Will to Survive
Copyright© 2015 by Ernest Bywater
A New Life
Will’s mind had been working on what he knew of US history when he went to sleep, so it’s natural it’s the first thing on his mind when he wakes up. He remembers a few more historical facts, but a much more important memory is about a National Geographic show on gold mines in the US he saw several days ago in his time-frame. What stuck in his mind was the locations of a few of the mines near him when he watched it, with many along the Colorado River, one over near Phoenix, Pikes Peak in Colorado, many in California, and some places in New Mexico. He remembers them more because they’re close to where he’s based than any desire to mine them. The nearest one set up for tourism is the hard rock Vulture Mine mine close to Phoenix and he’d planned to visit it to see what a gold mine is like. He remembers the closest placer mining area to here is a spot on the Colorado River about 200 miles north of Yuma. He decides to try the La Paz location first because that allows him to stay near the river for fresh water while moving about during his search, and it’s placer mining which the program showed how people pan for gold in a water course. La Paz doesn’t exist at this time and it had ceased to exist in his original time, but he does remember it being on the river and its rough location north of Yuma. He figures he should be able to find the right area.
Everyone is up and getting ready for the day, so Will joins them. After breakfast he helps with the work around the ranch, working as directed by Sam because he doesn’t know the work. During the day Will learns a lot while he’s working for Sam.
Over the next few days Will learns a lot about the area, the times, and the work on a ranch like this. Jim’s wound is healing well and he’s real anxious to get back on his feet. The ladies wash all of the blankets and the clothes Will won in combat, making him very happy for doing it for him.
At the end of the first full day Will decides he needs to rationalise all of the gear he has. First is to take the parachute apart because he doubts he’ll be doing much flying in the near future. Betty is surprised when he opens a pack to pull out a lot of fine cloth. He first removes all of the cords from the chute and winds them up to store for use as light ropes or cords. The rings and straps are set aside too. Using one of the cords as a measuring string he marks out some patterns to cut some t-shirts and shorts for himself, plus two large sheets. After cutting out enough for five sets of gear and the sheets he still has a lot of material left. He can’t see a tag on the chute so he doesn’t know if this is silk or nylon because he’s not at all familiar with either material. He’s about to let Betty have the rest of the olive drab material when he decides to measure and cut out patterns for a dozen pairs of simple tube socks, which he quickly does.
Looking over at Betty he asks, “Do you have some fine needles and good thread I can use, please?” She nods yes and she gets her sewing kit. When she hands him some thread and a needle he says, “I doubt I can use all of this. If you or Ann want to make something from it, go ahead.”
The speed with which the ladies move to get at the material makes him wonder if a tornado just raced through the cabin. Sam and Jim laugh at the fast movement of the ladies. Will starts to sew a simple tube style sock together while the ladies look the material over.
Sam asks, “Will what is that cloth, and what are you making?”
“It’s a silk like material I got up north. It was originally made for a special purpose, but now I’m reusing it to make some underwear and socks. This stuff won’t rub me as raw as some of the coarser materials will, so it makes wearing other clothes less of a hassle for me.” The ladies stop to watch how he’s making the socks.
After a he does the first pair Ann takes the rest from him while saying, “I can do that better than you! Let me finish them.” He hands her the cut out material for the socks then he starts on the shorts, after the first pair are done Betty is doing his other shorts, so he starts on the first t-shirt. By then Ann is finished with the socks so she takes over his t-shirt making. The ladies don’t seem to trust him to be able to sew things properly, and he’s happy to let them do the work.
By the end of the evening, a later one than usual, all of the extra clothes are made so Will has to show them how they fit. He packs the rest away before he goes to sleep that night.
The next evening all of the Wilson family members have some new socks and underwear in olive green as the ladies were busy during the day, and they’re now working on two summer dresses as well as more underwear.
While Betty is sewing her dress Will asks her, “Betty, do you have any knitting needles and wool?” She nods yes, and a little later she shows him a large box of balls of wool and the needles she has. They’re all fine ones, so he asks, “Got any larger needles?” He gets a shake of her head.
The next morning Will asks Sam about large animal bones, and he’s shown a few from dead animals in their rubbish heap that’s downwind from the ranch. Will picks through them and he finds a few long thick bones he thinks are thigh bones from big animals, but he can’t say what the animals were. However, they’ll do for what he wants.
When Will asks him Sam informs Will he’s not needed today, so he’s free to work on his bone project. Will gets a few tools from the survival kit then he sits on the porch working on the bones. Although the others all look to see what he’s doing when they go by none of them ask about what he’s doing. They just take a look when they pass by.
After checking the bones Will takes one of the better ones and he splits it along its length to have six sections of bone about a foot long and a half inch wide. Next is to hold the wire saw in a loop to use it on the cut bone splinters to make them round before shaping a blunt point in each one. It’s a slow and finicky job that takes Will the bulk of the day to get all six of them the way he wants and the same size. The remaining time is spent making six small wood discs about three times the diameter of the bone rods with a hole in the centre, then he pushes them down onto the six rods. He finishes in time to clean up for dinner.
Sam and Jim have no idea what they are or would be good for. But Betty recognises the design of the rods when Will sets them on the table to go and wash up, but she’s surprised at how thick they are. She asks Will, “Why have you made those knitting needles so thick?”
He replies, “I want to make a specific type of blanket for which I need large needles to make it right.”
After dinner Betty is surprised at how fast Will knits when he works on his blanket. She gets another surprise when she can hear him still knitting away in the dark after the rest go to bed. In the morning she finds a loose weave blanket big enough to cover her bed sitting on the table, and she wonders what good it’ll be with such big spaces in it.
Will knows they’re interested in the blanket so he tells them during breakfast, “I’ll sew two cloth blankets together with the new knitted one between them and sewn to one of them to hold it in place. That way it traps air in the pockets the knitted blanket makes and it’s a lot warmer.”
None of them believe him. While Betty sews the blankets together the way Will wants he knits two more blankets. That night Betty and Sam try Will’s blanket, and the next morning they admit it’s a lot warmer than they expected it to be, which will be nice on cold winter nights.
Today Betty is sewing the two new style triple blankets together and Will is knitting two more a bit bigger to match the thermal blankets he has in his kits. The family is surprised at the silver looking material, but say nothing because they’re getting used to Will’s odd gear. When Betty finishes with the blankets for her kids Will has her sew three blankets together to wrap around each of his bigger blankets with a small flap.
Going for a Visit
Life at the ranch moves on with Will helping out while Jim recovers from being shot. One morning, a few weeks after the shooting, Long Snake pays them another visit to ask Will to visit his village, and Sam also decides to go. Neither man knows what it’s about but they saddle up after Will changes back into his fatigues and vest. He’s been changing what he wears every day and washing the dirty clothes every couple of days. He wants his best combat gear on while visiting the village.
While riding along Will asks Long Snake what’s up, and he’s told, “One of the dead braves had two mates who are sisters. His mates’ mother is a widow too, and they now have no man to hunt for them. Our traditions say they’re your slaves because you killed him in a fight of war. So you need to collect them and his other things.”
Sam says, “Long Snake, you don’t normally apply that tradition to us whites, so why now?”
The Indian chief gives a half smile as he replies, “To have killed so many braves by himself your friend must be a good warrior. I hope this is true. Black Wolf is unhappy you said his brother, Dark Wolf, died a coward running away. He wants to challenge you. Also, he wants Light Fawn as a mate, but she doesn’t want him. Once you accept Big Fawn, Light Fawn, and Little Fawn as your slaves he intends to challenge you so he can win them all as his slaves. That also means he doesn’t have to submit to Big Fawn as the mother of his mate, which is our tradition.”
Will grins, “Is this Black Wolf as big a troublemaker as his brother?” He gets a nod yes in reply. “So you want me to kill this troublemaker?”
“Yes! That will make things a lot easier in my camp.”
They ride on while Will thinks on this situation as he asks questions to learn about the traditions of this Indian tribe so he doesn’t cause any trouble by accident. Both Will and Sam learn a lot about the tribe and its social structure.
Nearing the camp Long Snake says, “The women and gear are close to the horses and are waiting for you to inspect them.” So Will gets out his monocular to examine the camp and the three women standing near the group of horses. The women are comely, but not real pretty. The oldest looks to be in her mid or late 30s.
Will says, “Before I meet them I want to think on a few things and to speak to your elders. Can you show me the rest of the camp before you take me to the women?” Long Snake glances over at him as he nods yes.
Stopping at the edge of the camp they dismount and Long Snake has one of the boys take care of the horses while he leads Will and Sam away from the waiting women to look at the camp while telling them how they do things in the camp. It’s all very interesting information.
Near the far end of the camp Will says, “From what you’ve said I gather the mother of a man’s mate runs the family, he can have multiple wives and the senior or eldest mother is the family head. He submits to both mothers in the same way while the women are sister wives. All slaves are property and are dealt with in the same way as property, but a woman can’t be both a slave and a mate. Is that all correct?”
“Yes, it is. If you take the women as slaves and Black Wolf kills you they all become his slaves. But if you take one of the young widows as mate their mother is your family head and neither can be slaves. Also, Black Wolf can’t claim them as his slaves because they’re widows.”
“Long Snake, who is the head of a family if a man takes a woman and her widowed mother as mate at the same time?”
He gets a stunned look as he’s told, “I don’t know! I must ask this of the elders who keep the tribe’s knowledge and wisdom. Wait here!”
Long Snake walks away as he leaves them watching two women at work preparing a flour of some sort. A little later the Indian leader is back with two older men and two older women.
The oldest woman says, “Long Snake has told us your question. It hasn’t happened, to our knowledge, but there is no reason why a man cannot take both a woman and her mother as his mates. Then they will stop being mother and daughter to become sister wives. The mother’s mother will be the head of the family. If she is in the other world she will visit you in your dreams to give you directions.” She smiles at Will while talking, so it’s obvious they all know what he’s thinking.
Will says, “Thank you for the information.” He turns to look at Long Snake, “I think it’s time we examined my new property.” They all go to where the three women are waiting, and Long Snake presents them all.
A crowd gathers while Will looks over everything. He turns to Long Snake and says, “I accept these goods won in battle with one exception. I don’t believe in slavery and I won’t have slaves. However, I am a man who has no mate, but I need someone to cook my meals and to keep me warm at night. So I accept these three women as my mates. How soon can you arrange for the proper ceremony for us to be mated?”
The oldest woman says, “I’m Bright Fox, one of the medicine women, and I can conduct the ceremony tomorrow, once all is ready.”
One of the men in the crowd says, “He can’t take a woman and her mother as mates together!”
Bright Fox says, “There is nothing in our traditions that says he can’t do this, so he can do it. It’s just we haven’t seen it happen before.”
The man continues, “This white man laughs at our traditions.”
Will guesses this man is Black Wolf so he says, “Long Snake, I’m being annoyed by a loud gnat. Am I allowed to squash this annoying insect?”
Before Long Snake can reply the man pulls out a knife and attacks. Will steps toward him while swinging his left arm down to knock the arm with the knife to the side as he strikes the man’s chin in a fast and hard upward motion with his open right hand. The man falls down.
All are stunned by how fast it happens. The man isn’t breathing so Long Snake asks, “Is Black Wolf dead?”
Will shakes his head no and says, “He isn’t breathing and he is dying, but if you look close you’ll see his eyes can move and he can hear us. He’ll be dead in a moment. There’s a short time between when a man stops breathing and his mind dies. Black Wolf is in that time. My blow broke his neck to stop his body from working and to send him on the path to death.” While talking he strips the body of everything useful.
Standing up Will says, “Big Fawn, move all of the things that used to belong to Black Wolf to be with my other things. Then select our best fur as a gift to Bright Fox for conducting our mating ceremony.” The woman smiles, nods yes, and leads her daughters off to get the things.
Bright Fox says, “You must stay here tonight to get ready for the ceremony tomorrow.”
Will nods yes, turns to Sam, and says, “Sam, you should go home to tell them what’s going on. I think you may also want to tell Ann she can be a part of tomorrow’s ceremony as another mate, if she wishes to.”
Sam grins, “Betty and I weren’t sure you’d noticed the way Ann was acting. I’m not sure if she wants to be one of four, but I’ll tell her.”
“Tell her to think of it as having three helpers to look after me.”
Sam laughs as he nods yes before asking, “Will, have you seen an Indian challenge fight before?” He gets a head shake of no in reply. “What was your aim with Black Wolf?”
“I figured Black Wolf thought he could kill me in the fight so I set out to protect the women from him if he won it. Then I goaded him to make him angry because an angry man doesn’t fight well. Why?”
“In a challenge fight you’re tied to each other and it’s not like a normal fight. By attacking you when he did Black Wolf gave you a better chance to win. I wondered if you’d planned it that way.” He gets a no head shake in reply. “I didn’t think so. I’ll tell Ann all about this. Then she may be more understanding about the extra wives tomorrow.” Sam goes to his horse, mounts it, and heads for home. The crowd disperses as they all go on about their other duties.
Long Snake moves up beside Will and quietly says, “That went a lot quicker and easier than I thought it would. I also learned you’re a much more dangerous man than I thought you were. I’ll see to the ceremony for Black Wolf. You now have five more horses as well as two hogans. What will you do with all these things?”
“I’ll tell my women to go through it all and to give away what we don’t need to those who need them the most. I don’t need to be carrying too much gear around.” He glances about, “Earlier I noticed you had an interest in my question about a woman and her mother. Why?”
“My youngest son wishes to take a maiden as mate, but her mother has been nothing but trouble since her man died last year. So he is hesitant about the situation. If he takes both then his mate’s mother will be her mother, and she isn’t as much trouble for others.”
Will smiles, “When you tell him of this tell him he also needs to do his nightly duties to both of his wives. I’m sure the mother is unhappy due to missing her man at night. Also, she can teach him things about that part of life.”
“I’ll tell him. You may have started an interesting trend with this.”
“I hope not. If too many do this it can disrupt your tribal life in the long term. But a few in each generation shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Will, you have much wisdom for one your age. Now go to your hogan to see what you have. Your women will want to see you.”
He does as suggested to spend the rest of the day getting to know the three women while they sort through everything, and they take many things out to give to others who need them. He enjoys the meals they cook, although they are a little different to what he’s used to.
In the afternoon Bright Fox visits to explain what will happen in the ceremony tomorrow, and he tells her there may be another woman to be included. She leaves with a big smile and an odd look on her face.
At one point Big Fawn says, “Will, you now have two good stallions that want to fight instead of being friends. You should get rid of one!”
That’s an easy problem to solve, a quick visit to Long Snake, a talk, and the biggest stallion is exchanged for two young mares.
The Next Day
The whole Wilson family arrives mid-morning with Sam on his horse and the rest in the farm wagon. Ann gets down, and she goes right past Will to speak with the women behind him. The women all vanish into the hogan.
Betty gets down and says, “You do live an interesting life, Will. Ann isn’t happy about you having other wives, but she understands how it came about. If she gets on with the others you’ll have four wives, if not, only three. Can you live with that?”
“Yes, I can. She shouldn’t join us if she can’t get on with them.”
Bright Fox turns up and tells Will what he has to do while handing him a set of clothes to wear. She leaves him to go into the hogan to speak to the women. Will takes the opportunity to go have a bath in the nearby river before getting dressed in the clothes just given him.
Thinking he may have to wait some time for the ladies Will looks at some of the wood piled up for camp fires and he selects a few pieces to work with. Then he sits to work on the wood with his knife by cutting it down to the shape he wants. It doesn’t take him long to have three bits of wood shaped how he wants before he ties some cord to them.
He smiles when he stands up, because he has quite an audience who wonder what he’s up to. Will hands two items to Sam to hold, steps clear of all his watchers, and he swings the device he made in a big circle. In just two turns it’s making a loud noise and getting lots of attention.
Sam asks, “What the hell is that?”
“It’s a traditional Australian noise maker. We call it a bull-roarer, and it’s used to make a sort of music during celebrations and other things. Some are also made to scare bad spirits away.”
Long Snake walks over and says, “We have something similar for the same purposes. Ours look different to the ones you have there. Why the three shapes?”
“Each shape gives a different sound.” He proceeds to swap them and he tests each one. Thus demonstrating the different tones of them. Being an ambidextrous person he surprises them by timing the swinging while he swings one in each of his hands at the same time. He makes sure to have them swinging in a way to not hit together. The combined sounds of the two of the them together is very different to just one by itself.
A smiling Long Snake designates three of the older boys to practice with these so they can be used during the mating ceremony. Will hands them over then he starts to work on a curved piece of wood. He garners a new audience to watch what he’s up to while he waits.
Due to him using his sharp knives and the saw wire it doesn’t take Will long to carve a boomerang. The sure way he works makes it clear he’s had a lot of experience making these things. He’s almost finished when he’s called to come forward for the ceremony, so he simply tosses the almost finished boomerang into his hogan before he goes to where he’s told to go. About half an hour later he’s a mated man with four wives, and all watching the ceremony are happy.
It’s late afternoon when Will and his family finish packing all of his things into the Wilson’s wagon so it can help carry them back to the ranch. The horses are put on long leads and tied to the back of the wagon. The ladies and Jim sit on the load in the wagon while Sam and Will ride beside it. It’s almost dark when they get back to the ranch, but Will’s women are fast to set up house in the barn for the night.
The next few days are interesting while Will and his ladies establish themselves living out of a teepee he makes for them when he sets it up by the cabin. Most meals end up being eaten at the table in the ranch cabin after all of the ladies work together to cook it. The Indian ladies are surprised at how warm Will’s blankets are so they prefer to sleep in them.
Some days Sam needs Will to help him with things on the ranch, and some days he doesn’t. On his free days Will spends time doing things to help Sam’s family or preparing things for himself. He finishes making several hunting boomerangs and he demonstrates their use, surprising the others when he kills small animals near the ranch with them.
One thing that takes a lot of time, and help from his mates, is the making of a lot of sun dried adobe bricks he uses to build walls around the cabin. He also makes thinner ones to lay on the porch and he cuts sod to put on the roof. He’s about half done before Sam asks him why he’s doing it, and Will says, “Adobe doesn’t burn as easily as wood. Also, it keeps the building cooler in summer and warmer in winter.”
Sam is surprised when Will has two of his ladies join them when they go hunting. After they get some game Will takes time teaching the ladies how to use both the rifles and the pistols. Once all are good with the guns he makes a number of woomeras and spears for them, then he teaches them all how to use the spear throwers to hunt small game. The result is a lot of the smaller local wildlife is added to their daily diet and all of his ladies are accurate with the woomera, pistols, and rifles.
Betty and Ann learn how to make many things the way the Indians do, like moccasins and buckskin clothes while the Indian ladies learn from them as well. The other Indians are regular visitors, and they’re always welcomed. It’s during one visit by a passing hunting party Will learns the Indians have given him the name of Fast Hand.
Will’s family all get to know each other very well while the days turn into weeks, then into months, and soon winter arrives.
Every few weeks Sam and Will escort the ladies into Arizona to get things at the stores there. They also sell the extra furs and things to make some money for what they buy. The thick blankets Will and Betty make are in high demand during autumn and early winter, and they sell at a good profit to them and the storekeeper. Will also sells off the worst of the pistols because he doesn’t trust them to be safe due to their age. He buys his ladies pistols to carry that are newer and safer.
Will always wears his 9 mm pistol and a Paterson revolver each day, and he takes both his modern and old rifle with him when he rides out. He keeps the modern weapons for use as emergency backup weapons due to the limited amount of ammunition for them: seventy rounds for the pistol in two ten round magazines with a box of fifty rounds, and two eight round magazines with two boxes of fifty rounds each for the rifle - less the six rounds he fired in the attack by Dark Wolf’s group.
On one of his early trips into town Will buys a lot of boards and canvas. Because the boards are shorter than those needed for a wagon or a house he gets them as ‘offcuts’ at a lower cost than usual. He also places an order for fifteen wagon wheels that are three feet in diameter - most are about five feet in diameter, with the rims twice as wide as the normal wagon wheels and the spokes extra thick to match the wider rims. Will also buys a several gallons of a varnish the man makes. This batch had something go wrong and it has a mid-tan colour to it, so Will gets it very cheap because of the unusual colour of the finished look when it dries.
The first thing Will makes is a new set of lodge poles for their teepee. These ones start a little longer than usual, but are back to the normal size by the time he finishes with them. Instead of being one long pole these are in sections a little over three feet in length that slot into each other to make long poles. A new teepee cover is made out of four layers of canvas with knitted wool between the inner three layers of canvas. He coats the third canvas layer with beeswax prior to putting the fourth layer of canvas on and painting it with a thinned lot of the varnish. A second coat of varnish is sprinkled with fine dirt while wet. The poles are also coated with two layers of varnish and a sprinkle of dirt. The end result is a much warmer and waterproof teepee that easily fits on a horse.
Just before full winter settles in Sam and Will extend the cabin roof to the side of the back porch, as a cover between the teepee and the porch to have easier movement between the two during storms. This also helps to keep the weather off the wood pile against the back of the cabin. Thus the two families can spend time together in even the worst of storms.
During the winter Will makes three boxes thirty inches wide, forty-two inches long, with sides twenty-four inches high, and an open top. Dowel plugs are used to secure them together with the bottom going on last. Will has the three of them upside down on some frames in the barn to varnish them. While they’re still wet he covers them in canvas while he makes sure to pull the canvas tight against the wood and to soak it in more of the varnish. The final result is the canvas becomes part of the varnish and it’s glued to the wood to give it a rough texture in a mid-tan colour. It’s only when he tests they’re watertight does Sam realise what Will has done by adding the canvas like that. But Sam can’t work out why Will wants three large waterproof boxes.