Spirit Deer 16

Tim peered out of the underbrush at his deadfalls. They were still in place, and the pine nut bait had not been touched, even though the mud at the edge of the water was a mass of tracks. He did not approach them. If he left them alone long enough, he hoped the man-smell might leave them.

Working backwards on hands and knees, he emerged out of sight of the pool. There he recovered his crutch and started upstream in search of another pine he could harvest. As he went, he searched the floor of the dry creek until he found a rock about twice the size of his fist. It glistened black in the dim morning light. It was obsidian, washed down from some volcanic deposit higher in the mountains, and more precious than gold to Tim.

He found a small sugar pine a hundred feet back from the stream growing up beside a broken boulder. Climbing the boulder, he harvested the cones. The were huge, but most of the nuts were gone from them. He piled them by the creek bank and continued his explorations.

Now that he felt stronger, he was hungrier than ever.

At the edge of the bank he found a willow that had died when its roots were exposed. From this he cut a slightly curved branch about six feet long and as thick as his wrist, along with thinner, straight branches of about the same length and a bundle of shorter branches. It took several trips to return all his finds to the campsite.

Tim spent an hour shucking the remaining pine nuts from the sugar pine cones. As he worked, he tried to remember all that his grandfather had taught him. Tim’s grandfather had always taken him along when he had harvested Digger Pine cones in the spring, and again when he harvested acorns in the autumn. Nowadays, Tim’s grandfather ground his acorns in a commercial flour mill and leached them in the kitchen sink, but he still knew the old Miwuk ways and had taught them to Tim.

Unfortunately, the Miwuks had lived at lower elevations. Where Tim was now there were neither Digger pines nor oaks.

Tim fed his fire and set to work. He checked over the curved willow shaft he had chosen for a bow, then cut it back to about five feet. That was the maximum his two boot laces, knotted together, would string. He whittled away the the lower part of the limb until it matched the upper in size and shape. When it was roughly bow shaped, he hung it on a tripod of saplings near the fire to dry further.

The daylight was fading, so Tim laid his work aside and went off to check his deadfalls. Three of them were untouched, but the fourth held the body of a Douglas squirrel.

Back at camp, Tim skinned and gutted it carefully. He saved the intestines for cord, split the carcass, and dropped half of it into one of his bark cooking basket to boil.

Tim took the obsidian he had found and studied it like a diamond cutter. His Miwuk ancestors had traded with other tribes to get their obsidian. They had treated it with respect because it had been so hard to get. Tim was in exactly the same position.

He decided to make his spear points first. He knocked the head off the obsidian with a glancing blow from another stone, then struck off several long flakes from it’s length. These were irregular, but once he had the obsidian trimmed he was able to strike off two decent flakes before the remaining stone snapped in two crossways. more next week


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