“Look out, Jan!” shouts Frank.
The warning comes too late; like lightning the great tail sweeps round, and man and axe are flung ten feet into the bushes.
Luckily no bones are broken, but poor Jan is badly bruised and decidedly shaken up. He does not care to renew the attack, and Frank runs to the house for a rifle. Taking steady aim, while standing at a respectful distance from that mighty tail, he sends a bullet crashing through the flat skull, and the struggle is ended.
That evening was spent in telling and in listening to alligator stories, and Frank was the hero of the hour for having so skilfully captured and killed the alligator that had been for a long time the dread of the community.
A fire hunt, and Mark’s disappearance.
Besides showing Mark how to catch otter and alligators, Frank taught him how to kill or capture various other wild animals. Among other things he made plain the mysteries of fire hunting for deer, and this proved a more fascinating sport to Mark than any other. As explained by Frank, fire hunting is hunting at night, either on foot or horseback, by means of a fire-pan. This is an iron cage attached to the end of a light pole. It is filled with blazing light-wood knots, and the pole is carried over the hunter’s left shoulder, so that the blaze is directly behind and a little above his head. While he himself is shrouded in darkness, any object getting within the long lane of light cast in front of him is distinctly visible, and in this light the eyes of a wild animal shine like coals of fire. The animal, fascinated by the light, as all wild animals are, and being unable to see the hunter, stands perfectly still, watching the mysterious flames as they approach, until perhaps the first warning he has of danger is the bullet that, driven into his brain between the shining eyes, permanently satisfies his curiosity.
When he goes afoot, the hunter must take with him an assistant to carry a bag of pine knots to replenish the fire; but on horseback he can carry his own fuel in a sack behind the saddle.
Some fire hunters prefer to carry a powerful bull’s-eye lantern strapped in front of their hats; but our boys did not possess any bull’s-eyes, and were forced to be content with the more primitive fire-pans.
A method similar to this is practised by the hunters of the North, who go at night in boats or canoes to the edges of ponds to which deer resort to feed upon lily-pads. There this method of hunting is called “jacking” for deer, and the fire-pan, or “jack,” is fixed in the bow of the boat, while the hunter, rifle in hand, crouches and watches beneath it.
Their first attempt at fire hunting was made by the boys on foot in the woods near the mill; but here they made so much noise in the underbrush that, though they “shined” several pairs of eyes, these vanished before a shot could be fired at them. In consequence of this ill-luck they returned home tired and disgusted, and Mark said he didn’t think fire hunting was very much fun after all.