The supply of meat grew until longnecks and krats were constantly scaling the walls in vain attempts at theft. Claude Delacroix assigned more men each day to the task of guarding the enclosure. By the third week, eight men were standing guard while the rest worked, one hunter to one butcher. The work of butchering a trihorn alone had to be experienced to be believed. Still the hunter had to stand guard, so the butchers simply gritted their teeth and continued, knowing that the hunter who stood guard would be down there butchering the next beast when turnabout came.
On the seventeenth day, Jean and Anton were assigned to hunt together. Anton accepted the rifle, a muzzleloader, and they went over the wall with first light.
The ground was littered with freshly picked bones where the krats had cleaned up after the hunters. The herds had thinned considerably and the bushes were torn and tattered. The pair went straight downriver for nearly a kilometer without spotting game. Finally Anton decided to drop down and try along the river.
Jean had his bow out, arrow nocked, when they came upon a trihorn – an old bull without a mate. There is no meaner animal than a trihorn in full rut and unable to find a female. He heard them, turned and charged.
Anton threw up his rifle but didn’t fire – wisely, for only the one load stood between them and death. He sidestepped right as Jean sidestepped left and then Jean released his arrow.
It was a deliberate act, an act of faith such as men who hunt dangerous game together must make. The arrow could not stop the trihorn; it could only divert its charge toward Jean.
The trihorn charged past Anton, presenting a perfect broadside target. A perfect setup. Anton swung the rifle.
He did not fire.
Jean was poised; he was so certain of the flash and the report that his mind heard what his ears did not. The trihorn did not falter; it did not fall to its knees, heart shot. Jean was momentarily paralyzed by his expectations and when he hurled himself aside, it was too late.
The upper point caught him in the left thigh and pierced to the bone. He felt the shock; heard the grating of horn on bone; felt himself lifted. Jean looked down on the earth as a bird looks, from above, saw the back of the trihorn, saw Anton’s white face, saw the ground rush up.
There was talk of amputation and Jean screamed. Then he felt pain such as he had never known and he lost consciousness knowing that his leg was gone.
Somewhere in Jean’s crazed world of pain, he found the will to move his hands. He found a great mound of bandages but there was still a leg beneath it and he let a calmer unconsciousness take him.
The delirium lasted for weeks, first from pain, then from infection. Certain bacteria are highly resistant to antibiotics, and one such lives in the trihorn dung which coats the ground in the time of the melt. All this Jean knew from later report; he remembered nothing except pain and fear. more tomorrow