Then he dragged himself back. Halfway there, a terrible weakness came over him. Whether it was from pain, poor sleep, or hunger, he could not say, but it frightened him.
In the back of his mind, Tim had been thinking about his mother, and how she would worry about his absence. Now he set those thoughts aside and began to seriously worry about himself.
The clouds rolled above him, gray and heavy with the promise of rain.
Pulling himself to a sitting position, he began to trim branches for a splint. He studied the situation, and decided to replace his boot, then splint over it. That might not be the best or most comfortable way, but at least it would let him walk.
Whatever else happened, he had to get off this bald knob and into shelter.
He cut the splints, but the cord he could have used to bind them had gone with his other survival supplies. He considered his clothing. He wore ten inch boots and socks, jeans, a wool shirt, and underwear. He had a belt, but he needed it to support his knife and firestone case. He had a handkerchief, but that would be too flimsy.
Nothing could be spared, yet something had to be spared. Finally, he decided to sacrifice his shirt sleeves from the elbow down. He cut strips from them until he had enough to bind the splints into place.
He fed the fire and took stock. It was nearing noon, yet a chill hung in the air.
Food? Impossible for now.
Fire? Secured, but not portable. He needed to cut and dry some kindling before he let this fire die out, or he might not be able to start another one later.
Shelter? He had to have shelter by nightfall, or before it rained. And there was no way to make a shelter until he got to lower ground. The edge of the forest was a quarter of a mile away, and that would be a long way to limp on one foot.
He stood to get a better look at the treeline, and to pick the easiest path. He balanced on his left foot, and slowly let some weight down on his right. The pain in his ankle was intense. He lost his balance and sprawled headlong.
* * *
When consciousness returned, the sun was nearly down, and his face was caked with blood from where his head had hit the granite bedrock of the bald.
He was freezing. Again!
He dragged himself to the fire. It was down to a few embers. He chose the driest wood at hand and cut new fuzz sticks – six inch twigs from which twenty or thirty chips are lifted, but allowed to remain attached. He placed these in the embers and blew the fire to life again.
A drop of rain struck his neck.
He gritted his teeth against the pain and crawled to the juniper stem. He would have to have a crutch, so he started working away at its base. It was six feet high and four inches through at the base. Working with only a knife was heartbreakingly slow, but Tim stuck to the task. As he worried away at the base of the tree, the rain began to fall more heavily.
Half an hour later, the juniper fell. Tim crawled back to the fire, dragging it behind him. He was soaked and shivering as he fed the fire and tried to warm himself. His supply of firewood was getting low, and he couldn’t crawl around on the rocks to get more. more next week