Children of the Coyote
Tagalong Tries Something New
The two young people
travel for many days, starting out at first light and walking until late afternoon then
finding a secure place to hide. They always build a large fire to keep away the beasts
especially the great puma. Each time Lizardfoot toils over his fire tools Tagalong watches
Early one afternoon they find a perfect cave in
which to camp. The small cleft is high in the bank of a stream that is populated with many
large fish. Their humped backs can be seen jutting from the shallows as the salmon move up
stream. A short sandy beach is between the cave and water. Just up stream is a large dead
fall with an abundance of dry branches for firewood.
While Lizardfoot collects fire making
material's, Tagalong sneaks into the shallows of the creek in an attempt to snatch a meal
from the cold water. Presently she is thrashing in the shallows wrestling a fish whose
length and weight is at least two-thirds that of herself. "
Lizardfoot, help!" She calls as she
struggles to hold the thrashing creature.
Lizardfoot looks up from his chores, sees her
predicament and rushes to her assistance. Working together they manage to drag Tagalong's
quarry to dry land.
"Nice catch!" Lizardfoot remarks as
they stand dripping wet watching the large Humpback Salmon flopping on the shore.
"This will make an excellent meal." He continues. "If you will clean it I
will start a fire."
"I would like to try starting the fire
this time." Tagalong declares. "It is early and we have lots of time for me to
experiment with my new method." She continues.
"New method?" Lizard asks, one
eyebrow rising questioningly.
Yes, you remember we talked about it before the
Puma attacked us. She replies.
"Oh yeah, some thing about twisting,
instead of rubbing the sticks together." He responds, with a slight chuckle.
"Well, as you said we have plenty of
time, I guess it can't hurt to try a new idea. If it doesn't work we can always go back to
the old tried and true method." He says with a shrug. "What about the
tools?" Lizardfoot asks. "You will need a base and a stick for your
scraper." He adds.
"I have all the tools I need." She
replies. "I have your baseboard and scraper, I can use them."
"I don't know," Lizardfoot demurs.
"If any thing happens to those tools we will be in big trouble."
"It will be perfectly safe Lizard, trust
me." She argues.
"Well, First tell me your idea and then I
will decide if I want to risk the fire tools."
"There really isn't much to it. I am just
going to try rotating the end of the stick in one spot on the board. Hopefully that will
concentrate the heat and we may be able to make fire quicker."
"Oh. So you only want to use a spot on the
board eh. Well I guess that can't hurt anything." Lizardfoot acknowledges.
"Okay, try it. I will clean the fish, You start the fire," he says after a
"Good." She says with satisfaction.
"I will start the fire."
She turns and heads for the small cave and the
pile of firewood that Lizardfoot has gathered.
The rock that Lizardfoot normally uses as a
cutting tool has become so dull that he discards it and starts searching for a suitable
broken piece of rock to use for gutting the large fish. After casting about for some time
he notices a shiny black object at the edge of the stream. As he picks it up, sunlight
catches the surface and glints into his eyes. Instantly his Coyote dream flashes through
"Could this be the same black
rock as in my dream." He wonders.
He inspects the stone closely. It is about as
long as the width of his hand, and as broad as two fingers held together one end is
rounded slightly but a little jagged. The other end comes to a stiletto sharp point. One
side is as fat as a child's finger and a little rough. The opposite side narrows to the
sharpest edge that Lizardfoot has ever seen. He lightly slides his thumb along the edge
and quickly retracts it eyeing the slice in his digit. He walks to the fish, now lying
still, on the narrow beach. He turns the salmon so that the tail is facing him, inserts
the point of the Obsidian blade into the rectal opening of the fish and with one motion
slits the paunch from rectum to gill. Lizardfoot sits back amazed with the ease with which
the blade did its work. He stares at the stone for a moment then carefully sets it down in
a place where he won't lose it. He then removes the fishes' intestines. The salmon is a
female and full of rich nutritious eggs. These he leaves inside the belly to be carried to
the cave and eaten raw while the fish bakes before the fire.
He stands, and starts for the cave, takes two
steps he stops, turns and retraces his steps to the spot where he set the blade down.
Retrieving the flake he once again makes for the camp.
When lizard arrives he is horrified to find
Tagalong busily rubbing one end of his fire scraper to a point on a rough piece of lava.
"What, are you doing!" He cries, as
he steps to take the scraper from her.
She moves the stick out of his reach as he
makes a grab for it. Holding her free hand up to stop his progress she says. "Stop!
Wait! I'll explain! "Put the fish down and listen to me!" She orders as she
pushes him back.
"Well, okay but this better be good."
He grouses as he lays the fish on the ground and sits.
"To begin with" she says. "I
haven't hurt your old stick. All I did was put a point on the end you don't use. "I
was having some difficulty keeping the stick in one place on the baseboard, so I thought
if I sharpen it may stay put."
"Hmmm, well I guess it won't harm any
thing." He admits. "So, let's see if it works," he prompts.
She puts her left foot on the baseboard to hold
it in place, then she places the point of the rod on it. Putting her palms together with
the stick between them she begins to rub her palms back and forth causing the rod to turn
rapidly. Even with a point on the end of the stick she can't keep it on the base, it slips
off and is driven into the ground.
"OH, humph!" She mutters, "I
just can't get this stick to stay put. Do you have any Ideas?" she asks, looking up
sweetly at Lizardfoot.
"Hold on there, I thought this was your
experiment. I thought you had this all figured out and are going to start a fire for
me." He teases
Aw, come on Lizard. After all you are the fire
makers apprentice. Surly you will know what to do." She pleads coyly.
He considers for a moment then says.
"Maybe if we make a small indent in the surface of the board it will hold the
rotating stick in place."
"How can we do that," she asks.
"I think I have just the thing." He
says, producing the obsidian blade for her inspection. "Wow," she utters as he
places the blade in her hand.
She feels the edge with the same results as
Lizardfoot. After sucking her cut finger for a moment she says. "That is amazing, I
have never seen anything that sharp. What is it made of?"
She holds the flake up to the light inspecting
"This can't be stone, You can almost see
through it along the thin edge." She marvels.
"I don't know what it is made of but I
think that it is a piece of the black rock in my Coyote dream." Lizardfoot answers.
Where did you find it?" She asks.
"I needed something to gut the fish with
and while I was looking around for a sharp stone I found this at the edge of the
water." He explains.
"Are there any more?" She asks.
"Ah, I don't know, I didn't think to look
for more." He admits.
"Men!" she grumbles. "Oh well,
we can look later. Right now let's see if this one will make a hole in the wood."
Lizardfoot picks up the fireboard. "Where
should I make the hole?" He asks.
"I think it should be near the edge so we
can dump the embers onto the nest easier." She replies.
"Okay, the edge it is." He agrees.
Placing the tip of the tool against the wood
with a gentle pressure he twists the blade in one direction. A small curl of wood appears
at ether side of the point. He reverses direction and it has a similar effect.
"I think this will work." He says
with a smile as he continues to rotate the obsidian point against the wood.
After a short time, he stops and blows the dust
from the depression he has made in the fire board.
"Here, try this." He says, handing
the board to Tagalong.
She inspects the work and with a nod of her
head places the flat piece of wood on the ground with the depression up. She then places
the pointed end of the scraper in the hole. Again she puts her palms together with the rod
between them. Barring down She begins rapidly rotating the stick. For several minutes she
works at it. As she pushes down and rubs her palms together causing the stick to rotate
her hands slide down the rod so that she is forced to stop and reposition her hands
frequently. This allows the temperature to drop at the friction end.
Lizardfoot watches her working for a while. He
notices a trickle of sweat role down her neck to the end of her small breast and drop from
the nipple. The old strange tingle spreads through his body.
He is brought back to the present by the slight
smell of hot wood.
"I think something is starting to
happen." She says looking closely at the junction of the rod and board. "Can you
He moves so that he is sitting directly in
front of her. As her hands reach the low end of the stick he reaches up places his palms
together on the rod and takes over from her. As he starts rotating the stick between his
hands, he instructs her to wait until he is at the bottom and then to take over.
"Taking turns like this, we can keep a
continues pressure and not loose any heat." He says, rolling the rod back and forth
between his palms.
After a few moments a curl of smoke begins to
rise from the now enlarged and blackened hole in the baseboard.
"I think we almost have it." She
says, producing a small nest of fine tinder from behind her.
A thicker coil of smoke begins rising from the
"Do you think we are ready to dump the
embers onto the nest yet?" Tagalong asks as she takes her turn at the stick.
"I don't know." He answers. "I
can't see anything glowing in the hole, maybe we should just try it and see." He
continues, as he moves the tinder closer.
"Okay, Now!" He cries as he reaches
the bottom of his stroke.
He lifts the rod and Tagalong turns the board
over on the nest. All that falls out is pinch of carbonized wood dust no glowing embers to
blow into life. Only warm black dust.
"Oh scat!" she cries staring at the
black dust on the tinder.
"Scat?" He inquires, smiling.
"Well, I am so disappointed I had to
express it somehow" She confesses.
"Oh, I understand that." He says with
a chuckle. "But, scat? Really now. That is a strange way to express
frustration." He laughs.
"Well it makes me feel better." She
says defensively, staring hard at him.
"Okay, okay," he chuckles. "What
ever." He says holding his hands up as if to ward off a blow.
"Why didn't it work?" she asks
"I don't know." He confesses. "I
think we should take a brake from this. We still have allot of daylight left, maybe we
should try and find more of the black stones."
"Yes, I think that is a good idea my palms
are raw and I think I am getting a blister. I could use a little break." She agrees.
"I'm hungry" she continues. "I was hoping to have cooked fish but I guess
now I will have to wait."
"Well maybe not," he says, as he
pulls the two large egg sacks from the dead salmon.
With a smile she receives the large orange mass
and without further conversation they fall to devouring the nutritious food.
After they finish their meal Tagalong takes the
fish back to the stream. She washes it in the running water to cool it then she fills the
stomach cavity with damp green grasses. The out side she wraps with damp leaves she then
digs a hole in the sand near the creek and placing the fish in the hole she covers it up.
"There, That should keep our supper nice
and fresh" she declares when she is finished.
Meanwhile, Lizardfoot is walking along the edge
of the stream carefully examining the gravel looking for more of the black stone.
Presently he reaches down and picks up an
object just as Tagalong is approaching him.
"Did you find something?" She asks as
she steps up beside him.
"Yes, look at this" he says as he
holds the stone out to her for inspection.
In his hand is an obsidian flake slightly
smaller than his palm. It is in the shape of a flat semi circle. The curved edge is thin
and sharp. The straight edge is about as thick as a finger.
Lizardfoot closes his hand on the object with
the thick side against his palm and the sharp edge sticking out between his thumb and
"Look!" He exclaims. "This looks
like it is just the thing for scraping the flesh from hides."
"Let me see that." Tagalong says
holding out her hand.
He gives her the object.
She holds it for a moment making scraping
motions in the air then she walks to a small Alder near by.
She presses the tool against the main trunk of the tree and pulls down. A long curl of
bark peals away easily.
"That is amazing," she says.
"Let's see if we can find some more."
For several minutes they search the shore, Then
Tagalong calls to Lizardfoot. "Hey look at this," she says as she approaches him
holding an object out for his inspection. In her hand is an obsidian nodule larger than
her fist. It is mostly rounded except for two sides which are flat planes intersecting at
about ninety degrees to each other.
Lizardfoot studies the nodule for a few
"Look at the way this is broken," he
says holding the nodule so she can see the flats.
"Can you see the circles on the surface of
the stone?" He asks.
"Yes, what about them?" She asks.
"Well, I'm not sure but I think they may
hold the secret of how to make tools from this stone. I think that if the stone is broken
just right, a sharp blade can be produced but I am not sure exactly what that method is. I
would like to find more of these large lumps so I can practice breaking them to find the
correct procedure." He answers.
For a long time the two young people searched
the shore for more samples of the black stone but with out success. Presently they give up
the search and return to the cave.
"It is getting late, maybe I should get
started making a fire." Lizardfoot suggests.
"Can I try again?" Tagalong asks.
"I think I should get a fire started
first, then if you want to experiment you can." Suggests Lizardfoot. "In the
mean time you can bring up the fish and prepare it for baking."
"That sounds fare," she says as she
leaves the cave to retrieve the salmon.
For a long time Lizardfoot sweats over the fire
tools and is finally rewarded with a coal and then flame. Once the fire is built-up
Tagalong skewers the now split salmon on two long willow sticks which she sinks into the
ground before the blaze.
When this is done she approaches Lizardfoot and
sits down next to him.
"I've been thinking about my new fire
starting method." She begins.
"Yes?" He asks with a raised eyebrow.
"While I watched you with the fire tools I
noticed that as you rub the scraper on the base board the dust you produce collects in a
pile at the end of the grove . Eventually you make enough dust hot enough to cause the
pile to glow," she says in an instructive tone.
"Yes, go on" he says speculatively.
"Well, I think that if we can cut a notch
in the edge of fire board connected to the hole we made. Maybe the hot dust will fall
through the notch and perhaps it will glow in the same way that the pile of dust in the
groove glows." She suggests.
"Hmmm, you may have an idea there,"
Lizardfoot agrees. "Here take the fire tools," he says handing her the two
pieces of wood. You work on that and I will try my hand at breaking rocks."
On into the evening the two work at their
Tagalong easily carves a notch in the fire
board with her palm sized obsidian flake then she begins rotating the rod in the hole as
fast as she can. She manages to get the wood to smoke and a pile of blackened wood dust
does indeed collect below the notch. But before she can get the wood hot enough to glow
the stick bores through the fire board and sticks in the sand underneath.
Lizardfoot is having similar success. After
trying several approaches to the rock breaking, he is left with a small pile of black
gravel at his feet and three cut fingers. Many of the pieces had sharp edges but none were
of sufficient size or correct shape to be used as tools.
"Well, I guess we both have some work to
do to uncover the secrets of fire and stone but I see that you have just discovered a way
to make a hole in a piece of wood." Lizardfoot says smiling. "It is getting
late, lets eat the fish and then, you get some sleep, I will take the first watch,"
Soon after the meal, Tagalong is wrapped in her
robe snoring softly. The little dog is curled up beside her. As Lizardfoot watches her, he
is again struck by how fortunate he is to have this brave, intelligent young woman as his
friend and companion.
"And what about the pup"
he thinks. "It is growing daily and with each day it looks more wolf like. I
wonder how long it will be before the animal gives in to it's wild nature and leaves her
for it's own kind."
As if hearing Lizardfoot's thoughts, the
pup's ear's perk up followed by its head and then the rest of its body. It stands stiff
legged for a moment, shivers slightly then walks to the entrance to the cave, squats and
urinates. Scratching a small amount of dirt over the wet spot the pup returns to its post
at Tagalongs side. On the return trip she passes close enough to Lizardfoot so that he can
reach out and pet her as she goes by.
"Then again, maybe not," he sighs as
the dog curls up next to Tagalong again.
To Chapter 20
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