Ravenhawk had spent the next full day scraping and preparing the new skins for tanning, the four Hare skins were done and already soaking in the willow bark and salt brine, the small deer skin was nearly finished and would be placed in a separate barrel with a cleaner brine which had a higher content of salt and the addition of crushed Juniper berries .
As he worked Ravenhawk thought about what and how he would make the clothes needed for Little Bear, while the boy was not very big he would still use a good part of the skins, the four Hare skins would be used to make gloves and a pair of moccasins with the thick winter fur on the inside to keep Little Bear's feet and hands warm.
The deer skin he was going to give to Antonio for his first war shirt but Little Bear had more need for clothes and so Antonio would have to wait, the deer skin, once tanned and ready, would be made into a shirt and leggings for the small boy, while Ravenhawk worked hard out in the equipment shed, Antonio was trying his hand at the new task of beading.
Ravenhawk had shown him how it was done and told him that all it needed was patience and an understanding of what the patterns meant, whether they were his own creation or those used in traditional beading, Antonio was surprised that there were not more colours of beads but he had been told that only the natural colours of nature were used in the old days and so Ravenhawk had kept to them when buying the beads.
At first Antonio had thought it strange to be working like a woman in the house while Ravenhawk was outside doing more manly things but, as he worked through the days he began to realise he was really happy just doing things around the house and, now that Little Bear was with them, he felt even more at peace, Ravenhawk had told him it was the Creators way of bringing peace to Antonio's spirit.
At night all three would sit before the fire and Ravenhawk would begin to teach them the words of the Creators Prayer, first in English and then slowly in his native language, it would be a long process, once they had spent an hour on the words and meaning of the first part of the prayer, Ravenhawk would start to tell stories of the old ways for Little Bear while Antonio listened on with the small boy wrapped in his arms.
Most of the stories were about the beginning of the great Creation but Ravenhawk would add little things to make it more exciting for the Little boy but always keeping the real facts as the main part of the story, Little Bear would sit with his mouth partially open as Ravenhawk told him about how they all came to be.
Ravenhawk's story of the coming of the people:
"Long, long ago, when all was blackness and there was only a feeling of nothingness, Wakan Tanka, the Creator, looked about himself and saw that there was little for his eye to see, as he sat among the darkness he envisioned a bright light and the darkness was filled with the small lights which we today call, Stars."
"Now Creator sat for millennium and looked at those small lights and was pleased, now he had something to keep his eyes alive, as time passed he thought again that it would be nice to see more and so began to create larger and stronger lights to which he gave the name Ra, the yellow one, these he would watch and he was happy but, slowly over time he became too familiar with them all and so began to add other more colourful lights."
"To make it even more interesting he gave new colours to some of the lights, these he called the planets, many were brightly coloured in reds, greens and blues but of all of them he was most taken with the third planet of the bright yellow sun, the mixture of the blues and greens of the planet contrasted nicely with the bright yellow of Ra, again he was happy."
"While sitting in his lofty place in the limitless space, he again began to think of how he could make improvements to his greatest thoughts, he decided that his favourite planet needed some guardians to protect that which he had created, to this end he made the four Guardians and gave them the position of protecting each of the four gates, the North Gate he gave to the one called Sky Father so that the blue planet could be protected from above."
"Next he gave the East Gate to the one he named as the Earth Mother, she would watch over the rolling lands of the blue planet but, as he looked further, he saw that the lands were vast and so he created the South Gate and gave it to the Guardian he called Forrest Guardian, he was to watch over the trees and plants and to keep the planet green."
"There was now only one Gate left, to this Western Gate he gave the Guardian the position of watching over the lakes, rivers and the mighty oceans, it was his place to make sure that those creatures that lived in the waters were always abundant and lived their lives in a peaceful co-existence, Creator looked down upon his Creation and was content."
"As time passed, Creator saw that what he had created was now so proliferate that they should have something to keep them in check so they would not ruin his perfection, the realm of Sky Father was becoming over filled with the many colourful birds, the green lands of the Earth Mother were now covered in the animals that had thrived in the perfect conditions, the waterways were now filled to overflowing with the many fish and crustaceans that he had seen fit to place in them for his own enjoyment, he had to find a way to bring back a balance of all he had created."
"After many long and thoughtful times, Creator thought he would place another animal on his favourite planet, this one had to be able to keep in check the vast numbers of other animals that roamed the planet, it would have to be an animal with the reasoning ability above that of the natural animals, after a great length of time he decided to create the animal he called The People."
"Now Creator could not just let his new creation run wild as it might undo all that he himself had created and so he gave them a spirit that could only live in harmony with his other creations and so that The People could follow his desires, Creator made them in his image so that they were his reflection of all that was good and through them he would see all that he had created."
It was now late in the evening, Little Bear was trying valiantly to keep his eyes open but the tough past was catching up on his small body, he needed sleep, Antonio had sat with Little Bear on his lap, he also was enthralled by the tale of Creation as Ravenhawk had told it, it was far different from what he had been taught and yet there were some similarities that rang a bell deep in his conscience.
"Ravenhawk, you can't stop there, what happened next?"
"Ah my impatient Berdach, there is more to tell but look at the little one, he needs his rest, I will tell you more tomorrow night, it is going to be a long and cold winter, there is plenty of time, besides, you wouldn't want the little one to miss out now would you?"
"Oh, yes of course, ok I'm going to put him to bed, are you coming now?"
"You go ahead, I have some prayers to say and then I will come and join you."
"Ok, but don't be too long or I might go to sleep and you will miss out on the best part of the day."
Ravenhawk had little doubt about what Antonio was talking about, the smouldering look of Antonio's dark eyes told him everything he needed to know, tonight was going to be just like every other night they had had since being together, thankfully, Little Bear was so tired he would sleep through anything, even the squeals of delight from Antonio.
During the night there had been another snowfall, it had added another four inches to the snow that was already laying on the ground, Ravenhawk had checked the stars the previous night before going to bed, he knew that he now only had five days before the time of the Winter Solstice and the need for the ceremony.
That morning he went back to work on the skins, Little Bear was just now starting to show the need for warmer clothes, at night he had been given one of the old tee shirts the boys found in one of the drawers in the cabin but the boy had nothing to cover his other parts, not that Little Bear seemed to mind.
Inspecting the Hare skins he saw that they were nearly ready, by the next morning he would be able to begin with the making of the gloves and moccasins, the deer skin would take another three or so days to be ready, he checked the spinning stone tied to the bottom of the deer skin to make sure it was still effective and would continue to remove the excess water and keep the skin supple.
Ravenhawk started the next job, after making sure the Birch limbs were dry enough, he began to split them into the right thickness, from each branch he got only two slats that were any good for his snow shoes, he had taken the dried small intestines of the buffalo he had killed so long ago and now had them soaking to make them also as supple as the deer skin, they would be used to sew the clothes for Little Bear, the large intestines would be used to make the webbing for the snow shoes.
With the generator running in the small room next door, Ravenhawk did not hear the arrival of small feet until something was pulling on his shirt, looking down Ravenhawk saw the smiling face of Little Bear, his thin body covered in the over sized tee shirt but his feet and legs were bare, as usual.
"Whatcha doing Daddy?"
"I'm making some snow shoes, do you want to help?"
Little Bear was by now almost jumping up and down as his smiled widened.
"Yes please, what do I do?"
Ravenhawk lifted the boy up until he could put his naked butt on the bench to watch, Little Bear was now level with the slats Ravenhawk had been working on drilling, he had already shaved them down to the right thickness with an old spoke shave he had found in the tool box, now he was drilling the holes for the cross hatching with another old hand drill he had found.
"I want you to hold this wood very tightly while I drill the holes, Ok?"
Ravenhawk tried to hide his smile as Little Bear got a very serious look on his face as he grasped hold of the slat that Ravenhawk had been working on, of course the slat was held by the wood vice but he did not want to tell Little Bear that, the idea was for the boy to think he was helping and at the same time see how the old style of snow shoe was made, it was all a learning curve for the little boy.
Ravenhawk worked away with Little Bear helping him until they heard Antonio call from the cabin that he had some hot soup ready, Ravenhawk looked at the bare and now dirty feet of Little Bear where the boy had run through the snow to the shed, he smiled and reached over and picked up the little boy and went out into the crisp coldness of the early winter afternoon, Little Bear laughing and hanging on for all he was worth.
Once inside the cabin, the two of them saw the table set with three large bowls of hot steaming soup and some freshly made sour dough bread, they all sat and began to eat as Antonio asked Little Bear what he had been up to all morning, Ravenhawk smiled as the little boy told Antonio all about him helping to make the snow shoes.
When the soup was finished and they felt warmer and quite filled up, Antonio also looked at the dirty feet and ankles of Little Bear.
"Why don't you stay with me now Little Bear, I think you need a bath to clean those grubby feet and you can help me cook the Hares for dinner, Ok?"
Little Bear smiled and nodded his head in agreement, he was feeling happy that he was needed for all these important jobs and having to have a bath again was worth being with his Daddies when they needed him, his sense of pride and self worth went up another notch as he realised he was an important part of the group and not ignored as a little boy like he had once been.
Ravenhawk returned to the equipment shed to start the long process of doing the bindings on the frames he now had ready, this was the longest part of the manufacture, with three pairs to bind it was going to take him until the next day to finish them all, he gave a final check of the Hare skins, they would be ready to take inside tonight and he could begin to sew them ready for Little Bear.
Ravenhawk worked on alone, by the time it was getting too dark to work, he had three of the shoes bound and ready, tomorrow he would finish the last one for Antonio and complete the two smaller ones for Little Bear, taking the four Hare skins down from the rafters where they were now dry and supple, he carried them back into the cabin and was met with the smell of hot stew cooking on the open fire.
Little Bear was looking clean and happy as he sat on the new buffalo hide in front of the fire watching the large black cast iron cooking pot as it bubbled away with the thick stew inside, the little boy was showing that he was in deep concentration as he watched to make sure the stew did not burn as he had been asked to do by Antonio.
Ravenhawk smiled as he saw Antonio's ploy to keep the boy busy and occupied, it looked as though Little Bear took all of his jobs very seriously, it was a good sign to Ravenhawk that the boy was going to be a good and helpful part of their little family, perhaps they would just stay in this cabin and not go further to the coast, they had everything they needed right here.
After dinner was finished, Ravenhawk got the four Hare skins and, from his pack he took a thick curved needle and a small metal punch, he then went to sit beside Little Bear in front of the fire after he looked for and found a nice thick log of wood to use as a base for what he was about to do, Little Bear was staring intently at what Ravenhawk was doing.
"Are you ready for some nice warm boots and gloves, Little Bear?"
"Oh yes please Daddy, are you really going to make them just for me?"
"Yes little one, just for you, now let me see one of those nice clean feet of yours."
Little bear giggled as he swivelled around and lifted one bare leg up for Ravenhawk to measure, his long tee shirt falling back to reveal that he was still in his natural state underneath, Ravenhawk began to measure and fit the nice soft skin to the foot and leg as he made marks with the thick pencil, next he found a piece of cardboard and got Little Bear to place one of his feet on it while he drew around it to get the right size.
Little Bear enjoyed the attention, his eyes never leaving what Ravenhawk was doing, he watched every measurement and every piece of skin and how it was twisted or turned to make it fit into the pattern Ravenhawk wanted.
As he cut and set out each piece of the Hare skin and finally saw that he had everything right, Ravenhawk pulled the new buffalo hide over to him and selected some of the hide from the belly, it was thick enough to make the soles of the moccasins and would wear for a long time without wearing out.
At last Ravenhawk had everything he needed and he began to punch out the holes using the log as an anvil, each hole was precisely placed and the finer intestines of the buffalo's innards were used as thread, as he worked away, Antonio joined them by the fire so he could also watch what was going on, there might come a time when he would need to know the same things.
"Why don't you tell us more about the story while you work or is that too much to ask?"
"No, it is not too much; let me see, where were we last night?"
Little Bear spoke up with an excitement in his voice, he too wanted to hear the rest of the story, he very much liked stories and especially the ones his two new Daddies told.
"The Creator had made lots of People and he was going to give them lots to eat."
"Ah yes, now I remember, thank you Little Bear, I nearly forgot where we were, let me see now."
"Creator set The People upon his new world, so that each would be responsible for one part of the world he made their spirit crave only one type of food, it was for them to keep the balance, there were those who would live close to the waters and eat only the fish and crustaceans, other would be given the places in the forrests so that they could eat the birds and enjoy the eggs and then there were those of the plains, they were to watch over and keep the balance of the four legged animals, each of The People would care for their own position in the great scheme of things just as the Creator had planned."
"As time passed, The People realised they had been given many gifts from Creator and they began to send prayers and thanks to him for all his bounty, their spirits were strong and in harmony with all around them, when they took the life of an animal of fish, they would say prayers to help the spirit of the fish or animal to find its way through the thick mists of the realms so they could once again run and swim under the eyes of the Creator."
"For a long time they lived in harmony until something changed, no one knew how or when it happened or how it came about without the Creator knowing but the world began to change, first it was the coming of a new species, they were not like the other People, their skin was pale and lacked the strong healthy colour that creator had given to his People, they also lacked the true spirit."
"It is said they came from a place that was cold and dark and had no love of the birds, trees, fish or animals that Creator had set upon the world, all these new comers knew was war and destruction, Creator's People were not prepared for this new threat to the harmony of all the spirits."
"Creator felt sad that his greatest works were now placed in a position where they would have to break their word with Creator just to survive and so they asked him through their prayers, for an answer, his answer was one that he did not give lightly, in the end he changed their spirits so they could make war on the invaders to protect the wonders of his creations, the birds, fish and animals, this fight goes on even today and it was the new sickness brought about by Creator that finally may level the grounds for the spirits to take back the balance that was lost to the pale ones."
As Ravenhawk finished his tale, Little Bear looked up at him with big eyes.
"Daddy, am I a pale one that destroyed everything?"
"No Little Bear, you are an innocent and so the Creator decided to protect you because he could see the good in your spirit, you will grow big and strong and help to protect that which is left after the big sickness, you are very special in the eyes of the Creator, now it's time for your bed, let me just measure your hand so I can get the gloves right and tomorrow morning you will have nice warm hands and feet."
Little Bear held out one small hand and watched as Ravenhawk took one of the skins and laid it over the small hand, he then began to fold and measure until he had the right shape and size, once done he lifted Little Bear up and kissed him on the forehead before letting Antonio take him to his bed, it had been another long day for the little boy.
Antonio returned just in time to watch Ravenhawk shape and begin to sew the small fur gloves, he worked with the sure hands of experience, something that surprised Antonio as he did not think that Ravenhawk's young years would give him such assured talent, it was almost mesmerising to watch the quick and effortless movements of Ravenhawk's hands and fingers, Antonio felt it was something else he would need to learn.
The first rays of morning brought the sight of another snow fall, it was now a good six inches deep on the ground and yet, the circle of the sweat lodge still remained clear, Ravenhawk now only had two days left before he would have to hold the ceremony, today he would have to go and clear his snares.
As Antonio poured the fresh coffee into two mugs, Little Bear came into the now warm room rubbing the sleep from his eyes, anything resembling the smell of food would get his little legs moving in the morning, he went to Ravenhawk and put his arms up in the gesture of wanting to be picked up and seated on his lap, Ravenhawk obliged with a smile.
Antonio placed a glass of fruit juice on the table for Little Bear and then went to finish cooking breakfast, which he had become quite good at as he had with most of the meals, it was something he had always been able to do as he had stood by his mother's side when meals were being prepared.
"Did you sleep well, Little Bear?" Ravenhawk asked the small boy.
"Yes Daddy, but it was hard at first, Daddy Antonio was making lots of squeals, was he hurting?"
"No, that was just his way of playing."
"After breakfast, do you want to try out your new gloves and boots?"
"Oh yes please, are they nice and warm?"
"Yes and I made something else just for you so your little bare butt doesn't get cold as well."
"Really, is it some pants like all the others?"
"No, not quite, but it will keep you warm until I can make some for you, I think you will like these."
Little Bear wriggled around in excitement, as soon as the food was on the table he began filling his mouth, he thought that the faster he finished the sooner he would have some presents, just like Xmas time with his mother.
Breakfast over and Antonio washing the few plates and forks, Ravenhawk took Little Bear into the lounge part of the large room, sitting him on one of the chairs he produced his work from the night before, first he measured the coat he had made from the belly skin of the buffalo, he had cut it into two pieces much like a T shape and then sewn around the edges to make the coat leaving a shallow curved hole in the top for the boys head to fit through, if he was lucky with his traps he might have something to make a fur lined hood for the coat.
Leaving the long tee shirt on Little Bear, he pulled the long coat over the boys head and settled it on his slender boyish shoulders, the strong hair on the inside would insulate the boy from the outside cold, the sleeves were just a fraction too long but they would do, at the cuff of each sleeve was one of the gloves held there by a thin leather thong, this way Little Bear would not lose his gloves.
Sitting Little Bear on the chair he then placed the fur lined moccasins on his small feet, pulling them up until they were just below his knees, he then pulled the thin draw string tight around the calf of the little boys legs to keep them from falling down, he then stood Little Bear back up on his feet, the coat coming to just below the level of the long moccasins.
"How do you like them, Little Bear?"
"Really, really good Daddy, my toes are so warm and I can't feel the cold anywhere."
Ravenhawk watched with a smile on his face as Little Bear began to pull on the gloves, now it only remained to find a good skin to make a hood for the bald head of the boy, he would really feel the cold until his hair grew back, it was either a hood or he may be able to make a small fur hat for the boy, he would have to wait and see if he had anything in his traps.
As Ravenhawk donned his own heavy clothing for his trip out to check the traps, Little Bear was allowed to venture out into the snow to play, it was the first time he had been able to leave the house since his arrival.
Ravenhawk completed his dressing and then went to get one of the wagon horses to ride around while he cleared the traps and then reset them again, Antonio had finished inside and would sit on the veranda to watch Little Bear at play or until he thought the boy was getting to cold, Ravenhawk told him he may be away for most of the day.
Ravenhawk got one of the finished pairs of snow shoes to carry with him, he still had the small pair to finish for Little Bear but would do that when he returned, he would need the boy for measurements so that he got the bindings in the right place for his small feet.
The day turned out very successful for Ravenhawk and it was close to nightfall when he turned the horse back into the corral, after rubbing the horse down and laying out some of the hay for them both, Ravenhawk returned to the house, his nose was running with the cold and his cheeks felt stiff and chilled but he had a good collection of pelts and meat with him.
Ravenhawk's traps had turned out better than he thought they would, there was a Fox with a full winter coat, two very large Hares, and of all things, four pure white Weasels, he had also managed to shoot a wild turkey on his way home, they now had plenty of meat for a long time as well as some very good skins to be processed.
The Fox fur he would turn into a hood for Little Bear as he needed the extra insulation it would bring for his hairless head, the rest he would make gloves and moccasins for himself and Antonio, if there was enough scraps of skin left over he would also make a hat each, during the winter, even with a full head of hair their head still got cold.
Dusk fell just as he walked into the cabin, Little Bear was curled up in front of the fire asleep while Antonio was once again over his cooking pots, the smell coming from the large black pot on the fire was truly enticing as Ravenhawk took a deep sniff of the warm air, a sudden flicker of the single electric light reminded him he would have to check the fuel in the generator in the morning, they turned it off each night with the small cut off switch by the front door.
"So why is the little one so tired?"
"He played all day until he couldn't stand up any more, I've never had so many snow ball fights, he seemed to never run out of energy, I think it was the chance to be outside and the freedom he felt."
"That's good for him, have you got his clothes drying away from the fire, too close and you'll ruin the leather."
"Yes, I watched you the first time you dried yours, they are over there."
Antonio pointed to where the new clothes were drying slowly on a rough frame just out of reach of the worst of the fire heat.
"That's good, I'll put mine there all so."
"How did your traps work?"
"Very well, we have plenty of meat for a while, if it snows too hard and I cannot hunt then we will be alright, we also now have enough winter skins to make everything we need, I've hung the animals and turkey outside for now, I will prepare them all tomorrow, for now I need some food and rest, the snow shoes work very well, I am happy with them, after dinner I will finish Little Bear's shoes."
After waking Little Bear, they all sat down for dinner, the thick venison stew and fresh baked sour dough bread to soak up the gravy soon filled and warmed them, a plate of preserved fruit finished off the meal to everyone's satisfaction, Little Brea sat back with a genuine little pot belly as he sighed in contentment.
Before Ravenhawk let Little Bear return to sleeping after having his belly filled, he got the boy to stand on the partially finished snow shoes, after checking the size he sent Little Bear off to bed while he went back to finish the bindings, an hour later and he also was ready for bed, sliding in behind Antonio, he was soon asleep.
The morning found Ravenhawk standing on the small veranda with a steaming cup of fresh coffee, he had performed his prayers to Creator and was now getting ready to dress out his catch from the traps, Little Bear was dressed in his new coat, boots and gloves and trying to walk in his small snow shoes, he appeared to be having a lot of fun falling into the snow more than trying to walk on it.
Ravenhawk smiled at the boy's antics as he felt Antonio join him to watch.
"You should also go and practice a little; you never know when you will have to use them." Ravenhawk told Antonio.
"Yes, you're right, I've never used snow shoes before, I'll go and get mine and you can show me how to fasten the bindings then I can join Little Bear and have some fun; what will you be doing?"
"I have the game to dress out and start to prepare the new skin, tomorrow I will be starting my ceremony in the sweat lodge so there will be no time left during that."
"Would you like me to join you inside?"
"Not this time, I will need you outside to watch over Little Bear and to keep the stones hot, I will be inside for quite some time."
"But I won't know what to do."
"I will show you and tell you what you can and cannot do, don't worry, this time will be a learning time for you, when the summer solstice comes you can join me then."
"Ok, as long as I don't make a mistake and ruin things for you."
"You will do well, don't worry, the Creator is not a vengeful spirit like your god, he will understand."
Antonio fell silent as he mulled over what he had just been told, in the pit of his stomach he was actually starting to look forward to the new experience, there was so much of Ravenhawk's world he knew nothing about but was looking forward to learning as much as he could, especially now that he was learning the strange prayer which seemed to get more complicated each time he recited it, in his head he went over the first paragraph again for about the tenth time that morning.
'I know that I am made and created in the image and likeness of the Divine.'
The more he thought about the simple sentence, the more he became confused, it was so simple yet held such a depth of speculation and required a lot of thought if he wished to truly understand Ravenhawk's world, Antonio turned and went to get his snow shoes, his mind already trying to work through the simple sentence and equate it to his new surroundings.