Children of the Coyote
The History of the Fug-a-we
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 Bigmouths 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 vipers 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
snakes 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 Lizardfoots 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
"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.
To Chapter 8
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