... The Dimming of the Light... (Part 18)

by Peter Hunter

the dimming of the light (Part 18)

Peter Hunter

our dependence just on the light of our wood burning stove during the hours of darkness was becoming boring

  a depredation I resolved to overcome

The solution was obvious, now that there were obviously fewer people left in the village to care, or to interfere with our plans Tapping off some of the domestic heating oil which the Colonel's tank still contained in abundance as we had been watchful and secretive

  guarding it as an important asset

  putting a little in his diesel Range Rover which for two days had benefited from the trickle charge battery top-up from the small solar panel - that plugged into the car's accessory socket

The three of us rode to the crest of the high downland to the north - along deserted roads devoid of any sign of humans and certainly no traffic - hoping that some of the once-numerous sheep remained Although early winter, there was still a fair covering of grass. They would not have their regular supplementary feed and maybe many had been poached already - the sheep were nervous, a bit spooked - but a large number were still about

  the fact that they were obviously frightened when they detected our presence was an indication that others had preceded us with similar intentions

  stringing the bow by the side of the vehicle I was almost quivering with anticipation and, leaving the others by the car, I slowly climbed the hedge and approached the huddled flock.

My first arrow missed, whether from nervousness or taking the shot at longer-range than my ability was capable of

  and the broad head shaft penetrated the short turf

Moving close to my intended target I knew I must shoot before he recognised my intentions

  and ran off

  at a range of no more than twenty yards I drew the string back as far as my ear and carefully loosed the arrow this time without the snatch that had caused the previous shot to fly to the left. A hit The animal bleated plaintively, moved a step forward and prepared run

  as I loosed a another broad head into its heart-lung area I scored a perfect hit and the shaft penetrated deeply

The animal staggered still bleating blood gently flowing from the two hits in its lower chest as I approached it, my hunting knife in my hand quickly stoking the blade sharply across the beast's throat. I was mindful to withdraw both arrows before the heavy animal could fall

  maybe breaking the precious shafts

After the adrenalin of stalking and killing

  had worn off - I felt strangely sorry for the poor ewe

but I thought - she had died for a very good cause

* * *

  gutting and skinning the beast was a warm, bloody affair - with me doing most of the work, as I had some experience from the times when I used to stalk deer. In order to share labour, I asked the others to scrape the inside of the sheep's skin with pieces of broken glass, better than a knife which tends to cut the skin

  while I set to butcher the carcase

The others also had the unpleasant task of soaking the skin with urine in order to further the curing process before the fleece could be used for clothes or a blanket

  as I jointed the carcase I sliced off as much of the fat as I could tossing the pieces into the large tin basin that Alice was already heating over the big brick barbecue

Later, we happily drained off the liquefied fat into a mixture of containers, jars, cups and glasses - careful to insert wicks of string or cheesecloth

  before the fat solidified then we feasted on the small lumps of meat left over from the rendering

If and when the material we were using for wicks ran out we could use dried reed of which I had in abundance around the edges of the lake

  it worked for the ancients - if it was good enough to brighten the gers of Genghis Kahn it could work for us but when the sheep disappeared it would be a more serious matter to replace it

The resulting candles burned quite well with a yellow flame that did not give a great amount of light but did produce a lot of black smoke

  with a not unpleasant aroma like roasting lamb Alice had added a few sprigs of rosemary to sweeten the smell

but the by-product - succulent fresh mutton was delicious

(To be continued)

Peter Hunter 2012

Thrillers: Time Of the Spider, Time Of The Eagle others on Kindle

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