“And there you go.” Buck said, tearing a leaf from a bush to wipe the blood from his pocket-knife.
Ted looked over the pelt in his hands. Buck had done it all, weaving his knife over the Smarty’s body, cutting and trimming and nicking until they had actually removed the skin and fluff in one intact piece.
“Golly, Buck, it looks great!” Ted said, ignoring the blood dripping from it.
“Glad you like it. But we’d better be getting back home, Ma’s gonna be going wild without knowing where we are.”
And so the two brothers packed up their camp. Their sleeping-bags were rolled up, their weapons and tools put back in their backpacks, and their canteens refilled at the river before heading home.
They left behind a scene of absolute carnage and bloodshed, with dead foals, dead mares, dead stallions, one still alive pregnant mare with tape over her mouth, legs and rear orifices, several still living fluffies left tied up in the strings… and in the midst of it all, the Smarty.
Against all odds, Smarty was still alive. He had felt every agonising moment as the blunt-edged knife had cut through his skin, every tugging yank as the flesh was peeled from his muscles and bones, and he had screamed until his voice gave out… but he still hadn’t died.
He lay there, on the blood-soaked ground, in too much pain to move, and wished only for a fast death. As more and more bleed seeped out of his shredded, skinless body, the Smarty felt the cold embrace of death take him, and only regretted that he had picked such a stupid herd to lead.
Some time later…
Buck and Ted were finally home.
Pa had gotten back the night before, apparently Uncle Joe’s condition wasn’t as bad as it’d seemed at first, he’d stabilised pretty fast, and in his usual way, had insisted Pa leave him alone to get better. So Pa had come back after only a day, only to find the boys had gone off on their own ‘hunting trip’ without him.
At the sight of them though, Ma let out a shriek loud enough to wake God himself. Her two boys, soaked up to their knees in blood, with Ted carrying some kind of bundle in his arms that looked like an animal’s skin…
Fortunately it had all calmed down once they’d explained. Or, rather, told their version of the story.
Apparently, according to Buck and Ted, they’d gone down to camp by the river side and had some fun playing at being Butch and Sundance, or Billy the Kid and Jessie James, or Bonnie and Clyde (although they could never remember which of the two was the girl). They’d had some fun shooting at rocks with the BB rifle and pretending they were big hunters taking down elephants or dinosaurs or some such, and then they’d gone to sleep.
After a day or two, they said, they’d felt better about it all… until they woke up with a herd of feral fluffy ponies shouting at them to move and give them their land. So they’d had to fight back, they’d used the gun to shoot at a few of them, just to scare them off, but they wouldn’t go, so they started kicking them and… well, ya’ll know how fragile a fluffy pony is. Next thing they knew, their feet were going right through them like they was paper.
By the end of it all, they’d taken out the entire herd (which the entire family did agree was a public service in itself and only a positive thing for the eco-system), and Buck had cut off the leader’s pelt for Ted to take home as a prize from their ‘hunt’.
They said nothing about the Smarty, the dead foals, the duct-tape, the drowning, the traps, or their complex strategy.
They definitely said nothing about skinning the Smarty alive.
Once Buck was finished telling the whole story, Ma looked Ted in the eye and asked him, dead-on, if Buck was telling the truth. Ted was a mama’s boy, Ted had never lied to his mother and truly believed he never could.
But today, he nodded solemnly at his mother.
“Yes, Ma.” He said. “It’s just like Buck said. We was under attack. We had to fight 'em off.”
Ma seemed satisfied with Ted’s assurance of the truth, and Pa stepped in to show the boys how to properly take care of the fluffy pelt they’d brought back.
He even offered to take them on a proper hunting trip in a few days, but Buck and Ted turned him down. Next year, they said, then sure… but for now, they needed a vacation from hunting.
The red pelt of the Smarty was hung where it belonged: in the den, along with all the other trophies.