I didn't like
this. Didn't like it at all and was worried over what might come next. You
don't make a friend by badly outshooting him over his dogs and on his grounds,
and you don't inspire trust in the uprightness of your character by doing it on
what you claim is your first time. I was glad, at least, that no bets had been
made on the day. I would have looked like a sharper.
Back in the bar
of the motel where we had met that morning and where I was buying the drinks,
Paul said, "Now come clean. You lied to me, didn't you? You've done this
before. Many times before. You can't tell me that you can kill five birds with
six shots the first time you ever try it."
I said, "I
was shooting way over my head today, Paul. You had a rare bad day, I had a rare
"If I promise
to do better tomorrow, want to go again?" he asked.
same place," I said.
And we drank
everything had turned out! What an enjoyable time I had had, following upon all
my fears for my performance! How lovely the setting and the season, how fine
the dogs, what a good companion; how well and with what scant communication
needed between us Paul and I had understood each other, gotten along together!
How pleased I was with myself, how pleased must be the spirit of my father, who
never lived to train me in the pursuit that was his passion. And it all began
with an invitation to Don Carlo at the Met! This was what I told our friends
Klaus and Bobbie Hallig days later when they came to dinner. I had just
finished my story when we were summoned to the table, the cover was removed
from the main dish, and, to their surprise, they were served the very stuff of
the story they had just been told.
By law, wild game
may not be sold. You must either get your own or else you must be given it. As
a gift from a sportsman friend, it tastes good. But nothing tastes as good as
game you yourself have shot. It savors of so much more than mere meat. It is
food for the soul. In it are the sights, the sounds and the smells of a
landscape; the weather of a day; the easy companionship of a friend; your
rapport with the dogs and theirs with each other; the moment when their ringing
bells suddenly fall silent as they freeze on point; the memory of the rush of
your blood as you walk in to make the flush and the heart-stopping instant when
the bird bursts from cover and towers; the shot, the puff of feathers on the
air. And, yes, that ineffable moment, compounded in equal parts of
self-satisfaction and self-reproach, when the dog brings it to you, and you
hold in your hand the creature you both love and love to kill.