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The hunter rests


“You know,” he says, “your average cow steak is about twenty percent fat.”

“Oh yeah?” I glance over my shoulder, hands resting in the soapy dishwater as I watch him prop up his feet with a sigh. As he settles, his breath escapes in one big whoosh.

“But wild boar, it’s only five percent.” His arm goes over the back of the sofa, angling his body in my direction.

“Huh, is that so.” I lean a dripping plate on the drying rack to my left and reach down into the rapidly darkening water for another.

He scratches his shoulder. “Yeah,” he says, then moves to scratch his head, pulling off his neon orange hat to rough up his matted hair.

“When I skinned it, you could barely see any fat.”

I turn back to the dishes as he stands back up, listen as he opens the grate to the fire and pokes at the burning wood inside. One flaming log crashes into another.

“How’s it looking?”

I glance at the timer. Nine minutes and forty-three, forty-two, forty-one seconds on the clock.

“It should be done soon.” I rinse off the last glass and set it aside, then dry my hands and open the oven door. Scent carries heat, blooming in my face. In the oven rests a hunk of meat, not-quite-browned, but almost falling off the bone. My mouth waters. “Smells good.”

“You know,” he says, like he’s recovered a half-forgotten thought, “processing it in the field is what counts; learning how to do it yourself. It only tastes gamey the longer you wait.”

“Hmm.” Dad, Mom, the boys, and me. We’ll need five plates. I take them down from the shelf above the sink and set them alongside the flatware, next to the stove.

“Once you get the basics down, processing is pretty much the same, deer or boar. I’ve shown you how, right?”

“Yeah, you had me help you with a doe last fall.” I stay facing the counter, hiding my smile.

“Good, good . . . You know, elk has less than one percent fat?”

“Oh yeah?”