Short Stories

7213 Words May 5th, 2013 29 Pages
MY DATE WITH GRAYBEARD by ROBIN COLLINS

When I was a boy in Natal, South Africa, the farmers of the district organised a hunt each year in the Umzimkulu valley, using a hundred native beaters and their dogs. A variety of wildlife finds refuge in the valley—monkeys, baboons and an occasional leopard—but the creature most sought after is the wily gray bushbuck. With his speed and cunning, his ferocity when wounded or cornered, he is a quarry worthy of any hunter’s gun.

There was one buck we called Graybeard, a magnificent old-timer who year after year survived the hunt. I was the years old when I had my first glimpse of him, stepping proudly across a small clearing. His horns were long and sharp. His fur was a deep gray mottled
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The ambition of my youthful life was at the point of achievement. Graybeard stood motionless before me. I had only to pull the trigger to bring him down.

Yet something made me hold my fire. The buck had turned his head now, and his great ears twitched to catch the baying of the dogs. His moist nose trembled, and his eyes, softly luminous, alert without fearful, seemed to stare right at me. There was pride and dignity in every line of his body, and I knew suddenly that I could not destroy him. For several breathless moments he remained where he was, and then a vagary of the breeze carried my man-smell to him. In two huge leaps he crosses the clearing and was gone. I stayed where I was, silent and enraptured.

When the drive was over, my father came up the slope. I unloaded my gun and pushed the shells back into the loops on my belt. My father’s quick eye took in the details of the stand I had occupied and the full belt of cartridges. ‘No luck?’ he asked.

I shook my head.

‘That’s funny,’ he said. ‘The boys sighted Graybeard coming in this direction, and none of the other guns saw him.’

I looked down at the ground. My reticence must have aroused his suspicions, for he walked across the clearing and paused beside the deep imprints the buck had made in the mist earth as he jumped. I walked away, unable to face the condemnation which I imagined on my father’s face.

As we drove home, the thought of old Graybeard gathering his does together for

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