"Where is the General's post?" I called in very poor Spanish to Antonio, the boy who would be my secretario for the hunt.
"Far," he answered, bending around the head of the mule he was leading.
"What do you mean far?"
"Far from the other monteros." He made a motion with his hand, indicating that the General's post would be well out of range of accidental fire. In each of five armadas, there were about 20 individual posts, widely spaced to reduce as much as possible the danger of injury to the hunters from ricochets or misdirected shots.
Ahead, portions of our line began to drop off toward individual posts. By late morning we had found our destination and preparations were made for the actual shooting which would begin at noon. The mule keepers unloaded their animals and departed for several central areas out of range of gunfire. The secretario dashed about chopping branches and brush for construction of the post. We loaded rifles, set up shooting chairs, hastily ate from paper packages of ham and chicken and strong Spanish cheese.
As noon approached, all activity ceased. There was silence across the mountains. The secretario crouched behind our chairs, hands close to ammunition. His ears and eyes were trained to the smallest disturbance in the brush. We listened for the first barks of the dog packs which would mean the shooting was about to begin.
Then it was noon. As the hands on many watches came together, the mountains erupted with clamorous and mingled sounds. More than 20 packs of dogs broke through the brush and ran in seeming frenzy through the thick foliage. Their barking echoed across the valleys. Behind the dogs came the podenquerros, armed with ancient muzzle-loaders. With each explosion of their trabucos, a mushroom of white smoke rose from the short barrels and drifted skyward. Between discharges they shouted loud calls at the dogs, each other and the game.
ON THE RUN
"Over there," my partner whispered. "You can see the dogs coming through. Any minute you'll see game."
I fingered my rifle and followed the rapid movement through the brush. I couldn't get used to the noise. My ears rang from the multiple explosions of the trabucos.