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‘Partridge fever’ is fast approaching

September 10, 2010
By DAVE SCHNEIDER Journal Outdoor Writer

As summer fades and fall draws near I sometimes get a feeling of time flying by way too fast. This feeling was only made more weighty this year as my youngest of three children entered college!

It can't be - how can two of my kids be in college and the third has already graduated? Some sort of time warp has occurred here and I want to get out of it.

And there's no better way to slow down this runaway train called aging than to step back in time and relive a little piece of your youth. For me, this brief escape from reality will occur next week, Wednesday to be exact.

When I was a youngster sitting in Parkview Elementary School and then Graveraet Junior High School there was a strange illness that struck my three older brothers and I when Sept. 15 rolled around, although for a few years when I was real young this malady hit on Oct. 1.

It wasn't a serious illness but very contagious, so we couldn't go to school for fear of infecting large numbers of other students and maybe even a teacher or two.

The symptoms were easy to spot and started setting in a few days before the main bout struck. These initial symptoms involved hauling the shotguns out of the gun cabinet and going over them with Hoppe's No. 9 solvent, making sure the supply of shotgun shells was flush and checking vests, pants, hats and boots to see if any replacements were needed.

Then the night before arrived and sleep was difficult to find, a sure sign that you were in the grasp of "partridge fever," which hit full force in the middle of the night.

In fact, my dad woke us up about three hours before sunrise to see if we were ill, which we all were, of course. Upon spotting the sure signs of the fever the cure was prescribed: Hurry up and get dressed, gulp down breakfast, load up a bag with sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs, fill the thermoses with hot coffee, grab the shotguns and throw everything in the Jeep and head to the woods - the hunt was about to begin.

Of course, seeing that my dad was a very early riser, we always had to stop at the end of the pavement on the Peshekee Grade and wait for the sun to rise.

While we were sitting in the cool, quiet pre-dawn woods in northwestern Marquette County sipping hot coffee my mom would be making the obligatory phone calls: "Henry Jr. is sick, he won't be in school today; Chuck is sick, he won't be in school today; Alan is sick, he won't be in school today; David is sick, he won't be in school today."

This ritual is played over in my mind every year as the bird season approaches and I vow to get out on opening day. Some years I even snuck out of work for the day and took my son with me to hit the woods, even though Sept. 15 is early to hunt because of all the leaves on the trees but it's a tradition worth keeping alive.

Other years life was simply too busy to get away and we'd have to wait for the weekend to hunt, but, as mentioned earlier, this year it's time to slip back in time.

I ended up with an extra vacation day so I won't even have to play hooky from work, but I can always pretend. In fact, the symptoms of partridge fever have already started - I cleaned the trusty 16-gauge Ithaca pump and loaded my vest with shells the other evening.

So when Wednesday rolls around I probably won't wake up quite as early as in the old days, but I do plan on getting to the woods a little before the sun crests the treeline so I can enjoy a quiet moment and a strong cup of coffee before the hunt begins.

Editor's note: City Editor Dave Schneider can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His e-mail address is



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