Castle Roland

The Runner

by Arthur


Chapter 6

Published: 18 Feb 16

The Runner

Copyright © 2016 by Arthur
All Rights Reserved

Clarry awoke to someone poking his shoulder. Looking up, he saw Liam with one hand holding his crotch and his feet doing the little dance of morning need.

Through bleary eyes, Clarry asked Liam, "What?"

"I need to go."

"Well hop outside and go."

"It's too cold."

Clarry tried to form a smile as he watched Liam dance from one foot to the other. Finally he relented and eased the warm covers off. The chill of the morning hit him immediately.

"OK, go use the toilet in that room over there. Don't flush yet so I can use it after you. There will only be enough water in it for one flush."

With a relieved look on his young face, Liam rushed to the bathroom door and disappeared inside. The sound of a strong stream could be heard by Clarry as he pushed the covers off and stretched some of the stiffness out of his own limbs. His own needs now made themselves felt as he heard a very faint sigh from behind the door.

When Liam had returned to the main room, Clarry went and did his own business. Once finished he flushed the toilet, it worked as normal but then he thought about being able to use it again if they stayed. The only way he could see of doing that would be to bucket water into the cistern when they need to go. He would give it more thought after breakfast.

Clarry stoked up the pot belly stove once again. If he decided to stay here, he would look into the kitchen stove but for now, the pot belly would be enough until he saw what wood was available to them.

Liam had got dressed in warm clothes and had positioned himself at the window once again. His favourite book was open on his knees as Clarry worked on breakfast.

While the pan was heating, Clarry went to the front door, opened it and looked out. The snow was still falling slowly. There was about three inches already on the ground and covering the Land-Rover and trailer. The decision was already made for him.

Clarry turned back into the warming house, he looked at the content face of Liam and decided they would wait out the winter right here. The old house had everything they should need and he could always try to hunt for meat if they needed to. It was time to look at the rest of the house, especially the cellar.

Clarry deduced that it would be best to use only the ground floor rooms, trying to heat the upper floor would take too much fire wood. He would close off the upper floor as best he could to conserve heat.

The cellar held a huge supply of preserved fruits, vegetables, meats and even a few jars of fish. There was also a plentiful supply of canned goods. Clarry thought that at least for now they would not starve.

After breakfast, Clarry had Liam help him work on the trailer and Land-Rover. They needed to protect them as best they could from the coming winter storms.

The vehicle was shrouded in a large tarp which was staked down tight, after unloading everything he thought they might need from the trailer. Clarry got out the heavy jack and lifted the trailer up enough to place a few thick logs under the chassis to keep the tyres off the ground. The last thing he needed was to have ruptured tyres when spring came.

The rest of the day was spent trying to improve the house to make it comfortable. The finding of the attached building at the other side of the house and the small generator it held gave them light.

After checking the fuel tank, Clarry surmised they would have enough diesel to see them through the winter as long as they only used it for an hour or two at night. There was a good stock of both candles and kerosene lamps in the cellar so they would not be caught short for lighting.

The wood shed was close to the back door and was filled to capacity. Clarry would decide if he used the wood stove or the pot belly for cooking. His abilities in the kitchen were basic at best. Either way both forms of cooking would also heat the few rooms they were going to use.

With the finding of the generator he could also use the electric water pump for washing and to fill the toilet. If this failed he could resort to buckets from the hand pump in the kitchen. Clarry had made sure the electric water heater was turned off. He did not want to waste power and use fuel unnecessarily. They could heat water on the pot belly for washing.

By the time the night was moving back in, Clarry and Liam had got just about everything as they wanted it. The sound of a heavy gust of wind and a thickening of the snow fall told them they had made the right decision as to staying where they were.

The cave was beginning to resemble something like a home, even if it was only temporary. Across the entrance the boys had built their wickerwork wall with a small entrance door on the left hand side. Close by was the small stone work fire pit. They had tested it to make sure the smoke would filter through the wicker and not fill the cave and kill them both while they slept.

The rear of the cave had been made comfortable and all there was to do now was to make sure the trailer was protected from the vagaries of the winter. Runs-Slow was now even more happy he had come across Peter. His friends knowledge from his school days went a long way to making things safe and secure while Runs-Slow's talent had set up much of their new home.

The trailer took a full day to ready for winter. As he worked, Peter explained everything to Runs-Slow. The reason for putting the trailer up on stone piles to stop the tyres from being damaged. The reason for lowering the canopy to lay flat and tie it down. Why Peter wrapped the bare hubs and axels in an oily cloth before fixing some plastic bags over them. It was after each explanation that Runs-Slow saw the reasoning behind it all. When spring came they would want to have their trailer ready to go without having problems to repair.

The days turned colder and colder as the boys worked hard preparing for the cold and storms that winter would bring. Their last major work was to erect a rough lean-to for the horses. Runs-Slow put in extra poles and rails to make a short term corral.

After ten days of planning and hard work, the two boys could look at what had been done. Runs-Slow had been concerned about flooding in the canyon if they got heavy rain. To this end he went to search out the full length of the canyon and to see if he could spot where there were marks of floods and to what height they had got to.

Finding nothing as well as seeing that the canyon was far shorter then he thought, he surmised they should be safe from floods. There were no marks on the walls of the canyon to indicate there had ever been floods within the canyon. Runs-Slow did expect the small stream to rise during rains but felt they were high enough from the floor of the canyon to be safe.

Both boys were now comfortable with each other. There was little hidden as they now slept together every night and were becoming closer for it. As yet, neither had made the one move they both desired. For Runs-Slow it was tradition, for Peter it was the fear of being rejected as he would have been in the time of the old world.

Their first night after completing all the chores they had set for themselves, was to turn out to be one of discovery. The first tentative move was made by Runs-Slow and was quickly reciprocated by Peter. It was to be the night they found out more about themselves as well as their new partner.

It was the beginning of something that neither boy had thought about before. Yes they had their moments when their hormones ran through their young bodies like a wild horse and they had both had fantasies of one kind or another, but for the first time in their lives they felt a new need that far outweighed any past teachings or beliefs.

After the first fumbling touching and heavy breathing, the boys began to find themselves and each other. Their lives would never be the same again after that first night and would eventually grow into something unbreakable.

The winter of that year was one of the worst ever known by any of the small groups. Continuous snow fell to the north and carried further south than any of them had heard of. Where once there would have been a light covering of only a foot or so... they were now looking at five feet that was accompanied by strong gale force winds that drove the snow into every nook and cranny that was not protected.

Carlito was surprised by the snow. As a Californian he had not had the experience that Greg had had. Carlito was used to heavy rain and storm winds but snow was another thing altogether. Carlito was now very glad Greg had insisted on finding better winter clothes for them both.

For Carlito, even the thought of getting out of bed was enough to make him shiver. He even put up with Greg's giggles at his thin skin while Greg would bounce out of bed and run to build up the fire for breakfast.

Far off in the canyon, Runs-Slow was having much the same time as Carlito. His land was hot and dry and while they did get wind storms and on the odd times it rained, they also got a deluge that lasted a few hours and then dissipated only to be quickly soaked up by the arid land. Runs-Slow was just not prepared for the blizzard of sleet and freezing cold winds.

The thought of wearing only his desert clothing was soon put aside for much warmer store bought clothes. On the days he could get out, Runs-Slow would attempt to hunt for fresh meat or investigate the stream for fish.

Having built up a large stock of dry wind fall wood, the fire was little problem and Peter was careful how he used what they had. For Runs-Slow the best times were still at night when he could snuggle up close to Peter and share their warmth. In the hidden cave there was a sense of peace and contentment building as each cold, wet day passed.

Much of the time when the boys could not venture out was spent with Runs-Slow telling Peter of the old legends and stories. He also spent time trying to teach peter some of his language.

Peter was enthralled by the tales his new friend would tell. While most of them seemed a little off what he thought, all of them had a lesson to tell and it was peter's job to find it and tell Runs-Slow what he thought the tale was really about and the lesson it taught.

On the days he was left to himself while Runs-Slow was out hunting, Peter would go over the legends in his mind to see if he could find another lesson. He usually did find another. When Runs-Slow returned, Peter would explain it to him and they would then start a discussion all over again about the tale.

For Carlito, Greg turned out to be a very good asset. The boys knowledge of country living went a long way to making their temporary home safe and comfortable although the snow was still a wonder and a curse for Carlito.

Coming from Maine, the two brothers thought little of the deep snow or the howling wind of the winter. They had prepared the new home with everything they thought they would need and by keeping the upstairs closed off, the heating of the downstairs was made easier and comfortable for them both.

The long nights gave them both plenty of time to plan and prepare for when the spring came and they could move on. Clarry tried to help Liam to learn to use one of the pistols but the younger boy's hands were just too small and he didn't like the weight. His trusty sawn off was kept constantly by his side whether indoors or out.

It became one of the hardest and longest winter any of the boys could remember. Places that had never seen snow before were now covered in two or three feet of the stuff. Rivers and streams that flowed even on the coldest of days were now frozen over and useless for fishing. It was a timely wake-up call for all those out looking for a safe haven.

Winter dragged on well into February, much later than ever before. By the beginning of March the first hints of the thaw were starting to show and the three groups could start to make solid plans for the coming year.

As before, it was where to go. They would now have roads that might be impassable as there were no longer people around to clear away the debris of landslides from the rain or damaged roads from avalanches. There was also the possibility that bridges may have been washed out so planning would be rough at best.

Runs-Slow and Peter were the first to be able to move. Their small canyon had given them good protection and the horses had survived although they would need to find a good pasture to let them gain some weight back. For two weeks the two boys worked preparing their transport and checking over their supplies as the spring rains began to subside and the ground settled back to being a little more firm underfoot.

By the start of the third week of March, the two boys began their journey to find Runs-Slow's cousin, wherever he may be. For them it was a matter of keep heading north.

Carlito and Greg had a harder time of it. Their supplies were now low and they needed to find replacements. The winter had given the boys one good benefit. They had finally discovered each other and were closer for the experience. There was a certain possessiveness that now made them feel responsible for each other.

The preparations for their continued journey took them two weeks and a few days. Everything had to be checked and tested before they were happy with the results. As time passed they would likely meet more and more resistance from others they might come across. Everything had to be ready for action at a moment's notice.

Clarry and Liam had the hardest time of the winter, being further north than any of the three groups. The two brothers had deep piled snow and the lowest temperatures of any of them. Had it not been for them being raised in Maine they may not have survived.

For the two brothers, it was late March before they could even begin to make plans to move south. As they began work on their trailer and car, the land around them still held lowering snow drifts but each day brought less and less. It would be April before they started their journey south and hopefully to safety.

Runs-Slow was glad to finally be able to leave the cave. While it had been a good and safe shelter from the unexpected harshness of the winter, he had hated being cooped up without being able to go out and run free over the land. Now that the time to move north was upon them, Runs-Slow could not wait to stretch his legs and build his strength back up.

As they pulled away from the safe winter home, Runs-Slow felt the need to stretch his legs and so ran ahead to free up unused muscles. Greg followed more slowly behind as he guided the horses out of the canyon.

The two boys had decided to find a suitable town where they could rebuild their supplies and let the horses get some good feed. They had decided to stay wherever it was for at least a week so the horses could recover as much condition as they could.

On the first day away from the canyon, Runs-Slow was able to shoot a deer before it became aware of them. The loud echo of the shot seemed to roll over the empty land for miles. The rest of that day was spent butchering the fresh meat and storing it for the evening when they could begin to salt and smoke it. Their pace was now slower to save the horses until they could find the right place to stop.

It was three days later before they found a small farm settlement that had everything they were looking for. The spring grass was full and lush and there did not seem to be anyone else around. The two boys went in search of a place the leave the trailer while they searched the town for goods and a place to stay.

Finding a secure place for the horses with abundant feed and water was little to no trouble at all. Everywhere they looked was open land and nothing to stop them from using it.

It was now more noticeable that the wild animals had not only come closer to the vacant towns, but were building in numbers rapidly. Without the continual hunting, the numbers had been allowed to increase even in such a short time. Most days the boys would see young deer running beside their mothers.

Game birds also seemed to be more prolific. A short walk from the edge of town could easily set up large flocks of game birds that at first sent the boys ducking nervously until they could identify the source. Their evening meals became more creative and interesting as they filled their table with fresh meat of every sort.

A smoke house was built by Peter and many days it would be in use as they preserved as much meat as they could get their hands on. They had finally decided to stay in the town for a month instead of the week or so they had planned on originally. By the time they were ready to leave, they should have a good supply of everything they would need for the future.

As they moved out from their winter home, Carlito was surprised at how much damage was done to the roads now that there was no one to look after them. His idea of speeding off to find safety was now slowed in some places to not much more than a crawl while in others the roads were clear and still in good condition.

The immediate sense of time and need was over. The long stop for winter had calmed the two boys to the stage they no longer felt the need to hurry from one place to the other.

On the third day out from their winter home, Greg had shot a young deer as it fed on the side of the road. Both boys knew they could not waste the meat but neither of them knew how to slaughter it properly. This led to many fits of laughter and jibes as they tried their best. The result was rough at best.

The skin was beyond saving and much of the meat was left on the bones for the wild animals. What they did recover they took with them and looked forward to their first fresh meat in months.

The boys were to learn that fresh meat did not stay that way for very long if you did not preserve it somehow. A bad case of belly ache for both boys set them to thinking about what they did wrong. The next time the boys came across a small town, they had decided to look for information on how to keep the meat useable for a little longer.

Everything for both boys was a learning curve. Even the day Carlito took his eyes off the road and set the Humvee into a deep culvert, became a learning event. It took them five hours to free the vehicle and get it back up on the road. They were extremely lucky the trailer had not tipped over an dashed all their hopes.

Moving north was now slower. The accident with the culvert had made Carlito look at every crack in the road as a possible threat. It was only the soft hands of Greg at night that allayed the occasional dream of being trapped in an overturned vehicle that allowed Carlito to sleep some nights.

The boys had now decided to take turns driving. As there was no definite destination and the time seemed to pass slowly, there was little need to speed anywhere. When they found their safe haven they would know, until then they began to look around and enjoy the freedom of making their own choices and decisions.

Clarry and Liam had harder choices to make. Being further north, they did not enjoy the early spring sunshine but had only the dismal cold grey of spring rains to break the harsh winter snows.

The ground was now clearing rapidly and it was time to finalise their preparations for leaving. Clarry had taken a long walk one morning to look over the roadway below the old house.

It was noticeable that the snow had broken away patches of the black-top and the chance of pot holes or complete breaks in the road were very real. He would have to drive even slower now than before.

The grass had also begun to show even though there were still spots with melting snow under some of the trees. Broken tree branches also lay across a part of the road and would need clearing before they could leave.

The last thought Clarry had before returning to the house where Liam waited for him was that in only two weeks it would be Liam's birthday and he had no idea how to make a special day for him. Clarry felt that his little brother needed something like that to give him hope for the future. He would have to start planning right away.

It was almost a picture from a bygone age. A modern built covered wagon pulled by two large horses could be seen wending their slow way north west. On the seat handling the reins sat Peter while the lithe form of Runs-Slow ran along-side the horses head to the right of the wagon.

The pace was just fast enough for Runs-Slow to trot so he was able to rebuild his fitness after the long layover in the cave for the winter.

Runs-Slow was now sure he was well into the lands of the Ute or possibly even further and approaching the new lands of the Cheyenne and the Great Plains.

There was little to indicate any borders so Runs-Slow just kept their heading to the north-west. Peter was now very confident in his ability to handle the two horses. They were making slow progress as they wanted to let the horses feed well and regain some of their previous condition before winter had set in.

Peter had guessed that they were making no more than ten miles a day, the pace was slow and there were plenty of stops, sometimes they even stayed for two or three days where the horse feed was plentiful.

It was at these times that Runs-Slow began to teach Peter about living off the land and how to trail and trap their meat. Peter was learning fast and what was more of a surprise was the fact he was actually enjoying it all.

Runs-Slow's lessons seemed like the small nagging thing in the back of Peter's mind was now being fulfilled, for Peter it almost felt primal as he learned his lessons. What few books he had once read did not even come close to the actual lessons that he was being taught.

Peter was still fascinated by the old legends and stories that Runs-Slow had told him during the long winter nights. He had had no idea that his ancestors had such a colourful history and how close they had become with the land.

It seemed that everything had some type of spirit and the more he heard, the more he became enthralled with the way stories carried so much truth on how to treat, not only people but the land and animals that lived on it.

Runs-Slow was the first to admit he did not know all there was needed to be known about the old ways, but he tried his best to bring Peter into his world and that of Peter's ancestors.

In the evenings, Peter almost felt like he was back living in a bygone age. The two boys would sit around a small fire as their meal of the day was cooking and Runs-Slow would begin one of his many stories. Occasionally the smell of burning food would bring both boys out of the place they had been in while the story was being related in soft tones.

They had been travelling across and open plain when Runs-Slow slowed his pace and signalled for Peter to pull up the horses.

Once the wagon was stopped, Runs-Slow signalled for Peter to join him on the ground, after tying of the reins to stop the horses from moving as they would be leaving the wagon where it was for a little while.

Peter joined Runs-Slow on the ground. As he walked up beside the front, he saw runs-Slow lift a finger to his lips and then point off to one side of the track they had been following. At first Peter saw nothing until Runs-Slow nudged him and pointed carefully again.

Peter looked down the length of Runs-Slow's arm and finally saw what he was meant to. No more than fifty yards away, Peter saw three fat rabbits moving slowly through the short grass. Without saying a word, Runs-slow made signs for Peter to try to capture a rabbit for dinner. With a smile, Runs-Slow whispered in his ear that peter had to catch the rabbit by hand.

Peter's shoulder slumped. There was no way that could be done. Rabbits were notoriously nervous and flighty. There was no way he would be able to get within range to capture it and if he did get near, there was no way he could run fast enough to catch it. Peter shook his head, No.

Runs-Slow smiled and indicated he would go first and show Peter how to do it. It was with disbelief that Peter smiled back at the slim teen. He then shrugged his shoulders as though indicating it was an impossible mission.

Peter watched as Runs-Slow checked over his body to make sure nothing was loose or would make any noise. Giving his rifle to Peter, Runs-Slow began to slowly move forward. Much to Peter's surprise, within five yards Runs-Slow seemed to disappear into the very ground itself. Peter had never seen anything like it, perhaps the reputation of the Apache was well deserved.

Peter waited silently. It was only the sudden flurry of activity ten minutes later that told him Runs-Slow had struck. Peter was surprised to see only one rabbit bouncing away as Runs-Slow suddenly showed himself just where the rabbits had been feeding. A plump rabbit held in each hand and a wide smile on his lips as he made his way back towards Peter.

Peter could only stand and look stunned as Runs-Slow approached with their evening meal in his hands, the wide smile on his friends face said it all. Peter was now a believer.

Peter saw that the two rabbits were still alive but was soon shown how to effectively put them out of their misery. Runs-Slow grasped the first rabbit by the rear legs and placed his fore finger and thumb each side of the neck just behind the head. With a quick twist and pull the rabbit was dead. Runs-slow handed the other rabbit to Peter so he could follow the new lesson.

It took Peter some time to finally have the rabbit dead in his hands. He had never realised how strong the small animals could be and how critical it was to have his fingers in the right place for a quick kill.

With both rabbits finally dead, Runs-Slow then took Peter through the simple ceremony of thanking the spirits of the rabbits for their sacrifice and to aid them on their journey through the mists to their new life in the realms.

For the next hour Runs-Slow took Peter through the system of preparing the rabbits for cooking. At first the skinning looked so easy, until he tried it. Runs-Slow was patient as he took Peter through each step until both rabbits were ready for dinner.

Placing the two prepared bodies into a cool shady spot inside the wagon, Runs-slow told Peter they could move on. They could still put a few more miles in for the day before stopping to make camp for the night.

Far to the south and west of the rabbit hunters, Carlito and Greg were still ensconced in the cabin they had taken over for the winter.

There had been no human activity in their area and the boys felt safe where they were for the moment. The long cold nights had given the two teens time to get more closely acquainted and their budding relationship was developing in a positive manner.

Greg was now fully healed and even better, his experience gave Carlito more insight into what would be needed for their own protection and how to live off the land. The first day that Carlito shot a young deer was almost a classic case of a boys own circus.

Neither boy had shot a deer before and the need to dress it out and save the meat was to become a rash of errors and at some times, laughter as they tried to work out how and what to do.

The results after three hours of work were not what they would have liked but at least they had some fresh meat saved from the mangled animal. All it took was a bit of water to wash off most of the grass and grit that had somehow got onto the carcass. Both boys agreed they needed to learn how to do it properly or they would waste a lot of meat.

Later that night they were kept awake by the strange sounds of animals close to the nearby clearing where they had shot the deer. There would be occasional cries and yelps then it would quiet down for a little before it started all over again. It would not be until the next morning that the boys were able to put the cacophony of night sounds in perspective.

The wild animals of the night had appreciated the large amount of meat left on the carcass of the dead deer. Neither boy noticed the large paw prints of a mountain lion close to the kill or the even larger prints of a bear.

The teens spent the next two days checking over their equipment to make sure that everything was in good order should they need to leave in a hurry.

They had decided to stay in the cabin for a while. There looked to be plenty of game and the nearby lake may hold fish, if they could work out how to catch them with the gear stored in the cabin.

They had heard no one else moving around in their area and so felt safe for now. It was felt they were better off taking their time here to learn what they could about survival before striking out again in search of a permanent home.

The days were becoming warmer as winter relented its hold. The land around them was coming to life and it was normal to see wild animals roaming through the clearing where the cabin sat.

It was a fascinating time for Carlito as he had never seen the wilds before and as a city boy, everything was an adventure and the sight of a young fawn trying its legs for the first time, would hold Carlito's attention for an hour or more.

Greg at times had to interrupt Carlito's day dreaming so they could get work done. There were so many skills that had to be learned and sometimes the failures would bring either tears or laughter.

At night the two boys finally found what they had been searching for all their young lives. The bond that grew would bring them an oasis of peace in a new and wild land.

The first real terror came in the early hours of one morning. Carlito was awakened by the sounds outside their door, it was like nothing he had heard before.

Carlito shook Greg's shoulder to get him awake as the sounds outside increased to loud growls and what sounded like a battering ram attacking their cabin.

As Carlito threw on his body armour and grabbed for an MP5; Greg pulled on jeans and reached for the shot gun, checking to see it was loaded with buckshot.

For an instant, as the two boys made noises while dressing, the sounds outside stopped but there was still a strange snuffling sound at the door and the veranda was making loud creaking sounds.

Leaving the lamps off they made their way carefully to the door, just as they neared it, a loud growl was heard and the door shuddered under the weight of something large and angry.

Carlito cocked the MP5 and stepped to one side of the door while Greg took the other with the shotgun held at his shoulder. The door rocked once again under the assault and they both heard it creak as the animal hit it once again.

The boys had little doubt about what they were now facing and they had to make a decision. Stay inside and hope for the best or open the door and shoot what was on the other side. Either decision was filled with threat and danger.

Carlito rechecked his armour and reached for the door. The sounds from the other side now became even angrier and the very cabin itself shook after a mighty blow that made the door splinter near the hinges. There was no time left.

Carlito reached for the door handle and with the MP5 held at waist height, he threw it open and fired at the same time, never lifting his finger from the trigger.

All Carlito felt was a mighty blow and the sour smell of a hot breath as he was flung back into the cabin as the sound of the shotgun rang in his ears.

It was some time before Carlito could gather his wits. The growling had stopped and the heavy smell of gunpowder filled the front room of the cabin.

Carlito pushed himself up into a sitting position and looked around. His first thought was for Greg. He saw his boyfriend sitting with his back to the wall. Lying in the doorway was a very messy sight and Carlito was not sure if what he was seeing was real.

The dead body of a large grizzly bear with its head now a mass of raw blood and bone was lying in the doorway. Its huge body was kept outside by the narrow frame of the door and only the head was inside, or what remained of it.

Carlito got to his feet unsteadily and made his way to Greg.

"What happened?"

Greg just reached up and hugged Carlito tightly. His fears could have been seen by the condition of the body armour which now had large claw marks across the front and the metal plate and Kevlar lining was a mess.

"I thought it had killed you. As it stuck its head through the door I just put the barrel in its mouth and pulled the trigger, twice."

Both boys were shaking from the after effects of the danger and clung to each other as tightly as they could. It had been a reminder that not everything was cosy or safe.

"So what do we do now? I don't think the two of us are going to be able to move that monster out of the way."

"Why don't you get the Humvee and tow it out of the way then we can work something out." Greg replied.

"I don't think I want to eat it after what it did but we do need to find out why it attacked us without cause and that thick fur would be nice to have in the winter when we travel away from here."

"Well you know how we did with that deer; I suppose we could skin it but it's going to take a while and we'll need to use the Humvee to pull the skin off or turn it over from one side to the others as we cut it away."

"Well it's light enough now so I'll get the Humvee started but you better help me climb over it or I'll have to use a window to get out."

Greg finally found a smile as he helped Carlito to rid himself of the almost useless armour and then helped lift him over the huge body blocking the doorway.

With the dawn light brightening by the minute, Carlito finally got to see what may have been the cause of the bear attack. The few ragged remains of the Deer haunch they had hung on the veranda was now just a few strips and ragged meat. The fault had been their own.

Carlito strangely felt a touch of sorrow for the dead bear. It had not really been its fault, the ignorance of the two boys was the main cause of blame.

While Carlito went to start up the Humvee, Greg looked around the cabin. In one corner was a small library that the previous owners must have used. There were perhaps a hundred books on the shelves and they were a mixed lot. There were cooking books, novels, women's love stories and even a small stack of Popular Mechanics magazines but it was another one he was looking for.

He had noticed the old soft cover book during the winter but had not really taken any notice of it. It was among a few others that showed you how to do DIY carpentry, plumbing and mechanics; what they usually referred to as 'How To Do' books.

Greg went to the shelf and looked at the thin booklets. They were covered in a plain green paper cover and printed with very plain type. The one he was looking for was in the middle of the ten or so books.

Greg lifted the thin book from the shelf and flicked through it, taking note of the date as he did so. As he looked at the date of 1925 he smiled and wondered why the previous owners had kept such an old book around all these years but he was now grateful they had.

The book was on butchery, meat preservation, how to skin an animal and what to do with the skin to preserve it for other uses. There was also a chapter of trapping but he did not need that part just yet. He did give himself a reminder to take the set of old books with them if they ever left this place.

Greg heard the sound of the Humvee start up and then back towards the front of the cabin. It was time to fix their problem.

Greg joined Carlito to tie a tow strop around the rear leg of the bear. The sheer size of the animals paws astounded the two boys. It was now a lot easier to see how it had demolished most of Carlito's armour. Its vicious claws were more than six inches long and very thick. The power was self explanatory.

It was a task that neither boy realised was going to take so long, or how bloody it would get. With Greg stopping every now and then to check the green covered pamphlet, they were still working well after midday although they were seeing an ending in sight.

Finally with the skin now off and to their surprise with little damage apart from what had occurred in the early part of the skinning. The result made the boys feel really proud of their efforts.

Carlito returned to the Humvee and began to tow the carcass well away from the environs of the cabin. If nothing else it would supply some good food for the wild animals. The skin was going to be something else.

While Carlito was away, Greg set about reading all he needed to know in the pamphlet about preserving the thick fur skin.

First they had to salt it so it did not rot while they made a large frame to stretch the hide on. Once that was done then it would hours of back breaking work to flesh the hide until there was not a sign of any meat, blood or sinew left to spoil.

The recipe for tanning looked to be more involved than he thought such a thing would be. Some of the ingredients were unknown to Greg but he saw that many were natural items found in the wild. There was just a chance they may be able to do this and save the huge skin.

Carlito returned to find Greg at work on a large wooden frame with timber from the workshop off to the side of the cabin. He parked the Humvee and quickly checked that it would be ready for a fast withdrawal should it be needed. He then went to join Greg and find out what was going on.

Greg indicated for Carlito to start spreading salt onto the thick and somewhat smelly hide. He had placed a ten pound bag of salt from their stores, beside the raw hide. Carlito began the laborious job of spreading and then rubbing in of the salt. It took them almost until sundown before they saw the end of their task. It suddenly dawned on the two boys that they had not stopped to eat all day. Their bloody and dirty condition left a lot to be desired and so their first job was to wash both themselves and their clothes before being able to eat.

The skin was rolled up and the two boys struggled to place it up on the veranda for the night. The mess out on the ground had to be left, there was little they could do about it and they had to hope that wild animals would stay away with the smell of the bear still strong in the air. Tomorrow would be another day of hard work if they wanted to save the skin.

The boys were up early the next morning. Greg had to finish the frame and then the two of them would begin the long and laborious job of fleshing out the skin so that it would not rot before they had time to properly tan it.

Carlito looked at the massive skin and thought about what his life had once been like. Now this was a new world and he had a lot to learn so he could survive in it. Carlito joined Greg as he placed the last few struts on the large frame. After stringing the skin they would have the monumental task preparing it. There were days of work ahead of them.


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