Chapter Thirteen

“Come on Mac,” said Ernie,”no need to be like that.”

The morning was a beauty, the storm had cleared the dust from the air making dawn a sight to behold. Ernie & Mac left half an hour before daybreak for their last hunt, leaving Arty to clean up the dishes and have a bit of a tidy up. As soon as he had finished his chores, he headed off to skin his bear.

Arty had skinned many deer and possums in his time, but the bear proved to be more of a challenge than he had anticipated. He weighed over a thousand pounds and was just over 7 foot from nose to tail. It took him nearly 8 hours to skin, using ropes to turn the carcas and having to resharpen his skinning knife frequently. When he had finished salting the skin it weighed over 150 pounds with the skull intact. By the time he headed back to camp he’d had enough of bear skinning.

When he made it back with his load, Mac & Ernie had been back at camp for over 4 hours after yet another fruitless hunt. Mac was even more petulant than normal, blaming everyone but himself for their lack of success.

“You kiwis should stick to rabbits and possums; this is the last time I waste my money on a guide that’s a foreigner.”

Ernie kept his mouth shut, he had the measure of Mac, and trying to reason with the man would be pointless. Soon Mac would be gone, and hopefully, the next client could get around in the bush without making as much noise as a Sherman tank. His one consolation was the fee in his account; he had earned every cent of it, bear or no bear.

“Got a moment Ernie,” asked Arty, a tired grin on his face.

“Course I have,” he was glad for an excuse to get away from his grumbling client.

They walked over to Arty’s trophy; Ernie did a double take when he saw it.

“When did you get that?”

“Last night, got it with my bow.”

Ernie was both impressed and concerned.

“But you don’t have any tags if the authorities get wind of this there’ll be all kinds of trouble.”

“I’ll buy a license when we drop Mac off; no one need be any the wiser.”

“We’ll talk about it later, but for heaven’s sake don’t let Mac know.” Peering nervously over his shoulder his heart sank, Mac was heading over to see what they were looking at.

“When did you shoot that?”

“I didn’t.”

“What?”

“I got it with my bow.”

The look of envy on Mac’s face was icing on the cake; Arty couldn’t stop smiling.

“Well,” said Ernie, hoping to distract Mac, “better get your gear sorted, the plane will be here soon.”

Mac made to head back to his tent but changed his mind and walked back to the bear. He looked directly at Arty.

“Where’s your tags?”

Ernie flinched, Arty was silent.

“Thought so, you don’t have a bear license do you?” Mac had the ghost of a smile on his face.

“I’m going to get one today when we drop you back.”

“Bit late, you already killed the bear.”

“No one else knows that.”

Mac was grinning now. “I do, and so will anyone I tell.”

He bent down and fondled the fur. “Looks like I got myself a bear.”

“Come on Mac,” said Ernie,”no need to be like that.”

“Aiding and abetting a poacher, they’ll have your guiding license.”

Arty’s heart sank. Mac had him, and he knew it.

“Either you give me the skin and keep your mouths shut, or I’ll go to the authorities.”

“Take it,” said Arty, “It’s the only way you’ll ever get one.”

Mac turned to Ernie. “And you’re going to sack him.”

“Come on Mac; you’ve got your skin, no need to carry on like this,”

“You sack him, and give me the skin, or I’ll go to the authorities.”

Ernie looked helplessly at Arty. No, I’m not going to sack him.

“No need to Ernie, I’m quitting. This guiding capers not for me.”

When Mac flew out that evening, he was the most cheerful he’d been for a long time. I’ve often wondered how happy he would have felt knowing he had unwittingly signed Arty’s death sentence.

Perhaps that a question best left unanswered.

More on Arty and Worzel in the next blog.

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