The Bond of Hunters
by John Jeanneney, copyright 1998
Max was an old wirehaired dachshund whose gray grizzled coat matched my own head. Neither of us could escape the truth that the hills were getting steeper, but for both of us finding wounded deer for hunters in the fall was the adventure which bound us together and around which we organized our lives. We jogged regularly, linked by a short leash as we built and measured our strengths for the fall season when we would search once more together on the long leash as blood trackers. On our sedate runs along country roads, I eyed and Max smelled the wildlife in the green fields. The woodchucks, sitting up like sentinels near their dens were one of our diversions from the boredom of the road. We would charge the ramparts of their earthworks, arrive puffing and panting only to find that our quarry had dropped down and out of sight. Max was too big to enter, adrenalines at ebb we would return to the road. Still, the surge of the chase assured us that the old team was still alive and ready to take on the next wooly mammoth or great cave bear which blocked our path.
Near the start of our morning jogs we sometimes stopped in the yard of my neighbor Arnold to stretch stiff muscles. Arnold had complained of an enormous gourmand woodchuck, old and gray as ourselves, but much fatter. This woodchuck was ravaging Arnold's garden and mocking all defensive efforts. Plunge holes were his temporary escape but he never stayed near the lawn and gardens to await serious retaliations. His favorite tactical retreat was through a culvert under the road and into the wide green field beyond.
Max and I were returning from one of our three mile loops past the green field approaching Arnold's and there was the gourmand chuck, huge and self-satisfied. I held Max up so that he could see above the wall of unmowed grass at the road's edge and then unsnapped the leash. We launched our charge and sped the fifty yards. Sped? Well, anyway we scrambled just as fast as we could, two old boys as carnivores converging, the fat prey fleeing....all in slow motion...so slow, so desperate...straining, the distance closing, closing... flat out. We had him! Right at the edge of the woods, a faltering stride from his den under the old maple. Max grabbed first and rolled him. I took the tail hold, quickly swung our prey in hard orbit to the tree. It was over.
I thought for both of us of good lives, well-lived and of quick death.
John with Max and one of many deer that they have recovered.