(2/27/03 6:01:16 pm)
Reply Last Snippet Of Book Three - Slate Creek
October delivered to November a landscape frozen solid as a splitting wedge. And November kept it that way for December to carry into January. His fresh meat was gone, the last of a small deer boiled with some carrots and parsnips and the cabin walls started to lean in on him.
“Let’s go find us a deer, Spud. Or even a hare. I gotta get out of here for awhile.” Simon shrugged into his buffalo coat, folded back the overlapping hides that blocked the draft of his bullet-riddled door, and stepped outside. The air was bitter cold and he felt his nose-hairs freeze. He pulled his rifle out of the scabbard, checked for a shell in the chamber, and walked quickly away from the cabin.
He and the dog had trudged well past the frozen lake and hadn’t seen so much as a crow. It was now afternoon and they were headed back to the cabin. The frigid air sneaked past the fringe hair on his fur-trimmed hood. He scrunched his shoulders to close the gap and the hood of his coat closed slightly. He could hear Spud behind him, snuffling in the grainy snow, wanting to pass as usual but he knew where he was supposed to be. He heard him stop to sniff at something. They still had well over a mile to go and he was thankful the snow wasn't so deep he had to wear snowshoes. He detested the damn things on the flat. Here, on the narrow trail, they would have been a real pain in the ass. The weight of the liver and heart in his tote sack was a comfort. It had been nearly two weeks since he’d eaten really fresh, and he was looking forward to it. He remembered how lucky he’d been.
He’d about given up seeing anything when the sleek doe had simply risen from her bed in a willow-grove near where he was standing, catching his breath. He put one shot right behind her ear and she’d dropped without a sound.
He hated gutting the animals he killed in any event. And the half-hour he’d spent getting her innards out had been a trial. Blood up to his elbows, a sticky, miserable mess, he’d nearly froze his hands cleaning them in the powdery snow. He’d stashed the carcass under an outcrop and moved a couple of big rocks to partially cover her, safe enough until he came back in the morning with the horse.
He’d be home soon. Another jolt of icy air passed his bristled cheek and chilled the sweat on his neck. He gave another shoulder hunch to cut off the flow. He could feel it was getting colder fast, probably ten or fifteen below zero. He hurried his steps a little and wondered where the dog had gone.
The trail he was walking through narrowed suddenly as he approached the twin rocks. He couldn't see it but he could hear the creek under the snow. His experience from before sent another chill through him and it wasn’t for the cold. He had to be careful. If he got wet, he’d have a serious problem being that far from the cabin. He picked his way carefully and slowly along the narrow part and a sigh of relief escaped him as the creek bottom opened up again. It wasn't that far now.
He sensed, rather than heard or saw, the attacking animal. The short hairs on his neck bristled, and he felt the tingle in his groin that's a sure warning of extreme danger. The beast hit him in the back with such ferocity he was momentarily stunned. It leapt onto the meat-filled sack and held on, it's back feet getting purchase by digging into the backs of his legs. The snarling, coughing grunt of his attacker and the ripping pain in his left leg cleared his head, snapping him back to reality. Razor sharp claws tore his wool pants as they dug in. The smell hit him then and he knew he was going to fight for his life. It was the stinking wolverine! The animal had obviously sunk its teeth into the fresh meat and the taste of blood must have fueled the ferocity of the attack.
He shook off his mittens and tore at the rifle's shoulder strap, trying to free his Winchester and get it round front where he could put his hands on it. Finally, it came loose and he seized the rifle, left hand on the grip, right on the barrel. He jabbed the butt behind his left hip as hard as he could, once, twice, three times; each blow met solid muscle, and each blow made the wolverine grunt. The fourth strike drove the curved butt plate deep and he heard a bone snap. With a snarl the wolverine let go of the pack and dropped to the ground.
Simon started to turn around. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the flat, ugly head with the torn ear. In the time it takes to think it, the animal pressed the attack again, boring in as Simon moved. In an instant, it had its yellow teeth clamped on the outside of the calf of his leg, narrowly missing the bone but securely set in the flesh. The flash of hot pain nearly took his senses away. Up came the butt of the rifle, and as it came down, he saw a flash of color that told him Spud had joined the fray.
Canine teeth snapped shut on the wolverine's ass and balls and at the same time the butt of the Winchester came crashing down on the wolverine's back. It tore its teeth loose from his leg and seemed to turn in its skin to face the dog. Powerful jaws clamped down on a paw and with a blinding quick turn of its head, the beast ripped away half of the foot. The parting tendons made a wet snapping sound as they parted. With an agonized howl, the dog let go and reared back, but not before another fierce swipe ripped into his neck. Then, both the dog and the beast sat on their haunches, rampant.
The pause in the fight lasted only a second or two but to his perception, it seemed to last forever, dreamlike. The Winchester, now just a club, rose, Simon gripping the barrel with both hands. It ascended over his head as he stretched full height and then, descended. Slowly, so slowly it came down, the steel and brass glinting in the late sun, the light scribing a deadly arc that would meet the wolverine. The back of the heavy, steel action crashed down. He saw the hammer spur disappear into the top of the flat, dark triangle that was the animal's head. A spray of dark blood fanned out and the sickening, yet satisfying, crunch of live bone being crushed announced the wolverine's defeat. The beast screamed defiance with one last spitting snarl of rage. Fresh blood flew all over the wounded dog and the wolverine sagged to the ground, dead.
Simon laid his rifle in the brush and went to Spud. The glistening white of exposed bone in the dog’s paw was an insult. The blood seemed to gush from it and the wound on his neck, staining an ever-widening blotch on the torn up trail. The dog tried to lick the wounds clean but failed. As Simon stood looking on helplessly, the pain in his legs reminded him that he too, was in bad shape. His leg hurt like hell and threatened to fold when he tried to put his full weight on it. He struggled to see around the bulk of his coat but couldn't, and in the cold, he didn't dare take it off. He looked down at Spud again. The dog was licking his savaged paw furiously, all the time whining softly. A lump grew in Simon’s throat. Suddenly, the dog just quit and looked up at him with a stare that seemed to ask a question. Then the dog laid his head down in the snow and closed his eyes. Simon knelt beside him and gently stroked his friend’s head. He was heartbroken and at a loss for something to do. Could he carry the dog a mile? A terrific stab of pain in his leg answered the question. Frustration made him tremble and the tears froze on his cheeks as he wept.
Struggling to his feet, he moved to his rifle and picked it up. He wondered if he should use a cartridge. The cold was settling fast and what little warmth the dog had was leaking out on the ground. Spud opened his eyes and looked up at him. Did Simon see understanding there or was it his conscience seeking release? The dog's mouth opened a little and his tongue moved ever so slightly through his teeth. His tail twitched in one final wag, then his eyes shut again. The ache that had been moving up in Simon’s throat came out as a sudden sob, causing his shoulders to convulse. He knew he was letting the dog down in the most terrible way. His head dropped, his spirit failing rapidly, the motionless dog shimmered in his tear-filled eyes. He turned in the trail, picked up one of his mittens, then had to search for the other for a minute. Sniffing against a streaming nose, he leaned on his rifle and turned to start the long journey to his cabin.
He took a shuffling step, then another, then stopped. The ties to his friend, lying on the cold ground, had drawn tight and he could go no further. Four steps back and he was beside his dog again. Slowly, he used his rifle as a crutch and lowered himself to the ground. The excruciating pain in his leg locked his jaws tight. He shifted to get as close as he could to the dog and Spud struggled to get up. Simon gently pushed him back down.
It was only a mile. Surely, he could get them home if only he’d try. Maybe they could get to the hot springs and rest there. His dog deserved that much. He’d rest for a little and then try it. Yeah, that’s what he’d do. With unsteady hands, he draped as much of his coattails as he could across the dog. He could feel the cold rise through his buttocks and soon the pain in his leg faded to a dull throb, then to nothing. Holding the coat snug under his neck, he leaned forward with shoulders hunched, and relaxed. Slow and ever so sure, the cold gripped more tightly. Pretty soon, he’d get up and go. Pretty soon, but not quit now, just a few more minutes. The cold continued to sap his will and his sight darkened as he sank closer to the edge of nothing.
Strangely warm and comfortable, he looked deep into the shimmering depths of his new realm. Pretty soon? The question floated, feather-light and drifting, at the farthest reach of his consciousness. “Noooo,” someone replied, half whisper, half moan. Then, with a barely audible sigh, he put his hand on the dog’s chest and settled down to wait for eternity, with his friend.
(2/27/03 6:27:45 pm)
Reply Re: Last Snippet Of Book Three - Slate Creek
A good read, as usual, Clouder.
Kinda wondering about Simon's gutting skills, though. Half an hour to gut a doe? I can do it in 5 minutes, even in 10 to 15 below weather. Maybe he had a really dull knife?
(2/28/03 10:00:27 am)
Re: Last Snippet Of Book Three - Slate Creek
damn, a tear jerker! Good post Clouder
I agree .280. And why didn't he shoot the danged critter instead of clubbing it with his rifle. We are going to have to have a talk with Simon. Hey 'Clouder tell Simon to register on TFF so we can get inside his head.
*TFF Senior Staff*
(2/28/03 1:57:17 pm)
Reply Re: Last Snippet Of Book Three - Slate Creek
Agree with 'Clouder - why waste precious ammo? Also, it's more satisfying to smash the bastid that done the dog and yourself with a hefty clout to the head. Hope the levergun didn't suffer any damage in all this brawl.
Good thing all this happened in winter conditions which will help slow the blood flow and pain. Had this taken place in the hot summer, both man and dog could conceivably bleed out before proper doctoring.
"Keep Off The Ridgeline"