I once watched a little boy catch quail near my village. He set simple traps made from woven cane baskets at the edge of a millet field and lay in the standing grain, waiting for the birds to discover the seed under his traps. He lay there for hours until a fat quail entered one of his traps. When he pulled the fine kite string he had tied to a stick, the trap was sprung. The captured quail flapped violently in the overturned basket, but the boy remained prone in the field. Finally, the bird tired and lay panting in the hot soil. The boy rose, walked quietly to the trap, and carefully lifted its edge. The bird was exhausted and had no struggle remaining. The boy reached in, caught the bird, pinched off its head, and slipped it into a small sack tied to his waist. There was a covey of birds nearby, but the boy’s crafty movements did not disturb them. By the end of the day, his sack was full of quail.

I suppose that none of those little birds realized they were trapped until it was too late. Their panic was short-lived and vain. I remembered that young boy while I watched Jahangir crush the last hope in the heart of that little horse. I remembered the boy’s wise, patient cunning. And I wondered if there was some mysterious skill passed down from father to son in an ancient ritual hidden from the eyes of women.

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