This is part of our free, online and highly-praised survival fiction novel. You can read the rest of the parts here.
[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ob half turned, rolled his eyes to his left, and slowly straightened, blinking in wonderment at the figure that appeared before him. It was as if this man and horse had just stepped out of some nineteenth century novel.
He wore buckskins, a pull over thigh length deer hide shirt, tied at the waist with a thick belt. A large sheathed bone handled knife and hatchet were crossed in an X along his backbone. He wore a pair of buckskin leggings fringed, with knee-high moccasins, and on his head sat a fur hat that stared right back at Bob with a face and eyes of a coyote.
Bob blinked trying to clear this vision from his mind. The strange figure held a rifle across his chest …a Winchester lever action, encased in a buckskin scabbard also with frontier style fringe. The rifle’s scabbard was adorned with tiny glass bead work stitched in swirls and patterns, and multiple colors. The image of this huge man was as if some character from an old novel had just stepped out of the yellowed and brittle pages from the past, and come to life, right there in front of his eyes.
Bob was understandably perplexed as he looked about the yard, making sure he was where he thought he was. “Where did you come from?” he asked in his confusion. He stood in awe, blinking at the mountain-man as if he were in a dream, just an image standing there in the dim morning light.
The bigger than life character then shifted in his saddle proving to Bob he was real. He stood up in his stirrups, and casually pointed to the southwest with his scabbarded rifle. The saddle creaked, and the horse adjusted her stance to accompany the man’s weight.
“I have a cabin a few valleys over that way to the west.” He pointed and settled in his saddle again. His voice was deep, with a low rumbling to it that sounded as if it came from far off somewhere in the hills behind him.
The horse moved about nervously, and then as if it decided all by herself, she walked toward the edge of the porch, and poked her nose at Bob for a treat or a rub.
At this point, Bob was only chest-high with the large man that sat on her back, this despite his advantage of being on a raised porch.
This giant being looked down at Bob, and managed a grin beneath his thick white beard. He spoke in a low bass tone, “My name is Harlan… Harlan Pettimore”, his voice boomed.
The barreled chested man was awe-inspiring. His massive frame leaned over Bob looking as big as the trees and the hills surrounding them. Much like some great bear this mountain-man held out his huge paw for Bob to shake.
Bob, stared at the hand for a good while, and slowly offered his back …it was more out of reflex than desire to have his hand crushed, and he waited with doubt. The massive paw engulfed his hand, like an adult would a child’s, and for an instance, Bob couldn’t help thinking perhaps he had made a horrible mistake in offering his limb up to this giant man.
Yet the man gently shook his hand and just smiled, “Pleased to meet you, and you are”, he kindly asked in that rumbling voice?
“Oh, I’m Bob”, he stammered, “I… I… I mean Robert Michaels, people usually call me Bob.”
Bob felt silly standing in his long johns with the tin pail in his hands.
The larger than life man stroked his white beard with his free hand, and politely replied: “Pleased to meet you Robert”, His voice was so low, it was hypnotic.
Harlan, looked about at Bob’s camp as if taking in the whole scene.
He began talking, “I was riding through, checking on some new territory when I remembered that years ago I had an old friend who lived out this way.”
Bob looked curiously at Harlan, “You mean my father Roy Michaels?” he asked the large man.
He rubbed his thick white beard again, “That was his son’s name I believe, No… I’m speaking of John Michaels, he must have been your grandfather, I suspect.”
Bob considered this for a moment, reasoning that Harlan couldn’t be more than sixty, other than his weathered face he looked as fit as a fiddle, “well you must have been a young boy when you knew my grandfather?”
“I was in my early twenties”, Mr. Pettimore confessed.
“I remember he learned me prospecting, and trapping… it was soon after I got back from the Korean War. I was a bit mixed up in those days, and your grandparents took me under their wing I reckon. I think it was 1954 in fact …if memory serves me right. My guess is your dad wasn’t even born in those days.”
Bob gradually relaxed …soothed by his demeanor and his quiet way. He noted that men like this man and his grandfather, those who spend many years in the woods often have a quiet way about them.
“You’re Roy Michael’s boy, aren’t you”, the man asked Bob.
“I am”, …he cautiously replied still not believing this man could be nearly eighty years old if what he claimed was true.
Harlan looked at Bob with his cool gray eyes, “Your Dad …Roy might not remember me all that much, as I didn’t come around after your grandmother started raising you kids. I confess I was still a little wild back in those days”, his laugh sounded like distant rocks falling off a mountainside.
“How is your Dad?” he asked.
“I’m sorry, but my father passed away nearly 6 years ago now. Heart failure I’m afraid.”
“Oh, that’s too bad, I’m sorry to hear that, I would have much liked to see him one more time.”
The big man then looked skyward, as if reading the weather. Looks to be fair weather for a day or two, then I suspect the snow will return.
“Do you still trap out this way Robert”, Harlan asked. Bob was looking a bit dimwitted still, the shock of what he was seeing hadn’t set in yet.
“I… no I don’t… well for food sometimes, but not for fur”, until seeing this man Bob doubted anyone still trapped out here anymore for fur, but felt like humoring the old man. An awkward pause took place between the two men.
Apparently Harlan had used up all his idle chit chat, and it was Bob’s turn to keep the conversation going.
“Are you looking for trapping territory”, he asked the bearded giant. He wondered what other reason a man such as this would be out his way, or at all …especially in these days and in the beginning of winter. “Where do you come from?” he asked Harlan trying to sort the thoughts running through his mind.
This time, the giant man tipped his head toward the west, “The third valley over,” he replied in a matter of fact tone. Bob suddenly realized why he looked so puzzled, as he had already explained this to him moments before.
“I have always lived out here”, he continued. Bob wasn’t sure whether he meant this metaphorically, and then he continued: “for the last sixty years I reckon …wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
He again paused for a short bit, as if to reflect on his life. “I only head to town whenever I need supplies, like gear, staples, lamp oil, wicks, candy and such. I have a sweet tooth, you see”, he grinned at Bob, and flashed a golden tooth barely visible under the massive beard.
“How do you manage to get to town?” Bob asked the old man.
The mountain man narrowed his eyes at Bob, as if wondering what was so unusual about heading to town, “Oh, I ride Elly here”, he patted the paint horse on the neck. It tossed its head from side to side when she heard her name.
“But, where, what town?” he asked in wonderment.
He looked bewildered at Bob, and tried to understand what he meant, as he stared back he said, “I ride into Mayerthorpe.” He looked down at Bob with sympathy, and perhaps thought he might be a bit slow.
Bob knew a place called Mayerthorpe it wasn’t more than a village, and it was at least a fifty miles due west over the hills. He wasn’t sure it even had a store, or a population above a half dozen people.
He then saw the puzzled look on the Harlan’s face.
“Oh, I’m sorry, forgive me”, Bob shook his head, and apologized, “would you like to come in for some coffee Harlan”, he pointed at the cabin door and invited the old man inside.
He smiled expectantly, “that would be right neighborly of ya, I’ll just tie Elly down by the creek and be right in”, the horse seem to anticipate the offer and turned without Harlan even touching the reins.
“I’ll follow you to the creek”, Bob said as he hurried to catch up, “I was headed that way to get some scalding water for the stove,” he held up the empty pot looking embarrassed and feeling awkward as he only wore long johns and his jacket. He scrambled down from the porch behind the stranger and his horse.
Harlan called back over his shoulder to Bob, and said, “Your grandmother used that same pot when she was alive,” Harlan then stared up at the sky again, and rubbed his broad chin, he spoke perhaps remembering the days long ago, and continued talking as if speaking to someone above him. “You remember those days.” Bob couldn’t help, but look up to be sure no one was actually up there looking down.
Harlan gazed forward, “They were fine folk your granddad and grandma, your grandma helped me through a few bad winters too, you know.” He then looked back at Bob. He raised his voice as if Bob might not be able to hear him, “Lent me more than my fair share of staples, and not just once neither,” he shouted. “Many times she did… to tide me over,” a faint smile could be seen under that thick mustache as he recalled those long forgotten days. “Yes sir, good people.” He stopped the horse by the creek.
“A person can’t always make it out here on their own, you know.” Bob looked back up at Harlan as he reminisced. He had just used the same saying his grandfather always used, and Bob had used for himself many times.
Harlan reminded Bob, of his Grandfather in some way. He didn’t look anything like him, but both were cut from the same cloth. His grandfather was just as tough and just as sure of himself, it occurred to him how these old woodsmen possessed a gentleness about them despite their granite like hardness.
Harlan swung a leg down, and climbed off the horse, and turned to Bob as he tied the reigns of the animal, low on a limb by the creek, so it might still drink and feed.
“I have another pack animal, over yonder,” Harlan pointed to the south meadow. “Tom’s his name. He’s hobbled in your meadow. He’ll be alright for a short while, though he gets mighty lonely without Elly.” He patted Elly again, as she pawed at the frozen ground, and pulled at the sparse greenery. “I suspect he’ll kick up a fuss in an hour or two, when he gets bored.”
Harlan then removed a canvas sack from his saddle bags, and dumped a pile of oats on the ground for the horse.
Just then the cabin door opened, and Murphy stood at the top of the stairs grinning. Obviously happy about meeting someone new.
“Hello…” he shouted to the men. “Hey Bob who’s our new friend?” he asked holding a cup of coffee in one hand, and eating a slice of jam toast in the other. “Would you two care for some breakfast?” he asked.
Bob answered for both men, “we were just about to do that, thank you.” Bob then pointed to Murphy and introduced, “Harlan …this is Murphy, and Murphy this is Harlan, a neighbor of ours from way over west,” he waved in the general direction that Harlan indicated earlier.
“Please to meet you Harlan,” said Murphy cheerfully, as if seeing a mountain man in the middle of the twenty-first century was perfectly normal to him.
“Like wise young Sir,” he rumbled back in his quiet tone.
“Well come on in,” Murphy waved his toast to coax the two men toward the cabin.
Harlan pulled the saddle from the horse and threw it over a fallen tree, still leaving the blanket on her for warmth.
Bob and he made their way up the stairs, and stepped inside.
Harlan looked about the place with his steel gray eyes taking in everything, “Well it certainly looks different from the way it used to be.” He tipped his head toward the men, “when last I saw it, in 59 …I guess.”
Harlan’s eyes sparkled as he took in the memory of the old cabin’s interior. “Good to see it once again,” his demeanor perked up, “and I believe, I remember it had a different roof in those days, and I remember the day your grandma got that stove. Brand new back then it was, and John broke a finger hauling it back here. ”
“Oh you know this place?” Murphy suddenly realized.
“I do,” said Harlan, “from long ago.”
Harlan was such a large man that Murphy couldn’t help but notice how he needed to duck to get in through the front door. He stood maybe just 6 foot 4 inches, 6 foot 8 with his fur hat, but his shoulders were almost as wide as the doorway itself.
Bob felt some pride in the cabin’s renovations, and spoke up eagerly, “Yeah that’s right, Harlan” he said considering the ceiling with the others, “Dad and I replaced it a while back with those fir timbers, and we spanned them with 4-inch spruce slabs, we milled here right on site.” The three men admired the wood work of Bob and his dad, commenting on the craftsmanship. Each agreed it was a fine roof, and sturdy too.
Harlan recalled that Bob’s grandparents built the tiny cabin around the late 1930s. They had lived in the old place for over a decade, before John found work in the nearby town of Millville the reason they moved to the tiny hamlet.
Only then, using the cabin seasonally, for hunting or trapping.
Murphy offered Harlan a chair at the table, “Here you go Sir, take a seat.” He then took his place near the stove. “Would you care for some breakfast, sir?” he handed Harlan the handle of the spatula. The table had already been set with three tin plates, and a hot skillet waiting in the middle.
“Thank you kindly, Murphy, that would be nice”, he rumbled.
Harlan reached for the spatula, nodding politely. He paused for a moment staring at the skillet, “How do you manage to have fresh eggs this time of year without no chickens,” he inquired, adding, “It’s been quite some time since I’ve had fresh eggs.” Harlan then scooped at the skillet … after using some quick math he slipped three of the nine eggs onto his plate, followed by a good chunk of smoked deer meat, that the boys called bacon out here.
Bob smiled at the old man, “Well it’s an old trick of my grandmother’s,” he said.
“I’m surprised you don’t know about slaked lime water”, Bob said feeling a small victory at knowing something this old woodsman didn’t know. Immediately, he assumed that the old man may have simply forgotten this old trick, or was merely humoring him.
Bob took the spatula next, “If you keep fresh eggs in unslaked lime water, they will last years.” He was happy he could pass on this trick to someone as knowledgeable as Harlan. He really wanted to pick his brain about such things about the wilds, and the old ways. There weren’t many people alive anymore like Harlan, who had lived in the bush as he had, and for so long.
Bob continued talking as he scooped up his portion of the meal.
“Almost a year and a half ago, I purchased a thousand farm fresh eggs from a local farmer in Millville, and stored them as grandma did, but in plastic pails, using unslaked lime water solution. I buried them in caches below the frost line in holes, in the nearby hill,” he added with a smile.
“About 250 eggs to a pail. You need to be careful to layer them in with cheese cloth to keep them from banging about, and breaking,” he added knowingly.
Harlan, straightened up in a look of mock surprise, he was curious about Bob’s claims, “Say that’s pretty clever young fella, and you say it will keep them forever this slaked lime water?”
“Well, hard to say… Grandma always said they will last years, and I haven’t had a bad one yet. These are at least 18 months in the solution, and taste fine; mind you, we always finished them off in less than two years.”
“Yuh don’t say,” Harlan looked impressed. “…that’s pretty clever. I’ll certainly have to give it a try, when I get a chance.”
“I once heard a fella say he ate an egg that was over six years old and lived to tell about it,” Bob added as an anecdote.
Harlan tasted one cautiously, then slid the whole thing down in one gulp, then with a smile he said, “Your right they taste fine. How about that. You learn something new every day,” he grinned at the men, and finished another egg in another gulp.
“Those are some fine eggs,” he grinned. “Thank you very much,” Harlan wiped his beard with his hand, and rubbed them clean on his leggings, trying to look proper.
The younger men looked at each other, and secretly smiled. Both silently thinking that this giant of man would be very hard on their food supplies even if for merely a week or two.
Murphy watched Harlan finish half his breakfast in three bites. Then he paused for an unusually long time, and continued talking as if out of habit. He told a few stories to the men about the good old days, to allow his hosts to catch up with their portions of the meal. Then promptly finished off the other half of the meal …in as many bites.
Murphy, and Bob both offered one of their eggs to Harlan by just slipping it onto his plate without asking, and Murphy poured more coffee for the three, they laughed and talking more about the meal.
“When Bob told me how old these eggs were,” Murphy went on, “I have to admit I had my doubts, but they taste just fine to me too. It’s nice to have real eggs instead of powdered one’s especially this time of the year.” Bob added, “We dug up two pails, just enough to see us through the winter.”
Harlan then told a story of keeping chickens in the past, “Years ago, I’d tried to keep a half dozen birds or more,” he paused holding up his mug for more coffee, and Murphy filled it waiting for the story to continue.
“Thank you Murphy …it was a few years back, but the damned weasels, mink and pine martins kept getting them, so I just gave up. In those days, I was always away checking my trap line, or something to be bothered with watching them damned birds.” He stared off as if remembering the days.
“It’s damned hard to keep those little beggars out of a coop. One time a weasel, killed every bird I had, and broke all there eggs and drank the yokes …in just in one night.”
Harlan anxiously looked back and forth between the two men to emphasize this fact, “it was the damnedest thing,” he then sipped his coffee, and suddenly spied the sugar on the table.
“Sugar, now that’s what I miss. Do you mind?” He reached for the bowl, and waited for permission before pulling it towards him. “No not at all, go right ahead,” the men insisted. Harlan scooped in a heaping spoonful, into his mug and stirred. He sipped…
“Now, that’s how coffee should be. Sorry gentlemen, but I told you I have a sweet tooth,” he laughed, while added another great spoonful to the cup, and continued talking.
“They’re vicious little beggars, weasels are. Sometimes they’ll kill for the sheer enjoyment of it,” in between words, he swallowed his last of the eggs whole. It looked like a man eating oysters on the half shell, he didn’t even chew.
“I ended up having that same weasel as a pet. He would come in my cabin every night through a hole in the wall, and scurry around the outer edge of the cabin looking for scraps.”
Harlan, pointed to the outer wall, visualizing the animal in his mind. “He was good at keeping the mouse population down, and I always left him a treat or two, just so I could watch him eat it. After a while he would sit up in my lap, and play hide-and-seek in my beard,” Harlan roared with laughter. “All you could see was his little black nose peeking out,” he said in between coughing fits of laughter. It was contagious as the other men joined in.
“Little beggar’s been with me for years now, though I’m not sure if it’s a different critter then the original one. Can’t say I know how long weasels live. It might be some kin of the original one though.”
Suddenly Bob remembered the man traps they had set in the valley. “Oh, one thing, Harlan… I have to warn you about is this.”
“We’d been having trouble with some bad men over the Misty Lake Valley, to the east,” Bob pointed in that direction. “The neighbors, and we,” pointing at Murphy and him “…we set some man traps on most of the main trails leading into our valley here. From the north and in the south, even some trails leading east. If you missed them you …must have come over the west hills so you didn’t run into any I hope. If you did, I suspect you saw them first …beware they are lethal.
I’m very glad you or your animals didn’t get shot. I’ll show you where they are especially if you are planning to head east from here.”
“You know, I did see some peculiar sets near Miner’s Creek, and all the felled trees across the trail. I wondered what you folks were up too. I headed down that way to see if the creek was open, and saw two large traps on the southern trail. I let them be …but I have to admit I was curious as to what you thought you would catch in such a rig as that,” he chuckled, and gulped his coffee.
“Elly smelled them traps before I even saw the first one. She wouldn’t budge any further, ‘till I got off to look. She’s smart that one. Not as smart as old Tom though.”
The men told Harlan all about the Granville’s and the gang in the next valley, leaving out the part about killing the one man.
Harlan listened intently, “That’s too bad, what’s this world coming to” he asked as he shook his head?
Pausing for a moment looking at them sternly, “This Martial Law thing happening in this country, it kind of reminds me of the start of the Korean War.”
He suddenly looked old, “Democracy is used nowadays like a lie, a way to fool the people into accepting the socialist ideologies of these governments. Their twisted meaning of change is socialism mixed with fascism, just like the Russians, the Chinese, and North Koreans brought to their worlds. Our version of democracy has certainly taken on a whole new meaning these days. Yeah the term is a lie …used to fool people these days. Bringing democracy to the world is just a lie… I might be old but I ain’t dumb, I know that much for sure.”
Harlan finished his coffee and politely asked for one more cup. “Them bastards that run this country use democracy as a free rein to bomb others creating instability, then they insert their puppet dictators into rule, and these men; they use anything, but democracy in their countries to control the people. Oh, sure, the communists do the same thing, but mind you they don’t pretend that it’s something other than communism.”
Murphy felt sick listening to Harlan talk. Here was another person that was shattering his illusion of the world that he once thought he knew. Bob sat back, and nodded his head in agreement. He was fully aware of the take-over of their nation and how the Government used this ploy of democracy to cleverly hide their intent of socialism.
Harlan, changed the subject, and quietly asked about the family in the line shack to the south.
Bob, and Murphy told him of the Granvilles living there, and how they fixed up the old shack. He told the men that years ago he had built that shack. He had brought in the tin roofing by horse back with his granddad John Michaels in 1957, and put up the line shack for his trap-lining endeavors. He told them how he used to run a line all the way south to the great river, forty miles at least. He had two other similar shacks along the way.
“I’m glad to see the old place is still getting some good use. It wasn’t meant to be much, just a place to rest a few days.”
After an hour or so of conversation, Harlan opened up to the men, and told them more about his life out here. Murphy could not figure out one thing though. He desperately wanted to know how this giant of a man still lived this way. How did he manage to survive were few could, and live for so many years without any money or work? He understood he was trapping for a living, but that was years ago, and hardly enough money nowadays to live off of. Granted, back in the 70s the price of fur was at the highest it had ever been in history. A man could make a fair living by trapping. That all ended with the animal rights movement that took place near the end of that decade.
Murphy couldn’t take it anymore and had to ask, “How is it you can still afford to go to Mayerthorpe for supplies? I mean, how do you make money, away out here and so far from town?”
Harlan stared into his mug of coffee, pausing for a good long time. He then looked up, and winked at the two men. He leaned in as if to tell a great secret and whispered, “I guess at my age I can tell you fellas.”
He lowered his voice to a rumbling bass tone, “…I do a little prospecting on the side.” He nodded in affirmation, and blinked, “I have for …going on 50 years or so. Mostly in the summer mind you.”
He leaned back in his chair that creaked under his weight, and continued, “I sometimes, do it even in the winter, when I can find an open spot along the creeks and such.”
His voice rose without whisper now.
“Hell, I don’t find much these days, maybe, a couple of ounces… or three, even in a whole season, but at today’s prices, that’s not all that bad.” Pretty much panned out my side of the mountain, thought I try back here again. He watched the two men, as their faces changed to looks of surprise.
Harlan knew what gold does to people, but he trusted these men. After all Bob was John Michael’s grandson. He knew that if it weren’t for John Michaels and his wife Becky, he couldn’t have made it out here. He had an unpaid debt to his longtime friend, and figured on a good way to square it up was to offer to show his grandson were to pan.
“Mind you, I have to work hard for every gram,” he said this emphatically while nodding his head up and down. “Well, not that I have anything against hard work,” he shrugged, “…I don’t really mind washing rocks for leisure, and besides its good exercise for an old coot like me.” He then rubbed his sore back, “though it’s getting mighty hard these days. I ain’t getting younger.”
Just then, a faint strange unwinding braying noise came from the meadow to the south. The paint horse …Elly whinnied back her reply. It was certainly her friend, Tom, calling her.
“He must be done grazing. Now he’s bored,” Harlan said as he got up from the table.
“Oh I better fetch him, or he’ll break a leg trying to get to Elly. My mule ain’t like most horses, he often can’t be separated from Elly for long without causing trouble.”
Harlan sat on the bench by the door, and grabbed his moccasins … he removed them when he entered, out of courtesy for the cleanliness of the cabin. Murphy noticed the beautiful footwear right away, and now felt comfortable enough to ask Harlan about them.
They were hand made, and nearly knee-high sewn from soft white moose hide. The soles had extra thick neck hide for strength, and double layer, all finely hand-stitched.
Murphy had to ask: “Those moccasins are amazing, did you make them yourself?”
“I did,” Harlan replied as he wrapped the long laces around his calf. “I make all my buckskin, and leather. Nothing better to keep a fella busy in the winter time, and they’re warm as toast. I was taught by my wife, Macha, she’s flat head.”
“Oh I didn’t realize you are married,” Murphy said.
“I ain’t no more, she just run off and left me one day, haven’t seen, hide nor hair of her since… I call her Mai now.” Harlan laughed and said this without explanation to the two men.
Apparently Mai is Coyote in Native American, the men found this out later. Macha was from the flat head tribe of lower Montana. They had been married for twelve years, back in the early 60s. He met her at a rendezvous in lower Montana years ago. A bunch of similar men, still gathered to have a good time, like the days of old. They still do it to this day, but it’s largely for romantic nostalgia, and tourist these days.
Harlan never elaborated on why she left. The men assumed it had something to do with his stories of his wild days or so they guessed as it was over fifty years ago when she left him.
“I sure wish, I had skills like that,” Murphy said as he admired the leather work.
“Well, I’ll tell ya something young fella …if you’ll help me do some prospecting just north of here,” he said waving a hand north toward Myrtle Creek, adding, “as I ain’t getting any younger,” then laughed.
He pointed at the moose hide moccasins, “I’ll teach you how to make these for yourself …now, how’s that sound to Yeah,” he slapped his legs, and watched Murphy’s reaction with a twinkle in his eye. Murphy grinned from ear to ear? He stammered in disbelieve, “Are you kidding me, you got a deal Harlan?” he jammed out his hand and they both shook on it.
“Now prospecting is hard work young fella,” Harlan confessed.
“I ain’t doing you no real favor here, it ain’t for no weak fellas, you’ll need to do some real dirt moving that’s for sure. Sometimes you might need to sift through an entire sand bar to find anything.”
He got up from the bench, having finished lacing his footwear on. “Rolling river rock aside, and boulders ain’t easy, but it’s necessary to get at the gold beneath them, is hard work.”
“I don’t mind hard work,” though he felt unsure when he said it. He wasn’t afraid of hard-work, and yet he tried to appear confident. He wasn’t certain, but he had resolved to learn this from Harlan.
“I’m pretty healthy, and working out here these last few months has made me fit,” he beamed as he began thinking of the gold he might find. He knew this was not only an opportunity to learn some wilderness survival skills, but also how to make some money out here too.
“When do we start?” he asked. Well, I’ll set up a camp under those trees over the creek yonder, and you come get me tomorrow morning when you’re ready, and we’ll head out.
And, you can show me the man-traps you set along the north trail as we go.
Harlan was the kind of quiet soul, a person could easily become friends with. He had an unspoken strength about him. It was easy to believe in the truth of what laid behind those knowing gray eyes. He was the kind of man that always says what he means, and does what he says. He wasn’t forceful about his opinion either. Although he also was the type of man that hardly ever showed whether he disagreed with the way a person was living their life or not. He simply remained silent, letting them live life the way they wanted that was good enough for him so it was good enough for others too.
Bob listened to the conversation and considered what a little gold might mean to the pair of them out here. Just the other day, Murphy and he were both were trying to figure ways to get gas for the quad, and this might be that way.
Bob spoke up to let both know he didn’t feel he needed to tag along on this adventure. “I was thinking I might take Logan, and his little girl Marlee out tomorrow for her wilderness schooling, and bring in those traps we set. You two go do some panning then maybe I’ll catch you later. The snow will be getting too deep soon for those Misty Lake men to travel without snowshoes, or snowmobiles, and the traps won’t work properly buried under the snow anyway.”
Murphy agreed, and Bob put in a call to their neighbors using the two-way radio, to see if they were up to a little adventure of their own this week.
Murphy spent the rest of the evening preparing the gear he might need for a week or two in the winter bush. Most of what he brought was the same as he took with him for the trip over the mountain into Misty Lake valley. The weather had been mild for a week or more, and most of the snow had melted in the valley. This time, Murphy didn’t need to worry as much about the weight of his gear but the season he was in. He brought his heavy coat, and sleeping bag, and lots of layered winter clothing.
The next morning Murphy rose early, excited about heading out with Harlan. He made a pot of strong coffee, and again invited the men in for breakfast and a cup before he and Harlan hit the trail.
Before leaving, the two moved some gear from Tom’s heavy pack to Elly’s. This gave Murphy a tiny space to sit up in front, though the frame of the pack dug into his back still, he managed to hang on, as there was no helping it. Behind Tom was a “travois” the large poles were strapped on either side of the big mule, and on which Murphy could rest his feet as he rode. It was similar to the rig he had used to carry his gear down the hill after breaking his ankle last spring. But this one was a proper one, and carried several hundred pounds of their gear, and two bales of timothy hay for the animals. The two then took to the trail heading north.
Murphy sat precariously atop Tom’s big shoulders, not a particularly comfortable, but Tom quietly followed directly behind Elly and Harlan. He hadn’t realized what a huge animal Tom was as Harlan had never mentioned what type of mule he is.
He was a huge hybrid…half Clydesdale, and half donkey he was artificially inseminated at a ranch near Helena. The rancher who bred him used these hybrid animals to haul wagons and massive logs from the mountains. He needed these huge beasts to go where vehicles were not allowed to go, due to environmental laws, or simply the difficult terrain. The result of this breed was a mountain animal capable of climbing the steepest hills, and crossing the deepest rivers all while carrying twice the load of a horse. Tom would literally browse bushes for food and frequently did. Murphy watched him once strip an evergreen bow as they walked along and chew it down like it was a treat to him.
Harlan beamed with pride when Murphy mentioned this behavior. “Mules are the damnedest thing for these mountains, they’re smarter than horses, for sure.” He leaned over and quietly spoke in Elly’s ear, “Sorry girl but it’s true,” and continued.
“They always know where their hooves are going, they never stumble, and this particular one here likes eating pretty much anything that he can sink his teeth into, so watch your rear end when your back is turned.”
Murphy petted the huge animal, and who… at that very moment, was stripping a young alder of its remaining brown leaves, but stopped chewing as soon as he heard his owner started talking about him.
“Just a word of warning, young fella, don’t let him stop too often and eat along the trail or we’ll never get to where we’re going.”
The pair of prospectors headed up the north trail. Murphy felt he had the unique advantage from his lofty perch, but soon regretted it when the first of many low hanging branches was cleverly used by Tom to try and knock Murphy off his back.
Harlan had forgotten to mention that Tom… being used to carrying packs, and not people might take offense to his new passenger, and secretly try to knock him to the ground. It was all very innocent of course, and Murphy, like the trooper that he was, took it all in-stride.
The slow pace of the trek was comfortable for Murphy, despite the pack frame digging into his back.
Harlan kept a non-stop dialog as they plodded along, so Murphy assumed he was taking advantage of having a companion along for a change, but he soon realized Harlan always talked as he rode along, and the animals expected it. Murphy being along for the adventure had nothing to do with the constant dialog.
The story telling continued as they ambled up the north trail. Tom took one step to Elly’s every two, but all in all they were a team, Elly and Tom. They had grown extremely used to each other over the years and acted as one. Harlan’s story telling finally came full circle back to Tom again, and he continued, “I bought him from an outfitter-guide about twelve years back. He’s been the best damn pack animal I ever owned. Sure he’s big and eats too much, but so do I,” Harlan laughed so hard at this joke, the echo could be heard bouncing off the high hillsides above the valley.
Murphy could not marvel enough at what a trio of characters these three were.
Tom’s ears perked up when Harlan laughed, and somehow Murphy got the sense he knew he was being talked about again. This was probably why Harlan chatted so much while riding the trails. His deep voice seem to calm the animals, they were certainly used to it by now. The mule had finally straightened up and stopped trying to knock Murphy off his back once he got used to him there, and the rest of the trip was tranquil and magical.
Murphy felt like a prospector in one of those old adventure movies. He couldn’t help, but imagine that he was on one of those ancient explorations heading up some great river. The mountain range was uncharted, and brimming with gold. A romantic notion of his mining endeavor, and soon he would be striking it rich.
This notion of course, was soon to be shattered by the reality of actual prospecting. Soon to be made apparent to Murphy as another form of hard work and a lot harder than the romance in the old movies made it out to be.
Even at the price of gold these days, much more work is required then is earned in gold prospecting. A person can spend all day moving, sifting, and grading a yard of gravel searching this precious metal, and yet only find a gram or less, or none at all. Meaning a person would have worked harder all day for less money than you would have earned at flipping burgers at the neighborhood fast food joint.
Long ago, Harlan chose his way of life for himself, because it suited him…
Placer mining was the simplest answer to having a way to earn money out here, and then he was able to buy simple things that he needed to make his life more comfortable.
The men and animals soon came to that sleepy pine grove that Bob, and Murphy had camped at many months before. Murphy recalled the first days in the valley. When he broke his leg, and the struggle he had coming down the mountain side. He told Harlan of the accident.
Harlan thought the story was very entertaining, he asked Murphy many questions about his adventures through the swamp, and how he managed to stay positive, and not lose his head. This made their ride pass by very quickly. They grew accustomed to the sounds, from the surrounding woods, and rode on in quiet reflection.
Elly and Tom carried them further and further along the north trail, making the climb up the valley into the hills. The path narrowed ahead, and began to grow intermittent with bushes and brush to walk through. Tom was certainly built for this terrain. Elly, on the other hand, needed to go round many obstructions that Tom merely walked through, or stepped over.
Murphy’s lovable animal was a freak of nature and a gift to the wilderness. He looked more like a caricature of a Mule with his enormous Clydesdale size, and his huge donkey ears. His hooves were the size of dinner plates. The sound of them hitting the hard ground was amazing. Tom had the ability of climbing hillsides like a billy-goat and the appetite to match. He was as gentle as a lamb, and as long as he didn’t fall too far behind, Murphy let him browse as they walked along. Tom knew this, and never stopped, but simply stripped leaves from the branches hanging close to the trail as he passed.
Murphy figured any animal the size of Tom would need to keep his strength up by eating as much as he could along the way. He was an eating machine, like Harlan. Besides, Murphy was beginning to like Tom, he even envied him for his simple take on life. He envied Harlan too for the way he had adapted to this wonderful world out here by himself. He wondered whether he could deal with the loneliness of living by himself, and assumed the animals kept him some company, and wonder if it would be enough.
Finally, Elly and Harlan stopped up ahead in a narrow part of the valley. He dismounted, and led her out on a small sand bar for a drink. This was where the creek had carved its way through the gorge over a thousand years or more, cut six hundred feet of over burden away from above them. The water had done the work of a thousand years of excavation for the men. Carving the layers of rock and dirt with its constant erosion. The small creek gently fell now from a tiny waterfall only forty feet up river from where the miners stood and only fell from head high.
Murphy could almost picture the ancient days, many centuries before the rushing water fell perhaps from the top of long ago ancient cliff face.
The air here was damp, and a bit cool from the water fall. Even though it was the month of October, the snow fall had been fairly low and lately this week it had been quite warm for this time of year. The famous westward Chinook winds melted most of the early snow that had fallen that month. This left the valley brown and dead looking for the most part like September. The tiny bit of snow that remained, lay in melted drifts, and barely three inches beneath the shadow of the trees.
The autumn sun was still high enough in the sky that the men were easily sweating as they unpacked their gear, and took care of the animals. Elly, and Tom shared a portion of Timothy, and each got their own feed bag of oats, and crack corn.
The men cut seven poles to set up the outfitters tent for the week ahead of them. It had an asbestos sleeve in the roof for the stove-pipe to poke through, but no floor.
Harlan, and Murphy began to gather wood for their outfitter’s stove. Harlan always carried a folding bucksaw with him, and he reasoned that a quarter cord of split wood was enough for the tiny stove that evening. They could gather more in the morning.
To save space, Harlan had wrapped the heavy canvas tent around the tin stove, after packing it chock-full of metal items. Things that didn’t matter whether they got soot on them or not. The large canvas bundle sat on the top of Toms pack frame, behind Murphy. It contained the metal stove legs, an ax, tent pegs, utensils and some cookware, and wrapped beside it was a folding aluminum back packers sluice with folding legs.
His other larger mining equipment that Harlan owned, included a unique style of collapsible Rocker-box for grading the gravel, (Of which he built himself) and a small miner’s pick-ax also a D-handle shovel. Along with that were two standard metal miners pans of varying size, a black sand magnet for separating sand from gold, a sniffer bottle for collecting the gold dust from the pan, and a tiny sized balance scale for measuring its weight.
Harlan suggested that, in the morning, they use Tom to gather some larger trees and buck them up as fire wood for the week ahead of them. He figured they would spend at least that to get to the bottom of the forty-foot-long sandbar.
It had been untouched by any miners, and built up over the centuries of time. Harlan had planned on working this sandbar years ago, but never did. Ever since Bob’s grandparents lived in this valley, he meant to do it with John. He thought now was a good time to do it for Bob instead, and his long gone friend John Michaels. Before his meeting with Bob and Murphy he suspected he might never do it. He thanked Murphy for coming along and helping, but assured him it was going to be hard work.
“Hey Harlan this is a rare treat for me,” Murphy told Harlan. He explained his past to him, about the accountant he used to be, back in the other world, and laughed at his old life.
“You’re a fine young man Murphy, and I’m glad I met you,” Harlan rumbled in his deep voice. Murphy was proud he felt that way. He truly like this lovable bear of a man.
“Oh well we don’t need to start killing ourselves just yet here, we’ll start tomorrow morning,” and Harlan pulled out a coffee can from his belongings.
Harlan, knew that there were trout in the pool under the falls, and suggested he try, and catch a few for supper. He used a simple rig of a coffee can with a fish line wrapped around it. Inside was a few hooks and some split shot. He crimped several split shot on one end of the line, and tied a wet fly below them. He put his big fist into the open end of the can, and tossed the line at the base of the pool. His aim was dead on, and the line unreel right off the can as he pointed it. It worked much like a spin casting reel.
“Now that’s a neat trick,” said Murphy. He suspected that a man of normal size could get away with a much smaller can though.
Once the fly landed where he wanted, he began to wrap the line back onto the coffee as if reeling it in. In this way, the setup acted much like a regular fishing reel would. He got a hit on the very first throw, and landed an eight-inch cutthroat trout. In less than an hour Harlan had enough trout for their supper.
Meanwhile, Murphy had set up the outfitter’s stove in the canvas tent. The fire was burning and he had already begun warming a pan of beans now bubbling on the stove.
Harlan ducked in the tent with a stringer of trout. He needed to sit whenever inside, as standing for him was mostly impossible. Murphy suggested they have potatoes that he brought with them, they would probably freeze overnight and be inedible after. He pan-fried the trout with sage and garlic, and threw a bit of salt and pepper on the skin too. The meal was more than enough for Murphy, but Harlan almost always looked like he could stand a few more bites.
Harlan then pulled out a pipe and loaded it from a pouch he had tucked in his shirt. It was the most delicious smoke Murphy had ever smelled, the aroma of it wafted throughout the tent and almost made Murphy wish he had smoked too, which of course he didn’t really, nor wanted to start another habit this late in his life.
“That’s a wonderful smelling tobacco you have there,” he commented. “What is it?”
“Oh it’s something I have smoke for years now. James from Mayerthorpe… buys it by the drum full for his little store in the village. He and I have smoked this brand for years. He’s the store owner over in the village. The one I spoke about yesterday.”
Harlan then blew a smoke ring at the stove draft that magically got sucked into the stove. He smiled at his little trick, of which he no doubt had practiced thousands of times over his wilderness life.
Murphy asked, “Would you care for another coffee Harlan?”
“No thank you, it keeps me up at night. I’d like to get an early start if we can tomorrow. Who knows how long this weather will hold out for us, especially this time of year? We need to get down at least two feet before pay dirt I suspect.” He then leaned back on his cot, and finished smoking his pipe. Murphy asked, “How long will that take Harlan?”
“Oh don’t worry it’s not a race, it takes whatever it takes, you’ll do fine. I ain’t dead I can help too, you won’t need to do all the heavy work. It’s more important that we just get it done.”
Then he set his pipe on top of his pack and rolled over, and before Murphy could ask him another question he was snoring like a bear. “Oh great,” Murphy quietly thought, now I’ll never be able to sleep.
Murphy finished his coffee, and climbed into his cot. By now Harlan had rolled over and was silent. The long ride and the fresh air caused Murphy to soon fall asleep, and before he even knew it, he was dreaming pleasant dreams. By morning, he woke to Harlan feeding the stove, and a sudden gust of wind when he opened the tent flap to look outside. The blue light of the morning was the only indication of how early it was as Murphy rolled out of his sleeping bag, and got ready for the day. He whispered to himself as he pulled on his cloths, “This is it old boy, you’re going to be a placer miner today.”
Harlan threw the tent flap open, and stepped inside with a coffee pot full of cold water from the creek. “Hey there young fella, how’d ya sleep?” he smiled at Murphy sitting bleary-eyed by the stove.
“Good, you know its funny, I always seem to sleep pretty well when I’m outdoors.”
“I know what you mean, young man,” he grinned comically looking a lot like Santa Claus in his red woolen long-johns.
Harlan set the pot on the stove with a sizzle, and dug around his kitchen pack for the leather pouch of coffee. He loosened the leather lace, and grabbed a fistful of coffee, then simply tossing it into the pot.
“So, Harlan, What’s on the agenda today? I mean, what do I do first?” Murphy felt awkward, around this man he felt much like a greenhorn again. “Well, young fella, I’ll show you how everything works after breakfast, and you and I will start grading the gravel.”
Murphy laughed, “About that, what does grading gravel mean,” they both laughed. It needed to be asked. “Let’s get a few things out-of-the-way first,” said Harlan. “So, what would you like to know?” he asked.
“What’s the process here?”
Harlan began, “all grading means is separating the different sized gravel using varying sized grates. Sifting the sand and gravel into the different sizes or grade.” He smiled at Murphy, “that way we can eliminate the large pieces of gravel from the load bearing pay dirt we are after.”
“Oh, okay, that sounds simple enough,” Murphy thought.
“It is. You’ll soon find that placer mining is mostly fighting boredom, sore backs and skinned knuckles. By the way, I usually tape my knuckles before they get all skinned up, but the water is way too cold to work without insulated rubber gloves in winter. I have a few pairs in the pack over there for you. I think they might be a bit large for you I suspect, but they should do.”
He dug out a large pair of blue heavy-duty, industrial rubber gloves, and handed them to Murphy.
He was right, they were enormous, far too large for Murphy. However, they were perfect if he wore his winter gloves inside of them, which worked out even better that way.
They ate some breakfast, and finished off the whole pot of coffee. “Well young fella, let’s wash some rocks,” Harlan roared with laughter at this little joke. Murphy couldn’t appreciate the irony of it all just yet, but he soon would.
By mid-afternoon, Murphy was down to his T-shirt and jeans, yet still going strong. The rocker box was being manned by Harland, and besides him were two piles of graded large rock, four pails nearly filled to the brim with the best grades of pay dirt. Most of the larger rocks were examined and then tossed aside. The pebble sized gravel was looked at with a slight bit more attention. Mostly spent looking for that flash of a nugget lying in amongst them. Finding nuggets this way almost never happens, but has to be done just in case. A miner missing a nugget the size of a pebble will be tossing a day’s pay out in one handful. The most important are the pails that contained the graded sand or smaller grain pay dirt. This needs to be processed down much more carefully by the miner.
After a hardy lunch, the two spent several hours running the fine graded pail through the sluice box. The sluice was set up, right in the creek itself, thus using the constant flow of water running through it to simply wash the sand and gravel away from the heavier gold.
“The lighter grade gravel was carried through the sluice, allowing the heavier grains of gold to fall out of the agitated slurry and with any luck… most will be getting caught behind the ridges of the sluice.”
“Beneath these ridges of the channel, lies a felt mat. The ridges cause a riffle affect in the water releasing the tinier gold flake from the flow by separating the particles of sand from the heavier gold. So when setting up a sluice, it should be the right speed to create these riffles, and not too fast to carry away the finer flakes of gold. The gold dust is easy to lose in this process if you are not careful, and this is why a felt mat is used to catch the finer gold dust in its fibers.”
Years ago in ancient biblical times, they used lambs fleece to do this very thing. That is where the reference of, “the golden fleece” in the bible comes from.
“This mat is then washed out in a clean pail of water and panned by hand, using one of those flat looking miners’ pans. Although, this is not the only stage by any means, but we are close to finishing here.”
Murphy was pretty sure he understood the process now, and the mechanics of it all.
Harlan then continued, “The remaining extra fine pay dirt caught behind the riffles, often contains black sand. This a magnetic iron composition, that mostly contains iron particles and some marginally valuable minerals or gem stones, depending where you are panning. The black iron sand is easily removed using any strong magnet to separate it from the gold. The black sand is usually discarded by most miners, using this magnetic device, and nowadays these devices are usually built for this purpose, not like mine,” Harlan bragged.
Harlan held out his magnet in a plastic bag. His ingenious way was a simple speaker magnet kept inside several plastic bags. The black sand is picked up by the magnet, and then washed in the creek, to separate it from the gold flake, (as gold is not magnetic) and the remaining non-metallic silica sand is later washed out using the panning method.
Harlan looked excited, “You NOW hopefully have your gold at the bottom of your pan when this is all finished. Then using your sniffer bottle you pick it up with one of these.” he held out a plastic sniffer bottle.
“Oh, I almost forgot, the most important fact when looking for gold, and the basic rule of thumb to placer mining is when panning a potential site. If you do not find black sand you should just move on, as there will be no gold where you are. Unless you’re dry panning in the desert I suspect.”
At the end of the first day, Harlan emptied the gold they had found in a clean empty tuna can. Then he placed it on top of the stove to dry using the stoves heat. He set up his scales, and balanced them, and next weighed the day’s work, and found they had one and a half grams of gold dust.
Murphy was ecstatic, until Harlan pointed out it isn’t considered pure gold yet, not until it is smelted. It must be 99% pure gold to meet the standards required. Not until it is refined is it considered pure, and then it is only worth about $40 dollars a gram after that. Depending on the area it is found in, gold can contain many trace minerals some valuable such as silver, and others not so much, like copper.
Murphy jokingly, pretended to let his shoulders droop as if he was disappointed.
“Hey, don’t look so glum these are some pretty good returns for something we just washed out of a sand bar, and only a foot or so down. This is a good sign.”
Murphy looked up from the scales smiling, “Oh I’m only joking, I’m still very happy with this, I’m not glum at all. I’m just glad we actually found some gold, I think this is great. I can’t wait to get at the rest of it tomorrow.”
Harlan, smiled with that gold fever twinkle in his eyes, “Good, because tomorrow we may get into an even better pay zone. Remember gold is denser than most anything out there, and it will always keep making its way back to the bottom of the earth over time, or until it finally can’t move any deeper …or somebody like you and me comes along and digs it up,” he roared with laughter with that great belly of his, and Murphy couldn’t help but join along. The two men’s laughter could be heard throughout the forest, as the sun set and a gentle snow began to fall in the upper crags of the mountains above them.
Marlee woke first that morning, her dad and her were to meet Bob for an outing. She barely could contain herself, and thought she would hurry her dad along by starting the morning coffee for him.
“MARLEE,” her dad complained. “It’s only 5:30 in the morning, it won’t be light for another two hours at least.”
“Sorry dad I didn’t realize,” the young girl stopped scooping coffee into the pot, and set it back on the broad shelve that her Dad had built for her mom as a counter.
“Go back to bed,” Logan pleaded.
Marlee plodded over to the bed, and fell into it clearly, too awake to sleep.
She waited the two or more hours staring at the ceiling, before her dad finally woke again, then bounded out of bed as soon as he stirred.
“Can I get up now?” she pleaded with her father.
“Sure… you can get up now Marlee.” Logan yawned and scowled at his young daughter. “Since you’re so full of energy, you can make us some porridge.”
“Not me,” cried Lynda. “This is your morning adventure not mine, I’m sleeping in. Just… because someone kept waking me up all night, getting in and out of her bed,” Lynda groaned as she rolled over and pulled the covers tightly around her head.
Marlee knew her mother was speaking about her that morning, but took no offense by it.
“Okay Marlee, try to keep quiet for your mom, and make just enough for you and I.” Logan got dressed and went outside to gather some wood for his wife, and the day’s fire. Several trips later, the wood bin was full and Marlee had the coffee percolating on the stove. The two ate their breakfast, and got ready for the day of gathering traps, and learning from Bob some needed winter survival skills.
Marlee got dressed quickly for the day, and Logan noticed his daughter’s winter coat barely fit her anymore. She had been growing like a weed this past summer, “What are we going to do with you… your clothes don’t fit you anymore?”
Marlee looked at her coat, “But Dad, I like this coat, I don’t need a new one.” Logan smiled at his daughter, and worried about her future being stuck in the woods with no children to play with. “What would things be like for her if this world doesn’t straighten up,” he wondered?
Soon Logan and his daughter were dressed, and they heard Bob’s quad coming down the trail from the north. The two stepped outside, to greet their neighbor.
Bob pulled up and shut the engine down, “We’d better get moving it looks like some bad weather is about to blow in, and if it does, we won’t be able to get to all those traps till spring.” The snow was just beginning to fall. Most of the earlier snowfall had melted during the last warm spell, but Bob didn’t want to take any chances. The weather in the mountains is certainly unpredictable.
Bob had seen blizzards in July some years, and warm winds called Chinooks easily melting a month’s worth of snowfall in one day. It could raise the temperature 25 degrees by afternoon. These cherished winds were a welcome change in the middle of winter, but sometimes made the rivers over flow their banks. Rising on top of the frozen ice.
Climb in Bob said.
Logan climbed into Bob’s trailer, and Marlee sat behind Bob on the Quad. The three spent most of the morning clearing the deadly man-traps from the woods. By noon, they had removed forty of the traps from the trails. They decided to head home for a break and some hot lunch. The snow was beginning to fall heavier by 1:00 pm, and Bob wanted to head back right away before things got to sketchy.
Another reason the three spent the day outside was so Bob could teach Marlee, and her father how to set rabbit snares to feed themselves this winter. So during lunch he sat them down and instructed them on the art of snaring rabbits. “First, I like to make my snares ahead of time,” he said. “I find it easier than dealing with them in the bush, and as a trapper, it’s important that the less time you spend at a trap set the less scent and disturbance you leave behind to spoil the set.”
This all seemed perfectly logical to the two would be trappers.
They set about creating around 25 snares each, out of the long roll of brass wire that Bob gave them to use. “Try, and save your snares every year for next year too.”
Most of the sets were quite simple to make, simply tied to a bush or limb over the trail. Bob would point out the existing rabbit trails for the two, and show them how to block off alternate routes, using sticks and whatever was handy. Then he showed them the proper size of the loop and the height to set them at, to ensnare the animal is caught properly around the neck, and not the body.
Whenever Bob could, he would use a spring pole, or what he referred to was a tip up. This is a pole, set over a fulcrum that tipped up when the animal pulled free the trigger, thus lifting it up off the ground. This suspended the animal away from predators, and was necessary in the North Country especially with martin and weasel around, as these animals had no problem eating your catch when it was freshly caught and struggling in a snare.
Bob also explained to Marlee that they needed to be checked at least every other day, or she would lose her catch to scavengers. Even jays and magpies will pick apart your catch in a day or so. He also explained to the two how they would need to adjust the heights of the snares as the snow fell or melted, to keep them productive. Bob promised as soon as Marlee caught some rabbits, he would show her how to skin, and preserve the rabbit fur for lining gloves, boots, coats, and many other, such things.
By mid-afternoon the snow fall had increased to a near blizzard, with no wind though it merely layered up as round mounds covering the trees in the valley. The thick white snow fell softly as if each flake were being lowered by millions of invisible threads, onto the valley below.
“Well we better head back. I think we’ve done enough today. After this snowfall, you may have to raise all the snares we set anyhow, Marlee.”
“I will Mr. Michaels, I promise.”
Bob looked north through the thick white falling snow, “I wonder how Murphy and Harlan are doing?”
Logan looked northward, “I was wondering the same thing.”
“Well I doubt there is anyone in this whole wilderness that knows more about survival then that man Harlan,” Bob dismissed any doubt he had about the two.
We better get back before this snow gets too deep for this quad.
To be continued…
Authored by Jack Woods