One moment I lay coughing my lungs out. I had a crushed chest and was laying under a slowly collapsing high-rise, breathing flame and brick dust. The next I woke up, feeling healthy and breathing easily. The contrast locked me up as the little monkey at the back of my mind sucked on his fingers, pissed himself and gibbered helplessly. I knew that I was quickly dying then suddenly I wasn't! After I finished hyperventilating and screaming my guts out, I sat where I woke up and shivered, holding my legs tucked under my chin and rocking. Soon enough I relaxed enough to make sense of the land about me. I started out as about five feet five inches, and almost four hundred pounds. When I woke on a grassy plain I was at most a hundred and fifty pounds and maybe six feet six tall. I had on a knee-length leather jerkin, a knee-high pair of moccasins, a belt with a throwing stick thrust through it and several pouches attached to it. I wore a heavy rucksack, all fashioned of leather.
Somebody or some agent had set me up quite well as a primitive hunter. The problem was, I WASN'T a primitive hunter. I found several six-foot spears the size of my thumb with finely shaped stone heads laying next to where I woke up. I picked them up and at least I felt armed, if not dangerous. I knew that being caught out alone after dark on the plains meant I would be fair game so I trotted towards the near cliffs.
Several hours later I lucked into an unoccupied dry cave. I rolled up and spent a very uncomfortable but fairly safe night.
Somebody or something was keeping out an eye for me. The next morning I could picture in my mind how to build a reed bed, as well as how to cast my Atl-atl spears with a throwing stick. I sat in the sunlight at the mouth of the cave and inventoried what was in my pack. I found a long axe and two hand axes all with steel heads, a large waxed leather bag of salt that took up half the pack, another large waxed leather bag of cracked grain like oats or wheat, a huge spool of what must have been eighty- to one-hundred-pound braided fishing line, a small diamond point shovel, a fire starting kit, a brass bowl that filled my wide-spread hand, an eight inch wide brass bucket with a bail, a steel spoon and a large pack of heavy needles. After exiting the cave I did my business then looked around carefully. I'd want to find this place again.
I had no idea in which direction I should travel so I decided to go up--up the cliff. I needed a good viewpoint to canvass the area. The climb wasn't too tough, as there were ledges to work with and some sort of tough woody brush growing out of the cliff face I used to pull myself up. It was maybe a thirty-five to forty foot climb. I cautiously stuck my head up over the edge. It was clear of predators so I hoisted myself up over the edge then rolled a bit away from the edge. I didn't want to do anything really stupid like get myself killed by falling off a cliff. I'd gotten dizzy by standing quickly before.
I could see quite a ways out across the grasslands. There wasn't a lot there except for a cluster of trees so far away that they looked misty. I thought to myself, "Savannah. Big game and bigger predators. It's outside of my league without armed partners." Turning around I found myself at the verge of a hardwood forest with fairly heavy undergrowth. This was looking promising! I walked a short distance into the woods, then stood still to let my heartbeat slow. I cupped my hands to my ears, listening for water. I had no luck at first. I moved on, then did it again and yet again. Finally I caught the sound of water flowing over rocks. I was getting pretty dry so that was the direction I headed.
Ahh, it was beautiful. The water was flowing fast enough to make little pockets of white foam. I drank my fill and scrubbed my face. Hell, I needed a bath. I followed the stream down-current until I found a pool. There I stripped and plunged into the water. It was colder than I'd expected. Whoo, baby! As I stood in the water furiously scrubbing myself I felt something slide by my hip, then another past the inside of my calf. I looked down to see fish. Not little nibblers, either. These were big fucking fish! I didn't have any weapons with me so I tried the simplest thing I could think of--I shoved my hand up and under a fish's gill plate and threw it on the bank. I didn't know which of us was more surprised, me that it worked or the fish that was madly thrashing around trying to breathe air. I scrambled out of the water and picked up a hand axe. I quickly cut off its head just behind the gills, then opened it up along the belly to dig out the guts. I tossed the offal back into the water where a feeding frenzy occurred. After seeing the size of the teeth on that thing I wasn't going back into that water without a loincloth, in case one of them mistook my pisser for a worm.
I dressed, picked up my dinner and went looking for a place to make a fire. I found a big cavity where an old tree had fallen and levered over sideways, probably due to a big storm. It took its root-ball with it which still sheltered the hole. I took some dry grass, some small branches, some sheets of dried tree bark and a few green saplings to make my camp. I laid down some bark as a base over the damp soil, then made a small fire. While the coals were forming I wove a flat cooking basket for the fish, then propped it up at the side of the fire to slowly bake.
It was about noon by my figuring when the fish was done. I pulled it aside to cool and sprinkled a little salt on it. After at least a day without food it tasted beyond wonderful. Afterwards I burned all traces of dinner in the fire, then went looking for standing long grasses. I used the hand-axe to cut a big double-armful. I lined the cavity with more bark then laid grass over the top of it. I went hunting for firewood for the night, and cut a few more saplings, this time about twelve to fourteen feet long. I leaned them across the hole then covered them with more sheets of bark from the dead tree. I settled back into my bed for a comfortable sleep. I woke every couple of hours to feed the fire.
I woke up knowing how to knap flint and how to make grass mats with a mat loom. I looked over my little shelter with an eye towards longer use than one night. I used my hands and a stick to dig out a drainage path downhill so water wouldn't pool inside it, then wandered around cutting evergreen branches from the trees growing near the stream. I piled them deep in the lowest spot of the cavity, then improved the bark cover by shingling layers over the thing. Next I gathered a lot of long grass and made my first attempt at looming a mat. It worked pretty well! I made three before I ran out of material. I figured to sleep on one and under two to stay warm and dry since the night before my back got pretty cold. I did my fish-tickle thing again to get dinner. This time I walked the shore of the stream looking for a big flat rock. There were plenty there. It was all a matter of what you would settle for. I'd heard of river rocks exploding like bombs from water trapped within, so I heated my new griddle slowly. I didn't have any grease so the skin of the fish stuck to the rock when cooking but it was still fine eating when it was done. I cleaned my plate by turning the rock over next to the fire to let the flames burn it clean. The heat reflected by the rock felt nice so I gathered a few more flat stones to act as reflectors.
The next day it rained a little, but I was reasonably warm and dry in my hideout. The weather cleared in the afternoon, but it was definitely cooler. It made me think that I'd better get off my ass and find a place to lay over for the winter. If I couldn't find any place on top of the cliff I'd go back down to stay in that cave.
I spent most of the afternoon walking the stream-bed, looking for chert. I found a few likely specimens, and some metal too! It was placer copper, washed clear of its matrix. As soon as I found it, I pounded a stick into the bank close to where it showed up. I slowly waded up-stream, picking up more samples and marking where I found them. When I stopped finding metal I turned around and inspected the shorelines. I found a well-washed deposit in a feeder stream boasting a fourteen inch wide oval plate of copper about two inches thick. I moved as much metal as I could to a pile at the stream's shore. Altogether it probably weighed almost as much as I did. I looked up and yelled out, "I need a fucking basket!" For the mean time I laboriously carried the metal back to my hideout. I made a better reflecting wall behind the fire with more flat pieces of stone, then used a rough river rock to grind down one side of the large copper plaque to a reasonably flat surface. That became my griddle.
I took an adult buck deer that afternoon. It had come down to the stream to drink. I quickly dragged it away from the water so as not to spoil the site. It only made sense to cut part of the carcass into strips of flesh, pound salt into them and let them hang over green sticks, close to my fire. I needed them to smoke and dry out to preserve them. While dinner sizzled on my griddle I started slowly, gently scraping the flesh and fat off of the inside of the deerskin. I saved out the chunks of fat that I found as I butchered it. It was going to have to be my water proofing, butter, cooking oil and lard. It sure was a messy process. I tried washing off in the stream but the grease clung to my hands. I had to scrape it off with bunches of grass, then scrub my hands in the sand and gravel in the stream bed.
I didn't sleep much that night, worrying about scavengers that would want my kill. I stayed nicely warm that night with the rock plates reflecting the fire's warmth back over me.
.... There is more of this story ...