With this kill, the hunter would eat well for weeks. His arrow had
entered the deer’s chest and ruptured the animal’s heart as it passed
through. The deer collapsed to the ground seconds after it was struck,
struggled, and then lay still.
knelt beside the animal and made
certain that it was dead. He eviscerated the young doe and left a
steaming pile of entrails that other animals would dine upon. The
hunter positioned the carcass over his shoulders and walked away.
day was both sunny and cool, a promising spring day. The hunter was
traversing Cataloochee Divide Trail, a path so named because it follows
the Cataloochee Divide, the mountain crest that marks the boundary of
Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A wooden rail fence separated open
pasture to the south from a vast forest to the north. Sullen, grass
fields were hemmed in by panoramic swaths of brilliant snow. At this
high altitude, snow could linger long after it had melted in the
The hunter came
this way in early spring because deer were
plentiful then. He was walking downhill toward Cataloochee Valley at a
slow, measured pace while surveying the landscape in all directions. He
never overlooked the opportunity to acquire more game and never assumed
that he, himself, was not being hunted.
Then he saw her.
A woman was
riding from the east on a roan horse that was stepping up the slope
toward him. At this time of year, few people were up so high on Cove
Creek Ranch. The property bordered Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The hunter always melted into the forest upon seeing another person,
but something about this woman made him linger. He hadn’t seen a woman
in six months and hadn’t seen a woman he thought to be so beautiful in
So he stood a
moment longer, dressed in a hunting frock
made of deerskin and ornamented with rawhide fringe down the seams. The
hunter had pants of the same material that were decorated with fringe
on the outside of each leg. He had the dead deer across his shoulders
and a longbow positioned at his side. She hadn’t seen him, and he
couldn’t turn his eyes from her.
The woman had
brown hair that hung in
rivulets from the brim of her hat. Her hair framed dark eyes and sharp,
sculptured features. She was dressed in brushed denim clothing, riding
boots, and leather gloves.
The hunter could
see that she was talking
and soon heard her voice. To him, it was a lovely, captivating sound,
and he wanted to hear
folded her cell phone and looked
up. When she saw him, she raised a hand to her mouth. The hunter stared
for a moment longer and then merged with the foliage.