Spirit Deer 35

He looked up into the eyes of an enormous black bear.

Fear took hold of him. The entire right side of the bear’s face was swollen to the size of an orange and his cheek was smeared with yellow pus. His nose was partially torn away. For a moment that seemed to last forever they faced each other; then the bear lumbered forward, growling deep in his chest.

Tim hooked spear to atlatl and stood his ground, poised over his kill like some prehistoric man.

The bear charged.

Tim hurled his spear, but it glanced off the bear’s heavily furred shoulder. Then Tim leaped sideways and the bear knocked him down as he charged by. His sweeping forepaw missed Tim by inches. Tim scrambled up instantly and ran. He heard the roar behind him and leaped into the lower branches of a small fir. Scrambling upward and tearing off his rough snowshoes as he climbed, he quickly reached a place where further climbing was impossible. The bear stood on his hind legs and stretched his mighty paws upward. The scars he left on the tree trunk were just below Tim’s feet.

The bear circled the tree several times, then went to the deer. Settling down where he could watch Tim, he began to feed.

Tim cursed the bear, but the bear did not listen. As his fear began to drain away, Tim pounded the tree trunk in frustration. To finally make a kill after all this time, only to have it snatched away! He needed that meat, but the humiliation was almost worse.

The bear continued to eat, keeping his one good eye on the tree where Tim seethed.

Across the mountain, a wall of white bore in, ripping the needles about him and tearing at the warmth of his body. In an instant, Tim could barely see the deer and bear. He had sweated during the chase; now he felt that moisture chilling his body. The wind carried snow in stinging, hail like particles that peppered his face and arms. His world was suddenly restricted to the few branches around him. He could see nothing and feel nothing but the cruel, cruel wind.

He had to have shelter, food, and fire. The bear stood between him and all three. He had lost his weapons, but he did not intend to freeze to death cowering in a tree.

There were some dead branches nearby that had partially dried since the last snow, and a squirrel’s nest that was dry on its underside  He had been carrying the remaining rifle cartridges since he was lost. Now he pulled the bullet out of one with his teeth and spread the gunpowder across the squirrel’s nest he had torn to pieces. With knife and firestone, he kindled a flame.

And the wind blew it out.

This was no time for further hoarding. He emptied the remaining cartridges across the nest, working the powder into the tangle so that some of it at least would be protected from the wind. Again he struck sparks and once again the nest took fire. This time it flamed up and scorched his eyebrows. He twisted the flaming nest into the tangle of dead branches and the wind fanned their flame higher until he held a formidable torch.

Tim slid to the ground and sidled toward the spear that lay closest to him. The bear made no move to charge, but growled deep in his throat. more tomorrow


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