Have you ever heard a hunter talk about the best dog he ever owned? You know the story I’m talking about, where the hunter tells everyone he meets about the one dog no one else ever saw. A dog so good, no man could ever have one equal to or better than. A dog that happens to be the center of every good day of hunting story this hunter tells. There seems to be one of these dogs in every old hunter’s past. The hunter starts each story with a tribute to the dog before getting to the meat of the story about how the dog “made” the hunt worthwhile that day. My granddad owned one of these dogs, her name was Misfire.
Misfire was an ugly old mix of setter and walker foxhound with dull solid black sides of smooth hair and a big furry white tail. Mr. Florence was chasing fox when his youngest male got too close to young Horace Stevenson’s chained up female setter during the early fall of 1982. She got her name because granddad was hand planting melons in the spots his push planter missed in his garden when he heard Horace shooting nearby. He was doing away with the litter because he didn’t have the means to feed them and his father left him no choice and she was the last one. Granddad walked over to the swamps edge to investigate and found Horace cursing because his gun had failed him. Granddad told Horace he would keep her and had walked about 75 yards away with her when the gun fired again. Horace yelled to granddad that it was just a misfire. I know it’s a cruel story but granddad told it to anyone who’d ever asked about her name.
I will tell you, granddad and Misfire never parted except for Sunday dinners where her place under the table was taken up by the preacher’s feet. She rode in the cab of his 1975 Chevy everywhere he went. He would take her fishing with us on Saturday mornings where she would lay in the bottom of the boat and just listen to he and I bond. It was like she knew he loved her but needed to teach me life’s lessons too. During the day while he was “tending row” she would lie in the shade of the persimmon trees and sleep. At night she slept on the crotched rug grandma made that was on his side of the bed. Misfire wasn’t about to let him move without her.
Granddad told me once about the first grouse she pointed and how surprised he was that she did it. He was in the nearby woods collecting blackberries with granny for Sunday pie when Misfire stood at full attention near an old maple. He paid her no attention at first thinking she was just intrigued by an insect or something. After about four minutes of statuesque pointing, granddad walked over and the bird exploded from the ground cover, startling all three of them. Granddad knelt down to rub Misfire and found her heart to be racing at about 250 beats a minutes. He loved and praised her and went back to the blackberries. By the time I was old enough to hunt with Misfire and granddad they had perfected their style. Misfire would hunt a hedgerow or fenceline slowly so that granddad was able to keep up and she would never “creep” making sure he would get a close shot at their quarry. If his arthritis was acting up, he would let her out of the truck at the field edge and she would hunt ahead of his truck. When she went into a thick spot and didn’t come out for a minute granddad would ease the truck into park and slide out with his shotgun ready. “I never saw a time when Misfire pointed there wasn’t a bird, I don’t always hit ‘em though.” he’d tell me. Misfire passed away in 1990 and granddad never once thought about getting another birddog. Some people asked him over the years why he gave up bird hunting and he’d say his legs were too weak or his time was too limited, but I think granddad knew he could own a hundred more dogs and never get a more complete companion than Misfire. When Granddad passed away my father and uncle found a bible in his footlocker that looked like it had never been opened. When dad picked it up a pencil drawing of Misfire fell from inside. It is the only artwork my dad knows of that granddad had ever done and we have no clue how old it was. I like to tell people they must both have gone to Hell because they had already spent heaven together here on Earth.