یاد گرفتم که چگونه غذا را نمکی کنم

مجموعه: سهم من از کوهستان / کتاب: سهم من از کوهستان / فصل 9

یاد گرفتم که چگونه غذا را نمکی کنم

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In Which I Learn to Season My Food

The fire warden made a fire some time in the colder hours of the night. At dawn he was asleep beside white smouldering ashes. I crawled back to the gorge, fed Frightful rabbit bites, and slipped back to the edge of the meadow to check a box trap I had set the day before. I made it by tying small sticks together like a log cabin. This trap was better than any of the other snares. I had caught numerous rabbits, several squirrels, and a ground-hog.

I saw, as I inched towards it, that it was closed. The sight of a closed trap excites me to this day. I still can’t believe that animals don’t understand why delicious food is in such a ridiculous spot.

Well, this morning I pulled the trap deep into the woods to open it. The trapped animal was light. I couldn’t guess what it was. It was also active flipping and darting from one corner to the next. I peeped in to locate it, so that I could grab it quickly behind the head without getting bitten. I was not always successful at this, and had scars to prove it.

I put my eye to the crack. A rumpus arose in the darkness. Two bright eyes shone, and out through that hole that was no wider than a string bean came a weasel. He flew right out at me, landed on my shoulder, gave me a lecture that I shall never forget, and vanished under the scant cover of trillium and bloodroot leaves.

He popped up about five feet away and stood on his hind feet to lecture me again. I said, “Scat!” so he darted right to my knee, put his broad furry paws on my pants, and looked me in the face. I shall never forget the fear and wonder that I felt at the bravery of that weasel. He stood his ground and berated me. I could see by the flashing of his eyes and the curl of his lip that he was furious at me for trapping him. He couldn’t talk, but I knew what he meant.

Wonder filled me as I realized he was absolutely unafraid. No other animal, and I knew quite a few by now, had been so brave in my presence. Screaming, he jumped on me. This surprised and scared me. He leapt from my lap to my head, took a mouthful of hair and wrestled it. My goose bumps rose. I was too frightened to move. A good thing too, because I guess he figured I was not going to fight back and his scream of anger changed to a purr of peace. Still, I couldn’t move.

Presently down he climbed, as stately as royalty and off he marched, never looking back. He sank beneath the leaves like a fish beneath the water. Not a stem rippled to mark his way.

And so The Baron and I met for the first time, and it was the beginning of a harassing but wonderful friendship.

Frightful had been watching all this. She was tense with fright. So young and inexperienced, but she knew an enemy when she saw one. I picked her up and whispered into her birdy-smelling neck feathers.

“You wild ones know.”

Since I couldn’t go home, I decided to spend the day in the marsh down the west side of the mountain. There were a lot of cattails and frogs there.

Frightful balanced on my fist as we walked. She had learned that in the short span of one afternoon and a night. She is a very bright bird.

On our way we scared, up a deer. It was a doe. I watched her dart gracefully away, and said to Frightful, “That’s what I want. I need a door for my house, tethers for you, and a blanket for me. How am I going to get a deer?” This was not the first time I had said this. The forest was full of deer, and I already had drawn plans on a piece of birch bark for pit traps and snares. None seemed workable.

The day passed. In the early evening we stole home, tree by tree, to find that the warden had gone. I cleaned up my front yard, scattered needles over the bare spots, and started a small fire with very dry wood that would not smoke much. No more wardens for me. I liked my tree, and although I could live somewhere else, I certainly did not want to.

Once home, I immediately started to work again. I had a device I wanted to try, and put some hickory sticks in a tin can and set it to boiling while I fixed dinner. Before going to bed, I noted this on a piece of birch bark: This night I am making salt. I know that people in the early days got along without it, but I think some of these wild foods would taste better with some flavouring. I understand that hickory sticks, boiled dry, leave a salty residue. I am trying it.

In the morning I added:

It is quite true. The can is dry, and thick with a black substance. It is very salty, and I tried it on frogs’ legs for breakfast. It is just what I have needed.

And so I went into salt production for several days, and chipped out a niche inside the tree in which to store it.

June 19

I finished my bed today. The ash slats work very well, and are quite springy and comfortable. The bed just fits in the right-hand side of the tree. I have hemlock boughs on it now, but hope to have deer hide soon. I am making a figure-four trap as tall as me with a log on it that I can barely lift. It doesn’t look workable. I wish there was another way of getting a deer.

June 20

I decided today to dig a pit to trap a deer, so I am whittling a shovel out of a board I found in the stream this morning. That stream is very useful. It has given me tin cans for pots, and now an oaken board for a shovel.

Frightful will hop from the stump to my fist. She still can’t fly. Her wing feathers are only about an inch long. I think she likes me.

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