Green Shoot

(The Saga of Caveman Hom, Episode 7)


[Previous Episode]

It long winter, but nothing last forever. When spring come, everywhere me see green shoot poke up through melting snow. Blossom appear on tree, bring many insect. Without snow, rabbit hard to track. So we make hunting trip down mountain into valley. There grass long. We find many mushroom. We pick. We dig up plant for root. We search for lair of pig. We find shit, but pig still hiding. It not matter — we find deer! 

It big herd, many young. Deer gather in clearing, eat grass. Suddenly stag turn. He stare. He bellow. He very fearsome, have antler like tree of thorn. He angry, he attack! Hunter throw spear. But stag change direction, he run away after herd. He very fast. Spear miss. Then Arca shoot arrow, but she not hit stag. This surprise. Arca hit rabbit easy. Stag much bigger than rabbit. So why she miss? Me look Arca. Me think she sad, but she smiling. 

‘Me not miss,’ she say. ‘Look.’ She point at place where arrow fly. 

Hunter look, we shade eye. Me see nothing, but Cul, he closer, have good eyesight. He laugh. He run forward through tree, bend to ground, then straighten. He smile. He hold up baby deer! It dead from arrow in throat. Now everybody cheer. Me pat Arca on back. 

‘This good shooting,’ me say. ‘You hero!’

‘It nothing,’ say Arca. ‘Only luck. Next time we not get close. Deer clever.’

‘This true,’ me say. ‘Why deer not smell hunter?’

‘Me not know,’ say Arca. ‘But need good plan, or not catch again.’

We go back up mountain to cave. We bring baby deer, mushroom, and root. On way back we find goat. Goat injured. She have broken leg from fall in hole where weasel live. Goat in pain, she bleat. She not survive. When goat die, weasel appear, he eat. Or maybe weasel not wait, he eat goat alive. 

Me shudder. Goat bleat again. Me not like bleat. It sad, like baby cry — me feel distress. But then Cul kill goat quick with spear, and me feel relief. Cul pick up carcass and carry over shoulder, back to cave. This hunt big success!

That night soup nutritious. It thick with root and lump of meat. Whole tribe fill belly, and still some left. We save for morning. Tomorrow we hunt again. Tonight we make plan. Me want hunt pig, but it difficult. Today we find only shit. It good tracking by Cheri, but not enough — pig still hidden. Cul think maybe it better hunt deer. 

Tribe discuss. We good hunter, but we not know deer like know pig. Everybody know pig. Pig dangerous, but he predictable. We know what pig do. Way of deer still mysterious. After much discussion, Fem decide. If see deer, sit quiet. We watch, learn way of deer. If chance come, good — we kill. But deer not target. Tomorrow we hunt pig.

‘But me see problem,’ me say. ‘Pig strong. We tribe of women, only few men. Some men good with spear. Gai, Ali, Cul — it not enough. Me also good with spear, but me have bad leg. If hunt pig, need plan. Thinking important.’

‘This true,’ say Fab. ‘Hom wise.’

But me not wise. Me stupid. Me not know how hunt pig with women. Tribe discuss problem, but words go over head. Me far away like dream, me see pig run, he turn like stag, but other way — he run at woman! He attack! 

Maybe he run at Cal. Maybe he attack Cheri. Maybe he kill Arca! Pig very dangerous. He big and strong, with sharp tusk! Without spear, even strongest man not win fight with pig. And women small. Maybe they have spear, but they not strong, not skill — they only learning! They no match for angry pig. Maybe we use arrow — but pig have thick hide! Maybe arrow slow him down, but for kill it take many. Arca good with bow, but nobody that good. And Arca too important. If she injured, tribe finish. It better not take big risk. 

But suddenly me have idea. Maybe it clever.  Me stand up. ‘Me know Arca good with bow,’ me say. ‘Who else?’

Next day hunter set off early. With help of Fab, Cheri search forest for lair of pig. It take half day, but they find! We close enough see pig, but she not see us. We stay downwind so pig not smell. We move slow, quiet — she not hear. Hunter take position. Then me give signal. 

Ali run at pig with spear! He make big noise. Pig very scared, she run. Then Gai jump up with spear, he also make shout. Pig squeal! She turn, she run into clearing — but it trap! Hiding in tree is Arca, Ruti, and Cal. Women shoot pig with arrow — two hit! Pig scream — she wounded. Then come Ali and Gai quick with spear, kill pig. 

But then second pig come! He run at Gai with tusk, but Gai fast, he jump away. Then Cul come running, he also have spear. He shout very loud. Second pig turn, but arrow come — it miss, but pig terrified. He turn back, he run — now he move towards Hom! 

Me have spear ready. Me crouch in long grass. Me hidden. Me wait til pig close, then me throw spear with full strength. It catch pig in throat! He fall. He try squeal, but bad noise come. Pig choking. Soon Cul reach pig and finish him. It success! 

Women climb down from tree. But then Cheri have idea — she take Arca and Fab, go quiet to lair of pig. They find pig baby. Baby run, but it no good — Arca kill two with arrow. Fab kill other one. We kill whole pig family! It great triumph. Everybody happy. It all thanks to clever plan of Hom! Me proud.

We tie pig to stick for carry, then we go. We walk up mountain, sing song of hunting prowess. On way Cal pick many mushroom. Ruti find good herb for cook pig. Me pick sweet berry. Fab dig root. Food plentiful. It time for feast!

But Chief Fem say no to feast. She say it too much, too soon. Today we lucky with hunt. But food always limited. Tomorrow maybe hunt fail, tribe go hungry. So it better not eat all pig. Mother pig and baby is plenty meat for soup. We have good herb. We have root, and sweet berry. We not need eat Father pig. Instead we butcher careful, dry meat on high stick over fire. We dry mushroom same way. Now if hunt fail, tribe still have food. We also dry hide of pig for make shoe or warm coat. Winter here hard, say Fem. It important prepare. We start now, she say. Then tribe ready. 

Me grumble in head — me look forward to feast! But me know Fem right. She wise. So me stay quiet. Other hunter also sad. But it not last long. There plenty soup — it very tasty with herb and berry. Again whole tribe eat well, and enough left for morning. 

Fem approach while me eat. She smile, then speak quiet. ‘It good idea hide in tree. Make big success!’

‘It very good!’ me laugh. ‘Me not expect it work so well.’ 

Fem frown. ‘How you think of plan?’

‘Me not know.’ Me shrug. ‘It pop into head, like magic!’

Fem lower voice to whisper. ‘It good idea,’ she say. ‘But maybe it not come from Hom.’

‘What mean?’

‘Min say idea first,’ say Fem. ’She say we hide in tree, shoot pig from high.’

‘What?’ me exclaim. ‘Min have same idea?’

’She speak quiet. Maybe you not hear.’

‘Last night everybody talk,’ me say. ‘But me not listen, me think. Maybe Min say it. But me not remember.’

Fem nod. ‘Me remember. Min say it first, but nobody care. But when Hom talk, tribe pay attention.’

Me stare Chief Fem. She stare back, gaze even. Me know she tell truth.

‘This strange,’ me say. ‘Why it happen?’

‘Answer simple. It because you man.’

‘That not make sense,’ me say. ‘Me man, yes — but so what? Idea is idea.’

‘Me agree,’ say Fem. ‘It stupid. But it truth.’

Me shake head. ’It not right. Me feel bad.’

Fem smile. ‘It not fault of Hom. Problem small. Fix easy.’

‘How fix?’

‘After food, me give thanks. Then Hom have chance for speak. Hom give thanks Min for idea. Idea is not plan. It Hom who make plan. But plan come from idea. So Min also deserve credit.’

‘This true,’ me say. ‘But me not hear what Min say. Me think it coincidence. Me think Hom and Min have same idea.’

Fem nod. ‘Maybe it true. But truth not matter now. This politics.’ Fem reach forward, squeeze shoulder in friendship. ‘You want easy life? Give thanks Min.’

‘Me not understand,’ me admit, ‘but you Chief. Me follow advice.’

‘This good.’ Fem smile. ‘Hom wise.’

So after eat, when me get chance, me give thanks Min for good idea hide in tree. Min smile. Everybody cheer. But it strange — cheer for Min make Hom proud. It feel like cheer for Min also cheer for Hom. Me confuse. Me look Chief Fem — she happy, so me know me do right thing. Now me feel better. And after applause for Min, me thank Fem for wise leadership. 

[Next Episode]