I ate it all the
way up the hill. It was the only thing that kept me going, with too many years
of cigarettes pulling at my lungs and too many years of sitting down pulling at
Finally we got to
the top, and there was Riehle, with his right hand in his pocket and his left
on the head of his dog, looking out over a square valley. His shotgun was slung
over his shoulder and hung upside down and broken open. He didn't turn his head
but he knew who we were because he and Stefan began to talk in low voices. I
looked around the valley and tried to get my breath back.
There were hills
on three sides with the long stretch of forest coming in at the open end. I
could hear the beaters more clearly now, and they were moving right up the
middle of the woods toward the valley. Then I looked along the tops of the
There were hunters
spaced every 30 yards on the summits; it looked like the yard at Sing Sing or
Alcatraz. No one moved. They just stood there in the morning light with the
sounds of small birds flying up and out of the valley and the crazy noise of
the beaters coming toward us through the woods. Riehle was in charge. It didn't
make any difference how many men with guns were around, no one was going to
load a shell or flick a safety until he said the word. There were at least 30
men on the hilltops and they were waiting for Riehle.
I listened to the
drivers until I could see a flash of blue or yellow and finally I could make
out what they were yelling.
Hussah!" came up from the woods. The beaters were closer now and they were
pushing a wave of noise in front of them—yells, cries, sticks pounding on
trees, the insane wooden whir of the noisemakers. They were really close now,
and then below us to the right a roebuck broke out and began to run.
It ran all the way
across the valley from right to left, dodging apple trees and bushes, and once
it jumped a stone wall. It took that stone wall going flat-out the way Bob
Cousy used to take off from the front of the foul circle, legs up and floating.
Then the deer ran to the foot of the hills where the hunters were waiting,
sprinted up and between two of them, and suddenly it was gone over the top of
the deer run across the valley: Riehle, Stefan, all 30 of the hunters and me. I
had stood looking around for a foxhole or a rock I could get down behind when
the guns went off. But no gun went off. Nobody even drew on that deer, and most
of the hunters I had seen had a .30-.06 rifle barrel on the top or the bottom
or the side of those 12-gauge shotguns. I had been waiting for a fusillade,
enfilading fire from three sides, a bombardment. But nothing happened. Nobody
even said anything, and I knew then for sure I wasn't in Maine or Pennsylvania
or New Jersey. If I had been, that deer would have evaporated. There wouldn't
have been enough left on him to make a venison hors d'oeuvre.
I went up to
Stefan, shaking a little. "Why didn't they shoot?" I asked.
"Everyone had a shot and nobody took one."
"It is not
time for the roebuck," he said.