If you Duck hunt and spend time hunting from a Duck blind you know the mysterious language spoken by Duck Hunters. If not, you need to pay close attention. You may hear it spoken someday and will need to know its meaning. It is not difficult to learn, but the only place you can hear it spoken correctly or begin to understand its meaning is in a Duck blind. Blind talk is English; that is what I believe. It may not be the acceptable way to speak in public but it is worth learning if you shoot waterfowl from a blind.
A friend of my father introduced me to the language of the blind, and all I wanted to learn about Duck hunting. His name was Orville, and was a genius on the subject of Duck hunting; I know this because he told me. Orville taught me the finer points that only a genius would know about blind building, decoy spreads, shotguns, shooting, duck calling, and most importantly the secret language of the blind.
When my 8th birthday came and went, I was ready for my first organized shooting sport. Two weeks before the season opened, we needed to work on the blind. It had been sitting idle for nine months and was in bad shape. If I wanted to hunt, I had to get out there and help rebuild it. My mentor was Orv, and I did everything he instructed I worked like a miner and was learning the finer points of blind building and repair. When the work was completed, I knew I had made the cut. "You do good work Stins." No one had ever called me Stins before; I liked it, my first blind word. No one uses their full name in the blind, you get a nickname, or they shorten the one you already have. When Orv called me Stins, I felt like an adult, he called my Dad Stins and used other nicknames when he spoke to other grownups. I felt an inch taller, I walked with a sense of purpose I was different, only eight but I was changed somehow.
Eight years old was the yardstick in my family. At that age, you were ready to handle the actual work and intellectual challenge of Duck hunting.
During the drive home Orv extended an invitation, "Next Saturday meet me at the house around ten, and we'll get the dekes ready." He was testing me with a new blind word and I was ready. "You mean the decoys." Orv just smiled. That is two new words today and I have not even been hunting. To hunt with the adults you need to do all the work they did at one time or another and decoy repair was part of the journey.
Saturday could not get here fast enough and when it did, I was up at Orv's at ten sharp. "Come on in Stins and I'll pour you a cup of Joe." I did not have a clue what Orv meant by that, so I answered "Sure." I did not want to look like a complete rookie. When I saw what the invitation included I told Orv. "I can't drink coffee Orv my Mom told me it will stunt my growth." "Smoking stunts your growth Stins not coffee!" I was not sure what stunt was exactly but whatever it was, it did not sound like something I wanted to have happen to me. A friend of mine had hands, feet, and a head that were much larger than the rest of his body. He told me it was a gland problem and he got it from drinking coffee. My feet were already big for my age and I was not about to wake up in a few days with a bigger head and hands. "Do you have any hot chocolate? I like that." Orv could hardly contain himself. "Hot chocolate! We don't allow that in the blind Stins, we don't have a word for it." "Can we call it Hot Chocolate? Sounded simple enough for me. "You come up with a name for it later Stins." I could not believe it; I will need some help on this job. When the season arrives, I will have a name for it I promised myself.
Orv had a special gift; he was the only grown up that made me laugh. He was not like any other adult that I knew he acted more like a kid than I did. Orv told me years later that it took him seven years to graduate from High school. He was having such a good time he wanted to stick around as long as he could get away with it. Orv was no dummy he was a pyrotechnic genius. Orv invented the first parachute firework. The original copy is lost to long ago summer days but a copy currently resides at the Smithsonian Institute. Orv never patented his work. He did it because he loved it, the same reason he hunted ducks.
Orv had many decoys and some were beyond repair, they had huge holes in them. "Orv how did these deke's get holes in them?" His answer came before I got the words out. "Put those in a separate pile, we'll work on those when we finish the others." I learned two new blind words that day, Dry Gulch and Arkansas. We spent hours patching, repairing and painting decoys. New line and weights on every decoy. Orv had dozens of decoys, some small some homemade and others that really did not even look like a duck. . "Are these decoys, they look more like a car." "Carved those when I was your age Stins, we'll slap some paint on them and they're good to go." I had to trust Orv on this one. They were so heavy I did not think they would float. "Orv, are you sure these will work they are real heavy." I was asking for it, I should have kept that observation to myself. "Stins I have shot more Ducks over those car decoys as you call them, for years." I stopped listening two minutes into his story it lasted for twenty minutes. I knew from that day on not to question Orv about duck hunting. He knew it all and he was always right.
Opening day was here and Orv and I were in the Blind before daybreak. A light North wind moved the decoys just enough to fool the smartest duck and the car decoys looked better on the water than the store bought. We were ready; me with my 410-bolt action handed down from my brother John and Orv with a cannon. "Orv, what kind of gun is that?" "It's a... don't move, a pair of loners coming from the south. "I had never heard of that kind of gun before and before I could get another word out, Orv bolted from his seat snatching his gun on the way up and Boom! I came three feet out of my seat moving as fast as I could to exit the Blind, before I could get to safety, Orv spoke. "Where you going Stins?" "Pick up the Duck? Speaking barely above a whisper. "Come back here and sit down." He was smiling so I knew he wasn't mad. Orv explained to me over the next several minutes about the language of the Duck Blind, and the only way to learn it was to listen. A pair of loners meant a single was coming in, or was giving the Decoys a serious look. I needed to sit very still and not move when he said it, and he would do the same if I said it. I'm going to need a notebook to write this down. I could learn new Blind words, but whole sentences were something I had not planned on, and none of it made any sense. So let me see if I understand this, a pair of loners is just one duck, but if you say loner it's not the same thing. I didn't ask this question of Orv I just took his word for it. Orv was the pro and knew much more than I did I couldn't bore him with explaining it again. As Mel Brooks once said, "It's good to be King." Orv was the King of the Duck Blind and I knew it.
"I better go pick up the Duck" Our conversation had taken a few minutes and both of us had forgotten the reason we were there. "That's not necessary Stins it was a Miracle duck, it was dead, but it didn't know it and flew away." I had heard of Miracle's before, I learned about them in Catechism class but I had no idea they worked on Duck's. Orv hadn't seen it very often himself, and that's why you call it a Miracle, it's very rare. God performed many Miracles that day first day of Duck hunting all of them on Duck's Orv shot. I learned other Duck blind words that day, Orv kept repeating them every time God performed a Miracle. They did have God and Jesus in them. Orv told me never to repeat them; these words could only be used in the Blind.
I hunted with Orv for many years after that first day, from that I began a journey and passion that burns as bright as today as it did the first time I set foot in that Blind. Orv was the best teacher I ever had; I know this... because he told me so.