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November 11, 2005

Air Force 2

Today started out like any other day. The only exception being that instead of driving into work like I normally do, I quit my job and flew to Pierre, South Dakota to go pheasant hunting.

There’s no control tower at the runway in Pierre No one tracking us in our Piper Aztec as we approach the airport. Just pilots jockeying for position in their arcane, esoteric dialogue. Brief staccato bursts of alpha-geek pilot-babble.

We break off our approach to the airport and make a low pass up the Missouri River, across the Oahe dam, and over the Oahe Reservoir. We’re searching for the place where we’ll be goose, but all we see are single-wide trailers perched precariously on the low bluffs above the reservoir. We scan for flocks of geese below, but see only a cattle egret and a couple of Canadian Geese on the Missouri below the dam that seem lost and confused.

As we turn back toward the airport at sunset on a November Thursday, the leer jets are lining up in the sky to land on runway 31. A line of glowing pearls strung from the horizon.

Vice President Cheney flew out in Air Force 2 this morning, so the airspace was reopened to private pilots. We touch down and follow the little airport monkey as he leads us to the back of the airport to tie the plane down to the tarmac for the weekend. He leads us past rows of leer jets. He’s parking us on the back of the lot, like a valet at a restaurant. He wants the nicest planes in the front, and we don’t make the cut.

It’s kind of funny because, there’s not much in Pierre. There’s only one hotel in town, the “Ramkota?. And if you want to go shopping, there’s a DakotaMart instead of Walmart. But if you want to go pheasant hunting, Pierre South Dakota is the best place in the country. If you want to go duck hunting or goose hunting, there’s lots of places to go. But for pheasant hunting, Pierre is it. Ground zero for blasting pheasants.

You can’t shoot pheasants until 10:00 a.m., so normally you hunt geese in the morning, and then switch to pheasants. But the weather is unseasonably warm, so the geese are still hanging near the Canadian border, probably waiting to clear customs.

Pheasant hunting is a genteel sport of the well heeled. You have to have dogs and a guide, or you’ll never see any birds. The fields are staked out with the precision of a well-orchestrated battle. Blockers are placed at one end of the field, and the other hunters line up abreast of each other and march through the fields toward the blockers, armed with fifty thousand dollar custom shotguns.

The dogs have their lineage tattooed on their fur, lest anyone question the bloodlines of the German Short-haired pointers and Chocolate Labrador Retrievers.

At night, the hunters return to their private hunting lodges or the Best Western “Ramkota? to relive the day’s hunt over Dewar’s, Maker’s Mark, and Crown Royal. And, Good Lord Willing, they wake up and do it again the next day.

Posted by Peenie Wallie on November 11, 2005 at 5:15 AM


to go pheasant hunting.

I thought you were going peasant hunting.

Posted by: Robert on November 11, 2005 at 7:11 AM

Quit your job, did you. ah, those wonderful days of youth where jobs are plentiful and just around the corner. Good hunting.

Posted by: ah so on November 11, 2005 at 10:04 AM

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