The Hundredth Meridian

Hunters and Gatherers

The carcass lay across a slab of rock at about the level of mv knees. I estimated its undressed weight to have been around 700 pounds: substantial for a two-year-old elk. I had managed to position it so that when I drew the guts out they fell clear of the slab onto the rocks below. The rocks, already unstable, were now slippery with blood, gastric juices, and the bile-colored contents of the maw. Moving carefully to avoid breaking an ankle, I sawed through the pelvic bone to spread the hindquarters, then drew back the near fore and hind legs and tied them off to a couple of uphill rocks. In this warm weather I wished to ventilate the carcass while using the rib cage and hide for shade. The spike had been in fine condition, with a shiny thick coat that was good to touch and half an inch of fat on the brisket. When I had him fixed the way I wanted him I picked up the organs and the stomach contents and threw them farther downhill to draw the flies. Then I wiped the blade of my knife and saw on mv pants leg, and scabbarded them. My rifle, the magazine stripped of shells, lay against a log on a patch of grass 15 feet from the edge of the rock slide. I shouldered it, and looked back at the elk. He had his eyes open still, but I didn't care about him as an animal anymore. He was just a huge piece of dead meat needing to be cut up, loaded, hauled off the mountain, and back to town for butchering.

It was warm in town all the next day,...

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