By Jim Zumbo
“Pass a duck,” Joe said.
Dave picked a baked mallard off the platter and threw it with a pass that would impress Tom Brady.
Joe missed and the duck slammed into a wall. He speared it with a fork and slapped it on his plate. “I hate these fucking things. All we eat are these goddamned ducks.”
We all agreed. Six of us, all forestry students, lived in a house off campus. Meals were spartan, since we spent most of our money on beer and dates. The marsh was close by and it was easy and cheap to kill a bunch of ducks. Deer were scarce locally and elk were almost nonexistent. We didn’t have time with our heavy study load to do any big game hunting.
“We need to kill some deer somewhere,” Jerry said.
“Funny you should say that,” Warren said. “I just heard that you can shoot plenty of deer on the Indian Reservation.”
“What’s the deal?” I asked. “There must be a catch.”
Warren learned more and we laid out a plan. There was a long weekend coming up and we bought several deer tags. I had the only car that was reliable to make the trip, but it was better equipped for city streets than muddy mountain roads.
“How the hell do we get all our gear down there plus the deer we’re bringing back?” Jerry asked. The reservation was about 150 miles away.
“Maybe the dean will let us borrow his trailer,” Dave said. “He made one and showed it to me a while ago. It’s plenty big.”
The hunt was on. Six of us jammed into my four-door sedan and headed for the reservation with high hopes. The trailer easily accommodated our gear with plenty of room for a dozen deer.
It was dark when we arrived. We were excited and it didn’t help when we saw a huge buck in the headlights. We finally climbed into our sleeping bags at midnight after stowing our gear in the huge tent we’d erected.
The weather changed overnight. The temperature dropped and the wind picked up. Jerry shot a doe and the rest of us blanked. As we sat around a campfire eating baloney sandwiches for lunch an Indian game warden pulled up in his pickup.
“Big storm coming,” he said. “Really big. You guys better get out now. This mountain will be covered with two feet of snow by morning.”
Shit! So much for bringing home a bunch of deer. We were pissed.
By the time we got camp packed in the trailer and four chains on my car tires a blizzard had rolled in. When we reached the highway we saw vehicles traveling at a snail’s pace, as far as we could see, all headed west toward Salt Lake City. I eased into the long line of hunters who were also escaping the storm.
“Look at that asshole,” I said when I looked in the rear view mirror. “He’s passing a shitload of cars and is about to pass us.”
“He’s gonna fucking die,” Warren said. “There’s an oncoming car and there’s nowhere for him to get back in line.”
He found a place. He slammed into our trailer, sending my car and trailer over an embankment. My car rolled completely over and landed on four tires with a violent thump. Miraculously none of the doors flew open. Seat belts hadn’t yet made the scene.
We sat there in silence, disbelieving what just happened. Except for a few minor bumps and bruises we were ok. Slowly we got out of the car and surveyed the damage. My car was totaled and the trailer was lying in the snow in bits and pieces, totally unrecognizable. The trunk had popped open and all our stuff was lying in the snow, some of it half buried. Hunters stopped and helped us gather our gear.
The Sheriff arrived and wrote a report. The idiot driver was unhurt and got a ticket.
I rode with the Sheriff to Heber, the closest town. “I have a place where you guys can stay tonight,” he said. “All the motels in town are booked with hunters.”
He pulled up to the jail. At that point we didn’t care. We were so whipped we weren’t interested in walking to a saloon. The jail was warm and comfortable. We thanked the sheriff profusely, especially when he didn’t lock the door.
We had about drifted off to sleep when Warren asked, “Who’s gonna tell the dean about his trailer? Damn, we might not even graduate.”
“I’m more worried about the marsh,” Bill said. “It’s probably frozen over with this cold weather. How will we kill more ducks?”
“Fuck the ducks,” someone answered. “Go to sleep.”