Davis L. Bigelow
Behind the hobbling hiker lurked the bear. He couldn’t see the small man especially well, but at only two hundred feet away, the carnivore could see well enough. Besides, the alpine air was thick with the man’s sweat-ripened scent. Even at this close range, the hiker didn’t seem to be aware of him. The human certainly didn’t seem to pose any immediate threat. The big bruin had lived through several summers, and had learned to be cautious—even when things appeared to be safe. If the grizzly had been human, he might have summed up his attitude by arrogantly stating that, “Only fools rush in… and he was no fool.”
The careful carnivore cast his dark eyes upwards. His best guess was that it would be dark in a little while. He was in no hurry anyway. His stomach was full. He could easily wait till nightfall to satisfy his mounting curiosity.
“Big C!” Glen called out. The big man lay motionless on the inactive litter; eyes shut and seemingly devoid of life. Glen had been observing his friend ever since beginning the trek back. Limping the one hundred feet to reach his hiking partner hadn’t taken that long, but in all the time it took, Stan Calderbank had not moved. Glen knew first aide, but he was no doctor. He had never before witnessed the full symptoms of a broken femur. Perhaps he didn’t even know all the symptoms? “I wish they’d taught me more in first aid” He panted under his breath. All Glen knew, from his first aid classes, was that a broken thigh bone could trigger sufficient shock to kill a person. He had been taught how to splint and how to treat for shock, but most of what he had learned about broken legs involved calling a paramedic and getting the injured person to a professional. Glen’s stomach growled and the small man glowered. “My first aid learning is like my stomach... practically empty!” Worry gnawed at the small man. “Perhaps, in spite of all my efforts, Stan will die anyway? Perhaps he will die from something I have no knowledge of?”
Glen McPherson shuffled closer. Apprehension built within him. “Big C!” he called again trying to quicken his pace. “Curse my ankle and this backpack for slowing me down!” He muttered, eyes riveted on his prone friend. “If Stan’s stopped breathing, every second counts!”
The big man pried his heavy eyelids open and stared up. His friend sounded anxious. Glen was a sight, too. In spite of his discomfort, Stan allowed a slight grin to flicker across his ashen face. Without the pack on his back, and with a patch over one eye, the dirty-faced, unkempt Scotsman might have passed for Robert Louis Stevenson’s fictitious character, Long John Silver. Glen hobbled up to the litter. Stan still made no sound.
“You weren’t moving!” Glen panted. “I wasn’t sure you were still with me.” Stan regarded the smaller man. Glen stared for a moment before beginning to unstrap the backpack from his shoulders.
“I’m ok.” Stan finally wheezed. “I just need… some real… painkillers.”
Glen smirked and rolled his eyes. “Well at least you haven’t lost your sense of humour!” he chortled, his worry dissipating a little. “We’ll get you some real medication soon.” Glen was serious again. “You just hold on until I can get you out of here!” The wiry Scotsman sounded fiercely determined.
Stan nodded, but didn’t reply. He only watched as Glen transferred the contents of the pack he had been carrying into the one fastened to the bottom cross bar of the travois. A lump rose in the big man’s throat. For two and a half days Stan had harboured the very real fear that he would not live through this adventure. This afternoon, however, he had reason to pause. Glen just might be able to save his life after all. “Thanks Glen.” He muttered.
Glen looked up from closing the backpack and squarely met the big man’s gaze.