake and I had just time to comfortably settle myself, when they were over me.

Viewing the Kill With a Leaden Heart.

They were considerably higher than I had thought, but with both barrels I succeeded in cutting out a bird, and as he fell, with a thud and a bound, not ten yards from my blind and out on the solid ground-share my exultation-it was a magnificent big canvasback drake!

Sport had crouched as I raised my gun, but now braced upon his stiff front legs, gazing first furtively up into my face, then wistfully toward my little break in the long grass where my prize, in plain sight, lay.

I bade him down. That royal plumage should be safe from the mouth of dog; aye, even, I was fain to believe, from the hand of man.

Sensitive soul.

It was with peculiar emotions I gazed down upon hat peerless bird, when after a few steps, in all its delicate beauty, it lay amidst a tangle of lacey swamp grass and curling ferzy fronds, at my very feet, under the golden sun, in that lonely lake land.

There he lay, gasping and drawing down his cinnamon hooded head in twitching spasms, until suddenly, his leaden legs stiffened out, and his relaxed body told that the last and final struggle was over.

There he lay. The courser of the skies, the king of the flock, so lately cleaving the shimmering autumn air in the glory of the strength and speed of his ashen wings, with the courageousness, the wariness and caution of his untrammeled liberty-in his wild freedom. There he lay, at my feet, with an ugly smear of scarlet athwart his snowy breast, his deep garnet eyes upon me, flashing in terror, or was it defiance, even through the mists of death?"

And who is there to blame me, when, in the deep compunction that overwhelmed me, I resolved, with a clutching at the heart, that never again would I destroy such a life.

What Beauty Indeed in Mere Fact of Life.

The frescoes of dawn had long since melted away and the broad light of mature day, rested over landscape and water. The rice and cane dozed in the languid sunshine; the lake itself, looked drowsy, and the opposite sandhills half dissolved in October's warm and dreary haze.

While I heard the guns of Ernie and the Doctor at frequent intervals-and of whose rare exploits I shall endeavor to tell you another week, also about Roy and the chickens-I had lost all zest for the sport, and greeting the old dog with more tender affection than ever before, I strode back to a commanding knoll of the open field stretching away toward the lodge, and throwing myself into a recumbent position, with Sport snuggled up close at my side, I surrendered myself to the charms of my surroundings.

As I gazed around me, I thought what beauty, indeed, was there, in the mere fact of life, especially on such a rare autumn day. It is on such a day that nature-despite the barbarian interruptions of such as I-still her throbbing pulse; the rushes wave with more tranquil grace, the redwing "kong-kog-ko-ree-ees" in softer tone, and the waters lapse with softer ripple.

Poets, whose hearts are overflowing with the thoughts of the beautiful, delight to depict the holiness of the sweet sunsets of the autumn time, and the thought spreads tranquility over the soul.

What images crowd the fancy when gazing at a picture of such lovely solitude; what serene joys of thought-what pure and holy sentiments submerge the mind-what peace, what religion, what thankfulness.

Another Day's Shooting and An Evening Around the Fire

Entrancing Picture of Huge Marsh Known as Hackberry, Teeming With Vegetation Tempting to Palates of Wild Fowl-Doc and Ernie Miss a Limit Bag and Get a Wetting-Air Filled With Birds While They Dry Out.

Wonderful, indeed, was the picture spread out before me, as I reclined on the knoll and gazed, fairly entranced, about me. The lake itself, barely more than a huge marsh, was an enthralling scene. Its numerous pools of open water, splotched everywhere with clumps of cane and rice and tules, embedded like gems in reedy sconces, flashing and gleaming in the soft sunlight, was enough alone to make the homeliest of landscapes animated and beautiful.

The whole region, by the way, abounds with the natural food of the wild fowl, as well as for the geese and the cranes-which rare birds, however, do not visit the locality with much frequency any more-and the jacksnipe, curlew, yellowleg, plover and avocet. Here, especially about Hackberry's sedgy shores, that delicate tuber, called by the Indians "wapato," but botanically known as saggitaria varibilis, thrives in certain years most abundantly.

The saggitaria is a species of the arrowhead, an aquatic plant that derives its name from the shape of its leaves, and is a favorite food of not only the mallard, but of the redhead, the bluebill and the widgeon. "Wild celery," spiralis valisineria, is also plentiful in the deepest holes along the expansive rice beds, and wild parsnips and umbellaria, another marceau of the mallard, and the teal as well, and wild rice, nutgrass, smartweed, and numerous other seed bearing aquatic plants, upon which the better grade of wild fowl love to gormandize themselves.

Around all the shoal stretches of the lake are numberless fields of rice, squaw cane and bulrushes, interspersed with bugloss, which bears a tiny azure flower, calamus, flags, matriccaria or wild camomile, and morass plants and mosses of all kinds, amidst which the ducks, in season, disport themselves.

Hear the Guns of Doc and Ernie.

I lay there for hours, and all through them I heard, with sufficient frequency to apprise me that they were having good sport, the reports of the guns of Ernie and the Doctor, and in fact, when I stood up, I could see them up the shore a mile or so, as they rose and squatted alternately in their boat, well hidden among a clump of the thickest cane.

Suddenly a great banging aroused me, and rising and shading my eyes, I looked away toward their blind and I descried a bunch of birds like aerial racers approaching them from off towards Pelican lake. In fact, there were birds in sight in almost all directions; a mass of them were circling round and round over the impassable rice fields in the northeast, and large and small flocks were flying aimlessly up and down the lake, across the far bend of the headland and over the glinting sandhills that loomed up frowningly between Hackberry and Clear lakes. Nichols and Holmes were evidently having a bully time, and as I was perfectly content with my small bag, and still contrite over the whole business, I sprawled down again and, on my back, lay there watching the pictures in the sky.

Light, fluffy clouds had flecked the dome all morning and a soft breeze having sprung up, there were wondrous doing above. The blue was of that tender tint through which we seemed to penetrate to unbounded depths, and beneath it October's breath weaved its graceful cloud paintings. There floats a pillared palace; coming up from the south is a grove of palms, while beyond, a fleet of some queer craft is bearing up; trailing away into the burnished east is a cavalcade of camels; out of the silvered cumuli a turreted castle looms, with its pinnacled and turreted battlements; a mingling of nondescript hosts milling with a fleecy mantle, while off in the distant north an Alpine peak rears its superb gold crowned head.

Story of the Day Around a Roaring Fire.

Haven't you lain in this fashion and watched the shifting lacework of the clouds above and dreamed as in the Arabian Nights?

That night, as we were all assembled, as usual after dinner, about the glowing stove, we were regaled with the great shooting of Dr. Nichols and Ernie had, as well as Roy's engagement with the chicken. The duck hunters had brought in thirty-odd birds, and White almost as many grouse.

"Tell 'em about the geese we shot, Doc," said Ernie, "and the ducking we got."

"Geese we did not shoot? You mean wanted to shoot!" And the Doctor glared over something the latter had done to mar the perfection of their day up in the cane. "The ducking was a success, though, I'll tell the world."

"Well, give it to us," urged Roy, "for I want to tell you something about the chickens-the hills are lousy with 'em."

"The geese? Well, there were thirteen of them," began the Doctor, cocking his slippered feet up on the oven door. "We both saw them curving over our way at the same time, and they weren't more than forty yards high! It was grand, and I know my heart never pounded as savagely as it did when I saw them coming straight toward us.

"Neither of us dared speak to the other, nor move a muscle, and, ye gods! Think of it! We were both loaded-our guns, I mean, of course, with No. 7s. It was an excrutiating situation, yet a rapturous one.

A Flock of Geese and Then a Ducking.

"On came the geese. And let me tell you, it is a hard matter to curb one's self under such trying circumstances. But my fat old pal, over there, and I were equal to the requirements. The leader of the flock was a sturdy old gander, who, I'll bet, had roosted more than once on the North Pole, was a little in advance of the main line in about the middle. Regularly he sounded his resonant 'auh-unk' as they came along, evidently goose for 'All's well,' little dreaming that two of the greatest shots in the world were crouching the cane just ahead of them.

"At last we could actually see the whites of their eyes, and they began to rise perceptibly and they invariably do on approaching cover of any sort. The momentous moment had arrived. There was no time for a second's further loitering, and with a simultaneous yell to give 'em-well, it rhymes with yell-and like jumping jacks, Ernie and I were both upon our feet, and the next instant-floundering and spitting and sputtering like wounded walruses-we were both struggling for our lives in the lake.

"Ernie, like the damphool that he is, had been crouching on the gunwale, and when he attempted to get to his feet to shoot, his whole three hundred pounds had sprawled athwart the same, shooting my end of the boat into the air at least four feet up, and as he slipped gracefully into the cool aqueous depths, I catapulted, like an acrobat clearing fourteen elephants, over his submerged form into the mud and reeking weeds up to my neck.

Birds Everywhere and No Chance to Shoot.

"No, the boat did not upset, and in some hocus-pocus manner, we we both spraddling over each other back into it-me still clinging to my gun, and Ernie's lying under the end seat, where he had dropped it when he slipped overboard."

"But the geese?" quizzed Roy, in his satirical way, "did any of them fall in with you?"

"No, they didn't, damn 'em! Or damn Holmes, I mean!" excitedly retorted the Doctor; "but I'll betya a million if we had gotten a chance, we'd a killed half of them. They were right on top of us. Gee! I can see 'em now, as I came up for air and wiped the moss and slime from my eyes. The air over our heads seemed stuffed with birds as big as pigs, black heads and white collared necks climbing upward and veering for all points of the compass at the same time, while the sun shone on their gray sides, white bellies and ebony bills, from which poured a volume of sound like the mingling of a thousand bugles."

"Heavens! What a chance we would have had," added Ernie, "and just think of it, it took us three whole hours afterward to dry our clothes. We had to pull ashore, strip off our duds and dry them, and our shells, in the sun, and while we were at it the ducks were flying to beat the band. I bet we'd a got the limit."

"Now for the chicken, Roy?" I said, turning to White, but he was too busy counting out the checks, and knowing the story would keep, I pulled up along with Doc and Ernie, and the evening's battle began.

Roy and the Chickens; A Gala Day in the Hills

Limit Bag Soon Reached-Jim Disappointed at Not Filling the Car-The Distant Rainstorm and Its Exquisite Aftermath of Color and Form.

Incidentally, I'll have to ask you to wait a moment. Where was it I left off in last Sunday's paper? Oh, yes. The Doctor had just finished telling about the involuntary bath he and Ernie had taken when those geese came in on them, and we were all seated about the table to see which one could guess 'em the best. The game, however, was short lived that evening, as we were all more or less fatigued with our day's exertions.

After Ernie had failed in an attempt to make Roy lay down a king full with a bobtail flush, which laudable endeavor not only filled him with disgust, but broke him, we all concluded to quit.

"Well, fellows," exclaimed Roy, as he pushed himself back from the table, "I'll say that the rambunctious time I have had with you all this evenin' was only superseded by the time I had today back in the hills with the chickens-for you hear me, seventeen birds without a dog is some kill, if it did take the whole day to get 'em.

"I really believe," he went on, "that I walked 10,000 miles but I got 'em, didn't I? And that's more than Doc and Ernie did with those geese that tried to bite 'em-I'll tell the world so."

And then, after a little good-natured, but somewhat acrimonious bantering to and fro, we all gathered a bit closer around Roy and listened to his rambling tale of his day's hunt.

He got away early in the morning, just after we duck hunters got started, and with Chef Jim at the wheel, had barely reached the big hay lands west of Watts' lake, when they descried a number of black dots some few hundred yards in front of them, on the cut hay field. They were chickens, but they were too close, and Roy had no more than leaped to the ground, when they arose and with that old familiar choppy wing stroke, were up in the air, and off like dark shadows over the hay field and beyond the nearest rise, a half mile away.

Sun Up and A Long Way to Go.

"We'll not fool with them, Jim," remarked Roy; "just keep goin'; the sun is setting well up now, and we are still quite a ways from where I want to go."

A half hour later they were climbing one of those long, gradual elevations that lead up from the bottom lands of the lake country, and when they reached the top, they found themselves on one of those seemingly limitless tablelands so common out in Cherry county.

Jim brought the car to a stop and Roy stepped out. He stood a moment, with shaded eye, scanning the surrounding sea of verdure like a careful old skipper who surveys the watery waste when not exactly satisfied with himself.

"It's all right, Jim-this is about the place young Stilwell told me to start in-so you just wait here, but be careful the coyotes don't eat you up, an' I'll go see what am."

Where the deep-toned pink of the belated rose mallow nodded over the tanned beds of fuzzy buffalo grass, White made his way, and was still in sight of the automobile when a bunch of birds arose, a dozen or more of them, from right in front of him.

From the trailing clusters with which the wild pea had festooned the dwarf sunflower stalks, an old hen grouse, with half a score or more of young ones, as large as she was, had jumped with a startling b-b-bbbbbbbb! and in gleaming lines, for the sun was now streaking the scene with its glittering topaz shafts, of gray and brown went hurtling away toward the distant hills to the north.

Once More Came That Thunderous Outburst.

He marked them carefully down and was quickly plunging along madly after them. Over the next gentle swell he slowed down, and with automatic ready in front of him, cautiously continued his advance.

Once more came that thunderous outburst, and up from the tousled grasses and dessicated weeds whirled a confused blur of brown and gray with a suddenness that all but jarred Roy off his feet. At the crack of his gun a bird fell, as three others did in lightning succession, as he kept pulling the trigger. Then he missed, but got in his sixth shot, but only the petalostemon bowed its faded ribbons in response, but his seventh and last, tunneling through the tops of the ragweed, keeled over his fifth bird, a speedy old cock, probably the lord of the flock, well, fully eighty yards, ahead of him-that is what he is willing to swear to-away.

All of this happened in the shake of a lamb's tail, and yet all was not over. Without moving to retrieve, Roy had barely refilled his magazine, when another brace of birds broke cover not ten yards from where he stood, but neither of them got away. His automatic again rang out, once, twice, in commingling succession, and the two birds went whirling in a cloud of feathers into the fuzzy clumps of lobelia, sunflower and ragweed.

Roy, by that sixth sense all real, successful sportsmen seemed to possess, knew that that was all, and after again replenishing his magazine he quickly had the seven birds in a pile at his feet and signalled Jim to come on.

Only Three More To Make the Limit.

"Three more, Jim," deprecatorially observed Roy as the car stopped at his side, "and we'll have to quit-the limit, you know."

Out of the car bounced the colored lad, and as he eagerly gathered up those royal birds, he exploded, half commanding, half terrogatorially:

"Whatya talkin' 'bout-da'rs sure no end to the limit on this desert. Doan quit, Mars Roy-let's fill the ki-yar with 'em, and make dem stiffs' eyes back at de Lodge pop like fried hominy in de pan, ternight, Mah God, man, how you do shoot!"

"It can't be did, Jim. The law's, the law you know, all but that prohibition thing, an' I absolutely refuse to break it. There's a chance, you know, somebody might find it out."

"Oh, I see-ee-ee!" drawled Jim, rolling his eyes till nothing but the whites were visible. "You all's powerful hones' under compulsion, you is, isn't you? My advice, howsumever, Mars Roy, is to keep right on till we get the ki-yar full, lawa'r no laws."

"No, three more, only, Jim. Then we'll finish up on ducks, but first take a look round you. Did you ever see anything like this back in Omaha or down in Memphis?" and White waved his arm around the horizon, lingering impressively on the northern skies, through which had just passed one of those dashing rain storms, so common in the fall, and then vanished, leaving the vault a mass of changing and writhing clouds.

And, truly, the scene was a grandly picturesque one. Even as unbelievable as it may seem to those who have never gazed upon the wonders of Nebraska's sandhill country.

Cloud Ridges Over Half the Heavens.

Cloud ridges, pile after pile, lowering in mighty form over half the heavens and plunging leagues and leagues of desolate hill and plain and undulatory billows of swaying grass into lowering shadow, only to burst into the golden sunshine again.

We bow our heads before the grandeur of a Yellowstone, where seas of water plunge upon the rocky heart of that wild country with reverberating thunders, but glance merely askance at some cataract of storm vapor, rushing down the sky-slope over our boundless plains, to which Yellowstone, aye, even Niagara, is mere cascade.

We linger entranced upon the beamy lights and velvety shades of the old masters, of Titian and Tintorretto, whose names glitter with the magic tints of Italy; but let me venture, the colors born of the artist, Atmosphere, on an October morning, in the sandhills, flash disdain upon the tame blazonry of such mimic hues.

Even the divine frescoes of Raphael must yield to the common tones of the turbulent skies on a morning or evening on Nebraska wondrous hilled prairies. The architecture of Glotto and Angelo is nothing to that which you may behold by gazing upward and about you and upon one of these variable sandhills panoramas.

The Last Three and Then After Ducks.

There is matchless, yet evanescent buildings there, never tiring the sight in their sameness, but changing as you gaze, and resting, as they do, on a foundation of living sapphire, and flushed and glowing with sentient tints they transcend any attempt ever made by the hand of man.

Finally, Roy and Jim climbed back into the car, and running on for a mile or so, Roy again alighted and started up a narrow arroyo between the hills. No more than a dozen steps had he taken, when a single grouse arose from near a still green clump of yucca, followed by three more before it had barely gotten on its way. Three of them quickly wilted into the tall grass, but the last one, on triumphant wing, was permitted to go on unscathed, Roy watching it until it settled down, at least half a mile away.

The limit, that was all, and returning to the car, Roy directed Jim to go back by the way or Watt's lake, where he put in the declining hours of the afternoon, toying with the ducks.

Oh, yes, that's so, they did bring in seventeen chickens that night-but you see, Jim killed the last seven, with a club, back in the hills, while Roy was topping off the day with the wild fowl.

Size of the Kill No Measure of Success of a Duck Hunt

Hunter Today as Pleased With Bag of a Dozen as He Once Was With a Hundred-One of Best Days in Blind Ends With Meager Bag-Redheads Give Thrilling Moment.

While we had one of the best days of the trip on the one following Roy's chicken hunt, we did not bag so many birds at that, for the sportsmen of today have learned their lesson well, and you seldom hear of the indiscriminate slaughters that marked every day of a hunt in the days of old. There is a proper appreciation of the situation among them all, and today the true sportsman thinks as much of his bag of a dozen or so of birds as he used to think of a hundred. I am well aware of the tendency of both the duck hunter and the bass fisherman to spin fairy stories, but I have been cured of that fascinating pastime these many years, and when I tell you that we had a great day, you can rely upon it that that is just what we had, whether the number of ducks we hung up behind the Lodge when we got back in the evening, was big enough to justify the declaration or not.

I had a little hatchet once, myself, and it worked just as well on the corner of the new barn as it did on a cherry tree. One day a respected ancestor appeared on the scene of my juvenile labors and I resolved to make a record that would dull the lustre of that of the Father of our Country. But when the aforesaid ancestor stooped and picked up a barrel stave, my thinker slipped an eccentric and ditched the train of ambition thought into a misapprehension of the facts of the case. The readjustment of my moral machinery that took place in the next sixty seconds was so complete that it has seldom jumped a cog since.

We all went up to the cane and rice beds at the head of the lake at a very early hour-Ernie and I in one boat, and Roy and the doctor in another-and we made our blinds not 300 yards apart, where each could see and enjoy what the others were doing as thoroughly as if we had all been together.

Ernie and I had just got our decoys out nicely, and were standing up, rapturously overlooking our surroundings, when a faint halloo came from the blind down below us, and hurriedly turning, we descried a fine flock of birds approaching, stretched out in a line, and coming on at a remarkably rapid rate.

Coming Like Shot a Flock of Redheads.

"They are redheads, Ernie," I exultantly but warily announced, as the peculiar flight of the approaching birds quickly apprised me of their identity.

"Now do not be in a hurry-yes, they are redheads," I added, "they are coming like shot-they'll pass us-but keep down-they'll circle and come back-they always do, and they'll light if we permit them to."

Sure enough, the long line whizzed by like a string of white and slate-colored racers, went off a few hundred yards, curved round, and came shooting back toward us again.

"Let 'em light," breathlessly whispered Ernie.

It was a nerve tingling moment, exceedingly trying on the nerves of even an old gunner like myself.

S-w-i-s-h-h-h! In they came, skimming along over our bobbing decoys with marvelous velocity. Then they started off and up into space again, as if bound for the rosy zenith. But they were not. They had only mistaken our stools for feeding kindred, and I felt, intended to join in the banquet. They made another sweeping detour in the air and then came back, with that same wild rush of wing and gleaming red of iris. Ernie and I held our breath. We were anxious to make a kill of redhead, as so far but few had been brought to bag by any of us.

And then. Before we could fairly credit our senses, fully two-thirds of them slid gracefully into the crystal waters just beyond our decoys, like so many slate-colored apparitions. The balance of the flock, as if by some fathomless intuition of danger, kept on, and did not come back; on, on, up the lake till they merged with the curling mists rising with the sun.

"Don't be in a rush, Ernie," I whispered, "they'll not fly-let's watch 'em a moment, and see what they'll do."

Circling About Among the Decoys.

For a brief spell the birds sat perfectly still, heads up, straight and alert. Then they began to move with the almost imperceptible motion of a thistledown upon the calm water, first to this side, then to that, inspecting the wooden counterfeits, timidly, suspiciously. Finally, there appearing no real occasion for alarm, the whole flock, and there must have been a dozen and a half of them, converged slowly together, furtively approaching the decoys. Now they halt and glide off to one side, then back again, as if yet afraid to come too near. Suddenly, as they bunched well together, and looked as if they might be off at any second, I spoke in a whisper:

"We might as well rise, Ernie, and give it to 'em."

Together we arose and stood erect. Instead of taking wing immediately, they sat still, craning their lavender necks, until we could see the flash of their deep yellowish-red eyes, evidently dumfounded at what they saw.

But they dallied but a second, when with a wild splashing, and spasmodic squeaks, they were in the air as if thrown there by an explosion of dynamite, and at the same time we sent the contents of four of those good old Peters shells into their confused ranks.

It seemed as if there was a cloudburst of dead and wounded redheads, but there wasn't so many as that-only five-but four of them hit the water belly up.

Ernie and I were frantic, and for a few minutes we stood and laughed and joked in our glee, like boys over the first ducks they had ever killed, until the cripple demanded our attention. A shot, however, was all that was necessary, and over he went with his snowy belly skyward, along with his ill-fated brethren.

Rare Glory of Sandhill Duck Hunt.

That is what I wanted to particularly tell you-this shot of Ernie's and mine into that bunch of redheads-a rare enough thing in these days of our vanishing wild fowl. And now that I have unpretentiously succeeded, what is the use of continuing on and relating to you all the other grand shots we had that morning, and on through the whole day; of how we watched the doctor and Roy, likewise, who, down in their blind, had twice the shooting that we did, for we had located too far to the north, out of the line of the regular flyway, while they were right in it. However, we killed all the birds we wanted, and, when added to the bulk behind the Lodge in the evening, they made a pile of sufficient proportions to make us ponder over what we would do with them if we kept on increasing the accumulation at the same ratio, on up to the time we were to leave for home.

And so for the time, we will leave you, feeling that in a way we have given you at least a vague understanding of the rare glory of a duck hunt in the sandhills in the flaming days of October, when all the senses are most lambent.

There, have I often thought, would I abide always, in that fresh, free region-that tranquil realm of content, where honor's measure is not taken by success; where pretension does not trod on merit, where genius is not a jest, goodness not a seeming, and devotion not a sham. There in those wild and silent places, where thought is untainted by wrong, where solitude is the parent of pure meditation and everything eloquent of the Master.

A Day In the Cane Fortified With Fried Mush, Hot Cakes, Bacon and Eggs

Following our day with the redheads, it was Roy's and Ernie's turn to shoot together again, and mine and the Doctor's, and while the two former pulled away in one of the big boats, the Doc and I took one apiece, with the understanding, however, that we were to make our blinds alongside of each other, where we could enjoy each other's joys or discomfitures, just as they happened along.

As I look back to recall it was the Doctor's turn to get up in the morning, make the fire and play chef, as we permitted Jim to lie abed and get all the rest he could for the onerous task of "redding" up the Lodge, and keep things going all day.

It was a trifle snappier than usual this morning, and I was wide awake when Doc crawled reluctantly out of his cozy lair along side of Roy, with an ejaculation that sounded strangely like "Jesus! but it's cold!" but as the Doctor is very meticulous as to his diction it must have been something else. Anyway he lit the lamp, pulled on his clothes, still fragrant of the rice beds, and then stood stretching, yawning and shivering until I thought he had forgotten all about the duties devolved upon him.

An alarmingly long pull at a bottle labeled "Good for What Ails You," however, evidently accelerated the flow of blood and he quickly had fuel roaring away in the range like a prairie fire. He then broke the ice in the big water bucket. I think he broke it with an oath, but it may have been with a hammer, but he broke it, anyway, and pouring a basin full of the chilly stuff, washed both face and hands with a single swipe, remarking that that was the last wash for him until he got back to Omaha. He was in a pitiful state, but by this time Roy's sympathy had been awakened and with a muffled grunt he crawls out, dons his duds, gives the doctor a kick in the pants and twenty minutes later had breakfast ready-hot cakes, bacon and eggs, fried mush and coffee-not bad to take, I'll tell the world.

Roy's Blind and His Canvasbacks.

"As you and Sandy, Doc, are going up in the cane, I want to tell you the best place," exclaimed Roy, as he speared a big, ripe egg, wallowed it around in the bacon grease a second, and then flopped it over on to his plate. "I've got the dandiest kind of a blind in there, in the middle clump of cane, and you want to get into it-but as Ernie and I are going that way, too, I'll show you where it is. Jiminee! the canvasbacks I killed in there-"

"Canvasback, you mean," cut in the Doctor.

"Well, maybe you're right. I said canvasbacks, and that's what I meant, canvasbacks-why I got four the first crack out of the box-"

"Cut it," again from the Doctor.

"All right, sonny," proceeded Roy, "if you bring in a mudhen tonight you'll do more than you've done yet."

"But that canvasback, Mr. White, that canvasback-was it a real canvasback or-"

"Say," interrupted Ernie, "You fellows are wasting a lot of valuable time, and I say Doc, you and Sandy want to be in your blinds before daylight if you want to make a bag. Come on boys, let's get going."

Realizing the wisdom of all this, the Doctor and I grabbed our guns and shell cases and stepped out the front door.

The stars were rapidly paling, and along the horizon to the east a line of gray was stealing. The closer misty banks hanging in midair, while the lake itself remained hidden in the obscurity.

Snugly Anchored Amidst Tall Canes.

In a remarkable short space of time the doctor and I were in our boats and on our way, and long before the gray line in the east had began to burn into amber, we were snugly anchored amidst the tall canes about where Roy had indicated. We could hear the noise of the row locks of Ernie and Roy's boat, as they cut in through the broad fields of rice to our right, but finally absolute silence told us that they, too, were all set.

Although we had reached the blinds first, Roy and Ernie, with their usual luck, opened the morning's sport. In quick succession we were suddenly brought to a realization that the birds were moving by five or six shots from down their way and then, hardly before we were looking for anything, a huge flock of birds fanned the air sharply as they passed over us.

It was rapidly growing light, too, and we had barely recovered from the thrill these first passing birds had given us, when the Doctor, in startled tones, exclaimed:

"My God, Sandy, look, look off there, isn't that a line of mallards for you!"

Sure enough, a flock of nearly or quite a half hundred birds had swept down from the Clear Lake hills and were sweeping across the lake diagonally from us, and while I had little hope of attracting their attention, I seized my caller and sounded the quick shrill cry of a hen bird when suddenly disturbed by the sudden arrival of a bunch of strangers.

All the flock, and they were flying in a line like a detachment of infantry, swept up into the air as the imitated welcome of the female bird struck their acute hearing, and when at a sufficient altitude to insure safety from the guns of any foemen who might be lurking in the bordering rice or cane, they swerved round and came our way, evidently bent on learning the cause of the sudden outcry of their relative.

Sliding Down the Aerial Stairway.

Fatal curiosity!

Once up in the air and turned our way, their keen eyes quickly discovered our decoys bobbing and glistening in the open water in front of us and taking them for a feeding flock, they came sliding down the aerial stairway right into us.

"Ready, Doc?" I whispered, peering out through the interstices in the cane at the swiftly advancing birds, and raising my gun cautiously for quick action.

"All ready," echoed Nichols with like caution.

Heralded by the mellow cackle, which invariably signalizes the descent of a flock of hungry mallards, the long line came swiftly one, growing rapidly larger as it widened out; for the mallard,though seemingly a slow flier compared with teal or redhead, is really a bird of swift flight. On they came, with the cackle increasing and becoming clearer, until it was hard to resist the impulse to rise up and peer over the cane tops. But neither of us did any such foolish thing, but we grasped our guns a little tighter, to be sure, and shifted a bit to have them in the right position for speedy and certain work when the supreme moment should arrive.

Alas, me! My dear old duck hunting comrades, how often have we crouched just so before, what tingling, thrilling moments we have known in the golden past, in our tule blind at break of morning, or sit of night, in those self-same wild and lonely sandhills!

"Sh-h-h-h!" The Doctor's corduroy cap had risen slightly, like a miniature sand dune, above the arrowy line of our reedy blind, and I, too, had straightened up a bit, and then down again we went with culpable haste.

Lack of Patience Warns Flock of Danger.

And such has been my experience hundreds of times before. A lack of patience has often proved the undoing of the oldest and best skilled wildfowler, even when the birds seemed within easy killing distance, and when we saw the long line, with a confused cackling of swerving wings, and a querulous volley of startled quacks, swing off just enough to carry the nearest bird safely beyond all reach of the threatened danger, we realized that there are some things in duck shooting that always repay their cost; and the foremost of these is-patience.

No time, however, did the doctor and I have for vain regret or criminations, for where the yellow of the lower rice field joined the blue of the sky, another feathered cloud rose into view. Along the sky the mass is widening out and again coming straight for us. This time there is no use in resorting to the call, which is too often done by inexperienced duck shooters, for the birds were on the course they had instinctively selected, and all we had to do was to lay low and stay low until the time to crack away would arrive. No danger of another mistake on our part. We were as chagrined as we were disappointed, but even more so, and not a word of reproof did either of us utter. We were equally to blame, and silence was discretionary.

So quickly did the birds come that I fancied shortly that I could hear the whiff, whiff, whiff of their wings, as they set them ready to slide down into our decoys, with their green heads and white collars almost over us. But not yet, not yet.

The Critical Second When Shots Are Wasted.

It was the critical second at which we lost out before, and a time, too, when more shots are wasted than at any other. If you show the top of your head or crook an elbow, you will probably see the line turn away just comfortably out of the reach of your gun-the hardest shooting and longest killing gun in your set, of course. Wait one moment more, and you will hear the tips of their ashen wings fanning the crisp air, and feel an intense tone in the loud quack of the leader that stirs an intenser tumult than ever in your blood. And seldom do you see such excitement condensed into so short a space of time as when you rise to see the air filled with dismayed and affrighted wild fowl.

The doctor and I poked out our guns at exactly the proper time, and at the combined explosion, four birds fell dead or wounded among their wooden prototypes, while the rest created a veritable medley of frenziedly flapping wings, with squawking throats outstretched toward all points of the compass.

By the grace of good luck, I succeeded in getting in an extra pair of shells before that consternated and ragged bunch of mallards could get their bearings, and each of us-the Doctor was shooting a Winchester pump-got down another bird, one of them a hen with a badly shattered wing. She was curling back over the blind, and, when she fell, it was in a narrow strip of weedy water between us and the decoys, and seeing she was so badly hampered by this tangly growth that she was unable to proceed but a few yards, we concluded not to overshoot her, but let her remain where she was.

Crippled Hen Becomes Good Decoy.

"She'll help the decoys," remarked the Doctor.

"You don't think she can get away?"

"No, I don't," he replied. "You see she is right in a sort of a little reedy coop, and in her desperate condition she'll be pretty apt to lie still until she finally keels over dead. Any way, should she attempt to get away, either of us could stop her before she got a yard."

At this juncture the hen lifted up her injured wing, and flapping it in spasms, she began to quack softly, alluringly to a small bunch of birds hurrying across, far above us, towards Watts' lake. They failed to come down and whirling round and round in her narrow confines, the hen began to signal to every bird she saw, even calling frantically to a passing mob of "chucking" blackbirds. Presently a pair of her own kind came down to her entreaties and we killed them both, and finally, day having broken broadly, the flight increased and for a short while Nichols and I had our hands full.

And Roy and Ernie, off to our left were also having fairly good sport, and once, when five birds came into them perfectly, the Doctor and I saw the whole five folding up in the air and tumbling earthwards before we heard the reports of their guns.

A little later our wounded hen set up a terrible racket, threshing about her madly, and fairly screaming in her frantic efforts to lift herself into the air, and then lay as dead apparently as any of her unmolested kindred floating about her.

Hawk Causes Consternation in Reeds.

"What's the matter with her," asked the Doctor.

"She has doubtless seen a hawk," I answered, and then, true enough, we caught sight of one of those sharp shinned buccaneers of the wild wastes coming straight down the other side of the channel, just skimming the tree tops.

We stooped down behind our covert of cane and watched this harrier of the marshes as it came straight on, across the open water and straight for the very spot where the little hen was lying, as if dead.

The Doctor shot as it dipped, and it fell so close to the frightened little hen that she actually tore clear through the smart weed barriers and was desperately flapping away to the more open water with her one good wing and yellow legs, when I keeled her over.

Two Weeks on Hackberry; the Last Day's Shooting

Instantaneously, almost, with the immolation of the little crippled mallard hen, a wisp of bluebills whirled over our heads, but they were going with the wind, and try as hard as he might, to lead them, the Doctor couldn't make it, and the shot from his Winchester whistled harmlessly behind them.

Next, another flock of mallards dipped down behind the rice to the west of us, and knowing that they had not settled in the water, I gave a running call and was answered by a laconic quack. I called again, and a splash, followed by another and another, told us that the birds had alighted just around the point of our cane patch, within easy gunshot, undoubtedly, had there been o intervening tules. As the doctor and I peered intently toward the spot, as if we would penetrate the rushy labyrinth, four redheads came whizzing over the decoys!

Two quick reports were followed by two splashes, for we both had downed our bird, but the mallards, flushing with raucous cries from around the point, distracted our attention sufficiently to cause us both to miss with our second attempts.

Then there was a protracted lull, but long toward the shank of the afternoon, we saw many birds flying across the clumps of rice a mile below us, but for some reason none seemed inclined to come up our way.

"If we were down there," remarked the Doctor, with evident disgust, "the birds would all be up here."

"Sure!" I rejoined, "that's the way it always looks when you are duck shooting.And it is not chance, either. We were popping away right here, pretty regularly, way past noon, and there is a whole lot of birds that know we are here."

"Yes, and when strangers come in, I believe they warn them."

"That may be, but-mark! off there to your right, a lone bird-you kill it!"

It was a cock pintail and high in the air, reconnoitering. He lowered, then rose again, just skirting our line of decoys, out of range; but in answer to a soft, trilling whistle, the spike stretched his long, sinuous neck,cocked his head and poised himself on fluttering wings, as if debating whether to come closer or beat it. He chose the later course, but too late, for as he slanted his ashen sides toward our blind, the Doctor cracked away at him, and, to ur surprise, the long neck wilted, and the bird came down like a chunk of lead.

A Good, Long Shot.

"A good long shot! I exclaimed, as the pintail hit the water with a smack.

"A beaut!" echoed Nichols.

"And you killed him dead, too-must have centered him?"

"I sure didn't kill him alive," retorted Dr. Bob, as he threw out the empty shell.

"Now, don't get fresh-but look, Doc, look!" and I pointed off toward Clear lake, where the air seemed to be filled with crossing birds; then we were startled by a veritable fusillade from over in the rice where Roy and Ernie were, and turning, we saw three birds falling, while hurtling off down the lake were the serried ranks of fully three score canvasbacks. Then two more shots came back from the other blind, but seeing no birds in the air, I remarked:


Sundown, and the twilight thickening, the Doctor and I were in the act of pulling out to take up the decoys, when we were startled by a strange, but familiar cry, a sort of a Pur-ut-ut! Pur-rut, pur-rut-ruting, and far above us, still bathed in the warm, bright glow of the sinking sun, we beheld, floating southward, soft as bits of gossamer, a long line of sandhill cranes, sending earthward through miles of darkening space their weird, mystically penetrating bugle calls.

And what a time the Doctor and I had in gathering our dead birds that evening. We had been so engrossed watching the wild fowl weaving over Clear Lake that we had forgotten all about retrieving until those wild calls of the floating crane brought us to a realizing sense of the increasing darkness, then we got a hustle on. Work as hard as we did, it was plumb dark when we had gotten them all, not even forgetting the doctor's hawk, and at last were on our way home, each pulling his own boat slowly, and musing as we pulled.

"Don't You Remember?"

And what another joyous time we all did have in the cozy Peterson Lodge that night. A bountiful dinner duly stowed away, we all felt good, at our very best, in fact, and when it came to those "don't you remember the time stories" there were so many good things bandied back and forth that I can't remember half of them. When we finally did get through telling of the day's events and the little battles with the papes, and were ready to crawl in, the coyote was tuning up on the hillside across the lake, and the east wind came moaning up the valley in a way that told of a change in the weather. But there was no change, and instead of cold or rain, the morning again broke beautifully with a clear autumn sky and a caressing breeze from the south.

Somewhat fatigued from the rather exacting labors of the day before, I was inclined to linger in bed this morning, and when I did get up, the other hunters had all gone out. While eating my delayed breakfast I heard a half dozen shots from up the lake and when through, I took my gun and field glasses and went out to reconnoiter.

I saw quite a number of birds in the air, and then again came four distinct reports from about the spot where the Doctor and I had our blind on the previous day, where I knew that Roy and Ernie had located. So I hit the old coon path leading to my old tule blind on the point, and within ten minutes was duly ensconced therein and ready for anything that might happen.

My blind was close to the water's edge and I had barely squatted upon the shell box I had taken there on a previous trip for a seat, when I noticed a small triangular shaped riffle on the placid surface approaching me, point first, and coming from one of the half-whelmed dome like piles of tules a short ways out. I at once concluded it was a muskrat. And so it was. I sat perfectly immobile, and through the interstices in my blind, kept my eyes on the little harrow shaped waves approaching me. Closer and closer they came, until finally, when about ten or fifteen yards from the point, I made out its funny little face, with the whiskers sticking out from its puffy little cheeks and its nostrils twitching suspiciously as it came on through the shallow water with the gracefulness of one of the finny tribe.

A Muskrat's Dinner.

Right up on the low shore the rat came, and halting a moment, lifted up his round head, and with black eyes sparkling like diamonds in a brown setting, sniffed the air tentatively several times as if it had caught some taint about it that it did not quite understand. Perhaps he caught the odor of the dead mud hen I had left there on a previous trip, but if it was that it did not scare him a little bit, and absolutely unconcerned he crawled quietly out upon the soft ground and began nosing among the flattened tules. His sleek coat quickly shed the last vestige of moisture, just as if he hadn't been in the water for a month, and his seal brown coat shone in the sun like the boa about my lady's neck.

Soon he waddled up to within a yard of the tules behind which I silently sat, and sitting up on his haunches, wiped his nose with one creamy paw, looked sharply into my crypt of reeds and flags, then set to work scratching and pawing at the roots of the smallest of the tules. He soon pulled out, with his stout, flat incisors, a long slender white tendril and began to munch at it complacently, and I assure you I was interested in the picture he made.

Through with the first root, which he seemed to bite merely into small fragments, holding it in his expanded jaws a brief interval, then ejecting it as if he had extracted all its succulency, he again began his excavations. Root after root was withdrawn from the mirey soil and he reduced them to bits, and at last appearing as if satiated with the diet, he backed into the shallow water, keeping his piercing little eyes glued to my blind the while, but evincing no timidity whatsoever. Once in the water he doused his chubby head beneath it once or twice, washed his face with his hands, slapped the surface joyously with his flat tail, rolled over, shook himself and then set sail back to he dome-like castle in the further tules.

Things Left Untold.

Immediately after this I descried a line of birds beating it down the lake in a path I knew would take then right over Ernie and Roy. As they neared this bunch of cane they went up into the air just as if someone had told them that it was a good place to give a wide berth to, and they passed on high up, without calling forth a shot. By the dark streak made by their hooded heads, the glistening white of their lingerie and the peculiar motion of their short wings, I knew what they were just as if they had passed with in a dozen yards of me. Canvasbacks!

But they had more than fair shooting before the day waned and after they got in, just after sundown, and hung their birds up along with those behind the shack, it made a sight calculated to tickle the heart of the greatest duck hunter in the land.

And such was our daily life in the sandhills, and while I have said nothing of many of the wondrous things we saw, of the two days' terrific downpour, and the heroism of those who went forth into it, the race between a teal and a duck hawk, the midnight visit of a skunk, the hung ring-perch the doctor caught, and the sport they gave us all at diverse times; Rivers Stilwell's story of the haunted cowboy, about our innumerable haps and mishaps and our happy nights in the old Peterson Lodge, and many other incidents, I have told you enough to give you an idea of the glories and the benefits of a two-weeks' sojourn in the fabled old sandhills.