Posted on the 16th. October 2016 – to honour the date of the Hunter’s Moon – or Blood Moon.
Where I live – hunting, shooting and fishing are a way of life.
Wildfowl. Shooting, hunting and fishing – a way of life and death – in the country.
I have a good friend that I call the ‘Squire’ – because he shoots small game – like wildfowl and pheasants for the table. He assures me that he is a very good shot but he doesn’t shoot Deer – as he loves them like I do – and welcomes them on his land to graze.
Tip’s friends. Red deer herd happily grazing out in the open. Image courtesy of the Squire himself.
In fact – he tells me that as he gets older – he shoots less and less because he doesn’t have the heart for it anymore. His main sport is freshwater fishing.
Beautiful Salmon caught on the River Mole – and let go again! Image courtesy of the Squire himself.
Really – we probably ought not get on so well – because he also occasionally shoots the very birds that I love – magpies, rooks – crows – it’s land management apparently. He has other people that come to his land to shoot – it’s his business – it’s just a pity he’s not able to control them like the so called ‘nuisance’ birds! You will understand the meaning of this statement when you read his poem later.
I can’t help but like ‘The Squire’ – because every now and then he gives me something really special from his land. He doesn’t really understand why I get so excited about skulls and bones – he says “But they’re just some old bones!” – but he indulges me nonetheless. Once he gave me a startling white skull in a black box – that had a label attached with a story about how it was that of ‘Jed’ the feral cat that the gamekeeper had accidentally shot! Of course I took one look at it and said – that’s no cat – it’s a fox! But that’s why I like him because he has a fertile imagination – and he is very, very funny. When you live in the country like I do – and work in a small market town like I do – you meet lots of interesting people from all walks of life. I used to have a horse but I’d never go hunting – but it doesn’t mean I don’t like them that do! Another time – he and his wife – gave me a single stuffed Magpie in a beautifully wrapped box for Christmas. They are a generous couple – who give occasional work – and a free lunch – to my younger son in the holidays; casual labour I suppose. Very casual from all accounts! He loves spending a day helping them out on the land – and around the outside of the house.
The Squire bought the Magpie on Ebay – so it had been professionally cured and stuffed! He was unaware of the rhyme – “One for sorrow – two for joy.” despite the fact that he lives in the country! Later mortified by his ‘ignorance’ – he offered to get me another one to make it a lucky pair – but I declined as I don’t really like taxidermy. It looked for all the world like a dead bird I’d found as a child and buried in a shoe-box come back to haunt me! Having said that – I’ve grown very found of ‘Mercury’ my stuffed magpie – but I make sure I always bid him ‘good day’. I love how he has his beak wide open – he always looks so animated as if he’s telling a secret.
This reminds me – how once I bought an antique book of poems by Emily Bronte – and the seller kindly put a bookmark inside – a peacock’s feather! My house is full of wild feathers that I have collected on my walks but one feather that I’d never bring inside is a peacock’s feather because of superstition that they are unlucky. But because the feather came in by stealth – in a volume of Emily Bronte poems – I’m happy for it to stay – I call it ‘Emily’s feather’ – it’s like an all seeing eye.
Getting back to the ‘Squire’ – his latest gift to me is an Exmoor Red Deer skull complete with eight points – a Spring Stag. He found it on his land knee-deep in a bog. The thing that caught his eye was a white tip of one of the antlers – so I have called him – ‘Tip’. The Squire offered to bleach and mount the head on a wood-shield but that would have involved cutting and screwing the skull – sacrilege in my eyes! He emailed me a picture to show me how it looked not long after it had been lifted from the bog – the underside looks like a face that is almost human.
Of course I ‘screamed’ back at him – “DON’T TOUCH IT – I LOVE IT JUST AS IT IS!” and I hoped he’d heed my words.
The next day – Thursday 11th. August 2016 – just as I was leaving work – The Squire pulled-up in his big green farmer’s truck – and brought with him – ‘Tip’ on the backseat. I was so excited – my manager said he didn’t think he’d ever seen anyone that excited – especially over some bones!
Oh the joy – the colour! ‘Tip’ is absolutely beautiful – golden – no way could anyone ever reproduce his rich depth – in more ways than one. He is completely natural – untouched – preserved – just as the Squire had lifted him from the bog. His antler tip acted like Excalibur – Tip was asking to be lifted from his watery grave. Tip is shown here lying on a woven blanket laid-out on the grass – but normally he lives inside – where he isn’t cold anymore – and where he is deeply loved.
‘Tip’ has been in my ‘red room’ now for over a month – and at first my family were uneasy about his presence because he had died in a bog – my Mother especially voiced her concern. She said that I should return ‘Tip’ to the land because she felt that ‘Tip’ had died a horrible, slow death – and she was worried by me bringing him into my house.
I myself have thought the same thoughts regarding the way in which ‘Tip’ must have struggled so desperately before surrendering to his murky fate – but all I can say is that having had ‘Tip’ home for well-over a month now – I get an overwhelming feeling of peace when I see his noble profile caught in the half-light of my lamp-lit room – suddenly he looks so alive again. Late at night when the rest of the house is sleeping – I find Tip’s presence very powerful – like the crucifix of Christ’s suffering that hangs also on my red wall.
Getting back to the Squire – he followed up ‘Tip’ with a poem he’d written for my ‘birthday’ – which he’d forgotten and later remembered because of our friend – Sallykins! It’s all about the nature of Tip’s sad demise. Original or what – and no money spent either!
The area of Tip’s ‘Death Bog’ – with river near. Image courtesy of the Squire.
Poem for ‘Tip’ – for me. Written by my good friend the Squire.
At your request – I viewed today
The death bog of poor “Tip” the Deer –
My photos show where he passed away
In a swamp with river near.
Who knows the cause of his demise?
I think the answer is near –
A foolish farmer out with his gun
Did not wait, for a killing shot clear.
Poor Tip ran off with lead in his guts
So terrified was he –
Until his blood loss brought him down
As he struggled to get away free.
He sank a little in that cool bog
His breath in urgent gasps –
Until relief did come at last
One last and final rasp.
Oh joy for the fox and badger near,
As his carcass was free for all –
And many a meal from poor old Tip
Was enjoyed by creatures small.
They gnawed and ripped
His tender flesh whilst he was still just warm
And then – by day the insects came
And on it they did swarm.
As time went by poor Tip sank deep
Into that soggy mire –
By now his skin – his flesh – his guts
Were taken as if by fire.
A year or more passed by that scene
And only his bones were left –
Until the day the Squire passed by
And found Tip’s skull at rest.
So from the bog he pulled away
Until Tip’s naked skull came free –
Complete with antlers oh so fine
Especially for – Melanie!
So as you gaze upon this beast
Proudly so displayed –
Think well of me your shooting friend
That life has aimed your way!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.” From ‘No Coward Soul is Mine’ by Emily Bronte.