by Torch Nebor
Chain Golden and Bubba the Cat set up deadfall traps and snares to put meat in the pot.
|When most people walked through a forest, their untrained eyes didn't notice the smaller trails that traced away from the well-beaten paths the humans, cattle, and deer took.
Small animals like rabbits and possums often took these trails between areas where they ate and had sources of water. Squirrels ran these trails considering them safe because their forest mates traveled them often enough to wear down the grasses and weeds to create them.
Chain Golden knew what to look for when searching for active game trails by small game. Bubba the Cat could tell by smell what had been traveled recently.
The rabbit had a habit of leaving droppings on top of rotting logs and by mapping these logs, Chain and Bubba could create a behavior pattern of where to find a rabbit and the time of day to stay away from the snares and dead falls, so as not to scare the animal away. Usually early dawn to mid-morning and mid-afternoon to an hour or so past sunset were prime hunting times.
Even turkeys would follow these small trails in search of grasshoppers, small mice and lizards who used them. The rattlesnake or copperhead laid ambush to many a small creature scurrying from one nest sight to another that these paths connected.
This roadway in the leaves and shadows was easily seen once you knew what to look for and with the simplest understanding of what drove the animal in the first place. Food, water, and a mate.
Food energy was too hard to come by for most of the wildlife for various reasons and the shorter the path to feeding areas, and with the fewest bottlenecks, were often the heaviest traveled between food and water sources whether it be a creek, a stump hole filled with rainwater, a small natural spring hidden by layers of ferns, or a large open field with farmer planted wheat or oats.
Chain would often assist the small game by placing or pushing small dead trees across ditches and narrow streams. Patience and practice helped her to understand where to put these bridges to guide the animals to areas where she could set up snares and dead fall traps with the least exposure to bobcats, foxes, coyotes or even human predators stealing from her traps.
Chain shared the woods with others of her kind, but not as aware and never could be.
The Blast had left some of human kind functionally insane. These people could live in the woods, survive as animals, but were not quite "right". You only had to look in their eyes to tell there was something wrong with them. They gave you the creeps and though you didn't want to hurt their feelings, you were glad when the meeting was over and they went on their way.
These people didn't boil their drinking water or cook their meat like she did. They rarely wore clothes and didn't seem affected by the cold temperatures even a global warming winter threw at them on occasion. But, like her, they knew fear. These feral people were scattered through forests like hers all across the nation. Maybe every forest had a wild man or woman, but they were clever and hid themselves by dressing themselves in their surroundings.
Chain suspected the middle-aged, lean and wiry man she had seen naked and covered with mud and leaves was such a man. A wild man, as some called them. Maybe a man set loose from an attic prison because his keeper died before The Blast and no one knew what to do with him. Perhaps a meth-head drug addict burned out and spending what time he had left doing what instincts told him to do. Chain would never know.
Chain had found on a few occasions the muddy mix of leaves and grasses near her dead falls or snares that obviously had been sprung, but had no hint of what sprung it. A few short, gray hairs caught in the snare's loops indicated a rabbit had been caught and removed and not by an animal either. When a bobcat or a fox removed a rabbit or squirrel, the snare would be twisted out of shape or even broken. Sometimes completely missing. A human hand had simply loosened the loop and removed the kill. To her way of thinking, that was the only conclusion.
It was his thick red hair smeared with clay and leaves that gave him away as she sat with her cat Danger in a tall tree stand watching for deer sign one late autumn afternoon several years before The Blast. Actually, Danger her beloved yellow cat now deceased, had been the one that spotted him first. His cat eyes quickly noticed the human form walking through the noon day woods as if looking for something on the ground. Danger's focused stare brought the wild man to her attention.
Chain had seen him off and on for several years before but always from a great distance across a soybean field or disappearing up a creek bank like a deer. Once she surprised him as he crawled out of a hole. He ran away like a spooked buck screaming as if scalding water had been sprayed on him. She found the event humorous at the time, but later a little disconcerting. After that, she carried her .44 magnum with her at all times.
She called him Spider Man because of his bright red hair and the hole she found that he had dug. She had seen him climbing out of a small hole while quietly stalking squirrels high in the tops of oak trees on an early morning feed. He had dug pockets in the four foot deep hole to fill them with various sized creek rocks with holes in them or those rocks that were shiny with glistening quartz. She left his collection alone and rarely went around his observation point after that.
These holes were called spider holes in the military, hence the nickname Spider Man. These were places of private observation of the area, always located on a hillside and perfect for sniping.
His bright red hair he sported flew behind him and down his back like an auburn mane matted with mud and leaves. He wore clay and mud as clothes and looked like he rolled in the leaves while the goo was still wet and sticky. Chain watched him disappear into the thick cane break at the bottom of the hill. Armed only with .177 caliber air rifle, she made sure of his direction and turned and went the other. From that day forward, Chain always wore her .44 magnum Ruger Blackhawk pistol. She never saw him again.
Later that winter, while looking for a certain tree for it's healing root, Chain found several long strands of bright red hair wrapped in a birds nest and wondered aloud if Spider Man was alive. Perhaps he simply cut his hair because of an infestation. Someone living like he did surely had a lice or mite problem. Shaving the hair would sometimes kill most of the mites or lice infecting the host. The bird had gathered quite a handful of hair to keep her chicks warm on cool April mornings.
Chain had her own struggles to live and survive. Spider Man was a good fifteen years younger than her. Maybe twenty years. Younger and much stronger physically. It was root hog or die times and she couldn't be too concerned with an insane man living like a beast and covering himself with mud and leaves as his clothing. Perhaps he moved on after spying on her and realizing she was a permanent fixture to the area. She was one human too many in his domain and he moved further into the swamp many miles down river from Camp Sapphire to get away from her.
"You remember Spider Man, Bubba," Chain asked the gray mackerel cat laying casually on its side as she brought out the snare and trapping bag from her backpack. "Man, he was a wild one. And some folks have called me feral," She pulled out a loop of snares and their pegs. "No. I'm a survivor." She looked at the snares to make sure they had summered well in the backpack. "Guess they never met him. At least I change clothes and at least I wear clothes." Chain examined the pegs to make sure the wooden ends were sharp and had not begun to rot. "This guy's idea of fashion was wet clay and leaves."
Chain unwrapped the snares carefully from their pegging sticks and then looked in the bottom of the bag for the figure-4 pieces for her dead fall traps near the creek. They were right where she had put them last March in their denim pouches.
Bubba the Cat looked through the tree tops of the oaks, sweet gums, pines and cedars down the path they had taken a little while earlier as she spoke. He's not in there, Chain. He's not around us that I can smell and did he stink. Bubba looked down the path again for Spider Man and then layed playfully on his back and batted an imaginary butterfly. He's not in the clouds either.
Chain, I think he's gone on to the place where rats go when you poison them with the water hemlock and angel of death mushroom juice mixed with muscadines and acorn flour. Bubba closed his eyes peacefully as sunlight broke through the fluffy clouds.
The sun light through the trees preparing for autumn speckled his gray spotted belly with dots of warmth and Bubba soaked them up like a sponge. He opened his eyes when he heard the close twitter of a bird, but closed them in sleepiness and listened to her check her snaring equipment.
He loved these moments. They were together and all was well in their world at the moment. She would make her human sounds and he would answer hers with his cat sounds and both understood the other perfectly.
Chain had two different types of wire snares. One was a stiff, plastic coated wire that was thin and strong. Easily shaped and easily closed around a rabbit's neck. The other was braided steel and was stronger. She used these for turkeys and geese that would travel along the paths near the creek between oak trees looking for acorns and wild grains.
She was after rabbit today, so she used the thinner wire and set the snare at the entrance to the covered trail used often enough to wear a bare path under the growth of blackberry bushes and pine tree saplings growing thick at the base of their parent trees. Tiny mouse droppings at the entrance of the grass tunnel made her wink at Bubba. Bubba winked back. "I know who's been here and that means his big cousin Pack The Rat was here, too." Bubba's wink confirmed hers.
"We'll set out rabbit snares up and down this trail and the ones a little closer to the creek over there. I'll use the heavy wire on the Big Rock creek for autumn turkeys. If I catch a cold, that meat makes a dandy soup along with the vegetables I've preserved from my garden." She leaned over and petted Bubba and stroked his neck and back. "We'll eat good, that is," she said, nodding her head.
Bubba enjoyed it immensely when she stroked his neck and back. Yes, he loved these moments deep in the woods with a blue sky over a green, gold, and dark forest full of tasty pack rats and rabbits.
Bubba stood when she stood and followed her to the next point sniffing here and there for signs of game and predators that would consider him a nice meal. There he would lay down again and watch her as she set a string of snares along the hidden trails that tracked down to a small gulley with pools of water every hundred feet. She called this creek Dry Creek.
Bubba didn't have to be told to stay put, so his scent wouldn't frighten away the bunnies, as Chain called them playfully. She had trained him in that nearly a decade earlier. He would stay with the backpack and rub against it to make sure his scent was dominate as he had seen Danger do when all three had set snares together years ago. She covered her own scent with anise seed tea where she walked and set snares. She grew anise exclusively as a scent cover. She didn't care for the licorice taste it gave to foods. And it worked well, too, as a human scent cover for setting snares or baiting fish hooks.
After pegging the snare's end securely into the loamy ground, she pulled the snare as far open as it would go. That was usually around six inches. She bent the wire and loops so the snare closed together naturally and quickly once the rabbit stuck his head though it. Using small thin twigs, she propped the snares into place at openings in the hidden trails that ran through the undergrowth of fern, honeysuckle, green briar, and wild grape vines. She never firmly set these propping twigs into the ground. Their duty was to keep the snare open till the rabbit knocked them out of place when it made contact with the snare. Even stiff grass was used and sometimes preferred over twigs.
Once set at a trail's opening, she sprayed it with anise tea and also where she had walked. Rabbit's nose would have detected her scent on the wire and rabbits weren't that stupid though some would disagree.
Chain had trained the rabbits and squirrels in a Pavlov's dog way that the anise scent meant food was nearby in large quantities by leaving grain or peeled acorns in a tall pile while spraying the area around the pile of food with anise tea during the summer when it was too hot to hunt for game. The animals were trained in a round about way that anise scent meant an easy meal was nearby and for them to hurry up and get to it before someone else did and left them none.
"Bubba, we've got about a dozen snares set out now in that little low lying area along Dry Creek. We haven't hunted that area for over a month, so we should have some good luck in a few hours." Chain packed the rest of her snares back into their pouch and tied it closed. She preferred them over a bow and arrow or rifle any day. It was like she had nearly a dozen hunters silently hunting for her instead of her sitting in a tree waiting and waiting and waiting.
Bubba knew where they were going next. Another small gulley deeper than the one they just left that fed into the Big Rock creek they fished out of in spring when the red eyed bass ran and spawned in the shallow pools with sandy bottoms. He ran ahead of her with his tail high in the air and ran a hundred feet ahead down the dusty trail covered in golden pine needles and the red and yellow leaves of sweet gums, but then he stopped suddenly as his fur on his shoulders and back stiffened. His nose had found danger and warned him to wait for Chain.
Coyote urine soaked a tall dead fire ant mound in the middle of the Pine Tree trail where it intersected an old deer trail. Chain picked him up affectionately as Bubba sniffed the age and strength of the coyote. Bubba allowed himself to be cradled as he turned and looked at the fire ant mound still annoyed and frightened by the urine's source and the relative closeness to Camp Sapphire. A young coyote. A cat killer, too. He meowed as he looked at the spot and turned and meowed his concern to Chain. She held him closer and stroked his cheek.
"Whatcha smell back there, boy? Bigfoot?"
Bubba looked at her and ignored her implication of her idea of a boogeyman. Much worse than that, Chain. Much worse. A creature that eats my kind as snack food the way you eat a frog. See it. Stalk it. Kill it. Eat it. Forget it. Just another meal.
Chain noticed how the hairs were standing on end on his back and sympathized with his fear. She cradled him the quarter mile to the hill top at the end of the covered deer trail and put him down on the other side of a collapsing barbwire fence gently. Chain let go of him only when his was steady in his stance. He was an old cat now. Past twenty years old and sometimes he needed a little extra time to gain his footing. He meowed and moved out of the way as she leaned over the low fence to cross it. He meowed again.
Look out, Chain. Coyotes around here. Remember when they attacked us when we hauled a deer back to camp last winter? Remember?
"It's okay, boy. I've got my pistol and we're not hauling a fresh kill back to camp today. Those 'yotes won't bother us today." She leaned over and petted the anxious cat trying to calm the sudden display of fear. "What's wrong, boy? What's wrong? I'm here."
She crossed the fence with her backpack on her shoulders and they both walked down the sloping hill to the sandy and clay banked gulley that grew deeper and wider the closer they got to the creek. The trail was starting to be covered by the yellow leaves of certain trees that lost leaves early before the first frost of autumn. Paper myrtle, sassafras, beech, and others were dropping their leaves. There was a fruity scent to the still air. A warm scent that was pleasing to both human and cat as they walked a familiar path to a good hunting location.
Massive oaks and sycamores grew in this bottom area near Rock Creek on a rise. Cane grew along the ridge line they had passed through. This area was where she harvested cane shafts for river cane arrows she would hunt with.
There was good gray clay along the walls of the gulley to create or patch an earth oven she baked bread in back at Camp Sapphire. Ferns of different lengths lined the wet banks of the gulley.
Chain discovered fresh turkey tracks leading from one side of the gulley to the area where white oak acorns would drop within the month.
Deer sign. Lots of deer sign. Deer tracks in the soft mud of the gulley and a huge buck rub on a sapling that would probably kill it before next summer. She recognized a scrape. A scrape was a place where a buck tore up the ground and urinated on it. A licking stick would always be nearby, too. Pheromones attracting the does to create a strong lineage of deer that had survived a nuclear blast hundreds of miles north of them.
Bubba understood what it was when he walked past the deer scrape quickly for to him it was an open sewer and stank of old ammonia. He had no trouble with deer and wanted none either. He waited for Chain to catch up. When she did, he would spring ahead as she leaned down to pet him affectionately. "You little monkey." She would playfully call him and followed him with her booted feet and legs covered with snake leggings. Rattlesnakes would be traveling more now that the weather was changing. In her forest, the rattlesnakes easily grew six feet long. And copperheads, too.
Chain had already created heavy stone dead falls to use from large creek rocks and clay from the nearby gullies that she used as mortar. She had formed the large rocks and clay and baked them in small, slow fires till the clay was as hard as brick and the wooden form slowly charred away. She would hide these thirty pound creations in the overgrowth or bury them when she didn't need them in summer. They were too heavy to carry back to camp and if they were stolen or broken, they were easy enough to make.
It was Autumn now and they were needed again like reliable friends who rarely let her down.
Chain had triggers, props, and stands as she called each piece of the figure 4 dead fall trap she carved from willow wood or cedar. The trigger was the long pointed stick that held the bait. The prop was the upper part of the figure 4 trap that the stone propped on and was held in place by the trigger and the stand. The stand was the vertical portion of the figure 4 dead fall trap that held it all together till tripped.
Each of the three pieces were carved carefully after a lot of trial and error in her early years of using deadfalls to put meat in the freezer back when she lived in town and had a freezer. She had made the devices into a science by creating a mathematical formula for each piece. If the trigger was a certain length, then the prop and stand had to be a certain length to create an instrument that was reliable and deadly for a thirty pound weight. Chain Golden lived in a world that was not very forgiving and a little mistake could mean days or weeks without meat.
A fourth piece of the figure 4 was a wide platform to place the stand on when the ground was soft and damp or too sandy to hold the weight up for very long. The heavy stone could literally push the entire device slowly into soft ground and keep it from falling to the side once triggered by a rabbit or pack rat. She used flat rocks, wide bivalve shells, or pieces of thin limestone to act as a base when the trap was set on soft ground as she found by the sandy creek bank or up into the forest away from the creek.
Chain's pieces were placed in denim bags made from old blue jeans. She didn't like to mix stands with triggers or mix triggers with props. She didn't like mixing the types of wood she made the pieces from, too. Each of the three pieces carved was designed to fit the other two exclusively. To keep from mixing them, she kept them together in their own bags. She pulled the first bag from her backpack. "Today we start with cedar." Bubba paused from his own thoughts and looked at her when she spoke and at the three pieces of carefully carved wood in her hands.
He knew exactly what she was doing and what the devices in her hand did when used with the massive rocks mortared by clay. She didn't know exactly how he knew, but he knew to be careful around them. Her triggers were designed to be hair triggers.
For bait, she used a small pile of wheat and oat grains placed directly under the dead fall. She pulled several peeled acorns from her shirt pocket and chewed them. She smeared the mush onto the end of the trigger that went under the dead fall with her tongue. The salty scent always attracted a packrat for Bubba. She spat the bitter remaining acorn mush from her mouth as her lips lightly puckered from the tannic acid. Those acorns had been green and not the rich orange color of a ripened one and extrememly bitter.
Placing the prop on top of the stand, she carefully placed the notched trigger into the prop's end and at the midway point carved into the stand. It took a few tries, but she balanced the heavy stone over the bait pile after pinching the prop and stand together as she balanced the heavy dead fall in place. She stood and backed away slowly. The lack of rain had packed the soil hard on the creek, so she didn't need the flat pieces today under the stands.
"Aw, right, Bubba. Got to get the others done and soon. Seems the sun is starting to set faster now."
Chain found the other rocks she had hidden under fallen trees or buried in at the base of certain trees and repeated the method she used to hunt small game several more times.
One year, she trapped three wood ducks who had come onto the bank and up the rabbit path that lead to the cane ridge behind them. The grain pile must have been an excellent enticement and Chain did like the flesh of wood ducks. The beautiful feathers were tied into a wide assortment of fishing lures and the bones were made into tiny needles for sewing rabbit hides. She made a light cordage from the duck's smoked intestines as an experiment of it's strength and durability.
Bubba looked at the first dead fall she had set while she was setting the next one in a light stand of dying vegetation. He sniffed under it when his nose detected her salivia on the trigger till a firm smack from Chain's hand on his flank directed his attention away from it and towards her.
"NO!" she said firmly, pointing a finger rudely in his cat face. "No. Not ever, Bubba. That's heavy enough to kill you." Her tone was low and hard. Bubba didn't like it when she spoke to him like that. He wasn't doing anything wrong, by his cat logic.
Bubba was irritated with the smack on his flank and walked away from her making it a point not to look at her --- his jaw was set on irritated and she knew it. Bubba walked down to the creek bank whipping his tail behind him like a bull whip displaying his irritated state of mind with her and lapped cool water from the creek. His ego wasn't cooled though. Late season minnows darted away from his whiskered face as he looked at them for a moment scowling.
He ignored her when she called to him as he walked away regretting the long distance back to Camp Sapphire that he would have to travel back with her. Ignored her when she reached out to pet him after following him to the creek. Ignored her when she attempted to explain why she had smacked his behind while he wasn't looking and had given no warning call. When she attempted to pick him up, he pulled away from her with a sneer on his face. By Bubba's years, he was over one hundred years old and getting even a light smack on the rump for his own good was not appreciated. You just don't hit old people two or four legged for any reason.
Bubba got up and moved up the further bank and sat back down when she stepped towards him to pick him up. He understood what she was doing and knew the deadfall traps were dangerous. She didn't know it, but he brushed one of them once last winter and the sharp edge had scrapped off fur from his shoulder when it fell. But she had no right to smack him like he was a kitten. He was now insulted.
Bubba remained distant and partially hidden from her till it was time to leave. Watching her in the forest below him set the remaining deadfalls in heavy cover or near fallen trees made him realize though that she hunted for him as well as herself. He hadn't caught a packrat on his own in a long time. His teeth were too dull to pull off the skin and she always fileted away the bones, so he wouldn't choke on them. He thought about this and other things she did for him and his temper cooled.
Even close friends have disagreements, Bubba. He remembered a time when he had corrected her with a bite on the hand for moving his food bowl before he had finished his meal.
It was a long walk back to Camp Sapphire for his old legs and if she would volunteer to carry him, he would let her.
Bubba knew Chain would walk up and down the rocky portion of the creek bank looking for flint or other useful stones to use back at camp before going back to camp. Maybe a large piece of sandstone to grind flour on had been brought down creek from the last hard rain. He could only guess what she would load into the strong backpack she always wore like she did her .44 magnum.
Oh, that's right. Spider Man might be around though I haven't seen or smelled him since several winters ago when I surprised him with my claws in his shoulder when I caught him sneaking around camp while Chain had gone into town. Who did he think he was attempting to go into my tipi like that? I think I did a good job in scaring him away, Chain. But you'll never know it.
Sometimes, Chain, it's really hard to communicate with you though I love you dearly. You can be a thickhead at times. Should I dare say it. Sometimes, Chain, you act like a Mr. Kitty. I forgive you. Now catch me two pack rats.
Chain closed up her backpack after adding a piece of large red flint and a small round stone she called moon rock. Actually creek polished quartz stone, but it was pretty to look at. Sometimes the moon rock would be pink. She needed new cooking stones and added six fist-sized rocks to her backpack, too.
She looked for Bubba and grew a little anxious when he didn't reply to his name being called or their whistle.
Bubba waited at the top of the rise they had walked down to get to the creek and had her in sight the whole time while her heart panicked he had made the trip home alone and unprotected. Was he that angry at her? Her only fear of coyotes was them tearing Bubba to pieces. Mental images of finding Bubba's torn and bloody body brought a rim of tears to her eyes. "Bubba!" She called out his name while looking up and down the path they had traveled to get to the creek bottom.
Like being mad at you, Chain, causes me to do foolish things. I do not think so, my dear. Bubba groomed his shoulder as he sat behind a clump of river cane and stood up, so she would notice him in the dimming light of the darkening forest. He could sense her fear in her voice and it tweeked his conscience that he should stop punishing her now.
She helped him across the barbwire fence again and gently picked him up and carried him home in another direction away from the snares she had set an hour earlier. She was forgiven entirely when they made it back to camp a little before sundown. He looked at her rocks when she put them on her work table. They smelled like minnows and earth to his sensitive nose.
They were both hungry after their afternoon in the woods and Chain got a campfire going in the outside fire ring of large field stones.
Using some of her buried canned goods she had dug up the day before, Chain heated a tomato soup with homemade crackers for supper. She gave Bubba a can of tuna fish that had been buried for about two years. The wrapper was still as fresh as the day she sealed the cans in the PVC pipe with the bags of dessicant she had traded for. Bubba especially enjoyed the tuna and ate the entire can in one setting. All that work had made him hungry.
As the sun set in the cooling forest, the barn owls found their night perches near their camp and hooted softly in the trees. Chain and Bubba laid in the hammock and listened to the night animals as a small campfire popped and smoked nearby. It was a friendly, quiet camp as the sun set full dark an hour after they ate. At dusk, wood ducks whistled overhead beneath a cold, starry sky as they made their way to a safer place to sleep at night. Chain dozed till the night's chill woke her with Bubba snuggled on her stomach for warmth and security. She had slept so deep she hadn't heard the coyote's evening call for the hunt. Bubba heard it and considered waking her, but decided not to unless the coyotes approached their camp.
Going into the dark tipi, she carried Bubba by the last light of the flickering campfire. She placed Bubba on the small raised bed made from willow and cedar trees and padded with broomstraw and pineneedles. The onan around the bed gave it a secure feeling. Had it been colder, she would have lowered light tarps around the edges of the onan. Lighting a candle, she found her Coleman lantern.
Bubba nestled into the warm sleeping bag and closed his eyes again. He had had a busy day afterall. Certain that Chain would join him after putting out the campfire, he slipped into a restful sleep knowing he was loved. She covered him with her jacket and affectionately calmed him her little boy. Bubba was smiling as sleep found him quickly.
He didn't see Chain take the Coleman lantern from it's case hanging on the tipi wall near the door and light it outside. Didn't hear her leave or return a half hour later with a dead rabbit tied to her game string. Her snares were working. The anise seed tea was working, too.
She skinned the rabbit and placed it in cool, salty water. She examined the organs for parasites and found none. If this was to be the only rabbit, she would cook it in the coals in the morning. The night temperatures would be in the low forties, so the meat wouldn't spoil as she left it in the covered pan suspended from the ground by light chains fastened to a wicker basket made for the pan.
Chain built the campfire back up and turned off the Coleman lantern to save the fuel. Wrapped in her parka though it wasn't that chilly, she would wait at least six hours and then go check the snare line again. She had competitors in the forest and she knew it.
The dead falls provided another rabbit and a fat quail obviously moving away from a predator in the night. It's tail feathers had been pulled off and part of a wing left exposed by the falling dead weight.
The heavy snare meant for a turkey had produced a possum and a small snare at the opening of a hollow in the base of tree provided a large pack rat. Bubba got the pack rat as breakfast after she cleaned it and checked it for parasites, too. She reset the snares and deadfalls, but the animals of the forest suspected something and stayed away from the scent of the burning propane in the lantern. Chain would smoke the rabbits and eat the quail and some of the fresh rabbit meat. Around nine the next morning, Chain retrieved all of her snares and dead fall figure-4 pieces. She would hunt again in a couple of days. Sleepy, she turned in for a nap as Bubba enjoyed his packrat treat near the tipi's fire pit. Afterward, he would groom himself watching over her as she slept deeply.
Chain traded the dressed possum with an elderly neighbor later that day for twenty strike anywhere matches. They had had a long ongoing agreement about possums traded for 20 matches. The elderly man was quite fond of possum meat and enjoyed her conversation of her life in the woods. He had lived such a life when he had been younger man, but as he neared one hundred years old he mainly stayed in the small home and rarely left his yard. His old legs just didn't have the strength they use to.
Chain dug sweet potatoes from his garden near the three room tin-roofed house and helped him boil the possum in three changes of well water to remove the gamey taste. He gave her a dozen sweep potatoes and a large mess of mustard greens as a present.
She baked sweet potatoes in his large woodstove along with a pan of cornbread and left the meal for him and his wife to enjoy along with a pot of mustard greens he had cooked the day before. The warmer over the large wood stove would keep the meal pleasantly warm and moist for several hours. His wife would be home soon and grateful someone had stopped by to check on her husband as she worked in Vicksburg at a local refinery on the river.
People who had planned to retire at sixty-five years old had to give up that dream unless they wanted to live like Chain Golden and not too many could do that. The Blast had severly disrupted the American economy and the president and his cabinet at the time of The Blast were too inexperienced in leadership skills to have been effective in saving the financial future of the survivors.
Bubba greeted Chain with a cat kiss when she arrived home later that day. She only had an hour or less of sunlight left as she gave him some baked possum meat, but he didn't really like it. He took a few bites and then pretended to cover it like it was a scat pile. They shared a piece of buttermilk cornbread watching the sun set in a fiery horizon and thanked God for their good luck and good health for their ages.
"Bubba?" Chain said as she covered her beloved cat as they laid in the bed later that evening.Bubba snuggled tighter against her body for warmth when she spoke his name. "Let's go fishing tomorrow."
Bubba imagined them setting trot lines and eating the catch on the river bank later that day. He was all for it.