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The Last Goose Hunt of The Hercules Club
in which revenge is sweet... a golf story

Robb White

BE FOREWARNED, THIS STORY CONTAINS PROFANITY. It is perfectly appropriate profanity but it is profane nevertheless.

Rejected by The New Yorker.

You know I hold two Guinness book records. I hold the record for not going to Tallahassee and I hold the record for the most stories rejected by The New Yorker in one lifetime. I was able to surpass my father only last year and he has been dead since 1993. He always said that the hardest thing in the world was to get a story in that magazine and he tried diligently for his whole life (born in 1909). He was a good writer, too. Have you ever read "The Lion's Paw?" Anyway, I am, from time to time going to post one of my rejects on here. There are hundreds of them

You know how it is, old men have bad days and good days. I had a bad day Saturday. They got the goddamned road in front of my son's house four-laned in such a way that it is impossible to go to town. You have to go way the hell and gone down to where Ouzts'es store used to be and make a "U" turn into the northbound lanes. There isn't room to make the turn in a normal car so you have to damn near run into the ditch to get headed right. While I was bogging my way through the pulpwood truck mud hole on the other side of the road, this redneck bastard in a pickup came out of the intersection, swapped lanes in the middle of the turn, and tried to run over me. Son of a bitch had the nerve to give me the finger as he drove away. I asked him if his mother still had that great big mole with those three great big black wild hairs growing out of it right next to her asshole but he was long gone. Old deaf Bingey, sitting next to me, only caught part of it and I had to spend the whole rest of the trip trying to explain.

Golf wasn't worth a shit either. In the first place, it was drizzling a light mist the whole nine holes and Bingey was so slow with his big old, out-of-date leather bag with two or three collections of ancient irons (some with bamboo shafts) that we both got wetter than hell. He is so blind that he can't see the pin anymore and, since his daughter cut off his balls, he doesn't even slice them off into the woods trying to go through the various motions. He just staggers around the course with that giant fucking bag of clubs like some escapee from the nursing home, which description applies to both of us. Hell, I can't see the pin either but my rich son keeps me in balls.

The worst part of the golf was the goddamn geese... arrogant bastards. We always play very early in the morning so we won't have to beat bumps on the heads of the young fart-faced yuppies who feel that they need to smirk when they play through. Goddamn geese fly in just about the time we get close to the green on the first hole. I don't think geese were this big when we were young. They just fly straight in and light on the fairway right there amongst us. I can tell you that there was a day when no goose would urge me out of his path like that, or old Bingey either (Dub does not play golf). In the old days, we used to get up at two or three o'clock in the morning to hunt geese. We had to get up that early to get ready before daylight. We walked for miles and miles breaking ice along the edge of the lake to get to the place where the geese would come in. We would wait in the dark for the daylight to come and then the geese. Maybe they weren’t as big as these sons of bitches are now but they were big then, too. At first day, they would pitch in over the trees through the mist and we would knock them out of the air. The limit was two, and we always carried home Thanksgiving over one shoulder and Christmas on the other. This was back when things weren't doled out on a silver platter to every lazy-assed, incompetent shit-hook. Two geese had meaning back then. Now all they mean is a pain in the ass.

Before we go home to our children‘s houses, we always drive over to Panacea and stop at the veteran's home to see Dub. Old Dub is actually in better shape than either Bingey or me. He can still see and walk and, probably play golf if he had any interest in it. He wouldn't be in the damned home if he had any folks to live with. He could have stayed in his house but, when he got to be ninety, some meddling bureaucrat with too many frequent flier miles went out there and told him he had to move. Said a man couldn't live like that, way out in the country with no people, no transportation (Dub does not drive... never trusted that, love of my life, the automobile) no electricity, no phone and no indoor facilities. Dub told the state people that he had Bingey and me to check on him all the time, and that cinched it with the authorities. It is pitiful to live in a place where too many people know too goddamned much. Anyway, they hauled him off to the county nursing home and, the very next morning, they caught him laying up in the bed with this old gal and started the arrangements to get him into the Veteran's home over in Panacea.

Bingey, Dub and I are all that is left of the old Hercules Club. We were raised down by the mouth of the river where the sawmill used to be. Originally there were five of us but Jasper got killed in World War Two and Charley fucked around and finished drinking himself to death about nineteen sixty one. We have been keeping the faith, just the three of us, for the last forty years or so. The Hercules Club started out as sort of a joke among us back (way back) when we were boys. Our daddies all worked at the sawmill and we roughed it out in the bay and the river tonging oysters and running crab traps and the like. During the winter, Yankees would come for the fishing and duck hunting and their kids would want to hang around the woods and water with us. We used to initiate them into the Hercules Club. It was sort of mean and I am not proud of it. A Hercules club is a big, single-stalk weed that grows down in the black dirt bottoms. It has big, stout thorns all up and down its hoe handle sized, stalk. The initiation into the club involved the initiatee bending over in one direction while we bent the Hercules club in the other. When we turned it loose, it whopped hell out of the poor Yankee kid and, though the thorns were too stout to stick in very deep, they did leave quite a few little blue punctures on those white buttocks. We didn't actually have any club with a charter and rules or parliamentary procedure or anything like that, it was just an excuse to be cruel to the ignorant, out-of-place, bored and lonesome Yankee boys.

I hate like hell to get bit by a damned goose. They don’t just peck or bite in any kind of simple way, they latch on to the thinnest part of you they can keep hold of and bite like damned Vise-grips and twist back and forth while they are doing it. A goose bite will leave a purple blotch on you that will last for the rest of your life. I ought to know because I got bit twice when I was a little boy. We had all sorts of livestock and I wasn’t afraid of anything, especially not poultry. When I was five years old I was brave enough to rob a setting hen without flinching at all. I wasn’t even afraid of a hive of bees, but I am, even though I am a grown man with enough age on me to be labeled a goddamn “senior citizen,” wary of geese. And they were the last straw on the last morning Bingey and me attempted to play the first nine. We had already played the first hole and were fixing to tee up on the second. It was in the late fall and the grounds-keepers had just broadcast the winter rye so the fairway would keep looking green for the Yankees. The damned geese had already flown in and were trying to crowd us off the tee. Bingey was shooing them off with a nine iron so I could tee up. I had just made my practice swing and was fixing to hit the ball when one of the son of a bitches feinted by poor old slow Bingey, slipped up on my blind side and bit me right where my ass hangs down over the top of my leg... right there on that tender spot. He was so far behind me that it took five or six swings with the driver to dislodge him from his twisting and, then, I didn’t connect good enough to kill the son of a bitch. I just threw down my club and walked off.

When we got back to the car (Bingey picked up my golf club and still has it in his bag) I was shaking so hard that I had to sit there for a while before I felt confident to drive and by then that haematoma on my ass had swollen up so bad that I couldn’t hardly sit on it. I would have let Bingey drive but he has always been reckless as hell and, now that he is blind, I’ll be damned if I’ll let him get behind the wheel of my Eldorado. I don’t think he could handle all that horsepower even if he could see.

First thing next morning, I picked Bingey up and we went to the veteran’s home and had a meeting of the Hercules Club. It only took us one day to get organized with licenses and all and, about an hour before safe daylight on the second morning after the goose bit me, we were in our blinds in the bushes where the creek crosses between the green of the first hole and the tee-off of the second. Bingey had his model twelve and Dub had his Parker. I, of course, had my mother’s L.C. Smith single barrel trap gun, the one she won the state championship with in 1917. We waited in silence in the gray mist of dawn. We knew the geese would come in low over the trees and land on the green and walk through the path across the little bridge to the tee off for the second hole. We kept waiting until long after legal daylight. I was beginning to think that they had had a change of schedule when I heard their talk as they flew down 319 and turned left into the Boulevard. The hair stood up on the back of my neck just like in the good old days. I hollered “Mark” to the other hunters in case they didn’t (or couldn’t) hear the honking. I caught the barest glimpse of the flight of geese as they pitched in over the clubhouse into the clearing of the first fairway. As I got ready, I heard the shuck of the model twelve and the closing of the breech of the old Parker in the bushes across the green from me just like I have heard a thousand times before. I closed the breech on the high-brass fours (them‘s lead fours, too, not that light-shooting steel shot they try to make you use now) in the barrel of Momma’s old trap gun. The geese were about fifty feet high when they came around the dog-leg that makes number one a par five and, by the time they banked in across the water hazard, they were in easy range. All three of us stood up and raised our shotguns. I could smell the new cut grass and the smell of the creek as I lead the leader (certainly the one who bit me) with the old familiar swing of that old long barrel and I knew I had him. “Now, you son of a bitch you,” I said, under my breath, “you are going to find out just who it was you bit.”

We didn’t shoot any of those geese but they had enough vestigial wildness left in their souls to know that their asses belonged to us. When they saw us stand up, they knew it was too late. They tried to change their minds and gain enough altitude to clear the trees of the rough between one and two but they were so big and fat from living the life of Riley that about half of them hit the upper limbs. I could hear the heavy thumps as they flopped down onto the tee-off for the second hole. I could hear Bingey and Dub hooting all the way back to the club house. After they were gone, I put my shell in my pocket, pulled the frog off my shotgun and disjointed the barrel from the breech and put the gun in my golf bag. I decided to just play eight that day and start on number two. When I walked out to tee off on number two, those geese scattered like vermin.

 

Robb White, boatbuilder and writer, Thomasville, Georgia

ROBB WHITE & SONS INC.
Designers and Builders of Custom Small Boats Since 1961
P.O. Box 561, Thomasville, GA 31799
Copyright 2004 - 2006 byRobb White.  All rights reserved.