Friday, November 5, 2010

Into the whiled: Near Catastrophe

Day 4. Tuesday, Oct. 26

There was snow all over the ground when I woke up. It wasn't thick, but it was beautiful. The tarp over the fire pit/seating area was sagging with it, but we got a fire going, and it all melted, and then turned into steam in pretty short order. Left-over beef stew for breakfast.

The desire to stay warm has kept us in pretty constant need of more firewood, so we've taken to cutting limbs off of the large dead trees laying on the hillside behind camp, which is mostly done with the axe and hand saw, but we also noticed that there's a dead stand just on the other side of the bathroom. This will require Gabe's chainsaw. Knowing that I have experience cutting down trees (since I had been talking about having done it for a living), the job was given to me. Cut down the tree, and don't smash the bathroom. Pretty simple. It's slightly more nerve wracking to have people watch you while you're cutting it down... especially when they're all mountain men. You don't want to look like an incompetent kid in this company. Aside from starting to cut a little higher than 18" from ground level (I guess that's the forest service maximum for felled tree stumps) all went well, the tree went where I wanted it, the saw didn't bind up, and nobody got cut in half. This is good dry redwood that we can use to dry out the other wood we have stacked around the fire pit. The thermometer says it's 32 degrees, which means it's already warming up.

While Papa and Uncle Pat make sure their sights are accurate, by shooting bottles, cans, and empty propane tanks they've set up on some logs, I carve the bottom half of the sapling from yesterday (the top half of which became Erika's walking stick) into a cougar spear. I shaved off all of the bark, and carved the shaft down til it was comfortable to get my hand around, and left a rough ridge around the pointed end so that, if any of us should need to use it, it won't just stab in and pull out. If I have to stab a cougar, I don't want to just piss it off and let it go. After I get it all fire hardened, and carve "Cougar" into the shaft, I think I'll leave it over by the bathroom so that no one gets caught with their pants down, so to speak.

Watching my dad and uncle shoot at cans, bottles, and propane tanks, while my grandpa watches them happily, it became apparent to me that boys never really grow up... they just get better toys. I can't really be sure, but I think it might be kind of the same with girls. Maybe we become more responsible (maybe we don't) or self sufficient (or not), but if you get us out of our usual lives, get us into our element, we're still those kids who pretend we're Davey Crockett surrounded by Injuns, or U.S. Marshall's hunting down the James gang... thank God that imaginative and joyful spirit never really leaves us... I think we'd be truly miserable without it.

We had piled a bunch of thick branches on the fire because they were full of sap and burned hot, and we were just getting ready for dinner. The water kettle relinquished its usual perch on the swinging grill over the fire to make way for the Dutch Oven, king of camp-fire cooking units, and instead took a place balancing on one of the rocks that made up the fire pit. Having filled the oven with what we were all sure would be another delicious meal, my dad had put it onto the grill and began swinging it back over the flames when, without warning....... his knee bumped into the water kettle, dousing the flames entirely. With very little dry wood around, we all were disheartened, and jumped up to try to figure out a solution. All seemed lost when, just as suddenly as it had gone out, fire jumped up from certain parts of the wood where sap had been oozing out. Steadily the steam turned back into smoke, and smoke into flame, and we were back in business.

The snow had melted sometime mid day, but the temperature has dropped again, and flakes are falling again, larger than before, and the wind has certainly picked up.
It's strange, out here where I don't have my cell phone or iPod on me (which I usually use in place of a watch), because I don't go by time of day. I wake up when I'm done sleeping, get up when I have to pee, eat when I'm hungry, go to sleep when I'm tired, and never once consider what time it is. Everything revolves around daylight, hunger, and energy. I assume someone must have a clock, or a watch, but I have no need for such things out here.

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