Saturday, July 17, 2010

“In Ravenscrag’s Shadow” – Chapter 12

In Ravenscrag’s Shadow
Davis L. Bigelow
Copyright 2010

Chapter 12
A breeze stalked up Green Canyon. It puffed tentatively at first before strengthening. Overhead, darker clouds now paraded where white ones had once been. In minutes, they completely obscured the blue expanse. The approaching nightfall would ultimately finish the job of ensuring complete darkness. An unmistakeable chill hung in the alpine air.
Glen McPherson crouched near Big C and looked up. Guessing the time from the sun was now impossible. No doubt, from somewhere above the thick cloud cover, the once brilliantly displayed sun still bore down on the snowy white tip of High Tor, but beneath the blanket of low clouds the landscape was shadow free and gloomy. The determined Scotsman pulled his fleece jacket a little closer about him and zipped it up. ”Late afternoon is upon us and it’s definitely waning!”
Stan Calderbank was just about finished the hot soup that Glen was carefully spooning into his waiting mouth. It had taken Glen another ninety minutes of shuffling and crawling to reach his fallen friend, and about ninety seconds after that, Stan had consumed his fill of water and taken three extra-strength Tylenol. Still, the two men were glad for each other’s company – even as bleak as their situation was. They both ached everywhere, just not for all the same reasons.
Following Glen’s return, Stan elected to drink first, eat second, and have the splint installed third. Glen was agreeable to the idea, but kept looking up at the lowering sky. “I hope it doesn’t rain.” He muttered under his breath.
Stan licked his parched lips and smiled. The hot soup felt amazingly good in his empty stomach! The big man hadn’t eaten anything in nearly twenty-four hours. The worst part of his day, other than the pain he was in, had been smelling the sweet aroma of the soup before it was ready to eat. Glen grinned down at the big man. “It’s good to see you smile.” He said. Stan nodded and swallowed more soup. Glen had never seen his friend in such a serious state of affairs, and it did him good to glimpse a smile on Big C’s dirty, care-worn face. The large smear of dried blood on Stan’s face was beginning to flake off in places, giving the big man the appearance of a reptile. It looked laughable, except for the bleak reality of it all. Glen smiled at the observation, but only spooned another bite of soup into Stan’s waiting mouth.
“Well?” Glen began, stowing the supper dishes. “Are you ready for that splint?”
“Not quite.” Came the reply. “First… I need help… to pee again.”
Glen nodded. The exhausted Scotsman had expected this event to come ‘round again, but that hadn’t made the anticipated experience any more agreeable.
“Ok.” He said, successfully masking his reluctance. “Let’s get you up.” With that, the struggling began. Stan repeatedly groaned in pain while Glen attempted to move him slowly enough that his pain was manageable. The Tylenol had kicked in, but it didn’t help very much.
“Good thing… there’s all these… holes between… the rocks.” Stan panted, trying hard to keep the intense agony at bay. Glen just nodded and winced. He hated to see his friend in so much anguish. “Ok.” Stan said finally. “I’m done.” Glen supported him long enough to slide a sleeping mat behind his back. He then gently lowered Stan’s broad back onto the uneven rocks, now softened by the mat. “Oh!” Stan cried in relief, “That’s much… better!” He breathed in again. “After the splints… are in place,” Stan puffed, “I want to move… off the smell… I’ve created.” The Scotsman grimaced at the thought. The heat of the day and the calm air must have made the air around Big C unpleasant to breathe.
“At least there’s a breeze now!”
Minutes later, Glen sat amidst the boulders, his friend’s extra pair of blue jeans in one hand and the Leatherman’s sharp scissors in the other. Meticulously, his adroit fingers fed the strong material into the titanium blades, creating strip after strip of binding material. He first split the pants right up the inseam and crotch, stopping his cut just short of the waistband. He figured that the waistband, with its belt loops and button, might come in handy for something he hadn’t thought of yet. Glen surveyed his handiwork. “Good thing Stan wears such big pants.” He thought.
Thirty minutes passed before the small man was done. Stan lay still, partially on the mat and partially on the rough rocks. Prior to all the cutting, Glen had spread a sleeping bag over him. The big man gazed over at his partner-in-pain. “So?” He breathed, “Are we going… to make it out… alive?”
Glen looked up from his cramped fingers. The scissors were too small for such a large project! “Yeah.” He replied. “Unless I drop dead from exhaustion first!”
“Ow!” Lamented Stan. “Don’t make… me laugh.” He drew a shallow breath. “You’ve already… saved my life… at least once… today. You’ll be fine.”
“I hope so.” Said the determined Scotsman. “I just hope I can pull you out of here on the travois… Those rocks are pretty rough and I only have one good leg!”
Glen finished cutting the strips of denim. Stan eyed what was left of his mutilated jeans. “I guess… I won’t be wearing… those again.” He pretended to sound upset. “Is there enough?”
“I think so, but won’t be sure until I start tying the splints on.” Glen gave the sky another furtive look. “One way or the other, I have to hurry or we’ll run out of daylight.” He scrambled to the pile of logs, clutching the denim strips in one hand and using the other for support. Untying the rope binding the wood was easy, and in a few seconds, Glen knelt beside Stan’s broken leg. He gently placed the two short poles between the big man’s legs and the other two pieces of improvised splint against the outside of the broken limb. As he had been trained to do, Glen began at the feet, lashing the stiff wood to both of Stan’s boots. The two-inch strips of denim performed beautifully, but Stan still gritted his teeth with each tiny tug. Even the slightest movement caused cries of pain.
“Nurse?” Stan called, trying to ease his extreme discomfort with a dose of humour. “I need… a pain killer.”
Glen grinned and shook his head as he crawled to Stan’s waist. “You have a sick sense of humour my friend!”
“I have to... get thought this... somehow.”
Glen nodded in agreement and securely tied the top of longer splints in place before working his way back towards Stan’s feet. Soon, denim strips were secured above and below the break, as well as at the big man’s waist, knees, ankles and feet. A neat row of six dark blue bows ran the length of the longest splint. Stan breathed a shallow sigh of relief.
“I have three strips left.” Glen said. We should use them on your broken rids to give you a bit of support.” The big man agreed. A few more uncomfortable minutes followed, but once the strong denim was snug, Stan felt somewhat relieved. His chest was so big that Glen had to tie the straps together; two pieces side by side over the broken ribs, and the third one completing the circumference of Big C’s barrel-like chest. Glen sat back and stared at his trussed-up friend. “You might be the most unusual thing I’ve ever seen wrapped in bows.” He teased.
“Thanks.” Came the wry reply.
“I’m going to lash the travois together and then try to move us a little closer to the trail before it gets completely dark.” Glen was already untangling the rope from the four remaining lengths of wood. He reached for his pack and dug the short lengths of cord out. The small man had never built a travois before, but knew the fundamentals of lashing. The four bundled lengths of cordage had accompanied Glen on more hikes than he could remember, but he had used them only occasionally. Still, they had always been there, faithfully waiting in his backpack to become clotheslines or to help support a tent at a windy campsite. Thirty-six hours ago, when the wiry Scotsman had placed the short cords into his pack, little did he dream of their potential to save a life. After all, they were just short pieces of strong twine.
Stan rested while Glen fussed with the lashings. A glance up at the cloudy sky told the trussed up man that the sun was slipping behind the Lajord Range. It would be dark in just over an hour. The big man closed his tired eyes. He had lain in Ravenscrag’s shadow, in more or less the same place, for nearly twenty-four hours. His bruised and broken body ached and throbbed, but the splints and rib bandages were helping. The soft sleeping pad, under his back and shoulders, felt wonderful. Amazing, how such a small comfort suddenly seemed like paradise! He turned his head to stare at his faithful friend. His life was still in the small man’s hands, but tonight there was finally a little more hope.

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