12 December 2011

Mud Hens, Musical Cranes and Hunting Cranks

Mud Hens! How a Festive M.H. Slayer Would Deceive.

Musical Cranes and Hunting Cranks.

Salt Lake City, Sept. 9, '82.

Shooting at ducks often proves but a disappointment.  Four brave hunters left town late on the night of the 4th inst., for a night's sport at Church Lake. There did not exist a doubt in their minds as to the result of the shoot. After a few hours sleep the hunters of the party were up and persuasively asking the indifferent ones if they were not going out to get some ducks. Finally the whole party were starting for the marshy shores of the lake, the alleged haunt of innumerable ducks, the abiding place of the musical mud hens and the wandering crane. Not until the depths of several post holes had been explored and the efforts thereunto belonging had been partially recovered from did ye hunters awake to a sense of the many and varied responsibilities resting upon them as sportsmen. As they grey dawn came from behind the mountains and stole over the valley the darkness became less frequent, and the most unassuming stakes and bunches of grass became mallards or teal, just as the beholders imagination inclined. Some kind hand placed those stakes there little dreaming that they would prove so attractive, or cause many an old sportsman to drop to the ground and crawl noiselessly through the wet grass until within range, and then empty both barrels of his fine Parker gun into an old fence pole, thinking he has a sitting shot at a line of ducks. Any attempt to explain would have been lost on the rest of the boys, so we all took beer. The party now worked an example in grand division, and each one took such a position as he deemed best, and on the sparkling dew drops we sat down to wait for the victims. On a quiet Sabbath morning, seated upon the unmown hay, wet with penetrating dew, such pleasant thoughts come to one's mind, as he dozes a little and wakes with a start, thinking he hears the whir of flying birds, only to see a convention of mosquitoes. A feeling of restful restlessness comes into the heart and goes out to the hand, suspended for a moment preparatory to coming down upon the interesting family of acrobats having a picnic on your right cheek. Everything around is so calm, quiet and serene that any demonstration on the part of the sufferer would seem sacrilegious. Soon, however, the delightful stillness was smashed by the report of a gun, and each one was on the alert lest he should miss a good shot. Of course we all expected that some of the party had brought down a brace of ducks. In this we were disappointed. The cause of the sudden report was that one of the party had cautiously approached a bird which he claims was a duck, but which afterward proved to be a mud hen. There can be no harm in killing a mud hen, but when one mistakes a musical m.h. for a duck, and then tries to convince his friends that the m.h. is a duck, it is wrong. Not satisfied with this, he further attempts to yank the clothing of the unshorn lamb over the eyes of his friends by hiring Phil, to get one of our ducks out of the wagon, and take it to the point where he killed the bird and then bring our duck to the house in triumph. This also is wrong, teaching the youthful mind to deceive, and not only teaching but prefacing the lesson with a dollar piece.

The ducks were not out early, had perhaps been up late at Buhring's the night before. We did not kill many ducks, but the party promptly assisted in putting away several which "Ort" had killed the evening previous. After a delightful breakfast prepared by "Aunt" Margaret, some went for a nap, while others went for a ride. The out was pleasant, not only for us, but for the ducks. The sand hill cranes tuned their harps and gave vent to their appreciation in a series of dont-care-if-you-die-I-am-going to sing sort of notes, and we gracefully submitted. The next time we go out after ducks we will buy a flock of tame ducks and be sure that there are none that can fly.

Thoughtfully we left our guns to be brought up by a team, and rode into town, wet, muddy, and tired, but none the less grateful to our friends at the farm, who did so much to make our stay pleasant; and the chances are we will take another trip when the birds begin to migrate to the southward.

Gib. September 10, 1882. Salt Lake Daily Herald 13(84): 12.