Two ducks cross the road.
They’re 80 yards out maybe, crossing left to right, treetop level. I’m driving, so I have to keep at least a third of one eye on the road. The rest of my retinas bore in on the birds.
And this is how you know for sure if you’re a duck hunter. There are those who would glance at those ducks and think Hmm. Looks like a couple of birds. If they thought at all.
And then there are folks like me. And probably you.
My brain shifts into an automatic analysis mode. It’s not a conscious thought process. It simply happens every time I see a duck. No matter when. No matter where.
Are the wing beats deep or shallow? Is the tail square or rounded? Without thinking, I search for the contrast between a mallard’s russet chest and a white belly. I look for the short neck of a woodie. Wing patches? Straight flight or irregular?
I have only a second, maybe three, but my brain has been trained for this for four straight decades.
“Watch the road, please.”
Julie’s voice is calm and measured. Practiced, even, because she’s used to this.
“I know what you’re doing.”
And just like that, my reverie is broken. Both hands on the wheel, both eyes on the road.
Had to be woodies, I think.
There are lots of ways we can parse the human race into two camps: Right-handed or left-handed. Curly-haired or straight locks. Inertia-operation or gas-auto.
And by what happens when a duck crosses the road. You drive on, or the gears grind away in your brain.
What was that duck? And where was it going?
That’s how you know if you’re a duck hunter.