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flocks of wild turkeys trooped by them, always being led by a tough old gobbler; a brown bear lumbered along after being assured he was in no danger; a herd of antelope enjoyed the vegetation along the edge of a woodline fencing in an open meadow and curiously gazed for a moment at the frozen-still duo; the proud, antlered bucks stood tall and strong, surrounded by their yearlings and the does whose bellies were just beginning to swell with their unborn fawns. Each one of those magnificent stags was strikingly individual and solely responsible for his small herd--and the sight of them charged Emmett with a deep feeling that one of them was to be the answer to the question that brought him to New Mexico.

At night after eating his food and salad of wild onions picked from the ground and before Iying down to talk with Natural Suzanne, Emmett would sometimes stand alone outside under the stars and listen to the howling of the coyotes and the whistling of the elks' mating calls and understand that whatever it was he was about to discover, it would be soon. This made him feel warm and open to the smells carried by the brisk, dark air, but nervous, that there was so much to manhood and being a man.

It was ten days after he arrived at El Rito that the meat was finished and more was needed for the women to make a new stew. Little Bird told Emmett over coffee that morning that today they would go for rabbit, and they went out of the cabin and walked into the hills with the morning sun warming their backs like always, but with a feeling inside them that was different from the other times they left together for the woods. Of course, they had always carried their weapons with them on their walks, but even though they sometimes had been only a few feet away from an animal, Little Bird had never used his bow or Emmett his rifle, because no meat had been needed for their table. However, now there was a need, and the rabbits they had only been watching they now were hunting.

Emmett had practiced a couple of hours every day at twilight with his bow, but it would take a while yet before he would be sure enough with it to make a clean kill. So he left it behind, carrying only his .22 Magnum rifle and some shells when he climbed into the hills with Little Bird, who cradled his Bear bow and ported a pouch of arrows slung across his back.

One thing Emmett quickly understood about the spirit of hunting: you only took what you went in after, and not just anything that you might happen across. Today they were hunting snowshoe [end page 369]


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