DUCK HUNTING

The girl lifted her skirts away from her feet and eased toward the small brown-mottled duck on the creek bank. It was busily investigating a small marshy area where water had seeped past the bank. Alma wished she’d brought her bow and arrows, but she’d been sent out to collect greens, not meat.

The duck had its back to her. Alma eased forward and crouched, getting into position. Her right foot pressed her skirt into the mud, but she didn’t notice.

The duck turned slightly. Alma lunged forward. As her hands touched the bird’s smooth feathers, her foot ground into her skirt, yanking her off balance. The duck flew off with a panicked series of quacks and Alma pitched foward into the mud.

“Hell and damnation!” she said angrily. “I hate dresses!”

She got to her feet and looked down ruefully. Her mother was not going to be happy.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

from Moreno Valley Sketches

HUNTING

They badly needed the meat. Stanley had borrowed a rifle and used store credit for the ammo, but they’d had to pay cash for the license fees, and Carolyn wasn’t happy.

He studied the landscape. Not an elk in sight. He sat down on a nearby log and pondered his situation. This move had been a mistake. There was no work and they were getting deeper in debt. He’d been a fool. You couldn’t eat a Ponderosa forest or a clear mountain stream.

But the forested hillsides were green, the air scented with pine, the sun warm on his shoulders. Stanley took a deep breath and just sat, soaking it in. “It’s going to have to last me a long time,” he thought ruefully.

There was a slight rustle in the clearing below, then a six-point bull elk stepped into the open. Slowly, carefully, Stanley raised the rifle and sighted.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Reprieve

“Please don’t shoot him, Papa.”

Gerald lowered the gun and looked down at the boy. “Coyote’ve been nipping at the elk all spring and they left tracks by that half-eaten calf up the hill.”

Andrew shook his head. “He didn’t kill that calf, Papa.”

Gerald frowned. “You know that for a fact?”

Andrew hesitated, then nodded. “I’ve been watching him. He lets me get mighty close. He’s not as skittish as the others.”

“You’ve been following that coyote around?”

The boy scuffed the muddy ground with his boot. “I was curious.” He lifted his head. “The calf was dead when he ate off it.”

Gerald shook his head. “You are something else,” he said. He scanned the valley. The coyote was still visible. It trotted purposefully across the far side of the grassy slope beyond the meandering creek. “We’d best head back,” he said. “They’ll be waiting dinner on us.”

from Moreno Valley Sketches