Times of Old
Copyright© 2013 by Ernest Bywater
When the travellers arrive back at the caves all are stunned to see Ed now has two wagons. But they’re much more shocked to find both of the wagons are crammed with people, mostly women and children, and they’re all that’s left from the two camps. Despite the shock the camp members are quick to help their new members to set up housekeeping in the main cave.
Once inside the cave, with the door again secured, Ed and his ladies set about tending the horses while others unload the wagons and help the new people. The horses like being out of the cold and in the warm barn, but they like being groomed a lot more - especially the new ones. While grooming the young stallion from the new team Ed finds a plate with the name Douglas on his harness. A quick check shows the others are named Lark, Airdrie, and Addie. Similar plates also appear on the harnesses of Ed’s original team. Ed tells the girls the new horses’ names, and they all make a point of using the names while grooming the horses.
When all of the gear for the new camp members is taken away to the main cave Ed’s ladies take his gear to their cave and he gives the new wagon a thorough check. The main body of the wagon has only a few things as trade goods, most of which are more cooking and eating gear which he has taken down to the main cave for use by the new members. The locked area under the seat has clothes for his new ladies, Wild Thorn, Dale, the men who work for Ed, and the three best hunters. These he takes to his secure store while acting as if there’s a lot more than that, because he wants to be able to justify handing out more sets later. When he moves them he says a soft, “Thank you, David and Wilma.”
They finish up caring for the horses in time to join the rest for a late last meal of the day. While they eat from bowls Ed walks around asking various people to come see him as soon as the meal is over.
A small crowd follows Ed back to his quarters, and he’s soon very busy handing out the clothes while he tells them he found these in the new wagon and he explains how much safer they’ll be wearing them. All of them are glad to have new clothes that make them safer, and they put them on. They soon notice they’re warmer as well.
After the others leave Ed’s ladies take him for a bath and for some loving time. He’s glad to see they missed him.
During the night the snow starts, and it keeps up for several days. Ed looks out one of the upper watch holes on the third day, and he’s shocked to see the snow is nearly three metres deep. He goes down to the cave entrance to check the doors. There’s no snow or water seeping around them anywhere. Nor does the door feel cold when he places his hand on it. He thinks on this, and after a little while he realises it should be warm because they’ve eight large horses in the barn heating it up.
For the first few days after they return the travellers do little more than rest while the other camp members help the new people to settle in and to learn how they do things here. Ed does take time to check the barn each day, and he finds Darter has men cleaning it up on a daily basis. Also, many of the people are making chairs for all of the new arrivals.
The morning of the fourth day after their return Ed is busy handing the new people some of the standard issue skinning and Bowie knives with sheaths and belt along with spears. That afternoon he checks over the new wagon again and he finds he either missed a few things or they’ve been added since he looked. He’s not sure which, because he was tired and in a hurry when he found the clothes he was expecting and looking for. However, he does appreciate the two new large first aid kits and manuals, so he takes them down to Fair Flower for use by her staff as she now has ten women in various stages of training as healers.
That night Ed’s ladies decide it’s time for him to return to his stud duties, so they start bringing some extras around for him to get pregnant. He’s not against this work, but he does find the smirks his ladies have when they bring the new ones around a bit annoying.
The next day Ed gets to laugh at Dale because he’s the one who insisted Ed take on extra mates. Dale is complaining about Wild Thorn making him take one of the young widows and one of the extra single women as additional mates. It seems he has a hard enough time doing what one woman wants, and sees working for three as too much work.
Ten days into the snow storm many of the men are getting a bit fractious due to being cooped up. The women aren’t too bad because they can get about the cave to visit people instead of being stuck in their individual huts the way they would have been in their old camp. Ed decides it’s time to give the men something to work on.
Mid-morning Ed gathers all of the men together in the main cave then he hands out some of the spear throwers and spears before showing them how they work. The men are impressed by how much further they fly, but more so when Ed explains it means at the normal ranges they have a much deeper penetration. So the animals they used to have to stab can now be killed by throwing these new type of spears. They all have a trial use of them before lunch.
After lunch Ed takes them to where Darter piled the bits of wood to make the spear throwers from. These are branch junctions Darter felt would be easy to shape into the one Ed had given him when he asked to have them collected. Next is the job of Darter, Shorty, and a few others to show them how to cut the basic shape and carve the finished item out of the wood they have. Ed leaves them to it because it’ll take them a few days of work to make the throwers and a few spears to use.
Mid-afternoon Ed is in the barn shaping a couple of logs as rests for the thick hardwood logs. The rests have flat bottoms with a curve cut in the top to rest the larger logs in while holding them off the floor. That takes him the rest of the afternoon.
The next day Ed has a couple of men help him roll the smallest of the one and a half metre wide and two metre long sections of the large hardwood tree onto the rests set out in the middle of the work area in front of the wagons. This isn’t easy as they have to move them from where they’re stored at the back of the store area and almost down to the doors without letting the heavy logs get away from them. They can’t move them onto the rests until Ed cuts an angle onto the ends of the rests to make them easier to roll the logs onto them. Even then they only manage when they change the layout for the logs to roll down the slight slope and onto the rests. The end result is the logs are now across the work area instead of along it. They still have a lot of room to work around them. They break for lunch since it took longer than expected.
After lunch Ed has four men with him while he shows them how to use the three metre long two man saws to cut the length of the wood. After an explanation of how to work such a long saw, as all of them have worked with the shorter one and a half metre saws, he has them work under his direct supervision for a few cuts while they slice the side of the log off at a depth of about two hundred millimetres in the centre. They already know the basics, so they just need to know and practice with the bigger ones. Then it’s the second team’s turn on the other side. The first cut by each team isn’t exactly flat, but it’s an acceptable first try.
Ed uses a string to measure where he wants the next cut made to slice the log into one hundred millimetres thick slabs and he marks it at each end with his knife. He marks a set of cuts on each side. Leaving the men to do the cutting Ed has another man help him place one of the side-slices on two of the saw horses so he can work on it.
While they cut the next slices Ed shows two other men how to use the planes to smooth off the top of this log. He soon has both logs up on saw horses with men smoothing them off. The men have no idea of what he’s up to, but they do the work to fill in time, plus it’s something energetic to do. Ed often comes back to check how well the work is going and to show them how to use the other tools to smooth it finer.
As the new slices are cut they’re placed to the side and more marked for cutting. By the end of the day the men are experienced at this work.
The next morning Ed has several more men who want to do some work. The current saw horses are basic ‘x’ type frames with a third leg so they can lay logs in the two short ends at the top and have it be held still. This works for the two first side cuts with the curved bottom, but not for the flat slabs. So the first job is setting up some work horses with logs between them so they can lay the flat sided slices on them to work on the slices. Ed soon has six men busy with the planes smoothing off the tops of the tree slices.
Mid-morning sees the sawyers moving another log onto the rests to work on. They know what to do now, so they do it faster than yesterday.
The first two slices are smoothed off to suit Ed just before the two new first slices are ready, so those two men work on those. Two more saw horse and log sets are put up to place the smoothed side-slices on with the flat side down. Ed now shows four more men how to measure and drill holes into them where he wants them two hundred and fifty millimetres in from each corner, and another in the middle of each side.
While they do that he shows four others how to select and trim the end of logs to fit the holes being cut. By the time the holes are cut the logs are made. Ed has them placed in the holes and hammered in tight. He has the men stand the new item on the floor, and all can see it’s like a large seat two metres long and a metre off the floor. There’s just a little more work trimming the legs until it sits level. While the workers fit the legs to the other side-slice Ed has these men place the first one on the small wagon and take it down to the main eating area.
They deliver the first unit an hour before lunch. Ed has the men place it on its legs and stand it to the side of the cooking area. The men don’t understand what he’s doing, but the women catch on real quick. In seconds the women are using this new area to place things on to work with while preparing a meal. Until now they had been doing this work while squatting on the floor. Now the men see what this is good for.
The second ‘D’ shaped table is brought in and set up on the other side of the cooking area just before they break for lunch.
While they eat Ed thinks about things because he has about half the men in camp working in the barn. That’s a much bigger crew than he’s used to. Dale sits beside Ed and says, “I was up in the barn earlier and I was surprised at how many men you have working there. Then I saw you weren’t directing them all. That’s when I realised exactly what you said, some time back, about having others manage sub-crews. The men doing the sawing were taking turns and helping each other while Big Elk told them what to do. Down here the men are making the spear throwers and spears with Shorty walking around telling them what to do. While others are doing the same with the various tasks in the barn. Until I saw it I didn’t understand it.”
“Dale, in most cases I take time to show them what to do and I tell them what I want the finished job to be like. I teach each one only one task at a time. Once they have that right I’ll teach them another. They all know what I’m asking of them is within their ability to do, and they know I trust them to do it. Then I leave them to do it. Most of them do well. A few times some have done something different to what I would have but the finished job is the same, so it’s not an issue. The men are a lot more able to do things without your supervision than you realise.”
“I know that, now. In future I can let the better hunters lead a hunt without me. That way we can hunt in two or three directions at once.”
“Dale, we now have two wagons with plenty of drivers to get to a hunt and carry back the kills. That should make hunting for this crowd a lot easier too.” Ed gets a nod yes with a big smile in reply.
The next day most of Ed’s work crew are new, but the task leaders are the same and they take time to train the new men. Much of this work will now go on of its own accord without Ed. The only new task is when the men move the new large log down they have to enlarge the cut in the rests to take it easily, as it’s that much bigger than the first log. Ed does take the opportunity to tell them, “When you get to the largest log I want the last slice in the middle to be about double the thickness of these others.” The sawyers nod acknowledgement and get to work.
Ed spends the rest of the day and the next one wandering around checking on things, but he leaves the team leaders to manage their teams.
Ed’s crew spends nine days making tables for use in the main cave, as well as a couple for use in the warm pools which Ed seals before sending them in there. When they get to the centre slab from the largest log he has them put extra legs in that before he seals it and has it taken down to be used by Fair Flower as an examination and operating table. He also has one of the ‘D’ tables put in his quarters, and two are kept in the barn for use there.
He has some men make targets for them to practice throwing their new spears at. Ed also takes time to teach his ladies and Dale how to use the bow and arrows so they can help with defence and hunting.
Dale says, “Ed, it’s clear the bow and arrow are better than the spear thrower, why aren’t you making them and teaching their use?”
“Dale, the bows I have are made from a special material that gives them the extra power. With the type of wood we have, at the moment, we can make good arrows, but the bows they’d provide will have less range than the spear throwers, but more range than the old spears. If we find any of the trees for making the better bows I’ll make some.”
“I didn’t know the wood made a difference!”
“I think it would be fairer to say you didn’t realise it did. You know a spear made from the softwood isn’t as good as a spear made from a hardwood. This is the same sort of issue, but what is needed is a wood with a lot of spring in it as well as strength.” They go on to discuss a lot of other projects where the type of wood makes a major difference.
The snow falls for several weeks with only a few short part day breaks in the weather. By the time it stops for a few days the snow bank in the valley is several metres deep and it’s not possible to leave the cave. But it does stop and the sun comes out for a week, melting much of the snow.
Ed has the men remove the wheels and put the skis on both wagons so they’ll be ready when Dale says they can go out. Most aren’t happy when told they can’t go out until Dale is back from checking the camps.
While Dale is organising crews and things for the wagons Ed is busy training some of his men to be wagon drivers by using the little wagon down in the main cave. The travel loads include plenty of food and firewood with spears and a first aid kit with a manual in each wagon. Ed has a shovel loaded for each man, and plenty of furs. Plus hay and grain.
Dale gathers most of the younger men, the four best hunters, Fair Flower, and three other healers to be the crew for this visit. He splits the experts between the two wagons, he and Ed will ride the lead wagon with Darter and Shorty in charge of the second wagon. Each wagon has three trained wagon drivers in it with nine other men - fourteen in each.
Checking the Neighbours
Ed fits each horse with their warmest and best protected blanket when he harnesses them and hitches them to the two wagons. In the process he finds some odd things that are a combination snowshoe and boot for the horses. He puts them on the horses because they’ll help them in the snow and will keep their feet safe from the ice while the little spikes sticking out of them will give extra grip on the ice and frozen ground. Dale is checking the wagons have everything he wants along. Some of the men not going have the wagon door open and are busy digging a ramp up the metre and a half of banked snow that remains on the ground here.
The horses’ new boots make a little racket on the stone when they move out, but only until they hit the snow where the extra traction proves very useful. Dale checks the door is being shut behind the last wagon while Ed turns to head down the valley.
They take a more direct line to Slow Elk’s camp, but they’re going a bit slower on the snow than on the ground. There’s a full moon and no place to stop to camp for the night, so Ed keeps them moving along with short breaks every couple of hours to give the horses some grain and water to keep their energy up. Mid-morning they find a herd of bison hiding out of the wind in a dell partly protected by a small forest, so Ed takes time to kill nine. He has the men quickly field dress and hook up three on the back of each wagon, leaving the last three on the ground. The men know him, so they say nothing while they wonder where he saw the cats.
They’re hardly out of the dell when Dale looks back at the cats eating the bison, there appears to be about ten or twelve, but they’re hard to count at this distance. They do look a bit thin.
Late on the second day they approach Slow Elk’s camp. When they near the camp they see the transplanted thorn bushes are buried under a heavy snow bank. When they round the end of the fence they get a surprise. There’s some snow in the valley, but the camp itself is almost clear of snow.
The men on watch open the gate to let them in. When they pull up in the middle of the camp Dale stands and yells, “We’ve six bison killed this morning. We’d like a hand with dressing them, please. Also, our healer’s here if you need help with anything.” There are many smiles while the people walk to the wagons.
As soon as a bison is on the ground people are skinning and cutting it up. Slow Elk talks to Dale while they work as they both update each other on the winter so far. Ed is busy unhitching the horses and Shorty puts out hay, buckets of grain, and buckets of water for the horses. Once the horses are tended to Ed joins the two leaders.
Ed waits until after Dale tells Slow Elk about the cannibals before he says, “With the losses at Two Rivers, the grass fire, and this hard winter, I expect many of them are dead and they aren’t as big a threat as they were. But we should also keep an eye out for them. I think we should check the plains once the snow is gone.” They both agree with him.
Slow Elk grins as he says, “This is the worst winter I’ve known, and I think we’ve survived only because of the fence you had us plant. One of the reasons we have the camp here is because most of the snow that falls is blown out into the valley before it falls to the ground. It comes down at an angle, so we’re kept fairly clear during a fall. But when the winds move around the ground snow gets blown into the camp to trap us in our huts. But this year the majority of it got blown against the new fence and stayed there. So we’ve been clear of snow in the camp most of the time, and what little has come in has been easy to walk through. However, we haven’t been able to get out to get any fresh meat.”
Dale responds, “Well, then it’s good we got these. Because one will feed us while we visit and you can have the other five. But I’d like to swap the six furs for processing for five cleaned furs, if we can!”
“Certainly, especially since you’re giving us the meat.”
Just then Fair Flower walks up and says, “Dale, the healer here, Red Bloom, is getting on and nearing her final time. I’d like to take her back with us so she can live longer in our warm caves, and I can also see if she has any knowledge we don’t have. Slow Start knows as much as I do. If Ed will let me leave one of the records and kits here she wishes to stay, because she has an interest in one of the single men here.” Dale looks at Ed, then both nod yes together.
Ed says, “Fair Flower, those kits and records are to help people and to save lives. If you feel we have to hand some out so that can be done, do so. I gave them into your care. I trust you to use them wisely.” She nods as she smiles her thanks before walking away to tell those involved.
Slow Elk smiles while he says, “This is good news. Having a physically active healer is a great help. Thank you for agreeing. Most camps don’t like letting a healer go.”
Dale grins when he replies, “Ed talked Fair Flower into training others so we can have lots of healers to share the work with. He also gave her a marvellous record on healing from his people, along with a healer tool kit. Slow Start has been taught to use them and she’s being given one of each. I also expect she’ll ask you for a couple of young women to train as extra healers too. Let her have them to train, because they can save you troubles like this. We now have a healer go with us on the hunting trips so they can fix an injury quicker. Which can save their life!” A nod of understanding is Slow Elk’s simple reply while he thinks on this.
When the night approaches Ed hitches up two horses to each wagon and moves the wagons over near the canyon wall. He backs one up to the wall and places the other at right angles to it to form a ‘U’ with the wall. The feed and water for the horses is moved into this area. He also hangs the nets on the side of the wagons and hooks some furs onto them to cover the gap under them so the little area is well protected.
After a good hot meal of fresh meat they all retire for the night. Oddly enough some of Dale’s men don’t like sleeping in the wagons, so they take the opportunity to set up some furs on the ground in the protected area under the wagons to sleep there.
Ed declares a rest day for the horses and they show Slow Elk’s men the new spear throwers and little spears as well as how to make and use them. They have some suitable wood pieces amongst their collected firewood so they make a few to practice with as well as using the few spears and throwers Dale brought along for them.
All in the camp appreciate the meals of fresh meat all day.
The second morning after their arrival sees Ed preparing the horses for travelling while the men pack their gear away in the wagons. By the time breakfast is ready all of them are ready to go with the horses eating from their nose bags while they wait on the people.
They move out in good order and are soon crossing the plain again. Ed has them keep moving all day and night with short breaks every few hours to give the horses some food and water. Mid-morning of the next day they come up to Long Spear’s camp, and they can hardly see it due to the entrance being snowed in. However, their lookout in the upper entrance sees them and Long Spear comes out to ask if Dale will help them with a hunt. They’re running short of meat and they can’t be sure of what they have left lasting if the winter goes on much longer as the way it appears it may be going to last longer than it normally does.
When Dale agrees Long Spear motions for two others to join them while Ed keeps the horses moving at a slow walk to the next valley. While they travel Dale tells Long Spear about the events since their last meeting. Long Spear’s only comment is, “I don’t like the idea of these people just attacking people. I must make our defences stronger.”
Dale replies, “The least you can do is to move some thorn bushes to grow in front of the bulk of your cave entrance. That’ll make it a lot harder to see.” Long Spear gives Dale an odd look.
Ed joins the conversation, “Start a few paces to the side of the cave. Dig three or four rows of holes, but have the holes for the second row set to grow so it blocks the space between the two plants behind it. Then you go to where the plants grow and use a fur to protect your hand while you push it back to dig out around its roots. Carry the plant and put it in a hole near the cave, put dirt around it and water it. It will grow as long as you don’t damage the roots too much. Plant the bushes so they grow in a line across the front of the cave, but at an angle so one end has a space between it and the rock wall. Then plant a patch of bushes a bit further away so they come out from the wall and people can’t see between the first row and the wall. Then you can walk in and out while people can’t see there’s a camp there. Make it five or six rows deep and it’ll keep the wind and snow out as well. On our last visit we did that along the fence of Slow Elk’s camp to cut down on the wind, and he has hardly any snow in his camp at the moment as it’s all packed against the thorn fence. If you let the bushes grow tall enough to cover the entrance you may lose some light, but you will be a lot safer from enemies and the weather. Also, the animals won’t find it as easy to enter.”
“I must think on this. It sounds like something we should do in the spring to prepare for next winter. Also, the women will like having less wind in the camp and having the berries closer.”
After that they ride on in silence until they come across a herd of bison in a small side canyon that enters the plateau at an angle.
Ed looks at the herd and says, “Shit,” while he quickly kills six on the left and three on the right. He puts on snowshoes. Getting down he says, “Hurry and get them hooked up.” Long Spear gives him an odd look while Ed walks off to the other kills
Dale calls out, “Shorty, be quick about it.” He gets no reply, but he isn’t expecting one.
Both wagons stop by the kills to winch them up, not even stopping to field dress them yet. Then onto the next kill to winch it up, and so on. While they work Dale and Shorty watch Ed while others keep an eye on the whole area.
Ed approaches the other kills with care. He’s almost on them when five sabre-tooth cats rise from the snow on the other side of them. One of them snarls at him. Ed keeps calm while he walks toward them as he says, “I only want my arrows back. You can have the meat. Now keep still and I’ll be gone so you can eat in peace.”
Just as he reaches the first of the kills here the youngest of the males charges him. It starts slow, due to the snow, but when it reaches the kill closest to it the cat uses the kill as secure footing to leap at Ed. He can see the others are still wondering if to attack or not. When the cat leaps he brings the bow up and lets fly straight at the cat’s heart while he says, “I had to wait until it’s in the air so it can’t move aside.” The cat lands on the bison by Ed and thrashes about for a moment while it dies. The other cats rise up and get ready to move, but they wait to see what Ed does.
He passes the first kill. He soon reaches the kill closest to the cats. He reaches out and takes the arrow out. Backing up he says, “You’re welcome to the meat.” He removes the arrow from the second kill. Back at the one with the dead cat he removes both arrows and he drags the cat off the bison. He backs up several metres then he proceeds to remove the teeth and skin the cat. The others move in on the bison and start to eat.
Ed is fast to skin the dead cat. Realising he’ll be a while the men take the time to field dress the bison. They all watch the cats eat while they work. Once he has the teeth, claws, and skin Ed backs off twenty metres more before he turns to walk back to the wagons. When he nears the wagons they start moving. He reaches them and he climbs aboard.
Long Spear is about to speak when Ed interrupts him with, “I find it’s easier to provide extra kills for the cats than have to fight them over the kills we want. In all of the hunts we’ve done this is the first time one has been silly enough to fight me over the animal. It was a young male, so it may not have had much sense or experience yet. The others knew to be worried about me, but they could tell I wasn’t being aggressive to them or attacking them. So they stopped to see what I was doing. These arrows are special and I want them all back to use as often as I can.”
Long Spear and his men nod their understanding while thinking to let the cats have the spears as well, when they do that.
When they get back to the camp everyone comes out to help take the bison inside. The men talk about the cats, and Ed gets a lot of odd looks. Because there’s no place safe for the horses off the snow Ed has the men get in and they head back to Slow Elk’s camp, leaving a much happier camp behind them. The trip back is similar to the trip in, but they do spot some reindeer and collect six to take with them.
The visit to Slow Elk’s camp is like the last one, except they bring some reindeer as a change of flavour. A three day layover this time, and then off home. They stop to get some bison where they did on the way in, and this time they leave four for the cats.
Fresh bison meat is appreciated by all when they get back to the cave and get inside. Ed’s ladies make a big thing over having to clean and cure a third cat hide. All is unloaded and put away in quick order while Ed and his ladies tend to the horses, grooming them well.
The next few days are rest days for Ed and the travellers. Two days after they get back there’s another light snow for three days, and then it stops again. Dale is getting worried since the men who haven’t got out are now very restless, so he asks Ed about taking them hunting for a day.
Ed has a good look at the snow, and he isn’t happy about taking the horses out again yet. He wants to wait a few more days for it to pack down and be better footing. He has a thought, and asks, “What say we have a nice little exercise in searching. Have you noticed I often see the cats and other animals before the others?” He gets a nod yes. “A large part of that is training in how to search an area. I’ll give them a few days training. But first, let’s prove to them they need it!” Dale nods again while he wonders how Ed will do that.
Mid-morning Ed has all of the men gathered in the main cave and he says, “I’ve noticed I often see animals before you do. So I’m going to give you training on how to search the area around you.” As expected, a lot of them say it isn’t needed. “OK! This is what I’ll do. I’ll go out into the snow after lunch and you’ll all take turns trying to spot me before I can hit you with a snowball.” He has to take time to describe what a snowball is before they agree.
The rest of the morning is spent with the men talking about how easy this will be. One man says it’ll be easy to just follow his tracks, but thinks again when Walker says, “That’s what the cannibals thought until Ed circled behind them so they were following his tracks away from where he was waiting for them. When you track him you’ll have to watch out for him to be stalking you from any direction. In that regards he’s as good a stalker as any of the cats.” The men aren’t so cocky now.
Ed finishes his meal early and he leaves with Dale to open the door for him. Dale grins when Ed stops in his quarters to change to his white clothes and cape before being let out the person door.
When the men gather in the barn Dale insists each takes his weapons with him in case there are cats about, which makes them realise how serious this exercise is, and can be.
The door opens and Ed’s tracks are clear where they head to the river. The men gather on the snow and search the whole area, but there’s not a thing in sight, except the tracks that go to the river then vanish on the ice. There are no tracks of him leaving the river.
Dale grins while the hunters discuss which way he may have gone along the river. Then four snowballs come flying in to hit the four best hunters, and they can hear Ed laughing nearby. They search the area real hard, but they can’t see him. They hear Ed’s voice, “Look at the tracks. Are they all the same size?” After a moment a couple point out where the size of the tracks in the snow change. A mound of snow beside the tracks moves and Ed stands up, “I walked to the river then I walked backwards in my own tracks before jumping to the side and hiding under a white fur. Many animals do the same, except their hide blends into the area they live and hunt in, just like the cats do. Always give the tracks a close look for any changes.” The men aren’t happy at being caught so soon. They go back inside while Ed goes to hide again.
A few minutes later Dale brings them out and they can see some disturbed snow, but no clear tracks to follow. Dale says, “Ed has pulled something over the snow behind him to disturb the snow and hide his tracks. I’ve seen this done before.”
The men spread out a little while they follow the signs of the disturbed snow. It goes down the valley to some rocks that are large enough to stick out from the snow and bushes. Try as hard as they might they can’t see any more signs of his movements or where he is.
After dragging his cape while moving south Ed climbs the rocks to get down between the thorns and the rock wall. He takes care while moving back toward the cave. When they move out while talking he waits until they pass him before he moves the last few metres to the cave entrance to join the back of the hunt group. They stop to discuss what he could have done at the rocks as it all looks like virgin snow.
Dale bursts out laughing when he hears Ed ask one of the new men, “He’s real sneaky, isn’t he?” The men who know him well all turn around to stare at Ed standing in the middle of the group at the rear of the hunt pack. Darter joins Dale in laughing while many swear. “Now you know why you have to be constantly looking all around you. I went from the rock to behind the thorns and moved up until I reached the cave, then I just walked up behind you. If anyone had looked behind them they would have seen me. It’s from behind their prey that cats get most of their meals, think about that for a few minutes! Want to try again?” They all shake their heads no, and the lot of them go inside to start their training in searching.
The rest of the day is spent with Ed telling them about looking all around very often, how not to stare at something, and how important it is to look for movement out of the corner of their eyes. He ends the first lesson with, “When in an area think hard about how you’d go about sneaking up on someone on your position, and look for them there. For the cats, look at the areas where they can blend in well and hide, like the edges of forests, the long grass, shadows, and similar places.”
After breakfast he goes over it all again, and then he asks them to see if they can spot certain items hidden around the area they’re in. Some are spotted, but some aren’t. “Before I show you where the other items are think on this. Few animals stand where you can see their whole body. You have to get used to seeing only a small part and identifying that.”
With that clue they soon find the rest of the listed items that are part hidden behind others. The rest of the day is spent in a series of exercises of spotting hidden things, including rolled up furs set to look like part of the animal they’re from. The third morning is more of the same. In the afternoon it’s Ed hiding around the cave to try to ambush them with small stones. He’s very successful at first, but the men soon learn to be more vigilant, and soon they can avoid the stone or spot him first.
It’s only when they’re finishing for the afternoon Dale realises Ed isn’t training them to watch out just for cats, but also to watch for men trying to kill them. It’s only then Dale realises how much Ed is worried about the cannibals. However, the training will help protect against cats and men while it’ll also help them find targets to hunt for food.
The next morning all of the men load into the wagons for a hunt. The backs are locked to the floor again, so the men can look out the back while they travel. The obvious place for a hunt, at the moment, is the plateau, so they head there.
When they reach the incline to the plateau Ed stops the wagons and all of the men take a moment to study the tracks in the snow to their left and up the incline. They soon agree some cats have been busy in this part of the valley and have very recently gone up the incline.
Dale says, “Back when we let Fast Deer go we saw a group of cave lions in this area, but on the other side of the river. It seems they’re now on their way up the incline for a meal. So watch out.”
All are very vigilant while the horses make their way up the incline. As soon as they come out on the plateau the men spot the cats about two kilometres away on their left, they’re stalking a herd of elk so they point them out. Then one of the senior hunters points out the long tooth cats off to their right stalking some bison a kilometre away. The training is paying off, because, in the past, they would have concentrated on the first threat and been wide open to attack from the second, but not now.
Ed turns and heads for the herd of bison.
They come up behind the herd the sabre-tooth cats are stalking from the side. The cats are downwind of the herd and the men are crosswind from the bison. Both Dale and Ed stand to shoot at the same time, with Dale using the spare bow. They drop eight bison on this side of the herd and drop eight on the other side of the back of the herd.
Ed puts on his snow shoes and he gets down to go get the arrows while Dale directs the horses to the kills on this side. The men are soon field dressing the bison and loading them in the back of the wagons while Ed nears the other kills.
The cats must have been hungry because they’re already eating. Ed says, “Hell! Oh well, best get the arrows and get out.” He has the bow to the side and a gun in his hand when he approaches the closest kill, the one the biggest cat is eating. The cat stops to watch while he walks up. Ed says, “It’s OK. Just after my arrow again.” With slow care he reaches out and pulls the arrow out. Now for the scary part. There’s no way he can get the other arrows without turning his back on this cat. He backs up a few paces, turns, and walks to the next bison. After he pulls this arrow out he looks around. The first cat is back to eating and the rest are watching him. He moves from bison to bison removing the arrows. All of the time he’s half expecting to be attacked.