Monday, June 22, 2015

Part 143


I'm dead, totally dead.  I'm gobsmacked but that doesn't mean I'm not dead meat.

I've been so busy that I haven't written anything, not to mention I ran out of paper making my lists and plans but now I have more.  I'll get to how and why I have more paper later.  First I need to kinda start back up where I left off.  Not from immediately after I stopped because I'd bore myself and since this is my notebook I can do it just the way I please.

I waited for three weeks to hear from someone and nothing, nada, zippo.  Not even the radio the women left behind did much more than hiss and sometimes crackle, though every once in a while when I turned it on it sounded like something was out there, just too far away for me to really understand what was being said.  You know that noise you make when you have a piece of paper across a comb and blow on it - stupid kind of musical instrument sounding thing - well, that's what it would sound like every little bit only the noise didn't separate out into anything that made sense so I just noticed but didn't putz around worrying about it.

By the time I passed the three week mark I decided what the heck, and started to build the dug out shelter.  I mean I gave some consideration to trying to find my way back to base but I realized I didn't know how to get back to base because of all the time in the trucks and me sitting where I couldn't see landmarks.  And even if I did find the road back to where I had been the base might not have been there when I got there so I decided to stay put.  Mobile bases are called mobile for a reason.  The base had just been set up when I got off the train and I knew that it could just have easily moved again.

It wasn't like I was making the choice to go AWOL or anything but really, why should I risk my neck fumbling around looking for people who didn't appear to be looking for me.  I had no idea what had gone wrong but something obviously had and I had no intention of making it worse by going wronger ... er, that's not a real word but it's what I mean.  So the dugout it was.  I also decided the ground wasn't the safest place for me when another bear came waddling through in the middle of the night investigating the interesting smells on the air.  Lucky for me it was only curious and not hungry.  The mess of knocked over stuff it left behind was enough to convince me though so it was into the trees I went.  I thought some and figured I would sleep in the trees during good weather and in the dugout during colder months or other bad weather.

Since I was only cooking for me it was light work to deal with as I worked on the tree house/hunting stand and the dug out at the same time.  I mean the cooking and food part was light work, not the building part.  That was hard work, a lot of hard work.

I had to go further from camp to get saplings to work with so I could keep from taking all the trees and messing up my camouflage.  Every couple of days that is all I would do ... cut saplings and drag them back to camp.  On top of that I didn't have any nails so I had to whittle wooden pegs for "nails" and use a knife as a "drill" to make holes in the green wood.  What a mess.  I also used some more of the rope and knots that Toddie, Jace, and Mr. Svenson had taught me to lash things together tightly.

That first week I worked on the tree house most ... even changed trees once which hacked me off but proved to make things easier in the long run because the tree was both taller and straighter and gave me two giant limbs that I could lay a more even floor across.  Right after I got up I'd check the snares to see if there was anything that I needed to take care of then I would dig for about an hour or so until I was ready to throw the shovel ... lucky for me one of my pieces of equipment was one of those foxhole shovel thingies.  Then I'd rest a bit by foraging.  And finally I'd spend the rest of the day working on the tree house.

As you can guess I ate a lot of squirrel at first just trying to cut their numbers down.  I think they thought I was building them a giant nest to live in and several were always coming around to get into things and tell me how much I was doing it wrong.  Now they leave me alone 'cause they recognize me as a predator.  Which is kind of a shame because one, they were good eating and now they are harder to catch, and two they were funny to watch so long as I didn't have to listen to them bark and complain and boss me around.

It took me two weeks to finish the treehouse.  It isn't something you would find in one of those fancy DIY magazines they used to have at the super market but it suited my needs.  It got me and most everything else I needed off the ground.  The bike and cart had to stay on the ground but I managed to rig a pulley kind of thing up so that I could fill the little trailer and lift it into the air to hold a lot of the bigger supplies.  My bed was a hammock strung between limbs and I covered as much as I could with the camouflage netting that the women had originally set up on the ground to sleep under.

By the beginning of July I was well into working on the dugout but I also spent a fair amount of time foraging.  Black currants, huckleberries, chokecherries, gooseberries, serviceberries, and also juniper berries for flavoring meat.  I collected more and more cattail roots to make flour with.  My roots were arrowhead tubers, burdock, wild salsify, and yampa.  My greens were cattail shoots, chickweed, dandelions, lamb's quarter, milkweed, sheep sorrel, nettle, water cress, and wild mint which when I wasn't eating it fresh I was drying to make tea with.  Miner's lettuce was getting a little long in the tooth to gather but I still found some late-in-the-season plants tucked here and there.  And the morel mushrooms had given way to porcini mushrooms.

I dried a lot of the berries - those I didn't stuff in my mouth - but I tried to get creative with them as well.  I made what Mom used to call "pocket pies" and decided that would be a good way to make meat pies as well.  I made "dumplings" from the cattail flour and cooked them in stewed berries.  I also used the berries to try my hand at pemmican since I had a lot of dried venison as I had caught two more deer.  I used lard from the bucket I had in the supplies instead of venison fat.  I sure didn't want to depend on squirrel and rabbit as my only form of meat during the cold time that would eventually arrive.  Pemmican was easier to cart around, even easier than the pocket pies, when I didn't want to stop and cook a meal for just one person or when I was away from the camp when I was hungry.

When I wasn't eating my meals in pocket pie form I was eating soup or stew.  Arrowhead soup tasted a lot like potato soup.  Lamb's quarter and some of the other greens made good soups as well when I had some broth left over from cooking meat or broke down and used things from the military like the bouillon cubes.  And I did use some of the military food.  I tried to use as little as I could because I had some idea to prove I wasn’t AWOL and that I had tried to protect what was my responsibility to protect just in case anyone ever showed up ... but I wasn't stupid either.  I used the buckwheat flour and cornmeal sparingly but I did use it.  I also used the sweeteners to make syrups with to flavor the cattail pollen pancakes I made for my breakfasts.  I ate enough greens that the rabbits complained I was hogging their buffet.  I also learned to eat lentils.  I overcooked them at first and they wound up way too mushy but once I got the hang of it I wished I didn't have to be so careful of running out.  I also used the dried beans and wild rice ... I mean in for a penny, in for a pound.  But I didn't go crazy.  In the back of my mind those supplies still belonged to someone else, I was just taking some pay out for guarding the women's other equipment they'd left behind.

The ducks had gotten used to me snatching eggs though that isn't to say they still didn't pinch the snot out of me if I wasn't fast enough.  I didn't get all of the eggs and sometimes there would be ducklings to play with when I had time but I stopped picking them up after getting pooped on once too often.  I mean that's just gross.  You know what's more gross?  When the ducks take their revenge and put a lot of poop and one place and the path down to the river gets slick and ... yeah, I think I'll leave off explaining right there.  Really doesn't take that much imagination to envision what came next.

Every couple of days I would have to deal with a puss brain or two but none of them were fresh and most of them had some kind of soft tissue damage to their eyes.  I'm surprised any made it as far as they did in the shape they were in because if I could hear them from a long way off the big predators surely must have.  Some looked like something had taken a swipe at them but it was hard to tell because of how fast they heal.  They were like marauding goats, grabbing at anything and everything as they stumbled along.  Sometimes I just let them go but only if they weren't in danger of contaminating my water source.  The pyre occasionally had to be cleaned out as it got too full of remains.

It was going on the end of July - at least I was pretty sure of the general time if not the specific date - when I saw a helicopter fly over three days in a row.  It had the Red Cross symbol on it and I started to get uneasy.  I had stuffed the women's gear down into the belly of the cart which I had hidden under leftover sapling branches.  On the third day I decided maybe I should take the gear out and haul it up to my treehouse for a while until I figured out what was going on.  Something also prompted me to fill up all of my water containers, the ones I kept in the tree and the ones that I had started to store in the partially finished dugout.  I moved them from the dugout and into the cart in place of the women's gear.  I doubled down on my foraging and stripped everything that was ripe within sight of camp and two days later was going even further afield to get some more mushrooms.

I have got to have like a trouble magnet or something.  There's no other real explanation for it.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Part 142


Mom used to love this song called "It's All Coming Back to Me Now".  Beginning to feel that way myself.  Oh not the mushy stuff in the song but the title fits my life pretty well.  Being out here in the woods with nothing and no one around to distract me I've had a lot of memories coming back to me, most of them of good times of the family camping and stuff like that.  I guess I was trying too hard not to remember those things in the Northern Woods because I was too close to it but now that I'm in this place it isn't so bad to remember.  It isn't quite the same but some of it is ... well not really, I guess I'm just trying to find an excuse.  But it doesn't hurt, not right now.  And the memories are keeping me company.  It has been over a week and I haven't seen anyone since Mary left.

But it is ok because I'm thinking with just a little bit of effort I could make this a permanent camp.  I'm not going to that trouble yet but I could do it.  Toddie gave me the idea how, or at least Toddie's memory did.  He and his buddies used to get into all kinds of trouble.  Well maybe not trouble exactly although there was that as well, but they'd get up to stuff ... snares, catapults, forts, just boy stuff only they never outgrew it even when technically they were growing into men.  My brother was a tech mensa and way too smart, but he wasn't hooked on video games like most of the other guys as school were who weren't jocks or something like that.  He used to tell me stories of how the friends he made at university would do stuff like that too even when they probably should have been doing something more constructive like earning money to pay for tuition.

To give me something to do during the boring times I had to stay in camp to keep an eye on the food I am preserving, I took a good look around to see what I would do if I had to be here a long time.  And then it came to me, one of those "projects" that Toddie and his friends had talked about.  I don't even know why they were thinking of building a dugout, I think it was just to see if they could.  They started it but then the guy's mother where they were building it turned it into some kind of retention wall and landscaping project at their house.  What I would do here is near the trees where the ground starts to slope I would dig back into the hill to make three of my four walls.  I would face the walls with small saplings.  Then I would use more saplings to make a ceiling and on top of the ceiling I would put some dirt and sod after cutting out an escape hatch.  This would give me some camouflage but it would also keep things from coming through the ceiling - hopefully anyway - like rain or snow.  The front, or last wall, I would make out of rocks that I dig out of the river so that I could put a fireplace kind of thing there without having to worry about burning up my "cabin" walls ... and me right along with it.  The floor of the dugout would have to be dirt although I might could make some reed flooring using cattails.  Or right around the firepit I could use stones ... I just don't want to sleep on stones.

I figure I'd eventually wind up with something maybe a little bigger than the bunker I had at my old cabin but if I work it right it would have a place to cook which is something I never got around to in the other one.  I'd need to start it pretty soon if I wanted to finish it before snow flies around here but this isn't really all that bad of a place.  There is plenty of water, fish and other wildlife, and for now I'm able to live off the land without really having to use any of the military supplies I am guarding.

Most people might not believe me but hey, I got a deer.  Seriously, I got a deer and I didn't have to use a gun.  I nearly got myself skewered and I feel kinda bad for the poor deer but not bad enough not to kill it and eat it.  It was actually totally accidental.  Some big deer ... they weren't elk but they have a big ol' butt like elk have only these had white butts ... wandered through and started setting off all my man snares.  At first I was hacked, then I got scared when I almost got stampeded by these things practically big enough that I could ride them, and then after they all went bounding off really fast I turned around and saw that one deer had gotten tangled up by the legs and antlers in a place I had three snares spaced close together.  One snare missed but knocked the deer into the other two snares which caught it around the front parts.

The deer wasn't dead and boy was it hacked off.  I wound up having to use one of the spears I had made to try out spear fishing with so I wouldn't have to keep wading into the water and getting wet.  That thing slinging its head this way and that and then kicking out at me with its rear legs is how I almost got skewered ... uh yeah, kinda dangerous.  Not as bad as a bear but it could have still killed me just as dead.

It actually didn't take but a couple of minutes and I put the poor thing out of its misery and made it a non-danger to me but I gotta say that it is not the preferred way that I would ever want to hunt something that big.  And I still haven't reset all the snares the deer set off but mostly because I've been taking care of the deer meat.  I can't go too far from camp because I've been making jerky out of the deer, making a frame and stretching the deer hide, and in general trying to keep other animals from using my hard work to feed themselves with.

I need to figure out a better way to make racks to do the jerky on but for now I wound up just kinda making a giant "basket" over the fire out of whippy willow branches and then laying the meat strips over the "basket".  Next time I get a chance to salvage I need to find something I can make hooks with.  I sure miss some of the books I had to leave behind because I remember something about making hooks from branches but I can't quite remember how.  I've experimented a little but I'd rather have wire hooks like I made out of the hangers I found in that trailer.  I still have some of them but I use them to tie the cord to that I used to hold the tarp down on the cart's trailer.

In a way I feel like I am starting over.  I had to leave so much behind in the Northern Woods.  I gained things by becoming a contractor yes but if I do have to make this a more permanent camp I'm going to miss some of the things I had a whole lot.  And I guess, like one of those books I read pointed out, one of the biggest things I am going to miss is being able to trade with other people.

I am NOT going to hike for two or three days just to trade at some skanky ol' whorehouse.  I mean my gosh how nasty is that.  Yuck.  Not to mention it is probably not the best idea in the world for someone like me to walk into the middle of a place like that.  They could get the wrong idea no matter how much I try and set them straight.  Ew.  Makes me want to heave just thinking about it.

Mary could come back around I suppose but then again I can't count on that so I've started a list of things to trade for and beside each one I've put down whether it is a want or a need and whether I can make it or get it myself or do without or if I need some other supplies to make it myself.  I learned a lot of stuff from Jace and the people from Singing Waters but I wasn't exactly at my cabin during the best time of year.  I need experience harvesting and preserving in bounty as much as I needed the experience of doing the same thing when the weather is against me.  Both require a lot of work, each in their own way.

I keep finding myself in places where I've been able to resupply or have it fall into my lap.  In the city we salvaged as we needed it or found it and made hidden caches for when we had extra or for emergencies so we wouldn't have to carry everything all the time.  As I was leaving the city I found that stash of junk food that got me further down the road.  In my old town I got fed real food as a "guest" of sorts.  Then I ran into Jace and all that stuff he provided and the stuff we found along the way.  Even those nasty pickled turkey gizzards helped, just like the fruit cakes did.  At my cabin I found that stuff in the trailer and traded with other groups  so even though I was doing for myself I still had a little bit of fall back.  And even then, when I was just about down to my last of everything, Sarge left that pack full of cans for me and I also "earned" some food as pay.  After the hordes destroyed the lake area I was able to restock from what Singing Waters had been forced to leave behind and even still have some of it.  And then running into Lucy and the other women and MSgt. Shadwell and getting supplies that way.  There's always been something right before I got desperate.  But I can't keep counting on my guardian angel to go grocery shopping for me.

If the women do come back that will be a good thing.  I'm trying my best not to worry about them but I still catch myself wasting time doing it.  I'll keep on with Plan A.  But if they don't, I need to have a Plan B ... and a Plan C and D might be good to have as well.  Like Jace taught me ... I need to have a plan before I need a plan.


 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Part 141


Well, I know my man-sized snares work.  Not because I caught something else in the stupid thing but because I caught myself.  I actually didn't think it was going to work so I was testing it.  I am so glad that no one has to know about it until Judgment Day and by then they'll be more worried about their own stupidity getting found out than paying attention to mine.  Lucky for me this time stupid didn't hurt too badly.  Lucky too that I hadn't pulled the tree down any further than I did or for sure I probably would have wound up dancing in the air like a yoyo.  As it is I kinda think I know how those bungi cord rides used to feel.  I only wound up with one leg in the snare and balanced on my shoulders but it still wasn't the easiest thing to get down and I had to be super careful how I cut myself loose so I wouldn't waste the rope.

But at least I know that it works.  Whether it works on anything heavier than me I can't say for sure.  I'm going to reserve the snares to cover my back and sides and keep them off the main trail.  I am not even going to take the chance in one of the women stepping in one because if I live I'll never hear the end of it.

I'm really tired tonight but it is because I got a lot accomplished.  In addition to the snares I've got five pints of pickled fiddleheads and four pints of pickled cattail sprouts sitting wrapped in tea towels inside the hot dog cart.  I know they are good because I tasted what wouldn't fit into the jars.  I'd like to make more but I don't have any more jars.  I wonder if I can requisition some or maybe I should ask Sherry ... I mean Sher.  I've also got a bunch of cattail roots that should finish drying tomorrow.  I probably could have had them done tonight but I had to mess with the reflector oven some until I figured how close I could put them to the fire without cooking them.

I've tried real hard to keep my eyes open.  In the city I kept my eyes open for stuff we could salvage, especially salvageable stuff that could be eaten.  In the Northern Woods I learned to keep my eyes open for forage.  Out here I'm doing the same thing only the stuff I forage for is a little different ... at least some of it is.  The one thing that hasn't changed though is I need to keep my eyes open for things that want to eat me, including puss brains.

I wouldn't say this area is infested with infecteds, certainly not as bad as the city or anywhere near what you get from a horde, but they're still around.  I put down two today but let a third one go on its way since it seemed to have someplace to go in a hurry and wasn't bothering me or making a mess all over the place.  That's the way we did it in the city and I think it will work out here as well.  It does make me wonder what it was doing going so fast in a beeline but then again, I kinda don't want to know.  I've got enough on my plate without trying to figure that kind of stuff out.

But back to what I saw other than another bear, this one a small light brown one that seemed to have its own place to be in more of a hurry than I was comfortable with.  The bear skin rug was one of the things I really wished that I could have brought with me but there was just no way and it doesn't make any sense to try and make another one when I still wouldn't be able to haul it around.  Mary took the other bear skin but since her dogs had already been at it I didn't say anything.

Geez, obviously I'm more tired than I thought, I just can't seem to stay on topic tonight.  Anyway, I got a several hatfuls of morel mushrooms and they are already dried and in a plastic container in the cart.  There are other mushrooms but I don't recognize them so I'm not going to risk getting poisoned by trying them.  I know what porcini and puffball mushrooms look like and Marty - that cook for the trader convoy - said those are a big item in August so I wrote that down in my "field guide" that I am making.

I also found some wild garlic.  I thought it was wild onion at first until I got a good whiff of it.  Whew!  Dracula beware.  Found some burdock and I'm going to get some tomorrow to try and make Mom's recipe for glazed burdock.  Tried some lamb's quarter and some sheep sorrel today.  Yummy.  I especially like the lemony taste of the sheep sorrel.  It was puckerlicious.

This is a great area but if I want to really take advantage of foraging I'm going to have to start going a little further afield like I did in the Northern Woods.  I haven’t completely used up everything within sight of the camp but if I continue I'll have to start going too long between harvests of things.  There is a narrow place that I can cross the water and I'm going to try to check out what is on the other bank tomorrow.  And after that we will see.

Best part of today?  I had an omelet.  No seriously, I did.  Those ducks that I caught a couple of have nests along the bank of the river or creek or whatever that thing is called.  I got the peedoodle pinched out of my hand for swiping an egg out of a nest but it was worth the ouch.  One of those duck eggs equals about two chicken eggs.  Didn't taste bad either or maybe I was just so hungry for an egg of any type that I didn't notice.  Hard to say and to be honest I don't care.

I put chickweed in the omelet and some wild onion and if I had had some cheese I would have been in hog heaven.  That's what Dad used to say ... hog heaven.  Silly.

OK, I guess maybe it is ok to still cry every once in a while.  I don't want to do it much and I sure won't do it where anyone can see me but a few tears now and then might not be so awful.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Part 140


Everyone leaves eventually and sometimes they don't mean to ... but then sometimes they do.  Mary may have wanted someone to listen to her but seems she has even less of a tolerance level for people than I do ... or maybe it is attention span ... or maybe she is just afraid if she stops for more than a little while she won't have what it takes to keep going again.  That last is what she said anyway.

I mean she was nice about it.  We shared the bear meat though she took most of it for the dogs who seemed to be bottomless pits.  She just got ready to go and just left ... what Dad used to call having an itchy foot.  So I'm alone again.

And I do mean alone because the women still aren't back.  This is the fourth night they've been gone.  I expected one, maybe two, but not four.  On the third night Mary suggested that perhaps it was a test and I figured that was possible, I mean anything is I guess.  You think you kinda have a feel for what someone will do but I thought for a while there that maybe I didn't.  But after Mary left I changed my mind again.  Something has happened.  I don't know what, but something definitely has.  They gave me too many lectures that were too real for me to really believe that they intended to be gone twice as long as their worst case plan was.

And this is the part that didn't get covered.  The part about what to do if they don't come back, like it was unthinkable that none of them would.  Why I didn't think that must mean that I still have some stupid left in me.  But I don't want to be any more stupid than what I've already been.  Stupid can get you in trouble.  Stupid can get you dead ... or worse, chomped and infected.

I've been giving it some thought.  First off I don't want to get in trouble for going AWOL; I may be a contractor but I did sign a paper to do a job and don't want to get a bad reputation.  Second off ... or secondly or whatever ... it is too soon to give up on them.  Worst case could be just a lot worse than they figured it would be and what if they are expecting me to be here as a fallback position?  What if maybe one or more of them got injured on their way back here?  If I leave they could be in a lot of trouble.

But I can't be a fallback position if I don't have any supplies left and that is exactly what is going to happen if I don't take some action.  I've sat around on by bumper long enough waiting for something to happen, waiting for the women to come back.  I haven't been the waiting around type since early times in the city and even then half the reason I was always getting in trouble was because I was trying to do something, anything, to make things better.  But I know what I'm doing now ... most of the time ... and I'm just not going to wait around anymore.

I mean I am going to wait around ... I'm just not going to wait around doing nothing.  I've worked it out; some of it anyway.  It came to me while I talked with Mary ... or listened to her talk at me.  It's early June, time to get off my bumper and get ready to prepare for the winter.  I hear winters around here are pretty ferocious; different from the Northern Woods but just as bad.  We are at higher elevations around here so the cold is going to come sooner and last longer and the wild forage is going to reflect that.  I have my notes from Marty and Mary got a kick out of teaching me some more.

If the women come back and things still go according to plan after that we will be out "in the wild" until the end of June or so.  We'll go back for a week of RNR and then be sent back out here someplace.  Mary said mid-July is when things really take off and you only have about a month or so to really get what you can against the hard times.  But even now, early in the season - or at least this is what Mary is calling it - there are things you can gather for the future.

Already know all about the arrowhead and cattail.  You can't really preserve the arrowhead but it is available for most of the year anyway.  The cattail I know all about already and I started collecting and preparing that today.  I need the starch anyway to make what buckwheat flour I have go further.  Mary also showed me wild onions, morels, something she called Indian Plums, and fiddleheads.  My goal is to use as little of the military food as possible to see how far I can get.

In fact my dinner tonight was fiddleheads with morels.  I steamed some fiddleheads until they were tender-crisp then I took the morels and chopped them and dry-fried them to get rid of most of the water in them.  I drained the little bit of liquid in the pan off and then put a little bit of butter powder and some of the olive oil in the skillet to sauté the mushroom.  I tossed the fiddleheads back in there and then seasoned it with a little bit of salt and pepper and yum yum.  I almost ate too much.  Mr. Svenson would have said I was full as a tick.  I hope where ever he and the rest of the Singing Water people are at they are safe and healthy and doing what they need to to get set for next winter.  It seems a long way off but Mary said it would be here before you know it.

Tomorrow I've got a project that I'm not sure is going to work but it might and there is enough that it is worth trying.  I am going to pickle some fiddle heads.  I still have the jars and stuff that those nasty pickled turkey gizzards came in.  And I've got a super big pot from the military cooking kit that came with my cart.  Mary showed me some wild dill and told me how some of the people in local settlements do it.  I canned with Mom so I should get this right ... I just hope the lids re-seal.

I'm also going to dry some morel mushrooms and wild onions so that I can have them off-season.  I'm pretty sure I can use the reflector oven for that, shouldn't be any worse than drying cattails which is how I did it at my cabin.  The wild plums aren't ripe yet.  In fact some of the trees are still in bloom so I might miss them in this area but I should still be able to get them in other areas.

And the other thing I'm going to do tomorrow, if the women don't show up, is I'm going to set me a fish line and set some snares.  Most of my snares will be for animals but I have an idea after listening to some of the stories that Mr. Svenson told that I can make man-sized snares as well.  The only thing I'm worried about it maybe snaring something bigger than I can deal with ... like another bear.  That's all I need.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Part 139


Well at least the Duck Goulash didn't go to waste.  It wasn't exactly properly appreciated but then again I have to remember a person isn't supposed to do something so they get appreciated for it, they are supposed to do it because they appreciate the doing.

Oh no!  Where are all these old sayings coming from?!  I'm turning as strange as the old lady.  Not that old lady, the one I was thinking of yesterday,  I mean the new one.  Carp!  Maybe I'm the one that is three-quarters crazy now.  Old ladies, bears, dogs, ducks, and puss brains.  They are turning my brain to mush.  OK, forget it, I don't want this notebook to turn into something that reads like a soap opera ... geez, I'm all turned inside out.  I hate feeling this discombobulated, like I don't know what I'm doing.  It used to be writing in this notebook helped, now I'm not so sure.

I don't know what this notebook is supposed to be about.  Half the time it is just a place for me to vent.  The rest of the time it is a mix of fear or boredom or just being lonely.  Maybe that is what all notebooks or journals are ... a place you can spew.  Let's face it, life has been pretty spew-worthy for a long while.

I used to ask Mom why she kept a journal - what she called her House Account Book - which was sort of like a cross between a garden journal, a book on the house budget, and a personal diary - and she told me it was to help get things out of her head so that her mind wasn't so cluttered with stuff she wanted to remember but didn't necessarily want to have to remember all the time.  I wish I knew why I like this notebook so much.  I'm not too far from running out of paper and I only have a couple of pencils left.  Better figure it out sooner or later before I have go to the work of finding more.

In the meantime ... less confusion, more clarity.

Yesterday was depressing.  Last night was not much fun either as something was prowling around which leads me to think I should start figuring out a way to string our supplies up in the trees or risk losing them.  I can lock the hot dog cart but that won't stop a bear or a determined human.  For that matter when the women are gone maybe I should try stringing me up in the trees ... maybe like a hammock or something ... or a tree house or hunting stand.  I'd take a hole in the ground if I had one only something big might dig me out or I could get blocked in.  I think I like the tree thing much better after all.

This morning was better, pretty good actually.  At least for a while.  There were ducks down at the creek which gave me the idea of using my fishing net for something other than fish.  I managed to catch three ducks in one throw ... well four but the forth one got away so it really wasn't caught.  Man were they angry ... and noisy.  I stopped their quacking as quickly as I could and then got on about the business of getting rid of innards and feathers.  This is where things got more interesting than I had prepared for.

It seems that bears are not averse to duck innards.  I'd tossed the nasty stuff to the side on top of the ashes of the pyre until I could set it to blaze again - there were still bones that needed to be dealt with from the smellies and yesterday's puss brain.  Dumb me.  I was never this careless in the North Woods and why I would be so stupid here I don't know.

My first inkling that something was up was a low grunt.  Before I even turned I knew what it was and before I finished turning I was heading for the nearest tree.  Bear must have wanted something a little more lively than duck innards as it came after me at a trot ... not too fast but not slow either; just speedy enough that I wasn't far up the tree before it was at the trunk.  I guess either the young male bear was in the mood to play with its food or it was hungrier than I thought before it was climbing the tree after me.  Great.

Then there was barking.  I thought either I was going barking mad or God decided I needed wolves on top of bears.  But then I realized wolves don't arroooooooo and don't have big floppy ears.  Three more dogs shot out of the underbrush to go with the first only they had short ears and big round faces ... and sharp teeth.  Lastly out of the bushes came what I thought at first was another bear ... only bears don't carry shotguns.

KABLAM!!!!

The bear fell out of the tree.  Heck, I nearly fell out of the tree.  It sounded like a freaking train had exploded.  When I dared to come out of my crouch against the tree trunk I saw the injured bear fighting with the dogs.

"Get out of the way!  Get out of the way!!!" the lump of humanity bellowed that looked like a walking mound of furs and rugs.  It took me a moment to realize she was talking to the dogs and not me.

KABLAM!!!!

The shotgun went off again but didn't deal a death blow.  As a matter of fact it only hacked off the bear and it turned on the gun owner who squawked and tried to reload but wasn't going very fast.

I'm an idiot.  A grade A, first class idiot.  But if I hadn't joined in there would have been another corpse for the pyre ... or part of one anyone after the bear finished off what they wanted.

I slid down the tree and grabbed the rifle that Sgt. Shelly had left for me and I ran up and stuck it in the bear’s ear and pulled before my good sense had time to catch up.  I summarily landed on my backside and then cracked my head on a rock where I fell over because I hadn't really had time to set myself for the recoil.  As for the bear ... well I'd like to see the living creature that could take a rifle going off point blank in its ear and survive beyond a few steps.

I came to with dog noses in my ears, shirt collar, and another part of my anatomy they had no business sniffing.

"You ok?" I heard a scratchy old voice ask.  I was afraid to answer.  The dogs where getting a little frisky and I had a feeling had I opened my mouth they would have licked in there too.  The voice snapped, "Get off you blasted muts!  Let me see what it is."

As soon as the dogs gave me some breathing space I said, "It is me."  Hearing my voice got the floppy eared one all excited again and back it came sniffing.  I couldn't help it.  Dog noses tickle when they get under your collar.  I squealed.

The old lady laughed and said, "Henrietta seems ta like you."

"Tell her thank you but I bathed not that long ago," I responded right before dissolving into squeals again.  How do dogs know your one ticklish spot?

Finally I was able to get up and away.  "Down.  Geez you crazy dog.  Do I look like a squeaky toy?"

"Ya sound just like one," the old lady laughed.  "Now what's a child like you doing out in these woods all alone?  There's bad men out here."

I looked at her and I could see a bunch of loose screws floating around behind her eyes but I could also tell she was harmless.  Or as harmless as people get these days.  I learned the difference in the city.  Some homeless were ok ... some were definitely not.  "I'm not a child ... I'm sixteen.  And I'm not alone, my patrol will be back today."

She tilted her head and she looked just like a bird ... well sorta anyway.  She wasn't especially built like one but she pursed her lips and blinked at me so that it reminded me of a curious blue jay.  "Hmmm, one of those are you.  Heard they were getting kids younger and younger.  Different in my time but my parents and grandparents said it was that way in theirs.  Got anything to eat?"

"Will have if my ducks aren't ruined."

As it turns out the duck carcasses weren't ruined.  And as it turns out Mary - that's the name of the old woman - is crazy all right but she knows stuff too.  Like how to deal with a bear ... and how to share.  Tonight we shared the ducks.  Tomorrow we'll share the bear.  She's got some drying in some kind of folding oven she has rigged up.  Some she chopped up and cooked for the dogs.

"Providential I ran across you.  Hate to see all this meat go to waste or attract them freaks from the city.  If your friends come too-morry then even more can get eat before it spoils."

Having learned well at Dad's and Mr. Svenson's knees I asked, "Why hunt something too big for you to eat before it spoils?"

She nodded her head.  "Don't normally.  This fella here though, he was becoming a nuisance.  Felt him tracking me for a bit then he caught up and kilt one of my dogs last week so I been trackin' it to give it some justice back."

I figured I was the last person to complain about that and then she noticed what I was doing - gathering nettle with gloves on - and that I knew about plants and she started quizzing me and I actually learned a couple of things once I got beyond being irritated at her being so nosey.  She also kept trying to nose into the hot dog cart so I put a padlock on it after I took out all the supplies I needed for the duck goulash.

Mary said she ran away the "home" where her kids had stuck her before Z-Day.  There used to be more older folks with her but the others had either died or given up and gone back to towns that they had passed.  "Lotta foolishness if you ask me.  Who wants an old woman or old man?  Ain't like there is much we can do.  The kind of man that would want us around I ain't interested in being around if you ain't too young to understand what I mean."

I understood all right.  Gross.

I think Mary is like me, she was hungry for someone to talk to ... or to talk at since she didn't seem to need me to answer most of the time.  It wasn't until the sun went down that she stopped talking.  Now she lays in a small tent near the fire with her dogs ranged around her for warmth and protection.

I kept thinking that the patrol would get back today, then tonight, but I guess I need to give that idea up.  It wouldn't be all that smart for them to try and move in the dark.  There's been no word on the radio either.  I mean nothing.  Probably because there is nothing to hear.  Or maybe the radio just isn't strong enough to get through all the hills and mountains where I'm at.  Or maybe I'm doing something wrong.

I'm just glad Mary showed up even if she is crazy.  Being crazy together seems to be better than being crazy alone.