Leap of Faith 9 15 August 2022
The beached whale is a concrete statue of a grey whale in Santa Cruz, California. My wife, Nancy, and two dogs are in the background. Rick
Season 2 of NBC's La Brea is due Tuesday, 27 September
Leap of Faith 9
Synopsis: Trainee Washington State Trooper and Muckleshoot Indian Jeremy Cross leapt into the Seattle sinkhole giving access to 10,000 BCE. Jeremy had locked eyes with a smiling Izzy Harris and, having recently broken up with his college sweetheart, was overwhelmed with the prospect of new love.
Jeremy hasn’t made contact with Izzy or her father, Gavin in the weeks since entering the Little Dryas era.
Jeremy has had encounters with Musk oxen, deer, mastodons, short-faced bear and a beached sperm whale.
After crossing the Columbia River and fending off a pack of ravenous direwolves, by killing them all, Jeremy is taken in by a village of Native Americans. Jeremy has decided to promote material advancement against their contact with Europeans. When the village leader, Spearman, sees sperm whale teeth that Jeremy has collected, he insists on going back north to the beached whale.
Spearman, Wingman, Bear and Wolf made quick work of extracting the teeth of the sperm whale with jadeite adzes, while Jeremy fended off the teratorn super buzzards with a paddle. The unlucky whale had forty teeth in the narrow lower jaw and matching sockets in the upper.
If the tribe had caught the whale fresh, they might have butchered the meat, dried it, and put it away for the winter. Still, they salvaged a lot. The sperm oil from the head would be used in stone lamps. The long sinews from the tail were prized, as were the intestines.
The men were wading in the surf when Jeremy spotted a dorsal fin arrowing in on a wave. Not a shark, this black sail towered as high as Jeremy above the black and white orca with gaping jaws. Now Jeremy knew what had been taking bites from the sperm whale at high tide. It was coming straight at Wolf.
Jeremy’s rifle would have been the best weapon against the ten-ton juggernaut, but the rifle was strapped on his back. Jeremy yelled, “WOLF!” and stepped to the side to get a clear shot, with his .44 revolver, past the smallest warrior. Couldn’t anything be solved non-violently in this glacial age?
Luckily, Wolf was not inhibited from making a jump away from the sperm whale and the orca’s path. The same movement put Wolf in Jeremy’s gunsights again and Jeremy was too committed to stop the trigger pull. Bam! Jeremy was able to jerk the gun to the side and the bullet flew off into the Pacific.
The wave drained back into the ocean leaving the furious orca momentarily stranded and straining to place Wolf in his jaws. Wolf was having none of that and struck the orca a crafty blow to the head with his adze. Wolf missed the eye but the blow was close enough to signify his intent.
The next wave lifted the orca, who curled and swam away. He had had enough.
Jeremy holstered his revolver and unslung his rifle, “From now on, only work on one side of the whale, so I can guard you better.”
Jeremy saw Wolf was bleeding. The killer whale had drawn blood, after all. Jeremy applied a dressing despite Wolf’s preference, “Just rub some dirt in it.”
Spearman examined their dugout, “We have a full load, now. Let’s head home and not risk angering the gods with our greed.”
The route south went further from shore to take advantage of the Alaskan current. The same current carried ice bergs that obscured Jeremy’s vision.
Jeremy kept his head on a swivel in anticipation of orca revenge but didn’t spot anything.
* * *
Spearman divided the teeth fairly enough and the older Sage received three for his role as village guardian. Jeremy spent the whale teeth and other trading goods on three major projects. The first was a red cedar sea going dugout canoe.
Sage was the village expert and the project started with selecting the proper tree. Sage helped make a proper sacrifice to the spirit of the tree. The tree was girdled to kill it and let it season for weeks before felling. The seasoning could take a year, but Jeremy made it clear he wanted to make a summer voyage.
The second project was a fur suit. Even the heavy fabric of his modern storm parka was showing were and tear from weeks of travel. It turned out the fur inside clothing was the inner half of a winter outfit and made of caribou fur. Boots and mittens were fashioned of seal skin. The outer suit was made of polar bear hide with the fur out so the leather to leather contact would offer the least friction.
After felling the cedar with fire, adze and Jeremy’s steel camp axe, Jeremy moved the log close to the Columbia with log rollers, levers and the tribesmen. The fourteen foot length would be a compromise between seakeeping and Jeremy’s ability to beach a dugout weighing several hundred pounds.
The parka was designed without fasteners that could be torn off and expose the wearer to frigid winds. The same winds would be kept from Jeremy’s face by a wolf fur ruff. The parka was a pullover that extended to Jeremy’s knees and was wide enough he could pull in his legs, if he had to sleep in it.
Jeremy shaped the outside of the dugout to be streamlined fore and aft with a keel to raise the dugout a bit when beaching. The top was flattened a bit but did not produce a wide enough slit for Jeremy to sit inside. Sage counseled patience. Hollowing the canoe was done with both fire and adze work. Jeremy was careful to leave a mass of wood at the bottom center to serve as the mast step.
The seams of Jeremy’s suits were not in the easiest place to sew them. There was no seam on top of his shoulders to be pressed in by a pack strap or part under tension. Equal design went into the trousers, for durability.
Jeremy also spent time hunting with the warriors. He had learned to shape the various stone types into tools and had created his own atlatl spear thrower and a handful of spears. After some discussion of Jeremy’s ability to move stealthily, he was honored with the sitting position in a drive hunt, which netted a deer. The hide would go into his summer outfit.
Jeremy’s seamstress was his third major concern. Sweetwater was of marriageable age as Jeremy could see during the communal morning bath in the Columbia. In the twenty-first century she would be called hot. Girls married out of this tribe, while the men staid home. This should mean there would be little problem with Sweetwater leaving with him, should they decide to marry.
The dugout proceeded slowly and needed much attention. The hull was filled with water and fire-heated stones were dropped in to make it boil and penetrate the wood. Cross pieces were wedged in place and the wedges were hammered each day to widen the softened sides of the canoe into an open shape.
Jeremy worked steadily on the dugout with Sage’s occasional supervision. Meanwhile his mind wrestled with whether he wanted to marry this beautiful Indian maiden. Yes, he wanted to make love with her. This was especially, and embarrassingly, obvious when she fitted his trousers after rubbing her hands over the muscles of his shoulders. On the other hand, he still remembered the smile Izzy Harris had given him.
Izzy was somewhere in this primitive land, whether dead or alive. They hadn’t spoken to each other, let alone dated. He had no real obligation to break up with her before starting a new relationship. Also, Spearman had two wives, so bigamy wasn’t a felony in this tribe. Still, if he married Sweetwater, he would not pursue a relationship with Izzy, should they ever meet again.
Jeremy fashioned a mast and spar of spruce for a triangular, lateen sail. Sweetwater sewed the small sail of whale intestine, which had the advantage of being nearly transparent. There was no deep heavy keel to prevent tipping or side slipping from the wind. The tipping was addressed with an outrigger.
Trial in the Columbia saw Jeremy capsizing the dugout when he tried to turn it around and sail with the wind on the other side. Jeremy determined to swap direction by changing his seating position so the outrigger was always downwind. He also rigged a swing seat from the mast so he could stand on the upwind gunnel, as he had seen in yacht racing videos.
Jeremy filled cedar casks with water and food. The food was mostly the seasonal pine nuts, as he planned the gather shellfish and hunt mammals for meat. Seaweed and pine needles would give him vitamins and electrolytes. Now he just had to talk with Sweetwater and her father.
Leave a Reply.
Rick Kester is a Viet Nam era veteran living in Northern California with his wife Nancy.