That's a def­i­nite maybe

Edmonton Sun - - TRAVEL - with Neil Waugh

It’s fair to say that my old stompin’ grounds of Dray­ton Val­ley doesn’t pro­duce many coun­try mu­sic stars.

Even though ev­ery oil patch pumper’s truck that I ever rode in has the ra­dio pretty well welded to Hal Yerxa’s fa­mous AM sta­tion out of Cam­rose — CFCW.

Among his many ac­co­lades, Hal was re­port­edly on the spot in Mike Turta’s bar­ley field on that cold Fe­bru­ary 1947 af­ter­noon and did a “live” broad­cast when leg­endary Im­pe­rial Oil tool­push Vern “Dry Hole” Hunter brought in Leduc #1 with a big plume of black smoke.

(One of the rough­necks flared the sump so it would look good on cam­era.)

And we all know how that worked out.

Nope, from what I can tell old Drunken Val­ley re­mains a su­per-star-free zone.

With the ex­cep­tion of a team roper called Dean Tuftin who had a string of hits in the early 2000s and was nom­i­nated for a few Cana­dian Coun­try Mu­sic As­so­ci­a­tion awards.

In­clud­ing one about an equiv­o­cat­ing cow­boy when his best gal begins talk­ing about a “yard full of kids and a white picket fence.”

Deano’s re­sponse is a long string of ya-buts, backpedal­ing and a “sure­fire you never know.”

Cul­mi­nat­ing in his great line:

“No ques­tion about it, that’s a def­i­nite maybe.”

I’ve tried that one a time or two in my do­mes­tic re­la­tion­ship.

With mixed re­sults. South of the Medicine Line Tuftin had more suc­cess with a King Rope in his hands than a Gib­son gui­tar around his neck and qual­i­fied for the Na­tional Fi­nals Rodeo in 2007.

Although hav­ing Speed Wil­liams as your header doesn’t hurt.

For an af­ter­noon on the ruffed grouse trails in a pub­lic hunt­ing area not far from town I opted to leave my fox red Lab Penny at home and hunt the black Lab Stella.

Which led to a lot of sepa­ra­tion anx­i­ety when the 12 gauge over-and-un­der Ruger came out of the gun safe and Penny re­al­ized she wasn’t go­ing.

Her mind says she still can but, sadly, her hips and shoul­ders tell a dif­fer­ent story.

Es­pe­cially on the fourhour loop that I had in mind.

El­der son’s com­pan­ion bought Stella from a breeder at Moon Lake.

I don’t know what they’ve put in the ge­net­ics out there but she comes su­per-charged and ap­par­ently tire­less.

Which means hav­ing to reel her in with the dog whis­tle now and again when she gets beyond shot­gun range.

We made the Stella trans­fer at one of those fill­ing sta­tions that dot acreage coun­try where they’ve ap­par­ently never heard of Ed­mon­ton Mayor Moon­beam’s “cli­mate cri­sis” and burn a lot of gas driv­ing every­where.

Then the dog and

I hit the trails.

Which rise and fall through the Great Cen­tral Al­berta Mo­raine which ge­og­ra­phers call “knob and ket­tle” coun­try.

The knobs are usu­ally where the grouse are. The ket­tles are beaver coun­try.

There are many the­o­ries why Al­berta ruffies are sub­ject to such ex­treme pop­u­la­tion peaks and crashes.

But for what­ever rea­sons I’ve been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a lot of walk­ing for a lim­ited num­ber of flushes so far this par­tridge sea­son.

Yup, it’s one of those years.

We had gone a good dis­tance with noth­ing to show be­fore Stella hit a hot scent. And be­fore I could whis­tle her back she charged around a bend.

I’m pretty sure she bumped a bird but never heard or saw the flush.

Put the first one down to a sure-fire you never know.

I was fairly cer­tain, al­most, when the dog fol­lowed her nose back into the hazels and I thought I heard the soft “burr” of a grouse lift­ing off. Then two more.

We were on the re­turn leg now on an oil road in the fail­ing evening light when Stella dis­ap­peared up a po­plar ridge.

I heard the flush and for a brief mo­ment in time I’m pretty sure I saw a gray ob­ject dipsy-doodling through the tim­ber.

There’s no ques­tion about it.

That’s a def­i­nite maybe.

SUN pho­tos NEIL Waugh/ed­mon­ton

Neil and Stella on the ruffed grouse trail.

Neil’s 12 gauge Ruger with a “ruffie”.

A beaver pond in knob and ket­tle coun­try.

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