A short story by Bob Collins (Stumpy)

Summer days were lazy days in the valley during the 1960s.

Those long cool evenings after a hot, hot day were well spent along the peaceful river bank, fishing or hunting, or just lazing about. The river was full of big rainbow and brown trout. An hour before nightfall they would begin to feed on the day’s batch of bugs turning the surface into a froth of activity.

It was at this same hour the deer on the ridges would begin to move down to the river, to drink and then graze the night away on the cool lush river flats. This was paradise for a huntin’ fishin’ man.

Stumpy and his family spent every summer’s night down on the river, arriving an hour before nightfall. His missus and two kids all carried fishing rods for the water was warm and the fishing good. Stumpy also carried a fishing rod but he always strapped his heavy rifle across his shoulders too.

Fish and game were so plentiful he could never make up his mind whether he was hunting or fishing until he saw a deer or a fish – it didn’t worry him much either way.

There was an idyllic place on the river named the ‘Horseshoe’ – so called because the river wound in a huge curve roughly the shape of a horseshoe. On the road side of the river (the outer rim of the horseshoe) was a lovely camping spot under a huge old beech tree. Near the tree a shallow ford crossed the river to the center of the horseshoe which gave the best up river fishing access.

The land inside the loop of river was covered with bracken fern, scrub and rank grass. Stumpy arrived one evening with his family to cross the river at the Horseshoe ford – he with rifle and rod, they with rods.

A party of four visiting hunters were camping in a big bell tent under the old beech tree. They’d heard the vehicle arrive so were standing in a row beneath the tree, backs to the river, to see who was about to walk into their camp.

Stumpy came first closely followed by his missus and the kids. As he walked up to the group Stumpy could see beyond them across the river. There, in the center of the horseshoe, he saw the head and shoulders of a deer which was watching the campsite and the activity with interest.

Stumpy realized that pointing the deer out to the visitors would create such a pandemonium and scramble to grab rifles that nobody would come near shooting it, so he kept his council.

Only his wife realized what’, was going on – she knew his ways far too well to be fooled. Stumpy said ‘G’day’ to the hunters as he dropped his rod on the turf and eased the rifle off his shoulder.

They replied, ‘G’ day. Stumpy took a couple of steps forward quietly opening the bolt of his rifle. ‘Having any luck?’ he asked. ’No, no luck at all’, was the reply.

With that Stumpy moved fast. He brushed through the row of men closed the rifle bolt, rested the rifle against the beech tree trunk, sighted, and fired his shot.

The deer whipped over backwards, dead. Stumpy stood and turned hack, saying, ‘Well I’m having luck!’ Have you ever seen four cheesed off hunters? I mean really cheesed off hunters? Stumpy has.

He saw them that night he shot a deer down at the horseshoe and had to drag it across the ford and through their camp to the truck. They were so cheesed off they didn’t even offer him a brew of tea, after all that hard work!

Stumpy wonders why?