Humphrey was an immensely talented dog. He could find quail with consummate ease. His gift, however, ended where his nose did. He had no brain. Put bluntly, Humphrey was a complete dolt, even for a dog.
I enjoyed going quail hunting occasionally with my high school friend, Woodrow Dexter. We loved to watch Humphrey work, and, as mentioned, the dog did have a talented nose.
The most memorable of my experiences with this redoubtable hound came one year during quail season. Woody, having just come “of age” (he was now trusted to drive longer distances by himself), had been invited to visit his uncle’s farm in southern Arkansas and try his hand at shooting quail. Having the dubious honor of being his closest friend, I was invited to make the trip with him.
Woody did not have a pick-up truck. What he had was a beat-up Dodge sedan of ancient lineage. It would start, but how far it would go without the aid of a wrecker was debatable.
I suppose there is a masochistic strain in me, for I assented to accompany this friend and his imbecile canine on the trip. However, in defense of my sanity, I insist that my interest was to some degree clinical. I wanted to see just how much mischief Dexter could get into in one fairly short trip. It might prove to be interesting fodder for my memoirs, should I ever write them.
Therefore, after much consultation, said friend and yours truly loaded up his geriatric vehicle and set off southward. The air was unseasonably cold. So primed and ready was the Great Hunter, however, that if we had been headed into the teeth of an Antarctic winter, it would not have dampened his spirits in the least.
Many dogs get very excited when they are loaded up in preparation for the hunt. Some are so high-strung that they give vent to their excitement by the emission of a stream of noxious gas which reacts very negatively upon human olfactory nerves. When Humphrey ascertained that he was about to go hunting, he was as giddy as his master. In fact, the atmosphere in the car fairly dripped with giddiness.
Charged as it was with giddiness, however, that did not begin to compare with what the air was charged with a few moments after we were underway. Humphrey bounded upon the windows in the back seat, charging one way and the other. And, he had gas. I say “had” in the past tense, for he was getting rid of it as fast as his digestive system could do so. I do not know if you have ever been in an enclosed area with a giddy dog, but I assure you that it can be a stifling experience.
After about two breaths, I uttered some uncomplimentary expression, the exact details of which I do not now recall, and rolled down the window to let in the Siberian breeze which was whistling past the speeding (I use the term loosely) car.
After a few moments, Woody yelled, “Close the window; you’re freezing me!”
I replied, “Better to freeze than to suffocate because of that (in deference to good taste I omit the precise adjective) dog!”
Then began perhaps the longest trip of my life. I would roll down the window, let the air inside the car clear out as much as possible, take a deep breath, close the window, finally have to take another breath, gag, wheeze, retch, describe Woodrow in the most colorful manner that my vocabulary would allow, then roll down the window again and start over with the freezing process.
Finally – mercifully – we arrived at our destination. I sprang out of the car before it came to a complete stop and spent several moments in incomparable ecstasy, filling my lungs deeply with brisk lowland air with its pungent taint of pine trees and creek bottoms – but no dogs.
The moral to this little story is obvious: excited bird dogs and small cars do not – I repeat, do NOT - go together. (The names listed above have been changed to protect the guilty.)