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The pheasant in my kitchen

The present Ray Guziak in his hunting gear.

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When my newlywed husband of 3 months announced Friday night that he was going hunting in nearby Lancaster County, Pa., with a buddy on Saturday morning, I was puzzled.

“Hunting?” I asked. “Hunting what?”

“Pheasants. Sam and I are going hunting in Pennsylvania, about 40 miles from here,” Ray explained.

“Hunting? I never heard of anyone going hunting, except Pilgrims in history books.

That was probably the defining moment when he realized what a dumb, eastern big-city gal he had married, who, at 22 years of age, had never heard of hunting. As a Midwesterner from a small town, Ray had never met anyone who had never eaten pheasant or quail, rabbit, deer or venison. Somehow the subject never came up before then.

Patiently, he explained how he had always hunted in Michigan and how it was done. “With pheasants, there is only one problem. You can only shoot the male pheasants, not the female one.”

“How can you tell a male pheasant from a female one?” I naively asked.

Looking down at the floor, Ray answered with a straight face, “It’s the way they wiggle their tail when they leave the ground. I thought everybody knew that.”

“Oh, that makes sense,” I answered, pleased with myself at my newly acquired knowledge. I made a mental note to share this fact about pheasant hunting with the girls in the office on Monday morning.

“You’ll love eating pheasant. When I get back, I’ll clean it and put it in the refrigerator for Sunday night’s supper. We’ll have baked pheasant,” he bragged.

Somehow, I did recall seeing an old Joan Crawford movie where she ordered “pheasant under glass” while seated at a richly enhanced table in an elegant Hollywood restaurant with her leading man. “Hey, if it was good enough for Joan Crawford, it’ll be good enough for me,” I decided, smiling.

Early Saturday morning, I heard a car honking outside. Glancing up, I saw that Ray was already dressed in his plaid flannel shirt, Levis, tan canvas hunting jacket, and a bright orange cap, carrying his shotgun. “Back later,” he hollered, racing out the living room door, down the stairs and out the front door.

“Wonder why he wore that silly orange cap?” I thought. Putting on my robe and slippers, I shuffled to the kitchen, following the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Our Rodney Street apartment was the second floor of an old three-story building that had been converted into apartments. Our living room was connected to the bedroom and bathroom. But, to get to my kitchen, you had to exit through our living room door, and walk down the long hall to the separate kitchen.

It was almost dark when he rushed up the stairs to our kitchen, where I sat peeling potatoes. “Got you a ring-necked pheasant,” he boasted, while resting his shotgun against the counter.

“Let me see. What does a pheasant look like?” I coaxed, impatiently as he pulled the pheasant out of his hunting jacket’s inside game pocket, laying the bird on the kitchen floor.

Suddenly, the pheasant revived, stood up and started running around my kitchen table, flapping his wings. I thought he was chasing me. “Catch him, catch him. He’s supposed to be dead,” I shrieked, sprinting out the kitchen door and down the hall.

My husband, the Michigan farm boy, doubled over laughing at me and the scared, wounded pheasant, which had come alive in the heat of my kitchen. “Stay there. I’ll get him ready for the refrigerator and wait till you see his feathers. I’ll bring them to you.”

Later, his job done, he came into our living room, clutching some gorgeous tail feathers. I timidly touched them and solemnly said, “I’m taking those to the office Monday. I plan to tell the gals how you can tell a female pheasant from a male pheasant. The wiggling and all that. Bet they don’t know anyone who hunts either.”

“Let me know what they say,” he murmured, holding up his right hand in front of his face to stifle a laugh.

“Wonder why he’s grinning,” I mused. “Men sure are funny sometimes.”


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