Le Moulin à Nef sits on the bank of a lazy, quiet river at the foot of Auvillar.
Next door, “Le Rendez-Vous des Chasseurs,” or Meeting Club for Hunters, sits in a squat brick building with broad wooden doors. The director pointed out the space when I first arrived.
“That’s where the hunters meet,” she said.
I thought the space was like those outdated men’s clubs in the States where guys gathered to wear helmets with horns and compare taxidermy.
On Sunday, I found out that the translation was literal.
Walking back from the town market and feeling energized by the combination of the trek up the steep hill to town and the friendly exchanges with the farmers who filled the Halle, formerly a grain exchange, with tables of fresh vegetables, I spotted from up the street the mass of men in camouflage and army green. Some wore bright patches of orange and tall green boots.
I’d heard them early that morning corraling their dogs into trucks. The dogs wore loud clanging bells around their necks and when I looked out the window I thought I would find goats or cows. Instead, frisky hunting dogs were hopping from side to side in the backs of the trucks. The men milled around, faces red and ruddy from a combination of sun and too much drinking.
Now they’d returned from the hunt and as I approached, they watched me with growing amusement. I ignored them and beelined for the Maison V. They continued to watch me, rumbling to each other in some Iron John dialect of French that I didn’t understand.
As I pivoted towards the Maison, four dead boars came into view, the bodies laid out on the sidewalk between the hunting trucks. Blood was smeared on the sides of their bristly bodies. I instinctively recoiled and the men broke out into belly laughs.
That was how I met my neighbors.