The Guide I worked for took 3 of our clients out on horseback while I took one of the clients that was as fond of riding a horse as I am, out to glass another valley on foot. We spent a pleasant day and had camp to ourselves all evening as the others were doing a spike camp and would be back tomorrow evening. I listened to his hunting stories a while, then we turned in for the night.
We were up early and returned to the hillside we were using as a base to glass the lovely valley below. By late afternoon, we spotted a very nice bull with a couple of cows moving into the valley to feed. It was getting late and too far to stalk before full darkness so we headed back to camp, determined to be waiting for them in the morning at first light.
No one was in camp yet, when we arrived but we prepared a nice evening meal so it would be ready when they arrived. We were almost finished preparing the meal when we heard the horses coming in. The client went over to see if he could help them and see if they had any luck.
He soon returned, helping one of the riders to a seat beside the fire. The man was obviously injured, but trying very hard not to let on that he even felt any pain. When I looked at him, he said, “I am fine. Really. I am okay.”
The smell of dinner did perk him up a bit and soon he had a plate of food in front of him and started eating.
Everyone else straggled over, picking up plates and filling them as they passed the Dutch oven on the edge of the fire pit. We asked how their trip had gone and they mumbled a bit between mouthfuls.
The Guide was done eating first and started the story of their excursion. They had covered a lot of ground and saw some nice bulls but nothing that excited them. It was still early in the hunt and they wanted to see if they could find something larger. The injured man was only along for the ride as he was a non-resident alien and it would have been very expensive for him to get a license and tags.
As they turned to come back, the horse he was riding must have gotten stung or something because he went completely crazy, bucking and finally falling and rolling on the tundra. The man riding him was still in the saddle when the horse rolled.
Everyone was stunned by the suddenness of the event and the poor horse was thrashing and screaming in pain. The Guide threw his reins to one of the other clients and was over, pulling the man out from under the thrashing horse and trying to calm the horse when he saw that the horse had a badly broken leg. He pulled his handgun and shot the horse.
He turned to the injured man, laying there on the ground, gasping for breath and also in pain.
“Are you okay?”
The man looked up at him, looked at the horse, looked at the gun still in the Guide’s hand and stammered out, “Yes, I am fine. I’m okay.”
As we sat around the fire, whenever anyone would look over at the man, he would still hold up one hand and say, “I am fine. Really. I am okay.”