Spirit Deer 19

Chapter 7

Tim made quite a sight.

A quiver of aspen bark sewn with strips of willow bark hung from his belt. It held eight arrows, all feathered with aspen bark and tipped with obsidian arrowheads attached with pine pitch. Opposite the quiver hung his knife, the canvas case containing his firestone, and his canteen, now filled with dried tinder. His shirt sleeves were hacked off just below the elbow. His pant leg was split from waist to cuff and laced with strips cut from a dirty handkerchief. His boots were scuffed and battered; one of them was heavily splinted and both were laced with willow bark. His hair was still matted with dirt and dried blood.

He leaned on a crude crutch. He had replaced the original crosspiece with a stone from the creek bed set in pitch and lashed with squirrel hide so that it could double as a club. In his left hand he carried a bow strung with bootlaces and two slim spears tipped with deadly obsidian points. Through his belt, he had thrust an atlatl.

His Miwuk ancestors would have recognized all of his weapons as crude versions of their own, except for the atlatl. That was a spear throwing stick that Tim had read about. Because of his interest in his own ancestors, he had done a lot of reading about primitive men, and now he was about to put that reading to use.

It was his seventh day on the mountain and he had had nothing but pine nuts and one squirrel to eat. If he came upon any game, from squirrel to deer, he intended kill it – if he could.

On the opposite side of the creek, squirrels and Stellar jays had congregated in a lodgepole pine. They disappeared when Tim approached, so he seated himself on a fallen log and waited until they returned. He nocked an arrow and shot at a squirrel. It was a bad miss and every animal disappeared. Soon they returned. This time he aimed at a jay, and missed again. Tim had to wait nearly twenty minutes before they returned, and then they managed to keep to the far side of the tree. Finally, one cocky jay set himself up as a perfect target. Tim’s arrow clipped his tailfeathers, but did no harm.

After another half hour, Tim decided that he wouldn’t be getting any more shots, so he retrieved his arrows. One had lost its bark fletching, but that could be repaired.

Stopping in a clearing, he let his crutch fall and fired his seven good arrows at various targets while balancing on his good foot and letting his injured foot take some of his weight. There was no doubt that his ankle was getting better, and no doubt that his archery was lousy.

Pulling out his atlatl, he nocked the butt of a spear into its hook and raised them together until the spear came to a horizontal position above his shoulder. Holding the handle of the atlatl, he hooked his forefinger around the middle of the spear. The obsidian point glinted thirty inches in front of his face while the atlatl and the rest of the spear stuck out behind him. He cast the spear with an easy overhand motion, releasing his forefinger and keeping his grip on the atlatl. The light spear was fetched with bark like his arrows, and it described a flat arc ending in the bush he had chosen as his target.

Tim was pleased, especially when his second spear struck the same target. more tomorrow

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