Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My Good Wife

My Good Wife
by Rob Watson

For reasons entirely unknown to me, my second wife (entirely unlike my first) decided that in addition to being a friend and lover, she should be my companion in adventure as well. Adventure? You ask. From the play "Matchmaker" (and Hello Dolly) "An adventure is, when you are in the middle of it, you wish you were home, safe in your own bed."

Before we were married, I had a small motor scooter (Honda 80cc). It would go about 45mph down hill with the wind. I puttered around Very Large Town and occasionally ventured into the country. Wife-To-Be took a liking to the thing and decided she should have one as well... only better. So, off to the Honda place we went for something better.

There, bright and new, brand new, first ever in Very Large Town, was an Elite 250. The salesman said he wanted to get one out on the road and made me a price of $1,500. Wife-to-be liked it so well, that not only was I to buy one, she was to buy one as well. However having sold me one, the salesman no longer needed to "get one out on the road". He made her the price of $1,700... a sore spot that remains to this day.

Motor scooter training began at a recreation area in the Spring... not many folks around. I rode my new toy. Wife-To-Be, rode my old toy. The thought being, if she had a wreck, a few scratches on the old scooter would not matter all that much. She wore extra heavy clothes, gloves and all. The thought there being, a few scratches on Wife-To-Be were totally unacceptable. All went well and no mishaps occurred. A little reading and a riding test and she got the M endorsement on her drivers license. To be completely fair, Wife never put a single scratch on either scooter. All the scratches and damage on her scooter are entirely my fault... a sore spot that remains to this day.

But, adventure we had! We rode those scooters all over central Very Big State, taking pictures of spring flowers and fall colors. We took in all the tourist attractions and saw all the things. When we moved to Medium Sized State, we continued these adventures.  Then we moved to Slightly Larger State and did more adventuring. The scooters did fine duty for 20 years. Now they rest in quiet retirement.

Near the end of the scooters useful life we began to consider their replacement. The altitude slowed the top speed to below normal traffic speeds and wind in Slightly Larger State would blow the elite 250s around on the road. Sometimes it was enough to cause a lane change, on a two lane road. That was more adventure than I wanted.

We had heard about the Honda 600 Silver Wing, and decided to go take a look. It was very nice. It had an automatic transmission like the Elite, a low center of gravity, not too heavy, comfortable double seat, storage inside... real nice! How much? only $9,000... oops. "Sorry guy that is too much" On the way out of the store, I saw an old Gold Wing. 1200. I sat on it and rocked back and forth.( It was just like the one my childhood best friend had. He and his wife rode all over the US of A... speed limits not being one of his serious considerations... whenever the mood struck.) The salesman follows me to the Gold Wing and after a minute or so asks how I like it. "Fine" says I. "Well" he says, "Is 35 too much?" Simple minded me thinks he is talking about a new Gold Wing 1800 for $35,000. I reply "If 9 is too much, How am I going to afford 35?" "No, no" he says, "$3,500 for that Gold Wing." "Ooooh!" says I.

I beckon Wife over and get her on the seat behind me. "Do you think we could travel like this?" "Well, maybe." (You see, whenever we ride the Elites I ride in front. I watch the road. I watch the speed. I keep track of where we are and where we are going. She follows at a safe distance and spends her time sightseeing.)

The deal with the salesman is: he puts the 1200 in running condition. (It looks great) I ride it for 30 miles or 30 minutes. If I like it, He gets $3,500 plus tax. Deal with Wife is I take a state sanctioned motor cycle training course. The deal with the 1200 is it weighs 700 pounds dry; the Elite weighs maybe 125. The 1200 is clutch and 5 gears the Elite is automatic. The 1200 is straddled with legs outside in the wind; Elite is a scooter with a thru gap for legs and feet protected inside. 1200 had two people and a high center of gravity. Big changes!!

It takes six weeks for Salesman to get the 1200 running. A part, no longer available from Honda, had to be made at a machine shop. No problem, got to take the class. That was a problem. Being plain spoken, the two instructors and I had a clash of personalities. The cycle I was using for the class needed an adjustment to the clutch, which I mentioned to the instructors. I have big hands but the clutch engaged right as the lever was at the tip of my fingers. I was quickly called Mr. Wheelie because if I was not extra careful a wheelie was the result. There were other clashes that need not be mentioned. They failed me. You can't get the M endorsement in that state unless you pass the class. The joke was on them though. I already had the M endorsement on my license. (grandfathered in from 20 years of riding)

Finally the salesman called and said the 1200 was ready for the test ride. Geeeeze, was I nervous. Everything was different all at one time. I rode around a nearby neighborhood with Wife following in the truck. Just to make things interesting, this neighborhood had installed a bunch of speed bumps. I never got above 20mph. Back at the Honda place, I gave the man his money and rode home.

As long as the wheels were rolling, the 1200 and I got along well. Stop signs, especially the one 200 ft from the house, were nerve racking experiences. I dropped the thing a couple of times in my self imposed learning period. My friend said he just practiced until he figured out how to pick his up. I practiced until I figured there was no way in heaven I was going to be able to pick it up. Each time I dropped the thing I stood in the road and looked helpless until some young kid stopped and helped me set it upright again.

Cold weather came but I kept on riding. I would select an outfit, look at the thermometer, and make mental notes on what was needed to stay warm. At this point, the 1200 made one of its peculiarities apparent. If the temperature was below 40, it would run perfectly well for about three minutes. Then it would die... on the road... stopped... did not matter. It Died. By accident, the first time, while I was considering how to get the beast home, I had waited about 7 minutes, I tried to start it again. Started fine. Continued to work fine. So the program was: ride three minutes until it died, wait 7 minutes, restart and continue on my ride.

After a while I became confident enough to take Wife for a ride. We started our adventures together again. On the road, we would look at the new "Trikes" if we saw one that was stopped. Later I looked into converting the 1200 to a trike. ( $7000 if I did it myself, $10,000 to have it done). Eventually, I found a removable set of "training wheels" that looked OK, and bought them. Back to adventuring with the wife.

I discovered that Wife would even consider being my hunting buddy. In the Very Large State, at the recreation area where she learned to ride motor scooters, we could go dove hunting. We bought some clay pigeons and went to the range for practice. After a bit, Wife was able to hit a fair number of the targets. In the field it was another story. She killed one dove on the first day and a few more the next. With one exception, she never killed another... well... anything. She climbed mountains, walked plains, and hid in woods, hunting feral hogs, javalina, deer, elk, and pronghorns, all over three states and never shot at another animal, except, like I said, one.

And, here is the tale of the one. The Very Large State had set aside areas for its citizens to hunt. You got licensed, brought your camping gear, and paraded around your assigned area of several hundred out of several thousand acres. Whatever was in season was fair game. We decided February would be a good time to go javalina hunting. Javalina are moderately dangerous varments. They will attack a hunter. I will always hunt them with a semiauto weapon in hand.

The first year, we were told that feral hogs were a problem in our hunting area. We would be allowed to kill any we found. After two and a half days of wandering around, seeing a glimps here and a sound there, javalina hunting was getting pretty frustrateing. Of feral hogs there was plenty of signs but no hogs. These animals were digging holes three and four feet deep and six feet across all over the place, rooting for food. Probably 10% of the ground surface was rooted up. It actually looked like the place had been bombed.

Midday of the last day of the hunt, I was walking above a gully, not really paying attention, and thinking what a waste of time this had all been. Well, I do my best finding (as opposed to hunting) when I am not paying attention. There in the bottom of the gully was a huge feral hog. I crept forward a few feet to position myself for a head shot. The hog seemed to be asleep. Careful aim, baam!! nine lead ball in the head from my semiauto 12 gauge shotgun. The hog never moved. Turns out it was a sow feeding her two piglets. When I climbed down to her, one piglet went one way and the other went the other. It was like they had practiced the escape drill. Baam! Baam!

We got about 200 pounds of very good meat. Wife says, even today, that was the best meat she has ever eaten. The next year we went after ferel hogs. After a half day hunting, we saw some at the field dressing building. These were nothing but skin, bones, and guts. Not worth the shells to kill them. So, it was back to hunting javalina.

The next day we asked for a different hunting area. After an hour of wandering around, we crossed the path of a group of feeding javalina. When feeding, javalina root up a fraction of an inch of soil as they walk slowly along. The lay of the small piles of dirt show the direction of travel. Of course we had no way of knowing if this was fresh or a week old. Probably, someone with experience would have known it was only a few minutes old. Sign is sign, so we followed it. Wife spread off into the brush, just at the edge of my vision. and we moved forward slowly.

After about an hour of following this sign I spotted a javalina in the brush ahead. He was not paying attention, so I snuck up as much as I dared, I had my .44 magnum semiauto rifle. The animal was facing directly away from me with his head down, so there was only one place to shoot him... you figure it out. I took my shot and the javalina fell where he stood. There were five or six others and they scrambled off into the brush. After half a minute or so I heard a shot from where I supposed Wife to be.

I hollered "I got one" in reply I heard "... got one" and I hollered back "yes, I got one." and heard "...got one." this exchange continued a couple of more times, but I could not seem to get my message across to her, or figure out what she was trying to say to me. Careful to notice where I was going, so as to be able to come back to my kill, I walked over to Wife. She was standing near a dead javalina. It had been shot cleanly, between the eyes. Wife was carrying her 12 gauge semiauto shotgun. Some people call them scatterguns because of the tendency of the shot to scatter... as it is designed to do. However, a close examination of the wound in this animal was about the diameter of a shotgun muzzle... indicating a shot from very close range.

Wife tells this story: "After you shot, the javalina came scrambling through the brush ahead of me. This one stopped under that bush about six feet from me. I thought he would run, but he just stood there and looked at me. I stomped my foot to try to chase him off. He still would not run. I thought I had better shoot him before he attacked me." There you have it. A clear case of self defense.

In later years I built Wife a rifle of her very own. It is relatively small but will kill elk, deer, and pronghorns at reasonable ranges. I put on a muzzle brake to reduce the recoil, I called the factory and found a very nice guy to go pick out a very pretty set of wood for this weapon. Lastly I installed a high quality, range finding scope. The best of the best. Wife carried this rifle for miles and miles, across a fair portion of two states. Never fired, in the field, at any animal. I think I can explain that.

The only ugly animals I ever shot were javalina. The others, geese, ducks, doves, deer, and pronghorns, are all quite pretty animals. I still have a pang of discomfort for a few moments after walking up on one of these that I have killed.  It is indeed sad to kill one of these natural beauties. My only justification is that they will all die. A clean shot is better, in my book, than being run down by a car, starvation, disease, hunted by predators or wounded by careless hunters. And Wife? She saw how truly beautiful those doves were, and resolved to never kill again, except, perhaps, in self defense.

Not long ago, Wife announced she would still like to go hunting with me if I had no other hunting buddy. "But," she said, "I am not going on any more armed hikes. I'll go but I will not take a gun." The last I have to say about my good wife is this: In all my many, many years of hunting, I only met one man who's wife went into the field with him. In confidence, he told me he was exceedingly pleased and proud, and he understood how lucky he was. These are exactly my sentiments.

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