Op-Ed: The Low-Down on Quail Hunters

By Sim Evans

The furor over the Dick Cheney/Harry Whittington shoot-out in South Texas seems to be dying down, but don’t be fooled. There is more to this than meets the eye, and the ever vigilant news media will, sooner or later, get it all sorted out. Here is what they have garnered from the event so far.

In a rare exhibition of good sleuthing, the media have already uncovered a possible motive for the shooting. You see, Harry Whittington owns, amongst other things, a city block in Austin, and the government wants it.

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An attempt was made by the Austin City Government to acquire this property using their powers of eminent domain, but Harry fought back. So far, the government has been unsuccessful in stealing Harry’s downtown city block, and it occurs to some that the government, having become impatient, may have chosen a more expedient route to accomplish their ends.

Reporters have also discovered that initial police reports were in conflict with the facts: One police report documented Harry’s wounds as being on his left side, while doctor’s reports indicate wounds on his right side. Rookie journalists have dismissed this as an innocent mistake, but the more perceptive commentators suspect a “second shooter”.

And then there’s the press conference held by someone claiming to be Harry Whittington. Some of the more diligent and responsible talk show hosts have compared before and after pictures and concluded that the individual representing himself as Harry was an imposter, or a “double”, if you will. They fear the real Harry is languishing in Guantanamo Bay, or worse yet, has disappeared forever.

When Cheney came out of hiding to conduct his contrition interview, he wore a pink tie. This unusual fact was missed by the common folk, but failed to fool the press. They immediately connected this with the pink dress worn by Hillary Clinton when she discussed her one-shot cattle futures trade that netted $100,000 dollars. In her “pink dress press conference”, she expressed regret for being less than forthcoming with the public.

Vice President Cheney didn’t apologize for much of anything, except to say it “wasn’t Harry’s fault”, and this has led to speculation that Cheney was sending some type of secret message to someone. It will take some time, but eventually they’ll get it all sorted out.

Having had much experience with quail hunters as a child, I have my own opinion about this unfortunate episode, and if you insist, I’ll share it with you.

Quail hunters are, by definition, insane. When I was a child, quail season was a time of fear and trepidation. The little one-room school remained closed throughout, and the cows were milked before dawn and after dark. The children were kept huddled inside during daylight hours, and with each boom of a shotgun we cringed. Then we would creep to a window and inspect the livestock and outbuildings for damage.

The quail hunters would arrive from town early each morning. They drove fancy cars, and wore fancy clothes with big pockets. With those big pockets filled with whiskey and shotgun shells, they would park in the ditches, and start climbing fences.

Invariably a few would lean a cocked and loaded gun against the fence, then attempt to climb through the barbed wire. The results were predictable, but not often fatal. Many guns were accidentally discharged in this manner, but mostly they just started grass fires; a little something to get the morning started off right, you know.

The name of the game was to bag more birds than their fellow hunters, so they would move through the fields at a near-trot, sometimes getting ahead of the dogs. Soon they would work up a sweat, and having no water, they were forced to drink whiskey with abandon.

By mid afternoon most were in crisis mode. Time was running out, their vision became somewhat blurred, and they were reduced to shooting at sounds. Goats, chickens, people, everything was in danger. If they heard a sound they would whirl and shoot.

The astounding thing about these people is that, absent the whiskey, dogs, and quail season, they act remarkably normal. Nowadays, most of them even buckle their seat belts when they drive.

The passage of the years has not quenched the passion of the quail hunters. They still insist on hunting in squads or platoons, subjecting themselves to extreme danger, and apparently, they are still willing to pay the price.

Now a word for the Brady Bunch: Just because the Vice President shot a lawyer is no reason to try and take the guns away from honest law-abiding people.

Happy hunting.

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