With apologies to Papa
On the sleeping porch facing south, in the still of early morning, the coyotes now quiet, with only the drone of a lone long-haul semi to be heard from a far piece, the whine of its engine beginning as a low hum then building slowly, implacably, irresistibly, obeying the laws of physics, the Doppler effect, to then recede as it came. The muggy heat of South Texas saturated the air even in late November, requiring that we must be in the pastures at first light, when it was cool enough for the bucks to emerge before retreating deep into the brush during the heat of the day.
At 15, I needed no second call to arise and dress hurriedly, alive with anticipation, for the hunt to begin, but today was to begin with a singular event: seated at the breakfast table, addressing our bacon and eggs, we heard a low whistle from outside. Within the loom of the porch light, but just barely, an ancient (or so it seemed to me) vaquero, too humble to approach the screen door, informed our host: Seńor Johnny es mort. That was news: one of the last descendants of the founder of the vast La Parra Ranch had died. Fortunately, it did not alter our plans for the day, and we piled into the jeep, still in the predawn hours, and headed onto the trackless pastures of the ranch.
The way of the hunt was to drive slowly through the brush for deer, who - like all animals - were curious creatures and were not frightened by a vehicle moving slowly. The thing was to stay silent and search for the prey who, with its tan fur, blended well into the semi-arid landscape.
At last our host stopped and pointed to a buck no further than 40 yards I would say, standing within a light stand of mesquite. Silently, I left the jeep and went to a kneeling position to steady the rifle. I fired one shot, which was immediately followed by a loud whack of the bullet hitting its mark. The animal turned and ran, but as though blind, it ran into a bit of brush: It's a gone buck, said our host and guide. Sure enough it was motionless as we drove up to it, but our guide delivered the coup de grāce with a .22 pistol as a precaution.
I was numb with the enormity, or so it seemed to me, of the event. The ritual for a first kill is to cut off the penis and wipe the blood of the animal on the cheeks of the shooter, but as there was a woman with us, I was deprived of this seminal event in my young life.