This Sight is Continuously Evolving

Children of the Coyote
The History of the Fug-a-we

chapter 7
"Safe Lodging?"


Lizardfoot is making good progress. He has been walking for almost a full day and nothing serious has befallen him.
    Of course there was the long detour around the two giant bears that were fighting over a bison carcass. Then there was the time he spent cowering behind a large pile of rocks as a panicked heard of buffalo streamed passed, splitting around the rocks like a stream boiling around a boulder in its coarse. He was fortunate to make it to the safety of the rocks before the animals reached him. He was doubly fortunate that the rocks were there at all. These encounters are normal hazards of travel on the prairie.
    Yes, he feels that luck is indeed with him. As time goes by he becomes a little less apprehensive, a little more confident.
    The sun is getting closer to the mountains in the West.
    Lizard begins looking for a safe place to camp for the night. As he traveled through the day, the topography had changed. In-place of the slow undulating, almost flat prairie he is used to, he has entered a region of steep rolling hills cut by small drainage's feeding larger creeks. Most of them flow to the Southwest.
    He tops a rise and can see a line of tree's witch denotes such a stream in the valley before him. He stops on the hilltop and turns slowly surveying the land around him. To the West is the high white line of the mountains. The hill country marches off to the North, the color of the hills shifting from golden to black in the distance. To the South and East the plains stretch out before him to the horizon. He can see the great herds on the prairie as black smudges on an amber and green background.
    With resignation, he turns and heads down the hill toward the creek.
    Lizardfoot reaches the creek just as the sun is beginning to touch the western barrier of the mountains. As he enters the tree line, a herd of deer brakes cover in front of him, scattering in all directions. When they explode from the brush he stops in his tracks griping his spear, adrenaline causing his heart to race and the hair on his neck to stand on end. Upon realizing that they are only a group of frightened deer, he relaxes and carefully enters the forest. The woods are thick with wild rose, currents, and black berries. The brambles are so thick that he can not go directly to the creek. Angling north he works his way toward the stream. Finally, scratched and tired he clears the briers and enters a small clearing. The meadow is bordered on the West Side by the creek and surrounded on the other three sides by thick berry bushes.
    "This will be a good camp," the boy thinks, as he shrugs the pack from his back.
    Setting the pack on the ground he walks to the water's edge for a drink. First looking up, then down the creek, he kneels and scoops up a double hand full of water, drinks deeply and scoops up another. His thirst satisfied he rises and begins picking up twigs and branches for his evening fire. There are plenty of dead falls lying around to fill his needs. Darkness is approaching as he sits and begins diligently working to make a coal to start his fire. It is some time after full dark before he has a glow in the wood dust pile on the fireboar.
    "There has to be an easier way to make a fire" he mumbles as he carefully transfers the coal to the prepared tinder and blows it into a flame.
    Slowly he adds small twigs, then larger and larger pieces of wood until he has a cheerful blaze. He replaces the fire making equipment in its parflech container and returns it to the pack. As he does so, he pulls out the package of jerky, a bag of nuts, and the bag of flavorful cakes that, as Tagalong explained, are called "pemmican" by the woman who makes them.     "Pemmican" he thinks. "What a strange name for something that tastes so good."
    Contentedly he chews his supper while sitting on the buffalo robe and leaning against his pack. After eating the pemmican cake, a hand full of nuts, and two pieces of jerky he carefully stows the remainder of his supplies in the pack, stands and walks to the water for another drink. The Moon is just beginning to rise and as he reaches the water's edge he hears the sound of a coyote to the Northwest.
    "Coyote knows I'm here," he thinks.
    As he listens, it seams to him that the trickster is laughing.
    "But then coyotes often sound that way" he decides.
    He turns and walks back to the fire. Placing three large limbs across each other on the flames. He shakes out the robe lies down with his feet toward the flames and drifts off to sleep.
    After a few hours Lizardfoot wakes up shivering. The fire has devoured the branches he placed across it earlier. Sitting up he pushes the unburned ends into the center of the pile of coals, and adds a few smaller sticks. Blowing on the coals for a moment causes the flames to reappear. He sits for a while looking into the flames, then he stands, walks a few paces from the fire and relieves himself into the bushes. Returning to the fireside he rolls him self in the buffalo robe and quickly goes back to sleep.

    It is getting late in the day and as Bigmouth travels, he begins looking for a place to hold up for the coming night. The terrain has changed considerably and is no longer prairie. He has entered a land of steep hills with small creeks draining the valleys between them. Occasionally vertical bluffs border these streams. In some of these bluffs the burrows of small animals can be seen.
    Finally Bigmouth locates what he is looking for, a cave that appears to be large enough for a man to squeeze into and hide for the night in relative safety. Cautiously he approaches the cave. Stooping down he picks up a rock from the streambed and tosses it at the opening. The rock ricochets off the walls inside. There's no reply from the interior so he creeps up the sloping debris at the foot of the cliff. Standing on tiptoes he can just reach the opening.     Inspecting the cliff below the cave, Bigmouth notices a rock protruding from the wall at knee height. Carefully he reaches up and places his spear and club on the ledge, then putting his right foot on the rock and grabbing the lip of the ledge he pulls himself up.
    Just as Bigmouth’s eyes clear the lip of the cave, the snake strikes. At just the same instant the rock pulls free of the wall and Bigmouth falls. The snake's momentum carries it out of the cave in an ark that ends on the gravel next to the shallow stream. It isn't until the serpent hits the ground that it begins vibrating its tail in agitation making a loud buzzing noise.
    Bigmouth falls backward from the cliff wall landing on his buttocks and rolling several times before coming to rest on the stream bed just out of striking distance of the large prairie rattler. The snake coils for another attempt as a dazed Bigmouth stumbles to his feet. Just as the serpent strikes, Bigmouth slips on a rock and once again falls clear of the viper’s fangs. He lands sitting in the stream with the rattler stretched full length on the rocks directly in front of him. Quickly Bigmouth jumps to his feet and with one motion he grabs the snake by the tail and like snapping a whip dashes the head of the reptile on the rocks.          "Hmmm, Food" Bigmouth mutters as he inspects the dead attacker still writhing in his hand.
    Raw rattler is not considered a delicacy, even by Fug-a-we standards, but meat is meat and Bigmouth has not eaten since early that morning. After removing the snake’s head with a jagged rock he climbs the slide below the cave. He feels the pain of the many scrapes and bruises from his fall to the creek.
    When he reaches a position just below the entrance he bends down and picks up several stones and tosses them one at a time into the opening. He waits a few minutes before he once again attempts to enter the cave.  By dislodging it self the rock had saved his life, and left behind a foothold. Throwing the snake in the cave ahead of him he climbs the cliff and pulls himself into the tight opening.
    Just inside the entrance the cave opens up into a small room. He winces with pain as he sits. He switches from a sitting position to a squat, as he skins the snake with his bare hands and teeth. Then he begins devouring the stringy meat. When he's done he throws the remains out of the cave.
    By now it is full dark. Bigmouth lays down curls himself in to a fetal position and attempts to sleep. The night is cold, the floor of the cave hard and damp, the cuts and bruises he sustained in his fall give him constant aggravation. Bigmouth does not sleep well.

    Tagalong strikes Lizardfoot’s trail at the top of the rise where he had stopped to look back at the village. She also stops to look back at her home. Trembling slightly, she turns from the village of her people and looks toward the huge expanse of prairie stretching to the horizon north of her.
    Hunching her shoulders to shift the weight of the pack, she starts off at swift walk on the trail of Lizardfoot and Bigmouth. The sun has already passed the mid point of it's travel across the blue late summer sky. Tagalong knows she will not get very far today but she also knows that she can not have stayed in the village waiting for tomorrow morning before starting on this trek. Lizard foot is out there some where with Bigmouth following him. She has to try and overtake them both and assist Lizardfoot any way she can.
    She travels steadily for several hours with out incident. Tagalong comes to the spot where both, Lizard and Bigmouth backtracked and detoured around some thing. She creeps forward cautiously. From a slight rise she can see a crowd of buzzards fighting over the remains of some unfortunate animal which has been torn apart and scattered about the a large blood smeared area. Seeing that there is no danger she stands and walks back to pick up the trail she has been following.
    After traveling along the trail a short distance she notices another set of tracks falling in behind that of Lizardfoot and Bigmouth. These prints are not those of a human, they are the impressions of a very large bear.
    A few miles later, Tagalong comes to the wide swath left by the stampeding buffalo; she casts about looking for Lizardfoot's trail in the dust. She finds tracks but not those of Lizardfoot. Lizard's are unmistakable with his extra long toes.
    "These prints are Bigmouth's" she tells herself.
    Tagalong knows from the signs that the stampede must have taken place between the time of Lizard's passage and that of Bigmouth's. After looking the evidence over thoroughly she decides that it is Bigmouth who likely spooked the bison herd. Along side Bigmouth's trail are the tracks of a large bruin. She hurries along anxiously knowing that if Lizard was in front of the stampede, it is possible that he has been trampled.
    Tagalong is still on the buffalo trail, as the sun begins to sink in the West. She knows that she will have to find a safe hideout soon. In a short while she comes to one of the gullies that occasionally cross her path. Turning to the right she walks along the edge of the wash looking for a cave or, out crop of rock or, any defensible position where she can spend the night in safety. After about a half mile, she finds what might be a usable hollow in the gully wall.
    Carefully working her way down the edge of the cut opposite the opening she reaches the floor of the wash and approaches the hole. The apparent den is low on the north wall of the arroyo. Tagalong picks up a couple of rocks and throws them one at a time into the small cavity. She hears a whining sound coming from within. Cautiously she approaches with her spear held defensively in front of her.
    Tagalong inspects the dirt around the cave and sees wolf tracks. All the prints appear to be at several days old. Again she hears the whining sound coming from the den. Slowly she creeps closer. When she is in a position to see into the cave mouth she stops and peers in. The den is deep and dark there's not enough light penetrating the opening to see very far inside.
    The attack comes suddenly, catching Tagalong off guard. Snarling and snapping the occupant of the cave jumps forward.
    Stumbling back Tagalong loses her balance and falls backward sitting abruptly on the ground with her spear pointing at the cave. When she sees the face of her attacker she begins to laugh.
    Getting to her feet, she again approaches the den.
    "Well hello there little wolf," she says softly to the pup. "Where is your mother?" She asks, looking around carefully. Darkness is falling fast and Tagalong needs this den for her self.
    The present occupant retreats into the shadows growling low in its throat.
    "It's okay little one I won't harm you" Tag croons.
    Tagalong removes her pack and sets it on the lip of the opening. She leans the spear, against the wall of the gully at the entrance to the den, then slowly pulls her self in. Once in side the cave, she rummages through her pack and produces a package of jerky and the bladder of water. As she eats, Tagalong wonders about this wolf pup. It is small, obviously young and judging from the age of the tracks outside most likely orphaned. She can hear it in the back of the den whining piteously. She begins talking to the pup quietly.
    "Come on little pup I won't harm you," she says. "Would you like something to eat, or perhaps some water?" She asks.
    Taking a piece of jerky from her supply, Tag reaches back into the darkness and lays it down on the floor. Presently she can hear the little animal chewing on the dried meat.
    Having nothing that will hold water, Tagalong scoops out a hollow in the floor of the den and pours some of the liquid into it.
    By now it is full dark, and although there is a three-quarters Moon, none of the light penetrates the cave. Tagalong decides that the pup is not a threat, so she rolls her self in the buffalo calf robe, lies back with her head on her pack and slips off to sleep. She awakens during the night when some thing pushes against her side. Reaching down Tag finds that the pup has snuggled against her. As she lays her hand on the animal she feels a moist warm tongue on her wrist. She scratches the pup behind the ears, and drifts back to sleep.

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