Biology Reference
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I pinch up and slice a patch of skin at the edge of the rib cage, then zip open her
abdomen. After slitting skin forward to the neck, I push and pull hard through the chest
skeleton, slice all around the diaphragm to free viscera from the body wall. Reaching
in, I sever trachea, esophagus, and major blood vessels. Everything is wet and warm,
slick and membranous. Even the pastel guts and brick-colored liver are shockingly vivid.
Cutting around the tail end of the intestine turns out to be the trickiest part of the pro-
cedure, during which I recollect Greg sharpening his knife and wonder if self-inflicted
stab wounds are common among hunters. Then we roll the innards out onto the ground,
leave the doe belly-down to drain, and go for David's truck. Within half an hour she's
hanging by hind legs from a tree outside Chateau Vert.
The five of us dine on pheasant from David's recent bird hunt, along with tenderloins
from Greg's deer and a tasty New Mexican posole Tracy brought, all savored with sev-
eral good cabernets. Before crawling into my sleeping bag I head out into the icy night
to take a leak. Coyotes are chorusing off to the east, under stars and a sickle-shaped
moon that would have made the Spanish poet García Lorca proud. I surmise they've dis-
covered the new gut pile.
Approaching Lower Pond well before dawn, I notice the eyes of a deer shine yellow-
green in nearby brush and disappear. By 7 a.m. a rusty-orange glow paints surrounding
vegetation, highlighting a dainty pencil cholla cactus with red fruit among the knee-
high prickly pears. Soon sunlight blasts over the far ridge into my eyes—not good for
hunting, so I swivel and scan for wildlife. Scattered white blotches against khaki slopes
emerge through binoculars as grazing longhorns, and I hear faraway lowing. Later,
walking back to camp, I admire the upraised tail flags of four spooked deer, and at the
Chateau a lifted hunk of sheet metal yields a handsome black-and-straw-striped Texas
patch-nosed snake, which we photograph and release back under its lair. All in all, it's
one of those mornings for smiling with no need to ask why.
After brunch we move the longhorns into a corral and segregate nine calves for their
first visit to a veterinarian. Roundup consists of me driving the pickup over gravel two-
tracks and honking while David sits on the tailgate rattling a sack of food pellets at con-
verging cattle—more reminiscent of a rural Fourth of July parade than LonesomeDove,
but I'm enthralled. 13 Cody and Greg cajole the calves with gentle hand slaps and “Come
on now,” separating them through iron chutes and gates into a trailer. Safety entails
not getting pinned among the adults, their pecking order arbitrated by the pokes and
prods of massive horns, so one of us waves them back while another rations pellets in-
to feeder buckets. In town, a jovial vet vaccinates the calves, David freeze-brands them
with copper irons dipped in liquid nitrogen, and one calf gets castrated, all with surpris-
ingly little commotion. Among the youngsters, I'm drawn to four-hundred-pound Cinco
de Mayo, a black-headed brindle with butterscotch eye rings and eight-inch horns who's
slated to become a Double Helix herd bull.
I occupy the Chateau stand in late afternoon, see nothing, and enjoy the blanketing
darkness as I amble back to join the others. We dine on fresh deer tenderloins, gar-
nished with Tracy's pickled shiitakes and washed down with a Chilean carmenere, and
David answers my questions about ranching specialty cattle in a market that maximizes
corporate profits on feedlot beef. Longhorns rarely need help birthing or lose calves to
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