Written by: Fred c. van den Heuvel, Jr.
When she came through the door, she noticed something was missing, as she called for her husband of sixty-five years. Out of habit she glanced towards the empty rack that once held his old double barrel and immediately knew it was sign, he had gone hunting. Gracie was now an elderly gal of 16 years and had become more of a fireplace setter than the woods racing pointer she once was, but her tail stood high as ever before.
She had warned him not to take Gracie out hunting at her age, not to mention him at 86 years old. As in the past he did not heed to her warning as the big woods of NW PA called out to him. GROUSE!, he thought, I know I can get one at the old crabapple thicket. As he turned the corner of the old farm lane, where the rotted chain hung from the old white oak, there it was, the familiar site of the old crabapple thicket. Gracie carefully worked this familiar haunt where many a Grouse had made its meal over the years. Suddenly, as many times in the past Gracie locked up steady as ever before, head and tail high, muscles rippling and quivering to the familiar scent of the Grouse.
A shot rang out and seemed to echo forever, as the old lead shot met its target. The King fell and Gracie pursued her prize of the woods. GROUSE!, The King of the Forest, Pennsylvania’s State Bird, was it the last one, only time would tell what mother nature has in store.
Gracie gathered up her prize and brought it to him as she had done many times over the years. A gentle happy tear rolled down his cheek as he thought of all the great memories of hunting dogs and pursuits of The King in days gone by.
In honor and memory of Gracie who died 2 days shy of her 17th Birthday on October 22, 2019, The King, Grouse Hunters and Conservationists everywhere!