The Village: Run Henry, Run!

Posted March 13, 2010

The Village: Run Henry, Run!

It’s lashing down with rain when I spot a man with an orange flag striding across the field behind my house. A black Labrador is loping alongside him, occasionally nose-diving into the long grass for a root around. The man takes on the air of someone slightly mad as he begins violently thrashing the ground with his flag. I eventually lose sight of him as he heads off towards a large copse of trees at the far end of the field.

About half an hour later I hear a pop, pop, pop followed by plumes of white smoke rising into the sky. I fear I’m under attack and then realise that it must be the start of the shooting season. I didn’t even know we had one in Thaxted, let alone on my very doorstep.

The following day I hear a loud cluck, cluck, clucking noise and look out the window to discover a small battalion of pheasants heading purposefully towards me. I’ve never seen a live pheasant close up before but as soon as I step outside to take a closer look they start running across the field. I’m impressed because, for such large birds, they can really sprint. Maybe they think I’m toting a gun?

Suddenly they squawk loudly and take flight. Oh dear, they don’t look so nimble now! I use the word ‘flight’ very loosely because they hardly take off at all. I don’t know if it is the norm for pheasants to fly so low to the ground and as slowly as this but I reckon even I, with no shooting experience whatsoever, could bag one of this lot.

As the weeks progress I count as many as 18 pheasants in the field, all within arms’ reach. By the end of the season just one renegade remains and I name him Henry. He’s become progressively bolder with each week and now regularly crosses into my garden and struts around my flowerbeds. I watch him from the kitchen trying not to make any sudden movements that might scare him off. Lately I haven’t heard any clucking noises. I think Henry may have finally bitten the dust. I feel a little sad until I remember how partial I am to a plateful of roast pheasant.

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