Roy came in at 4:40 a.m., about a minute before both of my alarm clocks went off. "Time to go," he said.It was not that he wanted me to come with him and two friends to Delta for a pheasant hunt, their reward for volunteering at a Ducks Unlimited event. They'd rather go as guys, three teenage guys. Guess what: I didn't want to, either. I don't hunt, and do ski.But laws in our state mandate that a driver under 18 wait six months to drive another teenager, and a year to drive two other teens. Though their licenses were shy of a year, the boys had all originally been quite sure they could drive - over McClure Pass in a predicted snowstorm, no less. They were incredulous to be denied by all parents involved. I offered to drive. The boys were not psyched. But I was their option, not that that meant receiving any details, even the night before. My last text out to Roy, at 10:35 p.m. as he socialized in town, snarled, "You better have communicated with Tanner and Brandon by now. I had to guess and tell Tanner we'd pick him up at 5:30. Yes I am pissed!"I went to bed and couldn't sleep, wondering what was going on and worrying about driving in a storm. Morning revealed some items to be yet in flux. We were supposed to arrive at 8 - not 8:30, as I was originally told. I'd instructed Roy to make a lunch; no lunch. By 5:10 we were receiving exhortations from one of the others to hurry. Snow began to fall.As we left down our hill on icy mud, Roy prodded, "You're going to have to crank it to get us there on time." Roy and I picked up his friends at their houses, leaving town by 6:45 a.m. Two boys were deeply asleep in 10 minutes, and the third was to follow. Intensely aware of my responsibility for everyone's safety, I resisted the ambient pressure to hurry, and focused warily on the curving, white-sprinkled river road. In steady snowfall we proceeded quietly up and over McClure. The car never slid, though twice, unable to see the lines on the white road, I verged onto the rumble strips. The boys stirred briefly.They all woke up during the last 20 miles, talking animatedly about the hunt ahead. As we turned onto gravelly county roads, finishing with a left onto Last Chance Road, my husband phoned. Roy answered, and I heard him say blithely, "Yeah, the roads were fine."We arrived 10 minutes early at the Black Canyon Wing & Clay resort, a family-owned 730-acre game-bird ranch based out of an adobe lodge, warm and clean, with a kitchen area and long pine tables. On its wall a chart designated eight hunting areas divided into 17 strips. Just over a ridge from the Gunnison River amid otherwise barren terrain, the area draws native birds, and the ranch raises pheasants and chukars. The three boys were warmly welcomed by the 15 or 20 adults from DU, and immediately darted out to shoot clay targets, pausing only to Hoover from plates of proffered pastries. Next, all attendees were organized into groups, each with a guide and dogs, and set out into the dun-hued fields of desert vegetation, wheat grass and hay. I read and took a peaceful walk, and two or three hours later they were all back, smiling and muddy, cleaning pheasants at the dressing station. The boys then joined me by the fireplace."You like it, don't you, Mom?" Roy said of the place.And then we were driving home in rain and snow, and they napped. The two in the back woke first, and then they all recalled the hunt, the birds, the very skilled dogs, the terrain. The accumulating mud."My feet felt like they weighed 30 pounds each," Tanner said."With six-inch heels," Brandon added.Then he, a born humorist and mimic, launched into wide-ranging tales of hunting and of past ranch work shared with Tanner, and Tanner pitched in with tricks he'd played on Brandon, and Roy and I laughed our heads off.They'd all had a rare opportunity, in the ranch hunt. I'd had one as well, sharing the experience with youths usually in their own world, and all too soon to go off into the bigger one. - "Femaelstrom" appears on the third Saturday of each month. Alison Osius lives in Carbondale, where she is a climber, skier and magazine editor. Contact her at email@example.com.
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