eyes should have been scanning the sky for birds as we walked with our shotguns
down the two-rut ranch road toward the old Aermotor windmill, but I was looking
at the ground. It's a habit of long standing and doubtless has accounted for many
missed dove over the years, but there’s a good reason behind it.
in sort of a "Find the Mistake in this Picture" mental freeze frame, I spotted
something with well-defined, angular lines among the scattering of bland, irregular
stones and stooped to pick it up.
Lying perfectly flat, the shiny gray-white
flint stood out in sharp contrast to the darker soil. It lay all by itself, as
if nature had marked it for me to find. The tip had been broken off, but the piece
was otherwise symmetrical, a near-perfect prehistoric projectile point.
I showed it to my hunting partner, dropped the flint in my pocket and continued
on to the windmill. Meanwhile, I kept my eyes down, hoping to find another one.
"I sat under that tree yesterday and did pretty good," Larry said, pointing to
the spot. "There's a dead tree on the other side of the windmill. The birds were
flying toward it yesterday."
Larry settled in where he'd been the day
before and I moved on toward a pasture gate behind the windmill, walking through
grass kept tall and green by leaks from the mill's whitewashed concrete tank.
set up my camo hunting stool on the shady side of a piece of scrub brush, keeping
my over-under broken open in my lap. A single dove occasionally headed toward
the water trough near the dead tree, getting close enough for a shot. But the
action was slow, giving me plenty of time for reflection.
Taking the flint
from my pocket, I examined it again, marvelling at my luck and wondering how it
came to be where it had been until I found it. I hadn't seen any other flint or
burned rocks in the vicinity, and I had sure looked closer after finding the point.
The old windmill sat on high ground. The view from here was good, which in ancient
times would have attracted visitors. But it was hard to envision the hilltop as
a camping place. There was no water. Before the windmill, a visitor would have
faced a substantial hike to the nearest stream.
No, the point I found
likely had belonged to an ancient fellow traveller, someone who came to this hill,
like me, as a hunter. Unlike me, he was here because he had to be. His existence,
and his family, depended on his skills with stick, snare, dart and spear. I was
here, a hundred miles from any sizable city, for recreation. I'd eat well that
night -- probably too well -- even if I didn't hit a single bird.
my stool farther into what little shade I could find, I kept thinking about the
flint piece I'd found and how powerfully and suddenly it had connected me to the
Was it the last trace of a successful ancient hunt, the tip of the
projectile broken by its impact against bone? What game had the early hunter killed?
A rabbit? A deer?
I couldn't see my point representing a miss. The hunter
surely would have picked up his dart to use again. But maybe the grass was tall
and he lost it. I've certainly lost downed birds in high grass.
on the point to wash off the dirt, my mind wandering back to a fall afternoon
in the early 1950s. I was a little boy, walking another two-rut ranch road.
granddad, the late outdoor writer L.A. Wilke, had taken me along on a dove hunt
in Comanche County. At Graddad's suggestion, as we walked down a sandy ranch road
flanked by an old piled-rock fence, I was looking for arrowheads. Too young to
shoulder a shotgun, I was old enough to be excited at the prospect of finding
something left behind by the Indians Granddad had told me about.
boy,” Granddad had said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if Indians used to hide behind
that fence to ambush settlers. I bet if you looked close enough, you’d find some
So, as Granddad concentrated on the bird hunting, I focused
on the red-dirt road. Within moments, I found an arrowhead. A few yards beyond,
I found another. And so on.
Between shots, Granddad admired each of my
That long-ago adventure helped instill in me a love for history
that has never faded. I was grown before Granddad admitted he’d salted the road
with arrowheads a game warden had given him to pass on to me.
August 26, 2010 column