My First Trophy
I was twenty-three when I joined the hunting lodge. I don’t mean the big lodge, the one where they hold the parties and dances, the one where people get married. I mean the real lodge, the little one up in the hills.
Everybody belongs to the big lodge. If you’ve ever touched a rifle or even if you just know somebody who’s touched a rifle, you can join the big lodge. And it’s nice. It’s got fancy hardwood floors, and a big open fireplace. The chef can do steak and eggs just right and he can do you fancy French cooking if that’s your style.
The big lodge is nice; even the real hunters socialize there but it’s only a social place. The little lodge is the place for real hunters.
I suppose everybody knows what kind of game we hunt although I’ve never heard anybody talk about it. It’s just one of those things that everybody knows. When they asked me in and told me, it was like I’d always known.
I remember the first time I walked into the main room in the little lodge. The first thing you see is the fire place. Over the mantel there’s a head of a biker wearing shades. a metal studded head band, and long greasy hair. Fred, the taxidermist, is an honorary member. He does deer and antelope for the big lodge. That’s nothing; everybody does deer and antelope. Fred can do human heads like they were still alive. It’s like you can hear the Harley when you see that biker.
I didn’t hunt big game on my own for the first few years. Mostly we hunt big game in groups and we don’t hunt local. We go up to Denver and pick out stray tourists late at night, people who look like they won’t be missed. Friend, if you’re ever a stranger in Denver, don’t walk the streets alone late at night. Your head may end up on the walls of the little lodge.
As I say, we don’t hunt local. The only exception I know of was the Simpson kid. Everybody thought he had run away but his head is in the john at the little lodge, snooping over your shoulder when you take a piss. I have my suspicions about that. The Simpson kid was never right in the head. Old man Simpson wanted him put away but his wife wouldn’t hear of it. I suspicion that old man Simpson had a talk with Stanislav.
Stanislav was an old geezer, really old. He was one of the men that started the lodge. He was some kind of nobleman back in Europe, a count or something. He used to sit by the fire and talk about how they used to hunt peasants in the old country. He never did say what country that was.
I’d been in the lodge maybe five or six years when I figured it was time to try to make a solo kill. They have a special room where they display the heads that people take in their first solo kill. They call it the virgin room. I figured it was time for me to lose my cherry.
Most folks, when they make their solo kill, head up to Denver or Boulder and pick out a runaway kid. I wanted to do it the hard way. I wanted to take out the Indian.
Nobody knew who the Indian was. Hell, nobody even knew for sure if he was an indian but he looked like one. He didn’t have no beard and he wore buckskins and indian style braids. He lived way up in the hills somewhere like a hermit. Once or twice a year he’d come into town with a pack of hides and trade for goods. Never said a word. Just came into town, pointed at what he wanted, did his business, and disappeared back into the hills. Folks figured that he was from the reservation and just wanted to live in the old ways.
The boys laughed when I said I was going to try to take out the Indian. It’d been tried they said. Everybody had taken a crack at the Indian. He was crafty. It was like he knew he was being hunted. Folks had tried to set up an ambush. He never walked into one. They tried to track him and lost him every time. He could break track like the wind. They tried scouting up in the hills and never caught sight of him which is natural; there’s a lot of country up there. The only man who ever had a real shot was old Duncan. Duncan had been a scout in the real old days when they were still chasing Geronimo. That was quite a while ago; one day Duncan went up into the hills tracking Indian and he never came back.
I paid no mind to that. I figured that I could never track him; he was too crafty. But there was an old abandoned fire look out station up by Deadman’s pass. The next time the Indian came to town I’d scoot up to the look out station and see if I could spot him on his way back into the hills; he couldn’t get through without breaking cover. And that’s the way it worked out; I sat up there with a pair of binoculars and spotted him heading up the East draw.
I didn’t do nothing then. He was past me and I was never going to catch up with him. I figured I’d wait until the next time he came to town. That’s what I did. When he came to town again I headed out. I had a lead on him ’cause he had business to do so I could take my time travelling along the ridge so’s I wouldn’t leave a track. I didn’t try to set up an ambush in the draw. There’s a crick not far from where the East draw opens up onto Kelly’s Peak and a rock overhang that looks down on where that crick opens up into a little pool. I set myself up on that overhang. I figured he would stop for water at the pool and I would have myself a shot.
That’s the way it worked out. It was a helluva shot, maybe five, six hundred yards but I had a scope and a sighted in rifle and a portable bench rest. He was good. I didn’t see him at all until he appeared at the pool. He was quick. I didn’t hardly have no time at all to get off a shot. But I got him. One shot and he was down.
I took my time coming down the hill with my rifle at the ready. I didn’t know but what he was wounded and was lying there waiting to take me out. He didn’t have a gun, I knew that, but he had a knife. I didn’t need to worry none, though. He was dead. I could see that when I got close.
I started to strip him to dress him down and pack him up to take back. The head would go to Fred to fix up for the lodge. The rest of him would go to Dave Smith, the butcher. I don’t know what Dave does with the corpses but I don’t buy hamburger from Dave and nobody else at the lodge does either.
I had the buckskins about half off when I realized that he weren’t no he. He were a she. I just sat there and groaned and thought to myself, “What in the hell am I going to do with the head of a woman.”
It worked out okay, though. Three years later I took myself to Denver and got me a real trophy.
This page was last updated December 7, 1998.