"There's only so much a guy can take," I told Patti as she brought me a bowl of clam chowder.
"Why don't you finish your soup and go after them?" Patti said, "I'll drop you off in the cane next to the drain ditch and you'll have a chance when they fly back to the refuge. It might even make you feel better."
The plan sounded good. The geese would leave just before the sun went down and fly directly back to the refuge to spend the night.
The excitement of the hunt dulled my cold symptoms as I dressed warmly and got my gun and shells out of the closet while Patti warmed up the car.
The plan was simple. Patti would drive down the drain ditch bank and when we were even with the geese, I would bail out of the car on the side away from the birds.
"Whatever happens," I told Patti, "don't stop when you let me off. If you do, they won't fly over that spot. When we get to the right spot I'll roll out of the car and run into the cane next to the drain. Your car will block me from their view."
I checked to be sure my shotgun shells were in my coat pocket and that my gun was unloaded. As we approached the patch of cane where I wanted to get out, I told Patti to slow down to 3 mph. "When I jump out," I told her, "don't stop to close the car door. Just keep going until you are out of the field."
As we neared the drop-off point I opened the door and got ready to jump, but I sensed Patti was going too slow.
"Speed up, speed up," I shouted and Patti accelerated just before I jumped. When I hit the ground running, I realized I had made a major blunder when I'd told Patti to go faster. My legs tried valiantly but couldn't catch up with my forward speed.
Everything was a blur after that. I remember rolling over and over. I remember my gun flying through the air and when the dust cleared it felt like my leg was broken as I dragged myself toward the shotgun, which lay near the cane where I wanted to hide.
Somehow I got into position. I was standing with all my weight on my good leg, on a narrow ledge at the bottom of the drain, next to the flowing water, coughing and wheezing. As I loaded my gun I discovered mud and grass sticking out of the end of the barrel. Looking closer I discovered it was plugged solid with mud. I could hear the geese talking loudly to each other in the field as they prepared to fly back to the refuge.
Trying to hurry, I removed the barrel from the gun and tried to blow out the mud. That didn't work so in desperation I cut a piece of cane and succeeded in cleaning the mud from the shotgun barrel just as I heard the geese take off.
It was a mad race as I reassembled the gun and fumbled for the shotgun shells in my jacket. The geese were close as they headed my way. Half the flock had passed me as I finally located one shotgun shell and stuffed it into the open receiver and pumped the action closed. But the action wouldn't close. It never does when you put the shell in backward. That's when the small ledge I was standing on collapsed and I fell into the drain ditch.
Back home two hours later, my leg was wrapped in an Ace bandage and pneumonia was close at hand as I shivered from my ice cold bath.
Ol' Wiley Coyote, that's me.
>> Outdoor Tales writer Al Kalin can be reached on the Internet at firstname.lastname@example.org