Davis L. Bigelow
Before either man noticed, the hours of their third day had slipped imperceptibly past one forty-five in the afternoon. Glen and Stan already felt tired. From his two and a half mile hike in bear territory Glen was undisputedly the more exhausted of the two men―and that was definitely a bad thing. Stan felt wiped out from just lying there, worrying and feeling useless, not to mention enduring constant pain!
Glen tucked the nearly empty hydration pouch into his pack. He had already fastened the backpack to the travois. “Almost there.” He said, double-checking the lashings. The concerned Scotsman had purposefully left the bottle of pepper spray out so it could be easily gotten to should the need arise. Everything else was inside the pack except for the hatchet. The sharp, shiny tool was cinched in one of the pack’s exterior loops, just waiting for easy use should the need arise.
Glen paused, letting his eyes linger on the hatchet for a second or two. He recalled the moment, just ninety minutes before, when he had drawn it forth. “Would the undersized blade have saved my life if that grizzly bear had attacked me?” The unbidden question resounded inside his weary head. Glen had no answer. He silently shook his head. “I hope I’ll never know.” The injured hiker had taken solace in the weapon’s potential to protect him. “Perhaps my trust was misplaced?” He wondered, staring off in the direction the grizzly had charged. “In the end,” he thought to himself, fixing his gaze back on the hatchet, “The good Lord intervened. For that I’m deeply grateful.”
“Ok Big C.” Glen said, snapping out of his mixed memories and looking up at Stan. “It’s time for you to slide a little higher on this travois.” The small man limped over to assist his large friend. “I hope you’re ready.”
Stan had been mentally preparing for the ensuing ordeal, but knew he would never be ready. “I guess.” Was all he finally said.
Stan gritted his teeth for the inevitable torture. The fact that his good leg was free of the confines of the splints helped, but the pain was still extreme! Glen tugged on Stan’s broad shoulders. Stan pushed with his uninjured leg. Slowly, but surely, the big man moved higher and higher up the travois and onto the stretched tent. The topmost sleeping mat, that carried the big man, slid smoothly over the one underneath it. Glen strained with short bursts of power. Stan attempted to stifle his own frequent outcries. Every time the big man moved his good leg, however, painful bolts of sharp lightning lanced through his quivering flesh. With each miniscule movement, the sleeping mats produced tiny zipping sounds. To Stan, they sounded like distant screams. The comfortable mats were completely oblivious to the anguish they were cradling. “Ok.” Glen finally puffed. “You’re high enough.”
“At last!” Stan sighed.
I think you’re high enough to keep from smacking your broken leg on the rocks.”
“I hope so.” Stan wheezed.
Like a sinking ship reaching the soft sea bed, the big man settled into the supple sleeping mats, panting hard. Below his tormented body lay the soft, malleable mats, the taut tent and a lot of remorseless rocks—but Stan didn’t care anything about those facts. Beads of sweat highlighted his broad forehead. His ribs felt tight and constricted. He wanted to cough, but stifled the urge. “All this laying around and shallow breathing are distressing my lungs!”
Glen pulled off his hat and waved the wide brim though the alpine air to cool the hot sweat it had adsorbed. The plucky Scotsman was overheated too. Through sweat-speckled glasses he regarded Stan compassionately. His own travails were bad enough, but Stan’s were worse than he could imagine! The small Scotsman had never enjoyed a broken bone in his life. Now, more than ever before, Glen McPherson hoped to avoid the pleasure.
After several large breaths of mountain air, Glen pressed his hat back on and scuttled towards the bottle of pepper spray. The small man glanced up at the dark clouds overhead. ”Why it hasn’t rained yet is a mystery.” Glen’s words hung in the tranquility. “But I suppose we should be grateful.” Stan silently nodded his agreement. Glen retrieved the bottle of pressurized pepper spray from its resting place among the rocks. “Here Stan.” He said. “This is just extra weight I don’t want to carry on my belt.” Stan silently pressed the bottle next to him, patting it like he might the head of a faithful dog. Glen stood and hobbled to the front of the travois and positioned himself. Stooping down, the small man gripped the front crossbar of the litter. “Hang on buddy. Here goes nothin!”