Salvo belongs to a world that is fast disappearing. Born to country folk, his life has almost entirely revolved around managing olive groves, vineyards, and a menagerie of animals. Cities belong to others. His twenty-five year old panda and his 1990s cellphone are reluctant concessions to modernity. For years he has added my garden to his portfolio of jobs, his pace slowing as he heads into his later seventies. In many ways he is priceless as he predicts the weather or the likely haul of fruit or olives from our trees. Often I can touch a timeless past in his presence.
But Salvo has one passion. Trapping game brings a twinkle to his eye. Then I discovered a secret upshot of this, his vice, you might say. Sat out at 7:00 am on a September morning I heard this panting and struggling and spied, to my intense surprise, a deer trapped in the garden’s thick hedgerow. Now I was raised to love deer, such were their scarcity in post-war Britain, so I rushed to the creature’s aid. On reaching it, its eyes blinked and closed. It had been throttled by a wire snare. The shock was hard to take. The rare majesty of this creature on my ground killed wantonly. I called Salvo who arrived as if energized and strode purposefully to the animal to release it and then to shoulder it away for butchering.
I made my displeasure clear. Salvo was mystified to silence and by way of explanation provided me with a bag of venison cutlets. I could not bring myself to eat them. Instead the experience remained as if my home had been violated.
Now, wild boar, badgers, foxes and porcupines as well as cats pass along the bottom fringe of the garden where it lies within the shadow of an overgrown bank. Well-worn paths mark the nocturnal perambulations of these visitors. All in all, like the occasional hedgehogs, I feel I share my space with these peers. From time to time I snap their presence in my amateur camera trap.
Giove fox photographed by my camera trap
One morning I spied a monstrous boar and foolishly mentioned it to Salvo. “I could stand up here and shoot it, “ he said without missing a beat. I knew he’d try and fail. Fail because the great creature was far too elusive as well as fast for him.
So this weekend I noticed Salvo lost in thought in this far corner of my garden. What was he doing? Later, after he had gone, I ambled down later to look. Imagine my dismay when I found two new snares (and a porcupine quill) pinned by thin twigs to trap any creature pushing through the thick hedgerow into the open ground. One snare was lashed by yards of chain like an Albanian communist contraption to an olive tree to take the muscular strain of my visiting monster. The other snare was barely visible. Both were murderous. It took me an hour to dismantle the insidious traps and then I went online. Are snares illegal in the EU, I wanted to know. The upshot, hard to say. But countless sites illustrate how brutal these traps are. How the animals suffer: see http://www.wolfmatters.org/snaring.html
Now, somehow I must find a way of dissuading Salvo. Will he agree? Reluctantly, but never. Such are country ways that are passing……. My nostalgia for the past, I have to admit, is mitigated by such insouciance for its natural joys.