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Pop's Swan

Story ID:6778
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Dillon Montana USA
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Popís Swan
By Chuck Dishno

My Dad was born in 1884 in the Big Hole Valley in Montana. He was raised on his fatherís cattle ranch and eventually had a ranch of his own. During the hard times of the depression, he had to borrow money from the bank to buy hay to feed his cattle. After a couple of bad seasons of not growing enough hay and low cattle prices, he had to let his ranch default to the original lender. Pop was through with ranching and after meeting my mother in Missoula; they headed to Oregon to start a new life. The depression was still going strong but he found work as a logger and proceeded to better himself. In about 1934 Mom and Pop moved to a house (actually 3 tar paper shacks butted together) in the town of Bly. That is where I was born.
I was only a year or so old, so I am relating this story from what I was told by my Pop and others. Food was always scarce and Pop relied on his trusty shotgun to bring ducks and geese to the table. I do remember that his shotgun was a Winchester lever action 10 gauge and had quite a range and lots of shot. Pop usually came back from the fields with several ducks or a goose.
One day Pop had been out in the field most of the day and had not had any luck. He was about to give up when he spotted a large white bird flying low and slow, but most importantly was headed right for him. Determined not to go home empty handed he raised his gun and dropped that large bird almost at his feet. Pop had shot a swan and I really donít know if he knew it was illegal to kill a swan or not but he wasnít about to let leave that big bird there for the coyotes dinner.
I should point out that Bly was a small town and the only game warden was the local forest ranger. This was far from Popís mind though as I donít think he thought he had done anything wrong.
When he got home he brought the swan into the house and was showing it off to Mom and a boarder we had living with us. Mom was happy that Pop had brought something different home. The boarder became quite upset and told Pop that he had killed an endangered bird and there was a hefty fine if he were to be caught. Pop wasnít to concerned and he just reasoned that if they picked it right away and hid the feathers, no one would be the wiser. Pop sat right down and began to pick those white feathers. He soon realized that there were more than the usual amount of feathers and he would have to stuff them into a couple of gunnysacks. After a while he had two large sacks filled with them. Now what to do? He didnít want to take them out to the dump as he might be seen disposing of them. Since it was dark outside, he decided to go up on the hill behind the house and bury them. Pop was gone for about an hour and was confident that he had done the job. Mom was looking at that naked bird in the sink and wondering what it would taste like. She said that the skin was almost black and surely the meat would be really dark too. Mom was determined not to let it go to waste though and thoroughly cleaned the bird and started planning Sundayís dinner to get rid of the evidence.
All went well that evening and they went to bed confident that all had gone well.
That all changed the next morning when the boarder came running into the house saying that the whole town was covered with white feathers and they were blowing up and down the street. Apparently, a coyote or some dog had dug up the sacks of feathers and a wind had come up which began to spread them all over. Pop went outside and said it looked like it was snowing and there were feathers coming down everywhere. The day was Sunday and when Mom went to church she said that the talk was mostly about the bombardment of feathers.
The ladies in the church took turns to invite the preacher to dinner each Sunday and it just so happened that this was Momís turn. Pop wasnít too concerned about serving an illegal bird to the preacher and he knew Mom would do a good job in preparing it. Mom was a great cook and could make a meal out of anything but I think this was a challenge. I donít think there was anything in any of her cookbooks about how to make a swan tasty. As was the custom, the preacher, Pastor Bradley, was asked to say grace. I can only imagine that Mom was offering up her silent prayer, not only for the edibility of the meal, but as to the origin of it.
I was too young to remember, but Mom said that all went well until Pop tried to cut into the breast. He had a sharp knives but the bird was putting up quite a fight. He said that it must have been and old bird and had logged many miles, toughening up those breast muscles. I guess he finally did get some meat cut and served but the taste was terrible. Mom was about to cry but was distracted by my grandmother, Etta and the boarder who were enjoying every moment and letting all know by their laughter. I think we did get a meal and Mom saved the day by serving up large pieces of her famous apple pie.
Pop said that when he walked downtown to the pool hall that evening there were still a few feathers blowing around the street. It was years before he lived the swan episode down.
Mom and Pop are both gone now and surely are residing in Heaven and all is forgiven. I canít help think though that Pop is walking down those golden streets looking for one of those wayward feathers. If he finds one he will probably pick it up and try to determine whether it came from a swan or one that came from one of the Angles Wings.