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<DIV>LESSONS (Part 1)<BR><BR>As time went on the open garage door and the contents of the garage become a familiar meeting place for the old man and the Kid. The wooden crate did not seem as hard to sit on as it once was, the gear and its names became easier for the Kid to identify, the old man’s dog got friendlier, and the Kid noticed there was a “Mrs. Old Manâ€. She made her presence know one afternoon in the late Spring by showing up in the old garage with some sandwiches and cold drinks. Surprisingly to the Kid, the old man politely thanked her and even got up when she entered the garage to assist her. The Kid also had found out what the old man’s name was, A. J. Feeney, but still responded to every statement he made with a “Yes Sir†or a “No Sirâ€! The Kid seemed to be fearful of any other response since the old man still seemed to be rough and barked when he instructed the Kid as to what he wanted done or was teaching. The old man always responded to anything the Kid said with either “Sure Kid†or “That’s not correct, Kidâ€.<BR><BR>The first spring after spending a full season with the old man was very eventful for the Kid. The old man sat the Kid down on the crate, which by this time the Kid called “His Crateâ€, and talked once again of the many sounds that ducks made. The old man even showed the kid what they sounded like on that black piece of plastic looking thing he said was a “Duck Callâ€. There were many afternoons spent hearing those sounds and at times the Kid thought he was either going crazy or deaf listening to them, all the while wishing he could try to make those sounds on the old man’s duck call. That was not to be. That duck call appeared to be sacred to the old man. Each afternoon the Kid had the opportunity to spend with the old man brought many new lessons and many new questions for the old man. The old man sat there and mostly grinned, but patiently answered the questions with full authority. Then one afternoon the old man was once again trying to teach the duck sounds and he asked the Kid if he would like to try to make the same sounds. The Kid could not be happier if he had been in a candy store with everything in there being free. The Kid reached over to the old man thinking he would get the black plastic duck call to try. Instead the old man pulled out a yellow and green box and handed it to the Kid. There was a brand spanking new Loman Duck Call and the old man told the Kid it was his to keep. First thought the Kid had was to put it to his mouth in the same manner he has seen the old man do so many times. That was not to happen, since the old man immediately told the Kid he was to get some of the heavy cord that had been used for rigging decoys and he would show the Kid how to tie up a call holder. Once the holder was completed the old man finally allowed the Kid to try to make some sounds on the call. The first attempt brought the first audible chuckle from the old man the Kid had heard since their meeting in the quarry, but the old man quickly caught himself and put on a stern looking face once again. This first day of duck calling lessons was a highlight for the Kid and he asked the old man if he could take the call home with him to try to get the calls down better. The old man at first seemed to start to give his approval, but quickly informed the Kid that the duck call would remain in the garage and be hanging on a nail inside the door. Disappointed, the Kid did as he was told and hung the call on the appointed nail. Leaving the garage that day the Kid seemed to float on air while walking home with the thoughts that he would soon be able to call ducks just like the old man. As time went on the Kid realized he would never make that point of perfection with a duck call that the old man had no matter how many years he tried.<BR><BR>There came a day when the old man was sitting on his crate talking about some of the past hunts, which the Kid had heard many a time before, but for some reason realized that it must come with the old man’s age or it was like the Kid telling his friends about the fish that he had caught and how he would tell the same fish story time and time again. This time the old man kept saying something about “Putting the Hammer Down on Them†whenever he mentioned shooting ducks. The Kid wondered what that meant and asked the old man. The old man said nothing at first, but left the garage only to soon return with an old gun case. He opened the case and pulled out a shiny but worn and, to the Kid, very large shotgun that was obviously a pump gun. The old man pushed the gun towards the Kid and the Kid reached for it upon finding the old man quickly pulling it back and saying that the Kid was only to look and not touch. The old man pointed to a hammer on the rear of the gun that went back when he pumped the action. The old man explained that when the trigger was pulled the hammer went down firing the shell in the chamber thus his expression “Putting the Hammer Down on Themâ€. The Kid did not want to ask too many questions regarding the gun for fear the old man would get upset and not explain all of the workings of the gun since the Kid only had seen single shot guns and the three shot bolt action shotgun he used. As the conversation went on the Kid finally asked more about the gun and the old man told him it was a Winchester Model 97. Since the old man obviously had shown the Kid that the gun could shoot a lot faster than the bolt action, the Kid informed the old man that he was going to save some money and buy one. The old man said something to the Kid that he never forgot, “Once you can hit the majority of what you aim at with that gun you own, then and only then should you get a new gun that can shoot faster.†<BR><BR>That summer was for instructions on how to repaint the wood decoys and other strange things the Kid was instructed to do. First came the painting of the decoys. The old man pulled out of the bags all of the decoys and started to sift through the stacks in the garage to find the proper ones for repainting. Paint supplies were from the local paint store in the form of regular house paint and brushes were just any old brush of various sizes that happened to be around. The first thing was to take a wire brush and knock off the chips of old paint, then look at the existing patterns and colors that would be followed in the repainting process. The old man mixed all the proper colors and put an afternoon’s amount in empty coffee cans. The Kid could not fail to notice that there were many decoys that weighed a lot more than others. When asked why, the old man told him that was due to some of the older ones opening up or “Checking†and water being soaked up in the wood. The Kid learned another strange word “Checking†and that the waterlogged decoys were the oldest. As the Kid painted some of these old decoys he noticed a distinct pattern of the original paint where the breast paint met the paint of the main body. It was originally painted that way, the old man informed him, at the “Mason Factory†and the ones that did not have that pattern were from the “Dodge Factoryâ€. The Kid thought aloud, “I have heard of Mason Jars and Dodge Cars, but never knew they made duck decoys.†The old man nearly Roared upon hearing this thought and immediately set the Kid straight about the famous decoy makers. After repainting many of the worn decoys, the old man told the Kid there would be some paint jobs on some of them that would not match the existing paint patterns and colors, but would be a new type of Duck when they got finished. At this the old man went to the very far corner of the garage and started to get out some more decoys along with some old empty Clorox Bleach Bottles. Being the weather had been very rainy in the spring and the winter had brought a lot of snow, he informed the Kid that the lake was much higher this year and would attract “Diversâ€.The old man did not wait this time for the usual questions as to what he was talking about, but merely went over to the chart hanging above a work bench with pictures of all different kinds of ducks on it and pointed out the “Diversâ€. The old man pointed out that most of the paint would just be black and white with some of the heads painted to match the “Divers†that he wanted to have. All the bleach bottles would be painted black and white. With those instructions the work on the new decoys started in earnest and for what seemed to the Kid like a lifetime of painting just black and white striped decoys the pile seemed to reach the rafters of the garage. All the while the Kid was painting the black and whit the old man would paint the different colored heads and each time he would paint a different color on the head he would explain to the Kid what type of duck it was. As they painted and the old man explained the decoys and how they would be used, the mind of the Kid went back to that day on the river when his first duck lifted out of the water and he got him. Now he knew what kind of duck it really was and that in the coming fall there would be the chance that they would be hunting them in a very serious manner on the lake.<BR><BR>One afternoon of solid painting, the old man paused and told the Kid they would do something special to break up the chore of decoy painting. He then opened a drawer in a large beat up old chest of drawers against one wall and removed a large bundle of leather of many shapes and wrapped with leather boot laces. The old man drew something on one of the larger pieces of the leather, handed it to the Kid along with a large pair of scissors. It was instructed that the Kid was to cut out the piece the old man had drawn out while he cut some wide strips from some of the other leather. When this job was completed the old man took the piece of leather from the Kid and cut three slits on either end of it. With that being accomplished, the old man showed the Kid what the next step would be. The Kid was to put each strip of leather through the slits and tie large knots in each one. He was then to pull them tight into the slit area. Of course the Kid did exactly what he was told and immediately showed his work to the old man. At this the old man asked, “Do you have any idea what that is for?†The Kid replied, “No, A.J., I don’tâ€. The old man bristled for this was the first time the Kid had responded with something other than “Yes, Sir or No, Sir†and boomed at the Kid, “What did you call me?†The Kid knew for sure the old man was never going to teach him another thing nor allow him in the garage again for the rest of both their lives. The Kid sheepishly responded, “I called you A.J., Sir.†The old man managed another half grin and said, “I thought so. From now on you can call me Mr. Feeney if you want, but until you are told so, do not call me A.J.†Thank goodness the old man was not as angry as the Kid imagined and the old man went on to explain the leather contraption he had just made. The old man said, “Son, what you have made for yourself is a duck strap to carry the ducks you take out of the marsh or quarry.†He then showed the Kid how to loop the straps around the head of a decoy simulating the way the Kid would have to loop them around the actual ducks. The Kid finally realized also the Mr. Feeney had called him “Son†and not “Kidâ€. This made the youngster beam inside because for the first time in the relationship there was a different way for each of them to address each other and it seemed like the new way had a higher level of respect attached to it.</DIV><!-- / message -->
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