The road ran through several clearcutsrnbefore I recognized the one we werernsearching for when, looking uphill, Irnmade out the dip in the tree line that indicatedrnthe saddle I’d crossed over thernday before. I reined the horse to the left,rnoffroad into the crusted snow where wernsounded like Napoleon’s army on the retreatrnfrom Russia.rn”No good,” Dick said. “They can hearrnus coming a mile away. We’re going tornhave to do this one on foot. I noticed myrnknee’s looking puff}’ again this morning.”rnWe tied up beside the logging roadrnand began working our way slowly uphillrnalong the black timber edge. If the horsesrnhad sounded like the entire Frenchrnarmy, the two of us alone were onlyrnslightly quieter than Bedford Forrest’srnCritter Company.rn”They aren’t going to be moving anywayrnin this wind.” Dick, who hasn’t gotrnhis residency back, this morning wasrnarmed only with a .44 magnum revolverrnand a game saw.rn”I know it,” I said. “All this hardrnwork—the getting up early, this wind—rnfor nothing. The fun’s over as soon asrnyou pull the trigger, anvway.”rnWe worked our way nearly to thernridgeline without seeing anything fresherrnthan last night’s tracks, among hundredsrnof older ones. At the summit we sat on arnlog to rest, glass the trees, and watch thernsun rise over the Ram’s Horn and thernPinnacles in the Absaroka Mountains.rnThe wind was up more than ever, an icyrndeluge pouring through the saddle lookingrnover into Warm Springs Creek.rn”Rick and I were hunting deer inrnBridger Basin,” Dick remembered. “Hernwas driving, and I was supposed to pickrnoff whatever ran out of the quakies. Hernjumped two bucks and I dropped thernlead one. Hit him right in the engineroom,rna clean heart-lung shot. I couldrnsee the blood gush—a fountain of blood,rnlike the time we took out that VC sniperrnat 800 yards with a .?08.” He paused.rn”There’s times I think I don’t want to killrnanything ever again.”rn”Well,” I said, “I never went to Vietnam,rnso I can’t comment on that. All Irnhave to say is, I’ll hunt elk for as long as Irncan get about in the field —or as long asrnthere still are elk to hunt.”rnAt the edge of a lid of gray cloud thernwind had pushed in, the sun was a diffusernspot of lemon-colored light. Wearily wernstood from the log and began workingrnaround the far side of the clearcut andrndown to the road, where we picked uprnthe horses for the ride back to camp.rn”First the warm, bright nights and nowrnthe damn wind,” I said, speaking over myrnshoulder as the horse skidded and slid inrnthe muddy track. “If the weather wouldrnjust cooperate, we might take somethingrnyet.”rn”Anything you shoot you’d better shootrnby evening. It’s all-day work getting a bigrnbull out of here, and I have to be in SheridanrnSunday night.”rnThe wind kept up until past shootingrnlight and arose again with the sun the followingrnmorning. The clouds returned,rnbringing spates of cold rain and snowrnflurries.rn”Too bad we can’t afford to wait for thernstorm to get them moving.”rn”We don’t have the time. My kneernhurts like hell from riding a horse all dayrnyesterday.”rnThe pleasures of hunting are not dependentrnon success in the field (failurernmeans you don’t have a half-ton carcassrnto pack out). In Dubois, Dick and I partedrncompany, he for Sheridan and home,rnme for a hot shower, clean clothes, andrnsupper at Cavallo Creek restaurant, arnhome-away-from-home for displaced cosmopolitesrnwearv of a diet of steak andrnpotatoes even,-‘ night. I ordered a bottle ofrnItalian wine with my pasta and shared itrnwith a young lady from Texas wearingrnsomething Western by Ralph Laurenrnwho said she didn’t understand how anyonerncould bring himself or herself to killrnanything so noble and beautiful as a bullrnelk—or any other animal, for that matter.rnReturning to Laramie after a six-hourrnpull across the state of Wyoming, I foundrnMaynard dead in her cage. We had beenrntogether for one month short of 18 years,rnafter I’d stepped into the Pet Corral inrnSalt Lake City on a day in late Novemberrn1982 to admire their collectionrnof snakes and a particolored parrot in arncage marked “Patagonian Conure $89″rnsquawked at me from the shelf above arnhandsome blacksnake coiled in his glassrntank. Maynard (who was represented tornme as being of the male sex and waitedrnseven years to lay her first clutch of eggs)rnhad been a feather-picker the last fivernyears of her life, and I’d bought a veterinarian-rnapproved plastic collar screwingrntogether in two pieces designed to preventrnthis act of self-mutilation and allowrnthe new plumage to grow back in. Thernbody, not yet completely cold, was lyingrnbeneath the food cup a foot or so abovernthe floor of the cage: Apparently thernheavy collar had caused her to lose herrnbalance, leading to the fall that had brokenrnher neck. Death must have comernquickly, as the eyes were open and thernwings unspread. Actuarily speaking, shernhad 22 years of life ahead of her. (Aboutrnwhat statisticians would allow her master.)rnIt was the end of an era as well as of arncherished companion; also somethingrnelse I couldn’t identify. I laid Maynard,rnalong with the bell she had learned tornplay sostenuto, like an orchestral instrument,rnaway in a waterproof freezer containerrnpurchased at the Big K in Laramiernand drove out to Jelm Mountain, a pyramidalrnlandmark plainly visible from townrn30 miles away. Halfway up the jeep trailrnascending to the summit, I turned into arnsagebrush park and continued offroadrnonto a shoulder of the mountain overlookingrnthe Laramie River and, beyondrnit, the golden hills and dark timberedrnridges rolling down to the high peaks ofrnColorado. Using a long-handled spadernand a Marine entrenching tool, I dug arnhole three feet deep in a grove of pinerntrees, placed the coffin at the bottom ofrnit, and filled in the grave. As an afterthought,rnI drew the sidearm I carried onrnmy hip and emptied the cylinder —sixrncarefully spaced shots — into the siftingrnsnowflakes from a passing squall.rnAt the bottom of the mountain Irnstopped for a drink at the log cafe inrnWood’s Landing. The barmaid was arnhealthy, straightforward-looking girl,rnwearing something that was definitelyrnnot by Ralph Lauren. At three o’clock inrnthe afternoon, I was her only customer atrnthe bar. She watched me closely as Irntossed back the whiskey and set the shotrnglass down on the wood.rn”Another one?” the girl asked sympathetically.rn”You look like you just lostrnyour best friend.”rn”I got done burying her 15 minutesrnago up there on the mountain.”rnThe barmaid moved a little closer tornthe telephone, or maybe to the gun shernkept under the counter.rn”You buried your girlfriend on JelmrnMountain?”rn”Not a girlfriend, exactly. Maynardrnwas a parrot. The best, most intelligent,rnmost loving bird I ever knew.”rnShe relaxed and appeared to considerrnas she refilled the shot glass from thernwhiskey bottle.rn”I’m not sentimental about animalsrnmyself,” the girl said finally.rn”Neither am I,” I told her. “Did yournhappen to hear if the elk have startedrnmoving up here from Colorado yet?” <^rn58/CHRONICLESrnrnrn