Saturday, August 28, 2010

“In Ravenscrag’s Shadow” – Chapter 19

In Ravenscrag’s Shadow
Davis L. Bigelow
Copyright 2010

Chapter 19

Ominous clouds continued to creep into Green Canyon. So far, no rain had escaped their dark clutches. The lichen-encrusted rocks, covering the majority of the canyon floor were dry. No dew had fallen this morning. Vast and rugged, the fractured, irregular meadow of boulders was anything but warm and inviting. Gloomy cloud-cover brooded over High Tor’s iced summit. Even the much lower peak of Ravenscrag Mountain was under attack. In just minutes, thick rain clouds would swallow everything over seven thousand feet in elevation.

Big C scanned the sky. From his prone point of view, it wasn’t pretty! The clouds were descending more rapidly than they had been earlier. The helpless man could almost smell the inevitable rain. He peered longingly in the direction his hiking partner had taken nearly two hours before. “Where is Glen?” Stan’s lips were dry, but, thankfully, he was warm enough. “I hope that tough Scotsman returns with water pretty soon.” The big man ran his tongued over his chapped lips. His body was dehydrated. “At least the sun isn’t beating down on me.”

In spite of his lack of hydration, a pleasant and much appreciated event had taken place in Glen’s absence. The lowering murk had driven the shrill marmots back to their burrows. The silence was a welcome relief. Now Stan just had the normal things left to endure – his throbbing, broken limb, the stabbing pain with each breath, his cuts and numerous bruises, his dry mouth and throat, and the deteriorating weather conditions.

Glen McPherson suspiciously eyed the trunk of the large tree. It towered just a few feet from the trail where his motionless body stood. Ragged claw marks scarred the bark some ten feet from the ground, perhaps even higher. Only two or three feet above the scars hung Stan’s backpack, still suspended safely where Glen had left it the day before. “I’m glad I had the foresight to tie the rope to a neighbouring tree.” Glen muttered. The angle of the rope had kept the inviting pack out of the focussed reach of the curious bear. Of course, with the remainder of the food in the dangling pack, the bear had probably been more than just curious.

The worn out Scotsman shot worried looks up and down Green Canyon. His earlier search had revealed only one set of bear tracks, but he didn’t want to lower the hanging backpack if a member of the Ursus arctos horribilis family was anywhere nearby. Glen knew that Grizzly bears had relatively poor eyesight and only a fair sense of hearing, but their noses were keen enough to compensate for both limitations. Only Grizzly cubs could climb trees, and the bear whose footprints he has discovered a quarter of an hour ago were certainly not those belonging to a juvenile.

Cautiously, Glen untied the heavy pack and eased it to the ground. He hobbled over to it and sunk to his knees. In seconds, Glen loosened an exterior lash strap. His trembling hand closed on the comforting carbon-fibre handle of Big C’s hatchet. Unsheathing the polished stainless steel head, the vulnerable man nervously glanced around again. He pulled his index finger across the honed blade at a right angle – just to be sure. Stan made an art out of sharpening blades, and the uneasy Scotsman was not disappointed. The polished cutting edge was razor-sharp.

Snapping the ready blade back into its oiled leather sheath, Glen threaded the fastening loop onto his belt. “If a bear encounter does become life threatening, at least I have a fighting chance of surviving the attack!” The small man fingered the leather sheath. “The short handle won’t give me very much mechanical advantage.” He clenched his teeth together. “The hatchet is probably sharp enough to split the skull of a charging bruin and hopefully save my fragile life.” Glen shuddered at the image that popped into his distressed mind. “At a maximum weight of 1800 pounds, a full-grown grizzly bear, charging at nearly 30 miles per hour would be a formidable opponent! Even if I killed the bear, the sheer inertia of the massive animal’s lifeless body would probably crush my insignificant carcass!” Glen continued his distressful anticipating. “The bear’s salivating jaws would have to be just inches away before the axe could effectively strike!” Glen shuddered again. “What if I miscalculate the swing of the hatchet?” Glens wits were unravelling fast!

“Get a grip Glen!” He growled to himself. He was trembling all over. His breath was ragged. “You will be OK!” he muttered, attempting to steady himself and push the disturbing images from his head. Feeling quite helpless, Glen knelt next the backpack.

In desperation, Glen bowed his head. “Heavenly Father.” He prayed aloud, “Please help me to be spared from any animal that I may encounter.” He paused to consider his next words. “Please help me to be able to defend myself should that need become inevitable.” Tears quietly made their way to the corners of the weary hiker’s eyes. “And… if I am to die here…” Glen trailed off, choking down a sob before continuing to speak to his God. “Please help me to accept thy will.” Thoughts of Lillie gently paraded across the stage of his consciousness. The Lillie he might not see again in this life. His tears were flowing now, spilling unchecked down his soiled cheeks and onto his scuffed pants. The tough Scotsman spoke from the depths of humility. “Heavenly Father… Please help me to live with honour for as long as thou seest fit that I should live. If it be thy will, please help me to have the strength and protection to be able to save the life of Stan as well as my own life.”

For long moments, Glen lingered; keeling; crying. Raw emotion pulsed through the muscles in his face, twisting at his lips and twitching his chin and neck muscles. Several silent seconds passed. Finally the injured hiker opened his bleary eyes. His scratched leather gloves lay beside him in the soft, dry dirt. The anxious squirrel had long since ceased its cry of alarm. A few, nearby birds flitted among the bushes and branches. Overhead, the dark, descending clouds approached in profound silence. Not a breath of wind rustled even the smallest leaf. The world was tranquil. Within the breast of the small, kneeling hiker came a soothing puff of peace.

In spite of all his worrying, Glen knew that everything was as it should be. “I will try my best to live. I will try my best to save the life of my broken friend. I will try, but whether my immediate future carries life or death, I know that God is watching over me.” A passage of scripture flowed through his mind, [1]“Therefore, let your heart be comforted … for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.”

[1] Doctrine and Covenants | Section 101:16

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