"In the United
States the average American feels he has an inalienable right to hunt, to own a
gun," I said. "It's part of our tradition of revolution and freedom and
the openness of the country." Just then, one of the hunting horns played
three notes, and then I heard another one nearer, and another, until all seven
horns had played the same three notes.
that mean?" I asked.
"It is the
commencement of the driving. Herr Riehle has seen that the hunters are in their
We had been
walking slowly along a country road bordered on one side by woods and on the
other by fields that stretched off to mountains. Every 50 or 60 yards along the
road a hunter stood with his shotgun open and two shells in his hand. As far as
I could see, the hunters were exactly the same distance apart the whole length
of the road.
And then I thought
of the drivers in blue and yellow starting through the woods and the game
moving along in front of them. The men would beat on the trees with their
sticks and spin their noisemakers and the pheasant and partridge and rabbits
and roebuck and whatever else was in all those hectares of forest would move
just out of sight. What was going on in the forest now had been going on in
there a thousand years ago, before the World Wars, when men owned duchies,
principalities, colonies, whole countries; men named Otto and Friedrich and
Wilhelm; counts, barons, kings, even Holy Roman Emperors. They all waited
somewhere around here, while the beaters worked their way through the forest
and the game moved along out in front, hidden in the woods.
We listened to the
sounds coming from far away, and then Stefan said, "This is today a low
hunt. They hunt the fox, the pheasant and the partridge. The high hunt will be
later. There are then the red deer, the chamois and the roebuck."
I could hear the
beaters calling out some word, over and over. I couldn't make out what word it
was, but I knew it was no word I had ever heard in Maine when I was young and
freezing on a deer stand, with my hands jammed as far down in my pockets as I
could get them and my short-barreled Marlin .30-.30 under my arm. My uncles
always barked like dogs when they were driving a section of woods near the
River Road, or when they were coming down the side of a hogback outside of
Cornish or Brownville. But even though I couldn't understand the word the
drivers were calling, and although they sounded like a New Year's Eve party,
the feeling that was coming up in my chest was the same one I had when I was a
boy. It was a feeling that my whole chest was filling up with blood, which was
climbing into my throat, and it always came when I heard a noise out there in
front of me that was too close to be one of my uncles, too alive sounding and
moving to be a tree in the wind or a broken branch swinging, too big to be a
porcupine or a squirrel, and then the buck or doe would crash out of the woods
and start out across the open ground running, and my throat would really fill
up and I'd try to get off a shot with my mitten still on, or without a shell in
the chamber, or with the safety still on, and then the deer would be gone
except for the bobbing white tail way off.
I wanted to ask
Stefan what the word was they kept calling, but he had started to walk.
"We must go
into the forest here, and then we must climb," he said.
We started into
the woods, and after 20 yards we started up a hillside with apple trees on it,
old apple trees that looked to me like they'd seen their day, but there were a
lot of small yellow and red apples on the ground and I picked one up and took a