Leap of Faith 8-29July 2022
Synopsis: Love struck Muckleshoot Indian Jeremy Cross is heading south through what will be the Washington State in 12,000-years. Enchanted by Izzy Harris, Jeremy followed down the Seattle sinkhole when she and her father jumped into 10,000 BCE. After crossing the Columbia River mouth and fighting off a pack of direwolves, Jeremy is taken in by a modest village of Native Americans.
* * *
The village was more expansive than Jeremy had first judged. In addition to the bear resistant houses of cedar logs and planks, there were pine nut granaries, smoke houses, a sweat lodge and other structures he didn’t recognize, yet.
The villagers didn’t appear to have agriculture but hunted and gathered a large variety of seafood, seaweed, mushrooms, tubers and forest game. Their village was located just far enough upstream to ensure fresh water in the river.
Jeremy and the villagers were developing a sign language for common concepts such as eating, drinking and, embarrassingly, defecating, which was into the river. Jeremy had learned vocal names for individuals that he gave private names to in his mind. A problem was that all the men looked alike, excepting height, age and scars. The married women had a variety of facial features. Perhaps they came from other villages by trade or capture.
The day started with a bracing dip in the Columbia for all village members. Naked, of course. Jeremy was thankful the cold water sent all of his blood towards his heart and brain. Drying was with mats of cedar bark.
After bathing, Wingman took Jeremy aside to an area with two rows of deer skins. The row nearest Jeremy’s sleeping hut was empty while a variety of small items were arranged on the hides nearer the village. On examination, Jeremy found a gallon basket of pine nuts with a cover that could be tied in place. Other food items included pemmican, dried seaweed, fish, meat and mushrooms. There was a small horn container of the healing ointment that Sage had prepared. There were ornamental shells and stones as well as tools of quartzite, obsidian and jadeite. It looked like the villagers took Jeremy to be a pack trader and wanted to exchange goods.
Jeremy had ninety-pounds of gear in two packs to assist Izzy and Gavin Harris on their journey to La Brea, California. Jeremy had lost their trail after a few days and now it had been weeks. It was clear the former pilot and his amputee daughter were either dead or getting along fine.
First, Jeremy laid out the winter clothing sized for Izzy and Gavin. Opposite the stone tools Jeremy placed sewing needles, fishhooks and two pocket knives. Opposite the ornaments he placed one of the sperm whale teeth. Then it was time to eat.
The women had cooked the first of two meals for the day by dropping heated stones into a basket. The second would be at sunset. The men drank their fill of water before sitting. There was a large cedar bark mat where the men sat first and were served. Jeremy found chunks of apple, onion and some tuber in his seafood stew. Then the women and children joined them with much talking. Cedar wood trays and bowls were mated with ladles and spoons of buffalo horn. Pointed sticks served as forks for dipping tidbits in seal oil. The seal oil was a bit fishy but after eating lean meat for weeks, Jeremy found he could eat his share.
After eating, Jeremy joined a game of the village boys tossing spears through a rolling hoop. The hoop gave Jeremy the idea of introducing the Chinese wheelbarrow. There were no roads for carts. Would it be ethical for him to introduce concepts that could help the Native Americans against European domination?
Jeremy considered it a while and decided that, a few humanitarians aside, every group in the twenty-first century was trying to advance their own gain. The Devil take everyone else. Jeremy didn’t have the chemistry to make gunpowder and he didn’t know of any iron ore in the area, even if he knew more about blacksmithing.
After, perhaps, an hour the boys took a break and helped themselves to a snack of dried meat, fish and seafood. Spearman showed up and, after eating and with the young men, asked Jeremy back to the trading skins.
Jeremy noted that his clothing had been accepted and switched to the village side. His steel tools were in place and the stone tools had been split into two skins, with the smaller assembly opposite his offerings. Didn’t they appreciate steel?
Spearman didn’t care about any of that. Spearman went to the sperm whale tooth, picked it up and held the imperfectly cleaned root up to Jeremy. It was still fresh enough to stink. Then he swung his outstretched arm in a horizontal arc. Where did you get this tooth?
Jeremy replied, “To the north about three days by foot.” Spearman smiled and clapped him on the shoulder. Paddling gestures conveyed they would leave the next dawn when the Columbia River flow would speed them out into the Pacific.
Jeremy found an aspen leaf and carved a cedar branch into a toy boat. Jeremy drilled a hole into the center of the toy and affixed the leaf with some pine pitch. He had hoped to try out his sailboat before demonstrating but found the village children shadowing his every move. Sure enough, the first sailboat tipped over. A pair of quartzite pebbles stabilized the toy in the light breeze and it sailed across a pond near the village. The children made a variety of noises expressing awe, a giggle of uncertainty and perhaps fear.
Spearman grabbed Jeremy before sunup the next morning along with the crew of Wingman, a muscular Bear and a lean Wolf, shorter than Jeremy. Each was given a burden. A pair of cedar plank water casks was matched with one of dried foods and a bundle of adzes, axes and smaller implements. Jeremy had prepared his dry sack with the essentials.
The cedar log canoe was the largest Jeremy had seen, so far, being over twenty feet long and five feet wide. Jeremy was surprised to see design elements for rough seas such as an out turned gunnel to guide the canoe over the waves. He shouldn’t have been. These people were as likely to have arrived by sea as by walking overland.
The casks were placed in the canoe and all five men strained to launch the heavy boat. Jeremy jumped in with the others and donned gloves before picking up an oar. The trip downstream was eased by the outgoing tide, until they reached the mouth of the Columbia. The tide still hadn’t turned but Pacific waves still came at them with all the momentum built by 5,000 miles of wind. Everybody got wet with salt spray but the boat didn’t capsize.
The course north stayed just outside the kelp beds where Jeremy noticed the heads of sea otters, seals and, on one beach, sea lions. The Alaskan current further out pushed an occasional iceberg or growler towards California. The numbers of birds were enormous the swimming cormorants, stuka-diving pelicans and long-beaked sandpipers patrolling the beach for sand crabs exposed by the tide.
The sun was high when Spearman gave a rest break. Jeremy’s muscles burned like molten iron. It was afternoon when Jeremy spotted the birds circling the beached sperm whale and felt great relief.
The stench was almost visible but the teratorns still ruled the carcass; now featuring large bites in the tail. The men landed their canoe and tied it to a large boulder after pushing it up onto the sand. Jeremy remembered the long take-off runs the birds required and thought to men could just put up some fences across the beach, if they wanted teratorn feathers. Evidently not.
The men collect up their tools and paddles before advancing on the big birds. The smallest wingspan was ten-feet. The teratorns squawked, flapped their wings and snapped at the men with scimitar beaks. The men spread out to give themselves room and went at the birds with the paddles. One actually connected and sent a crippled bird crying down the beach. The biggest teratorn weighed no more than thirty-pounds so the smarter ones moved just far enough away from the whales jaws to avoid being clubbed.
Jeremy took his paddle and finished off the wounded bird with a blow to a neck that seemed skinnier for its baldness. When he returned to the group he was assigned to keeping the birds back.
Leave a Reply.
Rick Kester is a Viet Nam era veteran living in Northern California with his wife Nancy.