11 May, 2012
11 May 2012
Einar’s willow hoops came along pretty nicely, Liz helping him peel the raw materials and stowing the bark in careful coils up near the ceiling to dry, ready should they have need of it in the future. She watched then, taking a break to feed Will--seemed the little one must really be having a growth spurt at the moment, for he was always hungry--as Einar took a bit off the ends of two of the shoots so they would nicely splice together, lashing them securely to one another with a bit of rawhide which he had first soaked and softened. He then bent the green, flexible willows, slowly putting pressure on them so that they would not crack as he worked them into a rough circle, connecting them and wrapping that joint, also, with rawhide. By then a pot of water which he had earlier put on the stove was boiling furiously, and he worked the rough hoop over the steam, further bending and shaping it as the wood went more flexible and then, when the shape was to his satisfaction, pushing aside the pot and working the hoop over the heat of the stove itself, drying it, working it to make sure the shape was retained. The finished product--time consuming to make, for sure, but it would last--was beautifully symmetrical and put Liz in mind of the start of a giant snowshoe, a snowshoe for a giant, and the image made her smile.
“Just make another one, weave some rawhide in there and you’d be able to carry some incredibly heavy loads out in the deep powder without sinking in very much at all! What do you think?”
“I think I’d have to be nine feet tall to make a thing like that work very well at all! Not a bad idea, though. Could certainly make snowshoes this way, on a smaller scale, and folks did. Bent, steamed willows. Ours are a variation on that, the ones we have right now. Just that they’re not bent to the same degree. Nope, no rawhide webbing for this one. It’s all done, ready and waiting for a beaver pelt. You ever seen those round-stretched beaver pelts? To look at them, you’d have thought they came from a critter shaped more like a watermelon than a beaver! But that’s how they were done for a couple centuries, starting with the Hudson’s Bay Company and other trading companies who wanted them done that way for the beaver hats that were so popular across Europe…and lots of folks still do them that way to this day. They’re just nicer when done round like that, even if you’re not planning on selling them…which we’re not! Gives you a larger area of useable fur.”
“I can see how that would be. I know you have to skin them a different way to have them come out round like that, but I’ve never seen it done, so you’ll have to show me.”
“Oh, I’ll show you. If things go well down at the river, we’ll be doing plenty of them and you’ll be great at it by the time we head back up here. Sure am looking forward to making that trip…”
“I know you are. I’m looking forward to it, too. But if you can wait, I really think we still need to give it a couple more days. Give you a couple of days. I know you don’t like to hear it like that, but I don’t really know how else to say it.”
“Just say it like it is.”
“Yes, that usually is best, isn’t it? Well, I’ve already said it. You know what I think. Now, before you start on that next hoop, how about a bowl of stew? It’s ready now, and I’ve even got some spring beauty root flat bread ready to be fried up. Made the dough while you were out getting willows, and this time there’s a bit more of it than the few bites we usually get, because I added some of the flour Susan left us!”
“That sounds real good. Yeah, I’ll take a break from making giant snowshoes and have some food with you! Where’s that flatbread dough, and I’ll get them cooking. If you don’t mind me tampering with your flatbread…”
“Of course not! I could come do it myself if your son would ever get done eating, but I’m beginning to think he’s trying to make up for what you’re not getting. Either that, or he’s set to be doing some serious growing here over the next few days.”
“Little ones do that. Why, he’ll be up and crawling all over this place in no time, and then by next winter I’ll be making him his own tiny snowshoes and taking him all over this place on the trapline with me.”
“He’ll barely be a year old next winter and probably just beginning to walk, so we’ll have to wait and see about the need for snowshoes! But he’ll be coming with us, one way or another. Now, the flatbread. You need to do some growing, yourself, and it’s only going to happen if you take this eating business a bit more seriously.”
“Oh, yeah! Where’s that dough?”
“In the bowl over there by the water barrel. I included a little aspen bark yeast this time, just the white powder from the north side of an aspen trunk like you once showed me, and I didn’t want it to start doing too much rising if I set it someplace too warm while we were waiting.”
Einar found the dough--bread was a rare treat for them, considering that their only source of a flour-like substance had been the painstakingly dug and prepared roots of spring beauty and avalanche lily, the making of it a seldom thing indeed, and he knew Liz would ration Susan’s flour like the precious substance it really was--and took a good whiff of the soft, living scent of rising dough, a bit more closely resembling sourdough than traditional yeast bread. Breaking off a careful chunk he rolled and patted it into a flattish disk, melting some bear fat on the smooth, flat stone slab they had taken to using for a griddle and pressing his stomach against its painful rumbling when the bread began sizzling in the grease, giving off the most wonderful odor. He was hungry, so hungry it hurt, but knew he’d better not have more than a bite or two of that bread unless he wanted to risk serious consequences that could leave him crouching out under the spruces for days--or worse. Liz would be even more reluctant to let him out on the trapline if his legs ended up so swollen that he couldn’t get into his boots, and he knew such was a very real possibility if he didn’t take things slowly enough with the eating. Broke off another chunk of dough, patted it flat and added it to the griddle, flipping the first one, which was already beginning to brown and bubble on the surface, looking all the more tempting for the crispy bits that were developing around the edges. It was hard to look at. He shut his eyes, turned away. Pretty goofy when you can’t even face a piece of frying flatbread, Einar. Pretty pitiful. Which voice, though his own, angered him some--was accustomed to having better control over his reactions to things, did not appreciate that his mind and body seemed to be conspiring to influence the way he looked at that bread, entirely without his consent--and he responded with a snarl, breaking off another piece of dough to form a third patty. I can face it. Here. See? I’m looking. Got to look, anyway, or I’ll end up burning the stuff. Liz would be awful disappointed if I burned it.
Liz, though greatly anticipating the meal, enjoying their quiet and productive time together and not at the moment disappointed about anything at all, was somewhat mystified at the change in Einar’s demeanor, at the tear-shadow in his eyes when he turned to announce that the bread was ready. Wanted to help him if there was a way, but figured it best not to ask. Best help she could be at the moment was to serve that meal, which is exactly what she did, tucking the sleeping Will into his sling of buckskin and scooping out generous helpings of stew, tucking a piece of the perfectly browned and crisp-edged bread in at the side of each, and sitting down with Einar to eat.