“On the purple ridges rolled, as far as he could see from his feeding perch above the understory of low-growing brush and brier. The air was crisp, freshly clean and quiet. Deeply quiet as it almost always was the morning after snow. The only sound the barking of crows working here to there. The gray partridge felt freshly alive.
“Then, on the serenely silent air, he heard the oncoming ring of the small bell . . . .”
Thus begins one of many intense encounters between an uncannily wary ruffed grouse and a prodigiously gifted English setter—encounters brought to pulse-pounding life in Mike Gaddis’s novella Duel on Tabernacle Mountain. Over the course of three seasons, on a Brigadoon-like highland deep in the Appalachians, dog and bird thrust and parry, matching wits and nerves and senses, each made better by the other. The setter is a savant, freakishly talented and frighteningly tenacious; the grouse is the ultimate survivor, what certain old-timers call a “wisdom bird.”
With each successive clash, the tension escalates—the setter growing stronger and more relentless, the grouse forced to draw ever deeper on his reserves of cunning and resourcefulness. They are playing for mortal stakes, and in a game of life-and-death only two endings are possible. Or are they . . . ?
The author of the acclaimed novel Jenny Willow and the underrated field-trial memoir Zip Zap, Gaddis writes in a grandly expansive style that seems more properly to belong to an earlier century. One detects echoes of Faulkner and Melville, of the King James Bible and of the romantic mythos of the Arthurian legends. Handsomely produced, with paintings by Rod Crossman and Jim Kasper and classic line drawings by Lynn Bogue Hunt, Duel on Tabernacle Mountain is available in a signed-and-numbered edition of 200 copies. For ordering information visit duelontabernaclemtn.com.