The story this week about the duck that survived being shot and kept for two days in a fridge reminded me of Percy. Our late neighbour was an elderly widower who had no remaining family. He lived for his garden and the wildlife that frequented it, including a pheasant which became so domesticated that it would come into his kitchen and feed from his hand. When the guns were out, Percy simply lay low in the garden. As a result, he survived long past his expected life span - much to the frustration of the local gamekeeper.
When our neighbour died, we had little choice but to go on feeding Percy, who was by now too old to fend for himself. Until one day a convoy of four-by-fours formed a great horseshoe round the garden. Out of them clambered a lot of short, round men in shiny green gum boots and state-of-the-art mail-order country wear, all zippers and leather patches and unnecessary pockets. The sort of men who are taller on a bar stool than off it. Who have labradors named 'Bramble', and guns whose size is in inverse proportion to their...well, you get the idea. For the next few minutes all hell broke loose, as dogs crashed about in the neighbouring shaw, beaters whistled, shotguns banged, pellets rained down on the roof, and our own dog had a nervous breakdown under the sofa. Then the little fat men waddled the two or three feet back to their Range Rovers and drove away.
Of course that was the last we saw of Percy, although it was a consolation that he would have been completely inedible. I wonder sometimes about this noisy sport, which seems a tad lacking in the elements of courage and endurance that most decent sports possess. Although, satisfyingly, two local shooters were injured recently whilst 'lamping', when the truck they were sitting in set off too quickly, and they fell off the back.