The morning air is crisp, smelling of cut corn from the breeze brushing over the stalks recently wetted from the morning’s dew. A few birds trade off on a piece of PLOTS across the road from our intended conquest. My male Vizsla, Ari, and female Shorthair, Gemma Jean, whine from the back seat in excitement while I suit up.
“Shhhhhh,” I hush to my enthusiastic companions. I slide both shells in my over/under and gently help my car door shut without more than a faint click. As a ritual to signal each hunt, I whisper to myself and the dogs, “release the hounds.” And they’re off! With noses to the ground and docked tails that vibrate like tuning forks, they work the land for anything that leaves a scent. I watch as they weave back and forth at a hundred miles an hour like Shriners on Go-Karts. I start to grin. A therapy awakens in me. I bask in the solitude and wide, open expanse.
HONK! HONK! HONK! I’m abruptly startled back from my daydream. Traffic in Minneapolis at rush hour is terrible. Folks here don’t appreciate having to wait for my absent mind. I reluctantly push the gas pedal and continue through the green light. Continuing onto 494S, I concentrate on traffic and driving the speed limit to get home. I try not to gawk at the skyline merging from 394E to 94W. “Stay focused,” I jokingly tell myself. There’s seven weeks standing between me and my favorite time of the year. The upland season calls to me. I can’t wait to carry a shotgun across vast prairies and fields. I can’t wait to watch my dogs roam those margins, doing what they were bred to do. If there is a God, he lives west of the Missouri River.
The dichotomy between my everyday life and my longing for more pastoral places is considerable. I’m more at home with a shotgun in my hand or a fly rod than I am living in the city. But my wife was born and raised here. Most of my college friends reside around the metro. I love live music, sneakers, and I am a huge restaurant foodie. The liquor store is never far. The convenience of living in the city helps me be social and caters to other facets of my life. It’s that convenience that makes my yearning for the therapeutic benefits of Dakota grasslands or a trout stream that much stronger.
The 30,000 miles I put on my Jeep last year highlights the duality between the places I search for game and the city I live in. I find solace in those wild spaces. As an urban dweller, my soul craves the restorative experience of leaving the city to scout new water or going on a good bird hunt.
I’ll fish a few hours this weekend. That should tide me over. There are a couple streams within a jaunt from my house. However, I always feel guilty leaving the dogs home. They aren’t much help on the water. Luckily, the dogs and I only have to endure a few more weeks of daydreaming, rush hour traffic and city-slicking until our favorite season arrives.