Times of Old
Chapter 04

Copyright© 2013 by Ernest Bywater

Preparing for the Winter

Ed smiles while he has his breakfast today. Summer is almost over and the weather has signalled autumn is just around the corner. Dawn hasn’t been well for a few days and he’s sure she’s pregnant, but she keeps insisting she’s too old to be having another child. Life has been a pleasant routine for many weeks, but it’s time for the seasonal changes in the routine.

This morning while Ed gets ready to go with one of the berry picking parties he finally wins his current on-going argument with Dawn about her speaking with the camp healer instead of going out on a work party.

Dale is taking a lot of the men on a hunt up one of the side canyons while Ed’s work team is being split up into two person teams to provide armed security for the women and older children going out to pick the berries on the thorn bushes. They’re now ripe and the berries are ready to be picked. Because Ed’s fourteen man team is split into seven pairs there are seven groups going out and Ed joins the one that’s going the furthest south so he’s on the end of the line. This puts him between the most likely danger area of the valley entrance and all of the work teams.

They use the wagon to get to the work area faster while dropping off the other teams along the way. Each team has an area of about sixty metres wide to pick the berries along by working north while they pick. But it’s a lot of berries to be picked and put into the baskets. Wild Thorn decides on the area and team sizes based on experience of how much area a person can clear in a day’s work and she assigns each team several days’ work. The method is very good because they’ve the children pick the berries low down while the adults pick the high up ones. Naturally, they eat a few of the berries while they work, so it’s a working lunch task.

In summer when they were cutting the grass for hay Ed cut the grass for about twenty-five metres from the thorns toward the river on the other side of the valley. Up near the cave entrance they cut the grass all the way to the river. That gave them all they could store in the way of hay. The result is the grass in this area near the bushes is now about ankle high and the grass twenty-five metres away is now waist high.

Serious Trouble

Arriving at their work area Ed unhitches the horses so they can graze nearby while the people pick berries. The horses are trained not to move while hitched, but they can move about when unhitched.

When they walk the last fifteen metres to the end of the bushes Ed leans his bow and quiver of arrows up against the bushes on his right, that way he can grab them while he moves toward any danger coming from the south. When they clear a couple of metres or so of bushes he moves the bow and arrows north to the end of their current work line.

Ed is working about three metres north of his bow when Clyde gives a snort that indicates trouble. This is a worry because he’s another two metres north of Ed. He turns to see what’s worrying Clyde, and is very shocked by what he sees Clyde looking at.

One advantage of the hay cutting is it’s now harder for anything to sneak up on them in this area. This is paying off today. In the edge of the long grass, about level with the horses, there are two young adult male Scimitar cats. The wind angle is such their scent is being carried away south of the horses, but Clyde has spotted them and he alerted Ed. The cats look like they’re stalking the horses or the workers.

Turning to the woman beside him Ed says, “Don’t panic! Keep calm and slowly move everyone together as a group. There’s two big cats in the edge of the tall grass.” She gulps, nods yes, then she moves slowly while she works her way along the work team to gather them together.

Ed glances at the cats while he starts toward his bow and arrows, but they choose that moment to leave the long grass. The cats are crawling slowly across the low grass. However, Ed knows they can move fast and he needs to be between the cats and the horses and people right now, not in a few minutes. So he turns to move toward the cats’ line of approach. While he moves Ed softly says, “I don’t have time to go get the bow and arrows because the cats can be on the horses and the kids before I reach them, and if they charge I doubt I can adjust aim well enough for a target crossing that fast in front of me. I need to be between the cats and my people and the horses. I’m going to have to trust in my mail and use the knives to kill them if I can’t scare them off. I’d be a lot happier if I hadn’t gotten complacent and started leaving the guns in my locked cave. From now on I’ll always wear them when I leave my quarters.” Some weeks back he started to feel safe and he thought it was silly to put the gun harness on all of the time, now he knows that was a big mistake.

Ed is nearing the horses when the cats stop crawling and start to move a bit faster in a crouch. He glances around to see all of the people in this group gathered close together and the mares have moved behind Clyde while he faces the threat as well. Taking a chance on what he’s read and seen about big cat behaviour Ed moves in front of Clyde while he stands tall when he draws a Bowie knife with his left hand as he hisses loudly at the cats because it’s a challenge sound they’ll recognise. He hopes a strong show of aggression will make these young males back off.

These cats are very close to the top of the predator tree in this time and place so they usually don’t get challenged, except by others of their species. Thus Ed’s behaviour confuses them and they stop to think on this. He hisses again and stomps a foot toward them.

The sight of two more young males moving up to the edge of the long grass is a big worry for Ed. But it’s not as big a worry as the action of the nearest male cat when he leaves his current position like a sprint racer as he charges at Ed.

For a moment Ed stands his ground, when he judges the cat is about to leap at him he charges forward. It was a well-judged move by Ed, but not good enough. The cat takes one more stride before he leaps, thus it’s not as high in the air in its leap as Ed would like to have it. Instead of being able to duck and stab upwards into the cat’s chest while it passes above him Ed has to take it on at about his chest height.

Moving fast to his left Ed swings his right arm across his body and up a bit. The new position allows him to use the movement of his right arm to sweep the cat’s forelegs and upper body to the side when he tips it over at an angle while it’s in the air. When it passes Ed one of the cat’s front claws rakes his side and a back claw cuts across his belly, but the armour works well and the outer covering is only lightly scratched.

The cat is expecting to land on its paws, but Ed’s arm sweep has turned it over in the air and it lands very heavily on its side. The hard hit knocks its breath out and the cat takes a moment to inhale. But it doesn’t have enough time because Ed follows the cat to the ground to stab it in the back of the neck to severe its spine with the Bowie knife.

Expecting the other cats to immediately attack him Ed turns back to face them by pushing up with his arms and turning around on his knees while he draws another knife from its sheath on the outside of his right calf. He has just enough time to see the threat and to swing his left arm up and across in front of his head to sweep the front legs of the second cat away to his left. He also swings his right arm up and buries the second Bowie knife into the neck and spine of this cat when it lands on him. Both of them have the wind knocked out of them by the impact, but, unlike the cat, Ed is able to draw another breath while he pushes the dying cat off him.

He rolls back and starts to stand just as Clyde whinnies and takes a step forward as if to charge. Still moving up from his knees to his feet Ed sees the other two cats moving across the grass toward him. He’s not yet fully upright, but he again loudly hisses defiance at the cats. The two new cats suddenly turn and race off to the south. It appears they do not want to tangle with something that can kill two of their kind and still be aggressively defiant. It seems the nature show guy was right, they will sometimes back off if you stand up to them - but it would’ve been nicer to have had all four head south at the start of the incident.

Sighing in relief Ed sits down on the dying cat beside him. At the moment it’s the only thing he can sit on, other than the ground, and he’s not up to standing. He looks around once he’s comfortable on his seat. He can see some of the men from the other work details coming his way as well as a very frightened and angry Fawn out-racing them.

When Fawn gets close enough Ed shouts, “Fawn, please hitch up the horses and give them all some oats. Make sure to give Clyde an extra portion because he deserves it for warning us of the cats before it was too late. Also have someone start to pack up the berry picking for today. I doubt we can do any right now.”

As she turns to do as told she yells back, “How badly hurt are you?”

“I’m winded, tired, bruised, sore, and may have a cracked rib. But I’m OK in all other regards. I just need to have a good feed and a rest in the hot pool to ease the bruises.”

Ed feels like he should be blown down by the wind of all the sighs of relief he hears around him in response to his reply to Fawn.

In only a few minutes the horses are hitched and Ed has to stand so the men can load his seat into the wagon. While the men do the loading of the cats a couple of the women help Ed walk to the wagon. He’s very tired due to the adrenalin wearing of, and he starts to feel the pain of the bruises he got while playing with the cats. Fawn gets his other weapons.

The story of the attack reaches the main cave well before they do. So most are on hand to watch them unload the wagon. Ed is now able to walk unassisted, but Dawn insists on going with him to see to his needs while Dove and Fawn help with the wagon and horses. Wild Thorn goes with Ed to check his wounds because no one believes he wasn’t hurt.

Once they’re inside Ed’s quarters Dawn helps Ed remove his upper clothes to examine his injuries, so she and Wild Thorn are stunned to see his skin isn’t broken. Ed can hear the wonder in Dawn’s voice when she says, “Those bruises are already looking big, but how come the claws didn’t hurt you?”

Ed replies, “Dawn, Wild Thorn, this needs to be kept secret, but my clothes have multiple layers and one of them is a special material I got from a man at another place very far from here. The material is hard to cut. The outer surface is lightly damaged by the claws, that’s all. Although the material can stop the cutting it can’t stop the power of the hit. Thus the bruises but no cuts. I had some more of this material and I used it to make special clothes for my mates. Sadly, I don’t have any more, so I can’t make any more clothes like this for others. I always knew it gave me more protection than other clothes, but this is the first time I’ve put it to the test, and I’m very glad it’s as good as they say.” He looks at Dawn, “Now you know why I insist on you wearing those clothes when you go outside. The head piece is also made of the same material.”

Both ladies are stunned, but agree with him about keeping it secret.

The two ladies soon have Ed stripped and lying in the hot pool with a bowl of hot stew in one hand to eat with the spoon in the other, plus a cup of cold water on the stone floor nearby. While eating Ed reviews how things are at the moment and he also goes over everything he still has in the secure room. But only after he spends quite a few minutes of berating himself for putting the guns into storage.

While he eats and thinks Ed realises he’s not done all he can do to make his new clan safer, and he determines to do that today.

The cat attack was just after midday and Ed spends a few hours in the hot pool. Thus it’s late afternoon when he sends for Wild Thorn to come to talk to him.

When she arrives Ed says, “Wild Thorn, I need your help and advice on something.” She nods for him to continue. “When I first arrived here my wagon was full of many things I brought from my prior place and many more I traded for on the way here. Although some are tools and I keep them stored in the barn I’ve always regarded most of the rest as trade goods. The salt and all of the cooking gear were some items like that, but I gave them to the camp to help us all. While in the pool I thought about how dangerous it would have been for the others to help me fight the cats, and then I realised I could make us all safer by giving up more of my trade goods to the camp as a whole.”

Wild Thorn had only been giving Ed part of her attention, but this last statement has her whole attention and she’s very fast to ask, “What could you have that would make us all safer?”

He waves Dawn over, “I know you have one of the skinning knives I gave out, but there are other knives. Dawn, show her the big knife.” When Dawn draws the large knife from its sheath Wild Thorn is surprised because she hadn’t noticed it before. The handle and sheath blend in with her furs and are nearly invisible, but the white blade is seen when the knife is drawn from the sheath.

Looking over the knife Wild Thorn says, “Yes! This would be very useful to have when attacked.” While she’s examining the knife Ed gets out a couple of his spears and he hands her one to look at. She tests it and says, “This appears to be a lot stronger than our current ones!”

Healing Help

Ed grins, “It’s very much stronger. I doubt any of the men could break it by himself. I have some more weapons like my bow, but I wish to keep them very restricted because there aren’t that many. There is another style of hunting weapon I can show the men how to make and use as well. I want your advice on how much of this I should hand out. I also have a special treat for the camp healer, but we need a lot of light so I will leave that to show her tomorrow morning.”

Wild Thorn says, “Ed, the knives and spears should be handed out. As for the new hunting weapon, speak with Dale. But it may be best to leave that until the snow comes because making and practising with it will help the men pass the time when they can’t go outside. There’s room in the cave to do that. But what can you have for the healer?”

He grins, “A record to help identify sickness and it shows how to treat it. The record also shows how to put a person back together.”

Wild Thorn’s eyes go very wide. Her voice changes when she says, “You will show her now. Dawn, go get the healer.” The command tone has Dawn racing off. “Why have you kept this back? The weapons I can understand, but a healing record!”

“Truthfully, Wild Thorn, I’d forgotten I had it until I was thinking about all I still have which I’d unloaded and put away. I have so many things and they take up so much space this small item was easy to miss. But I would’ve remembered it as soon as I became aware of a need for it. Also, there was so much to do to make the cave safe and ready.”

“Yes, that’s all true. And because we women don’t speak to the men about the children you wouldn’t know we have a child that is very ill with an odd pain. In the past they’ve died of it, despite what the healer could do for them. Healers have tried many things, but none work.”

Ed touches his right belly low down and she nods yes. He spins to the store cave. Grabbing a medical text in its carry bag he slips the bag over his shoulder with his right hand while also lifting a large first aid kit with his left hand. He turns to Wild Thorn, “Take me to them, now!”

She recognises his command tone, so she turns to leave while he shuts the secure store behind him and he checks it automatically locks when he shuts it. Picking up on his feeling the need for speed she jogs out of his quarters. When they meet Dawn and the healer halfway to the main cave Ed says, “The sick child. We must hurry.” Dawn and Fair Flower turn and join them.

They soon enter a hut in the front row. A mid-teen boy is on some furs and a woman is beside him. The woman turns as she says, “That was fast, Fair Flower, I’d just sent Red Deer to get you. He’s started a fever.”

Ed exclaims, “Shit! Quick, put a clean fur down near the fire and place him on it. Dawn, I need two cauldrons of water from the hot pool. Wild Thorn, we’ll need more fires in here, I want enough light to be like the middle of the day at the height of summer.” They all stand and stare at him. “Move! Do as I say and we’ve a good chance of saving his life.”

Wild Thorn says, “Do it,” while she turns to leave, and suddenly the women are all racing around to do Ed’s bidding.

Ed pulls out the text to start flicking through it. He soon has it open to the appendicitis pages and he’s reviewing the images and the text with them. Because the book was made on the basis those using it may not be able to read there’s a lot of real clear images that show all they need to know. This helps a lot. Although Ed has an advanced first aid certificate and he has watched two field operations to treat appendicitis he hasn’t done any surgery for anything before. However, in this case he’s the best chance the boy has.

The mother is concerned, but she’s doing as told because Wild Thorn has ordered her to. Other women enter. They soon have some other fires lit and the hut is a lot brighter. The boy is moved and Ed has him placed where the most light can fall on the boy. When he does it he says, “Fair Flower, we’ll need to make you a special place for some treatments. It’ll need to have a stone raised to about your waist where people can lie while you treat them, and it’ll also need several stone fire platforms at chest height so their light can easily fall down on the person to allow you to see them a lot better than we are here. Please remember to speak to Wild Thorn and Dale about that if I don’t.” She nods her agreement.

Ed looks up at the mother, “Your son has an infection inside him. I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen other healers treat it by cutting them open to take out the infected area. But I’ve not done it myself and I’m only a healer’s helper. This text I have shows how it’s done. We don’t have time for Fair Flower to study and learn this right now. Your son is in the last stages of this illness before he dies! Will you let me do this?”

The woman, Ed doesn’t know her name, looks at the faces of the all the other women present. All of them know all the healers are women and Ed is a man, but he seems to know what this is. Fair Flower says, “I have nothing to offer you in the way of help, but Ed has something that may help. Let him do it!” The mother looks at Ed and nods yes.

He glances around the concerned group and says, “All are to leave except the mother, Wild Thorn, Fair Flower, and Dawn. They’ll help me.” While the others leave Ed adds, “When you have to move about please try not to move between the fires and the boy because I need the light to see what I’m doing.” They all nod to show they understand.

Ed opens the kit to remove three kidney bowls that appear to be of bone. He has Dawn pour hot water into two of them and he pours some antiseptic into the third. He’s fast to pick and drop instruments into the bowls. All of the women stare at the things he gets out to use. He has no time for much else, so while he readies a needle with a local anaesthetic he says to the boy, “This will hurt a bit, but it will stop it hurting when it starts to work on you.” The boy nods his understanding and Ed injects the places around the operation site the book shows to inject.

After washing his hands in one of the cauldrons of hot water Ed has Dawn pour some antiseptic over them as that’s the best they can do. He takes a deep breath as he picks up the scalpel to start the operation.

They all lose track of time while Ed operates to remove the infected appendix. When he finishes with an instrument he puts it in what he designated as the dirty bowl so it can be cleaned of germs. When he ties off the appendix he makes a point of showing Fair Flower how to use the needle and suture material and she nods she understands. He has her take over to sew the boy up. All are tired by the time they’re finished.

Ed knows the boy has to have felt some pain while they worked, but he didn’t make a sound. He turns to the boy, saying, “I know you had to have felt a lot of pain while we were working, but you were quiet and made no sound. You’re one of the strong and silent types who can deal with pain. You’ll have need of that later in life.”

Wild Thorn smiles as she says, “He is of an age to move to the single men’s cave but he has delayed. Often, when a boy becomes a man we give him a new name that’s based on some aspect of his first actions as a man. I now name this young man Quiet Strength because that’s what he’s shown here, now, and in the past.” The mother and boy smile at him being given such a powerful name by the camp’s head-woman, but are a bit sad because it also means he must now move to be with the single men. “He is to stay here with his mother until both Fair Flower and Ed say he’s fit enough to go on his first hunt as an adult.”

While he cleans things and repacks them Ed explains to Fair Flower what they are and how they’re used. When it’s all packed up again he hands both the book and the first aid kit to Fair Flower, saying, “It’s my wish you’ll never have to use this kit or the knowledge in the book, but I suspect that’s a wish that’ll never come true. So please study these records well and learn what they can teach you, and others as well.” She smiles when she accepts both of the gifts to help her in her work.

When they leave the hut they find all of the other members of the camp waiting for them. Ed smiles as he says, “I’m very sure we got to it in time and he’ll live.” There are many smiles because this is an illness they all know of and most die of it. So it’s good to know it can be treated.

Dawn empties the water out of the cauldrons into the river while Ed, Dale, and Wild Thorn have a quick quiet word. Then it’s time for them to head off to eat the last meal of the day. Which is more like a celebration.

Giving the Goods

During the meal Dale organises for everyone to visit Ed’s quarters in small groups without telling them why beforehand. Later Wild Thorn and Dale take turns leading people from their hut to Ed’s quarters while telling them why as they walk up the passage.

Every adult and child capable of holding them is soon issued with a skinning knife, a Bowie knife, a belt and sheaths for the knives, plus two spears and a flint fire-starter kit. Those who already have either of the knives are given only what they need to complete the kit. All of them are very happy with their new tools.

Next Day

When Ed gets up in the morning he’s moving like an ancient man due to the pain of the bruises. After a bowl of hot stew he’s off to the barn to get his work crew under way. This morning he puts them all to work cutting a lot of hardwood trees for future work projects and he tells them to cut more softwood trees in the afternoon. Fawn will be the driver and they’ll use all four horses in the morning because they’ll leave all of the trimming until after lunch when they can do both lots at once.

While telling Darter where to work he hands him one of the spear throwers, saying, “Look for branches and offcuts that can be cut down to make more of these, please. They’re best out of hardwood, but soft wood will do if there’s no suitable hardwood.” Ed hands him one of the short spears, “Also look for straight wood we can make more little spears like this out of. We should stay with hardwood for these.” Darter looks at them well before he hands them to Fawn to keep for him, because he won’t need them until they reach the forest. After they leave Ed heads back to the hot pool to put more heat into the bruises to help them go away quicker.

About mid-morning Ed is still soaking in the hot pool when Dawn comes in to abuse the hell out of him. He doesn’t understand what’s got her upset until Dove and Wild Thorn walk in and Dove says, “Ed, you’re right, mother’s pregnant.”

Wild Thorn adds, “Dawn is older than over half of the widows. When they find out you got her pregnant they’ll be after you to do the same to them.” His stunned expression in response to that is what gets Dawn to stop abusing him and to start laughing. “It is our way the widows may go to any man who takes their eye. If they have children they get access to more of the camp materials too.” He nods his understanding.

Ed goes to speak, but Dove cuts across him, with, “Ed, since you don’t know our ways I better let you know Fawn, mother, and I will be vetting the widows and helping you get them with child. Your ability to get them pregnant will enhance our standing with the women. So you can expect to see some more women joining us at night. So you better get fit enough to satisfy them and us, and do it soon.”

All of the women laugh at the shocked look on his face. After sighing he says, “Dove, go get the bar of soap and I’ll teach you how to do a light massage so you can help me get over these bruises faster.”

In a couple of minutes she has the soap and she’s in the water with him while he instructs her in how to massage his bruises and sore muscles to help them heal quicker.

At lunchtime Dawn brings them both some stew and cold drinks. She sits on the stone floor while they all eat. She says, “Ed, since we have all of the furs we need what do you intend to do with all of the hides you have from the hunting? There’s about fifty of them and some of the other camp members can do with an extra fur for winter.”

“How many would be used by those who need one?”

“About forty should be enough. That still leaves a lot more.”

“OK, organise with Wild Thorn to hand out the furs to those who need them. Because this is a ‘whole of the camp’ activity she should be involved. I don’t mind them going to people who need them. I have some uses for them as well, but they aren’t urgent and I can get more. Also, how are those bones drying out? Especially the elk ribs!”

“Good, I’ll talk to Wild Thorn after we finish eating. About sixty of the elk ribs are as dry as we can get them. I meant to show them to you a few days ago. Some of the leg bones are ready for you too.”

After lunch Ed is moving a lot better than he was first thing in the morning. However, he’s smart enough to use the bruises still healing to duck the work detail to hand out furs when Wild Thorn asks for help.

Afternoon Projects

Ed’s first task is to get the dried elk ribs to check them over. He also makes a point of having some of the women learn to check the ribs for what he wants, which is mostly making sure they’re free of cracks. Most of them are clean and dried out, as required, so he puts them to one side while setting the rest out to dry some more.

One of the women asks, “Ed, why do you want us to learn to check the bones out for you?”

He grins when he replies, “Because when you finish watching me make what I want to make you’ll want to make some for yourselves!” The surprised women continue to watch what he does. He adds, “This next part is one the men will have to do, but I’ll show you what’s wanted.”

They all head for the barn with Ed carrying the dry ribs. There’s two big piles of trees near the door, one of hardwood and one of softwood. He selects a hardwood log about three hundred millimetres in diameter. Once he’s stripped the bark off it’s cut back by about thirty millimetres and the narrow end is down to two hundred and fifty millimetres. Ed puts it up on saw horses to square the end off and then he cut a dozen discs twenty-five millimetres deep from it. Using a fine drill bit and chisels he makes slots all around the edge of the disc, each is not quite as wide as the elk ribs and they have fifty millimetre centres.

Taking all his work to one of the waist high wood block tables he sets them down then he uses a fine saw to trim the thick end of the ribs to fit into the slots and he lines them up in sets of equal length, sometimes he cuts the top ends off the ribs to make them the right length.

He looks at his audience, “Now for the part you’ll have to do, and it’ll show you what this does. Dawn, please get a clean new fur that’s ready to use.”

When she returns with it he cuts out a circle the same size as the wood plate, complete with slots. He cuts another to fit just inside the circle of slots. The first is put on the wood with the fur up and the slots lined up. The ribs are pushed into the slots and they’re a tight fit. He cuts two strips the same height as the ribs and long enough to go around the ribs, one inside the circle and one outside the circle.

He holds the longer strip against the outside of the ribs with the fur facing in as he says, “Sew this up tight with fine stitches and sew it to the larger circle with the fur facing in. You also sew a few tight loops on the ribs to hold them to it. Then you sew the smaller circle to the smaller strip with the fur facing out with fine close stitches. The smaller one goes inside the ribs and the two tops are sewn together. Then anything you store in this will stay in it and be easier to carry. You have to be careful not to put so much weight in it breaks the ribs. But it means you can store more things on a shelf. Make another piece of wood or fur to sit on top and it’ll keep out the dust and insects. These will be good for storing the plants in the ice cave.”

All the women have stunned looks for a moment, then there’s sudden movement, and in moments each of the tables has women at work while they cut up furs for the discs and strips to suit the plates he’s made and they took. He smiles at their work, until Wild Thorn puts him to work cutting some top plates and a whole bunch more of the base plates.

When the woodcutters return Ed puts a couple of men to work stripping the wood and another man is shown how to make the cuts for the ribs, then he’s left to do that task with the many base plates Ed cut. The man will also cut more when he’s done. Ed leaves them to that job while he looks over the wood for some pieces to suit his next project.

These logs aren’t being cut up for firewood because Ed wants them for use in a number of projects. If they’re needed for fires they can be cut up later. Anyway, the offcuts and bark will end up on the woodpile.

With Dawn working on two of the storage jars for them Ed diverts Dove to get some furs and to cut them up in a special way for him. When he chooses a bunch of suitable logs to cut up for what he wants he notices both Dawn and Wild Thorn are watching him with great care.

Ed takes a bunch of narrow logs and he strips the bark off them before squaring off the ends. He uses his string to measure twenty to the same length before cutting some rebates in them and drilling small holes for pins in them. He hands them to Dove with instructions to fold the cut furs over them and to sew the ends up to hold the wood rods in place. While she’s busy with that he measures and cuts a lot more rods. He soon has eighty rods cut with rebates and pin holes in them. He also cuts a bunch of the small wood pins to go in the pin holes. All are busy at work on the new storage jars while they keep glancing at Ed as they wonder what he’s up to now, but they do know it’ll be useful.

With all the pieces ready and some of the fur and rods ready for use Ed gets busy putting things together. He quickly has twenty ‘x’ frames with the centre crossing rebates pinned together. Next he places two of the ‘x’ frames close together while he pins a cross brace between them on each arm. Then he takes the fur and rod units and places the rods in the rebates on the ends of the top of the ‘x’ frames and pins them into place. Like the braces, these go from the frame at the front to the one at the back. When he finishes each one he puts it aside on the ground.

It’s late afternoon by the time he’s finished with these new things and the woman have almost finished making the components for about fifty of the jars. They don’t have enough ribs suitable for use yet, but they will before long, and the jars will be finished when the ribs become ready.

All are wondering what Ed intends to use these odd things for when he puts the last one down on the end of the row of them and he sits on it. Dawn immediately starts to laugh. After a moment she says, “They look a lot easier to move around than a rock when you want one to sit on.”

For the rest of the afternoon Ed is very busy showing two of the men in his work team how to make these simple chairs because everyone wants a couple of their own. One for in their hut and one for where they gather to eat.

That night those who haven’t seen the chairs in use are shown how much easier it is to eat while sitting on one because Ed, Dawn, Dove, Fawn, Dale, Wild Thorn, Fair Flower, Darter, Big Elk, and several others sit on them for the last meal of the day.

The next morning it’s very hard to walk about at the cave entrance because all of the people are there making chairs. The men are busy with making the wood parts while the women make the fur seats for them.

Second Day After the Cats

Ed is feeling a lot better today, but he’s not yet up to lifting or carrying much so he’s very busy trying to think of what to do today that fits in with his current level of physical fitness. By the time he finishes his breakfast he decides to go hunting. However, when he gets to the cave entrance his plans are delayed until some of the men have finished the chairs they’re making for their families. Thus it’s mid-morning before he gets a crew together to help him hunt. Then it’s only Dale and three others because the rest of the men are still working on their chairs. He takes Dove with him as a wagon driver.

They head up to the plateau for today’s hunt. The herd nearest the ramp when they get up there is a large group of Aurochs on their right. When they look about Ed spots the big cats in the middle distance while they head across the front of the herd of cattle to reach the bison.

Ed heads the horses toward the bison while saying, “Dale, I want to get some cattle today. But I want to make a few runs on them. So I’ll head along the side and hope to turn them before killing some.” Dale nods. When they near the front of the cattle the beasts turn to move off at a forty-five degree angle to their right, just as Ed planned for them to do.

Lifting his bow Ed takes aim. He soon kills five prime animals at the back of the herd and one more near the front left side, causing the herd to turn more to their right. Ed gets down while saying, “Dove, go to near the five cattle and stop close so the men can load them up. Dale knows how to work the winch now.” They both nod agreement while they watch him head to the single dead animal.

When they arrived on the plateau Ed spotted the big cats and they saw him. They stop to crouch while they watch what he’s doing. Heading up alongside the cattle he’s not aiming right at them, but toward them. When he stops to kill the cattle they stay still and watch. When the sixth is hit they turn to it because it’s close to them. Ed isn’t nervous when he approaches the dead cattle near the big cats as he’s all but scared stiff because the pride of seven cats is now eating it. He continues to approach them while he says, “I have to go near them to get over the fright from the other day.” Raising his voice a fair bit he says, “Don’t worry about me, I’m after my arrow but the meat is for you.” All of the cats look up when he says this. Ed has his bow in his left hand, but his right hand is holding one of the revolvers. Seven big cats, of course he’s taking a few risks, but he’s as ready for them as he can be. When he’s down to only five metres from the dead beast one of the young males turns to confront him and it takes a step his way. He stops and says, “I don’t want to kill you, I’m just after my arrow. So please back off.” The cat takes another step. Ed gives a warning hiss and the cat stops. The older male gives a deep cough. All of the other cats turn to look at it. The cat repeats the noise and the others move to stand with it. This puts the dead cattle between the cats and Ed when he walks up to it. While watching the cats Ed leans the bow against his leg so he can reach out to grab the arrow. He pulls it out and backs away while saying, “There you go, enjoy your meal.” After backing up about ten metres he turns and walks back to the wagon while putting the gun in its holster. He cleans the arrow and puts it in the quiver at his waist.

When he’s about halfway back he looks over his shoulder and he sees the cats enjoying the meal. Ed softly says, “I do think the head male has worked out I’m killing extras so his lot can eat while we work in peace. And he’s smart enough to let me go on doing so.”

Ed reaches the hunt team just when they winch up the third cattle and Dale says, “Ed, I can’t think of anyone who would take those risks to get any sort of weapon back.”

Ed waves an arrow, “These are special from very far away. We don’t have the materials to make this type here. So I’m limited to the ones I have and I aim to make them last as long as possible. Anyway, the old male in charge has figured out what I’m up to and he’s letting me do his hunting for him. He’s a smart one.” The men laugh at that.

After a few more minutes they’re loaded up. There’s only about seven tonnes of beef on board so Clyde has no worries taking this load down the ramp.

When they get back to the camp most of the people have finished with their chairs and had lunch. So the hunters unload the cattle and leave them for the others to skin and gut while they go and eat their lunch. Ed unhitches the horses so they can graze while he eats.

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