Below me, out of
sight and hearing at that moment, a deer approached. Since first light,
probably, he had been coming from the swamps this side of Buck Mountain, alone.
He ignored the other deer below the ledges. He wasn't following a track.
He passed under
the other, higher hill, and between it and a separate green knob where, over
granite caves, stalactites of ice dripped noisily. Occasionally an icicle broke
off and clattered down with a sound you could mistake for a great tree cracking
its hinge as it fell.
Almost silently I
unwrapped a Peanut Butter Cup.
Neither of us
knew what was coming. The deer must have looked (like me) not nobly masculine
but foolish and sad, cursed with filigrees of mortality about his head. Both of
us were feeding, listening, going somewhere very carefully.
I slowly crumpled
the paper, put it in my pocket, brought up the gun from between my knees, slid
the safety back off and moved.
It might have
been a couple of horses getting up on hard ground and clomping away. I could
hear his lungs drive air out, almost voiced, higher every stride, like a
trolley speeding up, as if his fear increased each time his feet struck, loud
as the clank of gears. Back down his old track in six bounds, he heaved himself
off, up a steep ravine over the notch.
shrouding raining silence of the woods. Hindsight. Notes for self-improvement.
For example, run. But it was impossible to regret. The heaviness, the loudness,
the nearness, the voice, finally the incredible fact that staring down that
slope I could not see him.
respectfully all day. All the deer had gone north. Jenkins Pond at four was
utterly still. It seemed separated in time, belonging to itself. I don't want
to describe it. I walked a mile back to the car. I thought of unloading my
rifle by trigger, as on a Saturday night in the Last Chance Saloon.
I stripped to the
waist, washed with snow, dried with a towel from the pack and put on clean
shirts. I was elated. Elated that hunting is hunting, as the man who killed the
horned doe said. That for another year I wouldn't have to give it up. Elated
not to be divided, except by writing, from the men drinking beer and shooting
pool and telling about their hunting experiences up on the backside of
Rockefeller, in the poor, bleary bars of Tupper Lake.