The Forests of the Night

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El Yoco hunts animals – people! Based on a true story.

A jaguar terrorizes Adan Martinillo’s ranch and family. Adan is well-known for his prowess as a hunter and tracker. No animal or man is more accomplished and skilled a killer than El Yoco. At the same time, Chombe, a young rancher who grew up with a belief that no man can prove his manhood in any better way than to kill another man, murders a neighbor and kidnaps his daughter. He, like El Yoco, begins to celebrate his skill at killing. The farmers and ranchers, good people and bad, who witness the progress of the two completely unrelated killers, are happy that Adan is on their trails. When Adan fails to overtake and kill El Yoco quickly, they berate him. When he is knifed by the young murderer Chombe, he becomes the object of ridicule. The tale shows man caught in nature’s savage embrace and in the end, nature has its way!

“The story was a masterful mix of beauty and darkness. The great film director Sam Peckinpah told Brown it was the best book he’d ever read. Steve McQueen liked it, too, and tracked Brown down to tell him so.”

– Leo W. Banks, The Tucson Weekly

Excerpt from Chapter One, “The Forests of the Night” by JPS Brown

The young duck dove under the surface of the pool as the hawk swooped at his head. The duck was tired. He could not hide from hawk eyes in the clear pool. The hawk hovered confidently, following him.

A full-grown jaguar stopped at the edge of the stream to watch them, his eyes bracing, still, speculating over his chances for a meal. The hawk dove again, made a snatching splash, clung a moment and then beat his wings to keep from settling in the water. He caught the air and flew again to rest and wait.

The jaguar walked across the stream cooling his feet and lapping a drink as he moved. His business was the unhurried pursuit of three small deer who had watered at the pool that morning. He broke into a relaxed lope. He warmed and began to function with more efficiency and control. Soon he was racing after the deer with every faculty at its keenest; without overrunning the track or scent he caught each instant in his direction. He ran quietly, listening for the deer. He slowed when he heard them close ahead. He was sure how far ahead they were. He could not make a mistake so serious that his prey would get away. He had made sure his scent was frightening the deer. He controlled their flight when they were afraid.

He was certain to kill one of the three. This would be no slow and careful stalking, but a quick dispatch of the life he needed. He did not concern himself at all with his prey’s talent for escape. He circled the deer and went high to wait on a boulder over the track they were taking to escape him. As they approached him, two looked up and saw him and immediately knew what he was. They wheeled and fled in separate directions. The youngest and smallest was a doe close between them, depending on her older companions for safety. When they sprang away she raised her head to see the cause of their scattering. She saw her enemy falling to take her last moment of life. His weight caught her on the shoulders and crumbled her legs. He took her in his embrace and held her. He paused, raised his head and looked around. He made a low sound of pleasure, almost of affection, for the doe. The doe reached impotently with her front feet to raise herself. The jaguar viciously made her be still. He licked her neck and ears. He licked her eyes. His odor made her frantic again. He trapped her throat in his jaws and jerked it out with a shake of his big head. While she was dying he carefully drank at the fountain of her blood, and when she was still he licked her neck and ears, nose and eyes again. He took her neck in his jaws and carried her up to a shelter of rock beneath a precipice where he could see all avenues to the spot. He feasted on her there.

A man had seen the drama of the hawk, the duck and the jaguar. He had seen the jungle move in the form of the jaguar. When the animal had become distinguishable, all the brilliance of the forest concentrated in him. The man was sitting high on the top of a cliff in the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico in the dark shade of an aliso tree. He had been waiting for afternoon shade to cover the face of the cliff so he could climb down and pluck an enjambre, a wild beehive, from the face. The time was spring and the hives were full of honey, though the Sierra was dry. He did not see the jaguar catch the doe. He did not see the hawk fly away with the duck. He was not moved by their business. He felt akin to all who made their living in the Sierra. Tienen derecho, they have a right to do what they do, he felt.


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