He died of lead poisoning. He was an avid hunter. He died with his faithful black Labrador, Fetch, at his bedside. No one ever expected to see Gus “Butch” Wayhemming leave this life in anything less violent than combat, capture or taming of some species of animal much larger or wild than himself.
Butch was famous world wide for his daring-do, whether it was wrestling gnu-swallowing crocodiles, hog tying a two ton water buffalo whose heart he cut out and took a bite of while it was still beating, milking the venom from an Anaconda he’d bred from Anaconda and Black Momba parents just to up the hazard of the feat, bagging and stuffing the last remaining mating pairs of fifteen endangered species, or the world’s largest collection of mounted heads in his huge trophy room including three women from PETA. He’d climbed Everest naked, swum the English Channel towing the boat carrying the press, flown over the Sahara desert in a pedal powered flying craft and defeated the Greenbay Packers by himself wearing only a jock strap. There was nothing he couldn’t have accomplished — if he’d conquered death.
His best friend, doctor, masseuse, tattoo artist and publicist, “Smiling” Jack Kelly, was the only person who knew the cause of his death. Although the lead poisoning was public knowledge, no one knew the source beyond the rumor Jack allowed to circulate of his biting the casings off depleted uranium ammunition because that’s what Butch and his vicarious fans would have preferred than the ignominious truth of the matter. Fetch knew too.
He’d retrieved the mallard Butch shot during his daily wake up routine, right after repelling down from his cliffside sleeping sling and just before his ten mile jaunt over the glacier. At the end of that fateful day, Butch was so ravenous he tore into his evening meal with an abandon that ignored the swallowing of a few pellets embedded in the poor duck’s thigh muscles. So stuffed was his esophagus that the pellets reembedded themselves in his flesh.
Yes, Smiling Jack was the only one who knew that Gus, “Butch” Wayhemming was brought down by his own shot in the dark meat of a harmless duck.