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.

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