Once in the crotch of the tree, he rested for a while, then climbed about the lower limbs, pulling off cones and dropping them to the ground. After half an hour he had taken all that he could reach. Then he looped his belt over the lowest limb and swung down to hang at arm’s length. The ground seemed a long way down, but there was no avoiding it. He drew up his injured ankle and let go.
It was surprisingly easy. He managed to roll toward his good side and his ankle was only jarred. Painfully jarred, yes; but not with the searing pain Tim had expected.
Tim made a sack of his shirt and filled it with cones. When he returned to this shelter, he was tempted to shuck them immediately. Instead, he forced himself to make four more trips back to the tree until he had gathered in every cone. He did not want to share a single one with the squirrels.
He used a rock to break up the cones and sifted through the dust and scales to get the nuts. It was mid-afternoon when he finished, and he had only enough to fill one of his bark baskets. He ground a handful of flour, mixed it to a thick gruel in one of the baskets, then heated it by dropping in hot rocks from his fire.
As he ate, Tim remembered all the times he had started projects that had seemed too big for him to finish. His father had always listened to his complaints, and had always given him advice, or shown him a different way of working, or given him some tool he did not know existed. No matter how impossible they had seemed at the time, Tim had always finished those projects somehow.
Looking back, Tim could not remember a single time when his father had actually helped him. But he had always seen to it that Tim got what he needed to finish without help. He had taught Tim that he could do anything he really wanted to.
Halfway up that tree and exhausted, Tim had felt his father at his side, urging him on.
Now, with his first meal in many days calming his growling stomach, Tim felt new strength flowing through his limbs. He returned to making his deadfall trap.
On October twelfth Tim had set out from home on his bicycle to spend the day with his grandfather. His mother didn’t get home until past midnight. The house was empty, so she assumed that Tim’s grandfather had kept him because she had to work late. She went to bed without calling.
Tim’s grandfather had not known that Tim was coming, so it was late Sunday morning before either of them knew that Tim was gone. They drove over the roads Tim might have taken between their two houses without finding any sign of him. Then they searched around the house, and found his bicycle gone. No one noticed that his rifle was also gone.
When the police were called, they treated it as if Tim were a runaway, or had been kidnapped. The police in three counties looked for him, but no one looked in the great forest that bordered the foothill town where Tim lived, for no one had any reason to think Tim had gone that direction. more tomorrow