Quality dove gunk

My son, Leret, and I sat on the edge of a field last Saturday afternoon and enjoyed some Quality Time. Quality Time is what you spend with your children when they would rather be playing video games or watching television. And I had to admit that playing Halo with my kids would have been less stressful than what we were doing. This despite the fact that, whenever we play Halo, the boys seem to have a contest to see who can shoot me the most times. My man never manages to kill anyone. He gets shot even when everyone else is off going to the bathroom. Leret and I were supposed to be watching for doves, but what we were actually doing was being eaten by gnats. The field we were in, near Pear Valley, Texas, is evidently a giant breeding ground for gnats. I’ve never seen so many gnats in one place in my life. It was like we had stumbled into a Wal-Mart distribution center of irritation, where everyone can call when they run short of tiny, maddening insects. This is why kids today have to take the Hunter Education Course before they can hunt alone. Statistics show that most injured bird hunters are accidentally shot by a fellow hunter while slapping at gnats or mosquitoes. If kids are allowed to hunt alone there won’t be anyone there to get shot. And speaking of mosquitoes, McCulloch County has some of the most impressive specimens I’ve ever seen outside of Alaska. I’ve hunted around Rochelle, Lohn, Pear Valley, and Placid all my life, and the mosquitoes are world class. Hunters generally carry a pint of blood in an ice chest just in case. I’ve seen some bugs that would bring down an airliner if they got sucked into an engine. They don’t even bother to look for exposed skin, they just drill right through clothes, even blue jeans. One night when I was a kid I was staying at my grandparents’ house near Rochelle. I had the windows open for ventilation, and something woke me up in the middle of the night. I looked down at the foot of the bed and saw two mosquitoes talking. One said, ‘Should we eat him in here, or carry him outside’ The other said, ‘We’d better eat him in here. If we carry him outside the big ones will get him.’ But the mosquitoes weren’t so bad Saturday, probably because the gnats had eaten all of them. There were clouds of gnats, and it would have been funny to watch the other hunters constantly slapping and scratching and stomping and waving their arms around if Leret and I hadn’t been doing the same thing. We looked like a lost Riverdance troop in camo. The sun finally touched the horizon, although we couldn’t tell exactly when that happened since our eyes were full of gnats, and it was time to clean the few doves we had managed to shoot. This is always the fun part, since every year I run into someone who is surprised that I like doves more than quail. Most people claim to like quail a lot more. But then, most people are wrong. The problem is that people generally breast doves and leave the meat on the bone. They freeze them that way, and sometimes even cook them that way, which is a big mistake. Cooking dove meat on the bone makes it taste like saut’ed stogies. The thing to do is breast the dove, and then go ahead and peel the meat off the breastbone immediately. That way the bone can’t ruin the meat, plus it takes up less freezer space. My friend, Paul Stephenson, who happens to be rather British, asked me to show his daughter, Jennifer, how to clean a dove. Jennifer had had a day of firsts. She had never hunted before, or shot a gun, or been eaten alive by gnats. And now she was about to clean her first dove, which I figured would last just about until the first feather came out. I showed her how to pull the skin off the breast, and she didn’t mind that much. Then I showed her how to run her thumb up along the bone and pull the breast off, which causes the thumb to come into direct contact with certain parts of the bird that are better left unnamed. She wrinkled her face up some, but she got the breast off. Then I showed her how to break off the wings, which she seemed to kind of enjoy. When Jennifer’s sister, Megan, showed up, Jennifer was an expert, and proceeded to show Megan how to clean a dove. Once the skin was off the breast Jennifer said, ‘Now, this is the part that’s kind of ikky.’ But Megan wrinkled her face up adequately and shoved her thumb up into the ikky parts. I was impressed with both of them. Most girls would have said, ‘No, thank you, I’ll pass on getting dove gunk all over my hands, if it’s all the same.’ These girls were troopers. So the first day of dove season went great this year, as usual. Paul and I, and the other dads there, had an especially good time. Because Quality Time doesn’t have to be pleasant. Sometimes it involves gnats and dove gunk . . . ‘ Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who uses a 12 gauge for mosquitoes. Write to him at P.O. Box 1600, Mason, Tex, 76856 or jeep@verizon.net.

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