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Last Quail Shoot of the Year 1911
Were I musically inclined, I could very appropriately sing, "Darling, I Am Growing Old." The realization of this fact, as unwelcome as it is, is from time to time forced upon me.
On Friday, November 10, 1911, I went to the Westminster Gun Club, in an open machine, through wind and storm. Got up the next morning at 5 o'clock, had a duck shoot, drove back thirty miles to Los Angeles, arriving there at 11:30 a. m. At 1 o'clock I drove to my home, and at 2 o'clock was off for Ferris Valley on a quail shoot. Had a good outing, with much hard labor. The next day I got home at half past five, completely done up.
As I went to retire, I had a good, stiff, nervous chill. So you can well see that I can no longer stand punishment, and am "growing old." As I lay there and shook, I said to myself, "Old fellow, you will soon be a 'has-been.' Your gun and fishing rod will soon decorate your shooting case as ornaments, rather than as things of utility." Ah, well, let it be so! The memory of pleasant days when youth and strength were mine; days when the creel was full, and game limits came my way, will be with me still. I would not exchange the experience I have had with rod and gun for all the money any millionaire in the world possesses.
On my trip to the grounds of the Quail Valley Land Company, some thirty miles below Riverside, two members of the club and my wife accompanied me. We were in one of my good, old reliable Franklin cars, and from Ontario to Riverside we bucked a strong head wind that was cold and pitiless. It necessarily impeded our progress, as we had on a glass front, and the top was up, and yet we made the run of seventy-six miles in three hours and a quarter without ever touching the machine. In fact, none of the party got out of the machine, from start to finish.
The big, open fireplace at Newport's home, and the bountiful, well-cooked supper with which we were greeted, were well calculated to make us happy and contented. The long drive in the wind rendered all of us sleepy, and by 9 o'clock we had retired. I never woke up until 6 o'clock next morning.
After breakfast we proceeded in our machine to the shooting ground. The sky was heavily overcast with watery, wicked looking clouds. Rifts in the sky, here and there, let some frozen looking sunbeams through, but there was no warmth in their rays. We had our first shoot on the edge of a grain field, but the birds quickly flew to some high hills to the west.
Rounding the pass through these hills, I never saw the Perris Valley more weirdly beautiful. The clouds were high. On the north Mt. San Bernardino loomed up, grim, snow-capped and forbidding. To the east old Tahquitz, guardian of the passes to the desert, reared his snow-capped head, far above the surrounding country. To the south Mt. Palomar stretched his long, lazy looking form, with his rounded back and indented outline, from east to west. His distance from us made him look like a line of low, outlying hills, instead of the sturdy old mountain that he is. All of these mountains bore most exquisite purple hues. The same coloring was assumed by those groups of lesser hills that, cone-like, are scattered over the easterly edge of the Perris Valley, and which separate the Hemet and the San Jacinto country from the rest of the valley. The coloring of the floor of the valley itself was particularly exquisite. There was just enough light, just enough of sunbeams struggling through the sodden clouds to illuminate, here and there, an alfalfa field, or here and there a grove of trees, so as to bring them out in startling contrast to the somber colors of the shaded portions of the valley. But with it were signs of the dying year, a premonition of storms to come, storms unpleasant while they last, but revivifying in their effects.
Many Quail - Too Cold.
In the fifteen years during which I have shot upon these grounds, I never got up more or larger bands of quail than we did that morning. The day was too cold for good shooting. Give me the good old summer time, with the thermometer about 80 degrees, for good quail shooting. In the cool days the birds run or get up and fly a half mile at a time. They will not scatter out and lie close, so that you can get them up one by one and fill your bags. On the cold days they also break cover at very long range. They led us a merry chase up the steepest hills and down the most abrupt declivities. All of the time we were slowly making good.
Lloyd Newport was there on his buckskin horse. Now you could see him way up on a hillside, then again down in some deep valley, running like mad to check the flight, or turn the running march of some band of birds that was leading those of us on foot a double-quick run. Shooting as he rode, now to the right, now to the left, then straight ahead, he got his share of the birds.
Little Fred Newport, only 14 years old, was shooting like a veteran, and long before the rest of us had scored, he proudly announced that he had the limit. The final round-up found us with 109 birds for seven guns - a good shoot, under very adverse circumstances. We had the satisfaction of knowing that we left plenty of birds on the ground for next year.
The quail shooting of 1911 is at an end. Only the memory of it remains. I shall cherish the memory deeply in my affections, and let it stir my enthusiasm for the out-of-door life when the world seems all balled up, and things are going wrong.
While proceeding along an unfrequented road, with sage brush on each side of it, we ran across a rattlesnake, about four feet long, and of good circumference, twisted up into a most peculiar position. Investigation found that, notwithstanding the coolness of the day, he was foraging for game, and was engaged in swallowing a good-sized kangaroo rat. The tail of the rat protruded several inches from his mouth. The snake glared at us, but made no effort to escape or fight. He seemed dazed, probably half choked by his efforts to swallow the rat. We straightened him out on the ground and blew his head off with a shotgun. We then disgorged the rat, which was at least four or five inches long, and an inch and a half in diameter. The snake was then quickly skinned. He had eleven rattles and a button.
Snakes eat the eggs and the young of the quail. In view of the ravages by snakes, hawks, weasles, skunks, wildcats and coyotes I do not see how there are any quail left for the sportsmen. The fight of these marauders is constantly going on, while the sportsmen's efforts are at present limited to a very short period.
At a quarter after two we left Newport's for home. We took in a little gasoline at Riverside. This was the only stop made on the home run, which was accomplished in three hours and a quarter (seventy-six miles) with a perfect score so far as the machine was concerned.
Nature at Her Loveliest.
We did not encounter the cruel wind in returning that buffeted us on the outward trip. I never saw the San Gabriel Valley more beautiful than it was that afternoon. As we bowled along the road this side of San Dimas, the entire valley lay before us. To the west were the rugged Sierra Madre Mountains; on the east, the San Jose Hills. They connected with the Puente Hills to the south. West of these came the hills of the Rancho La Merced, running from the San Gabriel River westerly, and still west of them come the hills, which run east from the Arroyo Seco, north of the Bairdstown country. From our position these hills all seemed to connect without any breaks or passes in them. Thus the valley before us was one mountain-and-hill-bound amphitheater. The sky was overcast by grayish clouds. The sun hung low in the west, directly in front of us. How gorgeous was the coloring of the sky and valley! How the orchards and vineyards were illuminated! How the colors lingered and seemed to fondle every growing thing, and paint each rock and point of hill as no artist could! The sun hung in one position for quite a time before taking its final dip below the horizon. The clouds assumed a golden tinge, turning to burnished copper. Through breaks or irregular rifts therein, we got glimpses of the sky beyond of an opalescent blue in strong contrast with the crimson coloring of the clouds, all of which were intensely illuminated by the setting sun. Underneath this vast sea of riotous coloring there was a subdued, intense light, which I can not describe or account for. It brought every object in the valley plainly into view, lifted it into space, and illuminated it. After we had passed Azusa we chanced to look back at "Old Baldy" and the Cucamonga peaks. They were in a blaze of glorious light, purple, pink, crimson, fiery red, all mingled indiscriminately, yet all preserved in their individual intensity.
Oh, land so rare, where such visions of delight are provided by the unseen powers for our delectation! As I surveyed this vast acreage, evidencing the highest cultivation, with princely homes, vast systems of irrigation, with orange orchards and lemon groves in, every stage of development, from the plants in the seed beds to trees of maturity and full production, I congratulated myself on living in such an age, and amid such environments.
Let us appreciate, enjoy and defend until our dying day, this glorious land, unswept by blizzards, untouched by winter's cruel frosts, unscathed by the torrid breath of sultry summer, a land of perpetual sunshine, where roses, carnations, heliotrope, and a thousand rare, choice and delicate flowers bloom in the open air continually, where in the spring time the senses are oppressed by the odor of orange and lemon blossoms, and where the orchards yield a harvest so fabulous in returns as to be almost beyond human comprehension.