Last night he says to me:
I was out there in my spot by Two Pond Tickle about five years ago now. It’s some hard to catch one of those big black ducks with the creamy chests, you know? You have to lay in the cover for up to four hours sometimes, not even breathing, their hearing is so good. Patience of Job you’d need, let me tell ya.
And out she comes from behind the rushes. Gliding out she was, I could hear her feet in the water, that’s how quiet it was. Beautiful colour - that black that looks like navy blue contrasting off the cream. She was putting herself upside down from time to time, all in a kind of rhythm, catching the little silverbacks in her beak, tossing them about before she swallowed them. I could hear the sound of the water drops, the paddle of her feet, the toss of her head, the way the breeze stirred her feathers.
I remember thinking, that’s like poetry out there. Herself reflected in the water, doing a dance, almost like that fancy ballet stuff, down to catch the silverback, up to toss it a little, then swallow it down, me all alone in the bush, not even breathing for sure as night she could hear me if I did. Those ducks are some good to eat. Lots of good meat on them.
It seemed like it took me an hour to raise the gun and get her in my sights. One clean shot and it was all over. Sunday dinner all ready to be plucked and gutted and roasted.
So I waded out to get her and took her by the neck. And something happened. Now you won’t be laughing at me? But I felt my heart breaking in two. And then, damned if I didn’t start to cry with the water up to me thighs in the waders and me holding the stupid dead bird by the neck. Me, a tough old hunter in me fifties, imagine! And I splashed back to the shore and dug a hole with the butt of me rifle. It took me a fair whack of time, it did. And then I buried her and put a cairn on the top and said a little prayer when I was done with all that.
And I went off and got myself a good camera, you’ve seen it.
And I threw away the rifle.
And the only thing I’ll ever shoot now are pictures.