Reflections of Harvey Mallard – a duck
I am lucky, my husband loved to hunt and fish, as did his brother and all their mutual friends. They all took me in and accepted that I would be along for the ride. They are all gentlemen hunters – with or without me. They probably cleaned up their language a little more around me, but still racy enough to keep it fun. And they are all very funny men, very quick and rush to pick on anyone who falls behind. After almost 36 years, we still all hunt & fish together. I am lucky.
One of these guys, Howard, had a gorgeous family ranch near Bandera, Texas not far from San Antonio. We had all kinds of fun out there, but the one hunt I remember most was my first duck hunt. Up in the dark for the drive to Bandera, cold, lots of coffee and homemade cookies (it helped with the acceptance thing, but didn’t save me from being picked on). The guys set out the decoys in the dark. Then lying on the cold tank dam – waiting in the dark – the still and quiet. I shall never forget the sound, ever, all of a sudden in the dark coming over my back – low & fast helicopters. The sound was just all of a sudden there – muffled then so quickly it was loud, they were right on top of me! Then the splash, plop – one or two at a time, then the quacking. I could almost touch them, if I could see them. More came in, shots rang out, I was a little startled and curious at the light coming out of the end of the barrels, the others could see by the dawns light. Slowly the sun came up – someone shouted if I was going to shoot I had better get with it- was I waiting for an engraved invitation? 31 years makes the memory of those words a little softer than they probably were. I am so lucky.
I remember my nose and fingers being so cold. I had a glove on my left hand. Those days my hunting clothes lacked any sense of fashion, a ski jacket because it was warm and brown, but the yoke was cream – the guys said it was ok with them – (why not just wear neon?) My knit cap was a pretty jaunty thing left over from trendy days as a college art student. So were the expensive, once ‘to die for’ Frye boots – my suedo Hippie days. The gun was the best part of my outfit, my husband’s Winchester 20 GA, I had started using it so much he just gave it to me and we had the stock cut down just for me. My dowry had not included any guns or fishing equipment – although I had enjoyed the outdoors with my grandfather, I would not inherit those treasures till later.
It was a wonderful hunt, lots of ducks and a beautiful specimen Mallard. I always have and always will scrutinize the take. I love the plumage and photograph for paintings later. I still have a couple of the curly tail feathers from another of the day’s Mallards in my hat band. (Yes, I finally got a respectable hat)
Howard teased me that I might as well go ahead and give the duck a name if I was going to play with it that much. Harvey. He and I came up with that, and I am sure there was a story there. We shared Harvey, he had him mounted, but let me keep him to study and paint and dress up our home. I kept his beak and legs touched up over the years. Then one day after Howard had remarried, they wanted custody of Harvey. I get to visit Harvey often. I will have to ask Howard how the name came to be. Harvey is still absolutely gorgeous. I am so lucky.