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مجموعه: سهم من از کوهستان / کتاب: سهم من از کوهستان / فصل 15

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In Which I Find Out What to Do With Hunters

That party had a moral ending. Don’t feed wild animals! I picked up and counted my walnuts and hickory nuts. I was glad to discover there was more mess than loss. I decided that I would not only live until spring but that I still had more nuts than all the squirrels on Gribley’s (including flying squirrels).

In early November I was awakened one morning by a shot from a rifle. The hunting season had begun! I had forgotten all about that. To hide from a swarm of hunters was truly going to be a trick. They would he behind every tree and on every hill and dale. They would be shooting at everything that moved, and here was I in deerskin pants and dirty brown sweater, looking like a deer.

I decided, like the animals, to stay holed up the first day of the season. I whittled a fork and finished my rabbit-skin winter underwear. I cracked a lot of walnuts.

The second day of the hunting season I stuck my head out of my door and decided my yard was messy. I pithed it up so that it looked like a forest floor.

The third day of the hunting season some men came in and camped by the gorge. I tried to steal down the other side of the mountain to the north stream, found another camp of hunters there, and went back to my tree.

By the end of the week both Frightful and I were in need of exercise. Gun shots were still snapping around the mountain. I decided to go see Miss Turner at the library. About an hour later I wrote this: I got as far as the edge of the hemlock grove when a shot went off practically at my elbow. I didn’t have Frightful’s jesses in my hand and she took off at the blast. I climbed a tree. There was a hunter so dose to me he could have bitten me, but apparently he was busy watching his deer. I was able to get up into the high branches without being seen. First, I looked around for Frightful. I could see her nowhere. I wanted to whistle for her but didn’t think I should. I sat still and looked and wondered if she’d go home.

I watched the hunter track his deer. The deer was still running. From where I was I could see it plainly, going towards the old Gribley farm site. Quietly I climbed higher and watched. Then of all things, it jumped the stone fence and fell dead.

I thought I would stay in the tree until the hunter quartered his kill and dragged it out to the road. Ah, then, it occurred to me that he wasn’t even going to find that deer. He was going off at an angle, and from what I could see, the deer had dropped in a big bank of dry ferns and would be hard to find.

It got to be nerve-racking at this point. I could see my new jacket lying in the ferns, and the hunter looking for it. I closed my eyes and mentally steered him to the left.

Then, good old Frightful! She had winged down the mountain and was sitting in a sapling maple away from the deer. She saw the man and screamed. He looked in her direction; heaven knows what he thought she was, but he turned and started towards her. She rustled her wings, climbed into the sky, and disappeared over my head. I did want to whistle to her, but feared for my deer myself, and her.

I hung in the tree and waited about a half an hour. Finally the man gave up his hunt. His friends called, and he went on down the mountain. I went down the tree.

In the dry ferns lay a nice young buck. I covered it carefully with some of the stones from the fence, and more ferns, and rushed home. I whistled, and down from the top of my own hemlock came Frightful. I got a piece of birch bark to write all this on so I wouldn’t get too anxious and go for the deer too soon.

We will wait until dark to go get our dinner and my new jacket. I am beginning to think I’ll have all the deer hide and venison I can use. There must be other lost game on this mountain.

I got the deer after dark, and I was quite right. Before the season was over I got two more deer in the same way. However, with the first deer to work on, the rest of the season passed quickly. I had lots of scraping and preparing to do. My complaint was that I did not dare light a fire and cook that wonderful meat. I was afraid of being spotted. I ate smoked venison, nut meats, and hawthorn berries. Hawthorn berries taste a little bit like apples. They are smaller and drier than apples. They also have big seeds in them. The hawthorn bush is easy to tell because it has big red shiny thorns on it.

Each day the shooting lessened as the hunters left the hills and went home. As they cleared out, Frightful and I were freer and freer to roam.

The air temperature now was cold enough to preserve the venison, so I didn’t smoke the last two deer, and about two weeks after I heard that first alarming shot, I cut off a beautiful steak, built a bright fire, and when the embers were glowing, I had myself a real dinner. I soaked some dried puffballs in water, and when they were big and moist, I fried them with wild onions and skimpy old wild carrots and stuffed myself until I felt kindly towards all men. I wrote this: November 26

Hunters are excellent friends if used correctly. Don’t let them see you; but follow them closely. Preferably use the tops of trees for this purpose, for hunters don’t look up. They look down and to the right and left and straight ahead. So if you stay in the trees, you can not only see what they shoot, but where it falls, and if you are extremely careful, you can sometimes get to it before they do and hide it. That’s how I got my third deer.

I had a little more trouble tanning these hides because the water in my oak stump kept freezing at night. It was getting cold. I began wearing my rabbit-fur underwear most of the morning. It was still too warm at noon to keep it on, but it felt good at night. I slept in it until I got my blanket made. I did not scrape the deer hair off my blanket. I liked it on. Because I had grown, one deerskin wouldn’t cover me. I sewed part of another one to it.

The third hide I made into a jacket. I just cut a rectangle with a hole in it for my head and sewed on straight wide sleeves. I put enormous pockets all over it, using every scrap I had, including the pouches I had made last summer. It looked like a cross between a Russian military blouse and a carpenter’s apron, but it was warm, roomy and, I thought, handsome.

As I walked down the road, I kept pretending I was going to the library; but it was Sunday, and I knew the library was closed.

I tethered Frightful just outside town on a stump. I didn’t want to attract any attention. Kicking stones as I went and whistling, I walked to the main intersection town as if I came every Sunday.

I saw the drugstore and began to walk faster, for I was beginning to sense that I was not exactly what everybody saw every day. Eyes were upon me longer than they needed to be.

By the time I got to the drugstore, I was running. I slipped in and went to the magazine stand. I picked up a comic book and began to read.

Footsteps came towards me. Below the bottom pictures I saw a pair of pants and saddle shoes. One shoe went tap, tap. The feet did a kind of hop step, and I watched them walk to the other side of me. Tap, tap, tap, again; a hop step and the shoes and pants circled me. Then came the voice. “Well, if it isn’t Daniel Boone!” I looked into a face about the age of my own – but a little more puppyish – I thought. It had about the same colouring – brown eyes, brown hair – a bigger nose than mine and more ears, but a very assured face. I said, “Well?” I grinned, because it had been a long time since I had seen a young man my age.

The young man didn’t answer, he simply took my sleeve between his fingers and examined it closely. “Did you chew it yourself?” he asked.

I looked at the spot he was examining and said, “Well, no, I pounded it on a rock there, but I did have to chew it a bit around the neck. It stuck into me.”

We looked at each other then. I wanted to say something, but didn’t know where to begin. He picked at my sleeve again.

“My kid brother has one that looks more real than that thing. Whataya got that on for anyway?”

I looked at his clothes. He had on a nice pair of grey slacks, a white shirt opened at the neck, and a leather jacket. As I looked at these things, I found my voice.

“Well, I’d rip anything like you have on all to pieces in about a week.”

He didn’t answer, he walked around me again.

“Where did you say you came from?”

“I didn’t say, but I come from a farm up the way.”

“Whatja say your name was?”

“Well, you called me Daniel Boone.”

“Daniel Boone, eh?” He walked around me once more, and then peered at me.

“You’re from New York. I can tell the accent.” He leaned against the cosmetic counter. “Come on, now, tell me, is this what the kids are wearing in New York now? Is this gang stuff?” “I am hardly a member of a gang,” I said. “Are you?”

“Out here? Naw, we bowl.” The conversation went to bowling for a while, then he looked at his watch.

“I gotta go. You sure are a sight, Boone. Whatja doing anyway, playing cowboys and Indians?”

“Come on up to the Gribley farm and I’ll show you what I’m doing. I’m doing research. Who knows when we’re all going to he blown to bits and need to know how to smoke venison.” “Gee, you New York guys can sure double talk. What does that mean, burn a house down?”

“No, it means smoke venison,” I said. I took a piece out of my pocket and gave it to him. He smelled it and handed it back.

“Man,” he said, “whataya do, eat it?”

“I sure do,” I answered.

“I don’t know whether to send you home to play with my kid brother or call the cops.” He shrugged his shoulders and repeated that he had to go. As he left, he called back, “The Gribley farm?” “Yes. Come on up if you can find it.”

I browsed through the magazines until the clerk got anxious to sell me something and then I wandered out. Most of the people were in church. I wandered around the town and back to the road.

It was nice to see people again. At the outskirts of town a little boy came bursting out of a house with his shoes off, and his mother came bursting out after him. I caught the little fellow by the arm and I held him until his mother picked him up and took him back. As she went up the steps, she stopped and looked at me. She stepped towards the door, and then walked back a few steps and looked at me again. I began to feel conspicuous and took the road to my mountain.

I passed the little old strawberry lady’s house. I almost went in, and then something told me to go home.

I found Frightful, untied her, stroked her creamy breast feathers, and spoke to her. “Frightful, I made a friend today. Do you think that is what I had in mind all the time?” The bird whispered.

I was feeling sad as we kicked up the leaves and started home through the forest. On the other hand, I was glad I had met Mr Jacket, as I called him. I never asked his name. I had liked him although we hadn’t even had a fight. All the best friends I had, I always fought, then got to like them after the wounds healed.

The afternoon darkened. The nuthatches that had been dinking around the trees were silent. The chickadees had vanished. A single crow called from the edge of the road. There were no insects singing, there were no catbirds, nor orioles, nor vireos, nor robins.

“Frightful,” I said. “It is winter. It is winter and I have forgotten to do a terribly important thing – stack up a big woodpile.” The stupidity of this sent Mr Jacket right out of my mind, and I bolted down the valley to my mountain. Frightful flapped to keep her balance. As I crossed the stones to my mountain trail, I said to that bird, “Sometimes I wonder if I will make it to spring.”

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