It was the same ever since the youth could remember; he’d be out in the woods and sooner or later he’d run into a hunting party. Sometimes the hunters would chat with him. That was when he’d been younger, a kid. As he’d grown they’d taken to teasing him instead. He’d usually be out of sight and often they’d walk right under him without ever knowing it. Sooner or later their paths would cross and they’d have a bit of sport on his ac-count before going on their way. This time he’d been waiting for them.
He’d been tracking something big for days and the trail had led him to a spot by the creek where it intersected with another trail: a trail of blood. Puzzled he’d fol-lowed that and spotted the injured doe, lurching about in frenzy. She finally dropped down with exhaustion. She’d been shot in the leg, up in the hindquarter and was grievously wounded. He’d put her out of her misery with one clean slice to her neck, then backtracking he’d heard the hunters talking as they followed the same trail.
“Told ya’ you’d clipped it Her-bert, now it’s done got away bleedin’ and all.”
“Shut yer stinkin’ mouth Frankie, ‘fore I close it for ya’.”
“Might as well go find it and take what we can get.”
He’d gone back to where the doe was and climbed a tree, waiting to see what they’d do. It wasn’t long before they’d found her.
“Now look whatcha gone and done!” one man cried.
“Ya’ ruined it Herbie, ya’ big ee-djit!”
“Aaaw shucks boys it’s still got the tenderloins and that’s the only part worth somethin’ anyway. Let’s go skin ‘er, we’ll jus’ leave the rest for the buzzards to clean up.”
This interchange had enraged the boy and he’d dropped out of the tree above, bow drawn back and nocked.
“Whoa there!” one of the hunt-ers drew back slightly, “Whatcha doin’ there little monkey, didja es-cape from the zoo?”
“Check it out y’all! It’s that kid again . . . think yer Taar-zan or somethin’?” another one called out chuckling.
“Nah, he’s jus’ playin’ . . . ain’t even a real bow he’s got, that there’s jus’ a stick pulled back with some ribbon.”
“Who wants to skin a squirrel? What’s the matter boy, can’t find yer nuts!” came a mocking call.
“I got some nuts for ya’ right here boy, why doncha come get ‘em?” followed by more laughter and a crushed beer can flying at him.
They all smirked at one another ready to have a bit of fun. Their smiles quickly fading when an arrow pierced the beer can.
The young man eyed them all coldly, fitting another arrow onto his bow.
“You shoot that doe?” he asked, motioning over to the dead animal with a nod of his head.
“What if we did?” came back a cocky reply. “You gonna go tell the game warden kid?”
“Hey Herbert, this here doe’s dead, been kilt right across the neck,” the man named Frankie called out drawing a line across his own neck.
“You did that boy?” the man named Herbert asked, looking over at the dead animal and turning back, “That there doe was mine.”
“Yours was it?” the young man spat, “You must be half-blind! She was so badly shot that no true hunter would make such a claim.
You got no business hunting any-more old man, if that’s what you do to what’s yours!”
The men looked at him in surprise. They’d run into him before and had taken him to be a some-what easy going fellow, a bit odd that was for sure, what they’d call the quiet sort, but on the whole amicable and good natured. This was more than they’d ever heard him speak before, and that shot at the beer can made them a bit uneasy.
“Well now, easy there bo! There’s enough meat on there for all of us ain’t that right fellas?”
“Sure thing Herbie, we’re fine with sharing . . . .”
“You men better get something straight,” the young man bit out, “I don’t want any meat! What I want is for you to stay out of these woods until you learn some respect for the lives you’re taking! You men think I don’t find the remains of all the deer you kill? Sometimes you just take the heads and push whole bodies off the roadside down into the creek! Even animals don’t hunt like that!”
“Now calm down there son, yer getting’ mighty fired up about nothin’ . . . .”
“No, you men listen up and listen good. These woods are protected. You make one more bad shot, it’ll be the last one you make!”
“Whoa there Frank, that pup grew some teeth! You threatenin’ me boy?!”
In reply they heard a roar coming from behind them. The young man let loose his arrow, which went flying by Herbert’s head. Before they could collect themselves he had walked past them. When they turned they saw the arrow sticking out of the ground beneath an enormous cat, and the young man standing with his hand on its head.
“I’m warning you this once, next time she can have you.”
Then he pulled out his arrow and walked away with the cat by his side.