June 04, 2010
The Gun Dog Summer Reading List
By David DiBenedetto
Here in Charleston, SC, the heat index is going to top out near 105 degrees this weekend, so the wife, Pritch, and I are going to head to the beach. When I’m not surf fishing with my pup I plan to finish reading a great new book, Afield: American Writers on Bird Dogs (Skyhorse Publishing). The pages, still hot off the presses, are packed with some of the country’s finest writers (Thomas McGuane, Rick Bass, Jim Harrison, and Tom Brokaw to name a few) telling some of the best dog stories ever printed.
No maudlin, sunset scenes here. Just men obsessed with their bird dogs and the hunt. Take Brokaw for example. Early in his piece, “Last Dance for the Ladies,” he lets us know he’s not just posing as a dog nut:
My wife Meredith and I have been so willing to arrange our lives to accommodate Sage and Abbie that in a vain attempt to reclaim some dignity we say aloud from time to time, “Good God, we’re the kind of people we used to make fun of.” It doesn’t change our behavior, but we do take some comfort in acknowledging our weakness in their presence.
Sound familiar? I thought so. Brokaw goes on to describe a scene from one of the final hunts for his Lab, Abbie:
Then out of the corner of my eye I saw a black ball of fur tumbling down from the top of the hill, pushing a wounded grouse ahead with her nose. Abbie, her legs now worn out, was sliding and rolling the bird into the bushes where she could trap it against thick roots. When she reached the bushes, she grabbed the blue in her jaws and lay down, waiting for me to retrieve them both. I pocketed the grouse, picked up Abbie, and carried her down the hill, weeping softly as I kept repeating into her ear, “Good girl, good girl.”
I don’t know Tom Brokaw, but something tells me he’s one hell of a guy, a dog guy. I’m hoping to finish the book in between surf fishing sessions, with my dog at my feet and a very cold beer within arm’s reach. Next on my summer reading list is A Rough Shooting Dog by Charles Fergus (on a strong recommendation from fellow F&S writer Hal Herring.)
Anyone else have some favorite gun dog stories or books? Let’s hear about them.