But with the boys
gone, I have come to the point where the blood and fleas and exhaustion from
packing out a carcass isn't worth the killing.
Now I only carry
binoculars, sometimes a sketch pad.
Of course, if a
deer jumps the fence into the orchard, I'll shoot him the same as if he were a
fox in the chicken house.
Same as with the
dogs. I see the pack once in a while, the poodle, the Afghans, old Peacepipe,
an Irish setter, but they keep to the lower elevations.
On this golden
springtime day, I lie back on a high green knoll and watch the clouds ghost
over, white and perfect as Cheviots. My mind drifts along, remembering the
early wild days, remembering when I accidentally shot a boar in the nose on
this knoll. Mad as hell, he made a run at me. I didn't think about the danger;
I thought I should be shooting better because my bullets weren't slowing him
down, and then I hit him a good one, and he died at my feet. I thought about
the "moment of truth," a gem of Hemingway's imagination. Such a moment
is not for me: you kill the charging boar, otherwise he kills you. In my own
psyche there is no "otherwise."
And I don't agree
that the thrill of hunting is expressed in killing a beloved or challenging
wild thing, be it pheasant or elk. A dead bird or animal or a dead person is
dead, an absolute, positive symbol of death, and there is no beauty in it, no
possession, no encompassing, no cherishing. Death is death. The hunter
possesses only his own death. The light gone from the radiant eye, the rainbow
sheen instantly drying off fur or feather, the rot begun the moment death, not
the hunter, possesses the hunted. And there is no beauty in it. Death is
Besides, it is
spring, the time of baby chicks and hillsides purple with bluebonnets, and air
clear and scented with wild lilac. There on the east ridge the sun rises early,
warm and pastel behind Mount Manuel, casting a mountainous shadow out over the
blue flint sea, the meadows light and teasing with blossoms.
does are separating, moving toward the dangerous privacy of birth. These are
the best days. I leave early, carrying lunch and binoculars, and I return at
dark to feed the colt and have supper with the wife and chitchat.
haven't planted the garden yet."