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In hunting camp an outfitter reached down and stirred the fire.
His client belched contentedly and said, “Might I inquire,
That jerky you been chewin’ up… could I just try a bit?
I fancy I’m a connoisseur with tongue and palate fit
To ferret out the kind of beast, perhaps the cut of meat
From whence you carved the bloody strap and held it to the heat.”
The packer passed a little piece to test the boastful claim,
The hunter in his down-filled vest bit in and then proclaimed,
“I taste a hint of kidney fat. The tang of creosote.
A wistful note of pine tree bough lays pungent in my throat.
What’s this? A waft of ungulate, the glue of hoof and horn,
An Eohippus redolence, the musk of unicorn.
Peculiar, though I fear I’m stumped. I can’t tell heads nor tails.
I’m left with just the essence of burnt hair and roofing nails.
I pride myself on this small skill but if you could be swayed,
Pray, tell me from what animal is this here jerky made?”
The packer picked his grimy teeth, his filthy knife, the tool.
“It all began,” he spit and said, “with one ol’ stubborn mule
Named Demon, and the name sure fit. Worst mule I’ve ever seen.
Last hunt when we were comin’ out he really got down mean.
It took us nearly half a day to git the sucker packed.
He’d buck the panyards off each time and roll clear on his back.
He kicked and struck and strained the knots, he bit and brayed and gassed,
We finally had to tie him down to get the elk made fast.
At last he stood and glared at us, resigned but not unbowed.
We started down the mountain side as best the load allowed.
We had to cross a narrow trail above a closed down mine.
The Demon went to pullin’ back, I’d hitched him last in line.
He balked, then had a mental lapse… forgot that he was tied
And then just like a fumbled punt he cartwheeled down the side.
I got off quick and bared my knife, and dove between the mules
I slashed the halter shank between the mule train and the fools.
Down we went, an avalanche of elk and mule and man,
The antlers cracked, the cookware clanked, the Coleman stove and pans,
The propane tank was hissin’, the elk meat lashed up tight,
I hit the shale below the mine, the mule dropped outta sight.
Next thing I knew a blinding light exploded in my eyes.
And when the dust had settled, the mule had vaporized.
I peeked down in the mine shaft through the timbers and the smoke
And knew ol’ Demon at long last had shed his final yoke.
He never knew what hit him, so at least it wasn’t cruel.”
“Gosh,” the hunter shook his head, “I’m sorry ‘bout yer mule.
But back to this here jerky, do you share you recipes?”
“Well, wuddn’t nuthin’ to it. I just picked it off the trees.”
Baxter Black is a cowboy poet, former large-animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses. Learn more at www.baxterblack.com.