Fueled by frequent snacks of roasted ants—little Will liked the things every bit as well as his father, and kept sneaking in to snatch a fistful from the roasting rock, until Liz realized what was happening and put them up—Einar and Liz stacked the roof timbers, creating a solid foundation for the mat of spruce duff and branches which would eventually provide insulation and waterproofing to the structure. Einar did not want to stop there, emptying everything out of the drop bag and going from evergreen to evergreen and digging down the snow in search of the piles of dry needles with which he hoped to thatch the roof. Some of the trees were too packed in with windblown snow to offer much in the way of needles, but beneath those with wider, denser canopies he found spots where little snow at all had accumulated, and here he worked to fill the bag with needles, hauling it out when full and dumping it at the bottom of the slanted roof timbers.
Liz prodded the pile with the toe of her boot, impressed that he had been able to retrieve so much nearly-dry material from beneath the snow. “Want me to start stacking the stuff while you go for another load?”
“Sure! Start at the bottom of the roof if you don’t mind, at the ground level, then when you get to the top overlap some of it onto the wall. That’ll help shed water when things thaw, and especially later when it starts raining.”
“Raining! It’ll be a while, but I hope we’re still here then. It would be nice to settle down for a while.”
“Hard to say where we’ll be by the time rain comes, but might as well be ready for it. Haven’t really been here long enough to get a good sense of what this place will be like, trapping and hunting-wise, but it sure is well concealed and off the beaten path. Don’t mind traveling some for game, if everything else is favorable.”
“No, I don’t mind that either. Maybe best not to be in a spot that has it all, because that might attract other people, even if just at hunting season. The less of that we have to worry about, the better!”
With a nod of agreement Einar was off to fill the drop bag with a second load of spruce needles, Liz starting at the bottom as she began thatching the roof, working her way up and trying her best to overlap rows of needles, picturing how water would flow and aiming to get it to flow to the ground and away, instead of seeping into the shelter. She wasn’t sure how well it would work, wished they had some aspen or cottonwood bark shingles to put over the improvised thatch, but supposed that could come later. For the moment it was far too cold and snowy for moisture intrusion to be an immediate concern. They just needed to get a sturdy roof over their heads, and one which would satisfy Einar as far as keeping the light and heat from their nighttime fires inside, and away from the prying eyes of anyone who might be passing in the sky. Already she had sensed his unease at having fires in the place on non-stormy nights, and she wanted to avoid, if at all possible, a decision on his part that they would have to do without except during rough weather. Though starting to eat more and looking like he really might keep at it, this time, she knew he would need all the energy he could consume simply to hold his ground and to hopefully begin rebuilding his body a bit. Wouldn’t do to have him spending it without fire for any significant length of time. The insulated roof, she hoped, would prevent any such need, and greatly reduce the amount of wood it would take to heat the little shelter, too.
Roof all thatched after four trips on Einar’s part and a good deal of work by Liz, the two of them stood inspecting their work, Einar nodding in satisfaction. “Ought to shed some water, looks like. Real nice job.”
“Do you think it’ll stay in place though, with nothing to hold it, or will it just slowly slide to the ground?”
“Oh, it’ll move some, especially if we get a big wind when there’s no snow on top to hold it down. A network of branches, even some live spruce boughs set over everything would really help secure it in place. What do you say we go cut some?”
They went, choosing trees some distance from the shelter and taking only one bough from each, not wanting to do anything to decimate the natural cover and protection afforded by the tangle of evergreens which surrounded them. Branches in place and the sun near to setting, they retreated into the shelter to enjoy the results of their day’s work. A good, solid roof overhead, stout wall behind them, and Liz began unpacking their things as Einar prepared the evening’s fire.
“Guess we can start putting up walls tomorrow, to fill in the sides?” Liz speculated.
“Yep. Will be a lot like the cabin up in the basin, when we get it done. Can do upright aspens, just like we did there. What do you say, should we leave a little window, this time?”
“Oh, I’d like that! Something with a closeable shutter so we can let light in during the day, but secure it against…oh, bears and bobcats and things, at night and when we’re away.”
Einar smiled. “Yeah, good idea. Though no bear or bobcat in its right mind would face off against a determined mountain woman and her rabbit stick, would he? No, sure don’t think so!”
“Hey, that reminds me…you’d better be finishing up this leftover moose stew, so I can have the pot to make some supper in. Unless you do want to find yourself on the wrong end of my rabbit stick, that is!”
“Hey, that’s not your rabbit stick, it’s my rabbit stick! Found it while I was out looking for that rabbit.”
“Well, looks like I’ve appropriated it for the moment! So, which will it be? Pre-dinner snack, or Wrath of the Rabbit Stick?”
“Oh, good as your stew is, rabbit stick sounds like more of an adventure, so guess I’ll just have to go with that…” And he laughed, keeping quite still when Liz swung at him instead of dodging as she had anticipated, which meant that he took a rather solid hit to the shoulder before she could interrupt her swing.
Einar was still laughing as Liz helped him up, brushed the snow from his clothes and tried to make sure he was alright, shaking his head and saying something about how he never had known her to miss anything she aimed at with rabbit stick, atlatl or bow, and probably never would see the day. “And now guess I’m going to have to help out with the stew anyway, aren’t I? Since you’re still needing that pot emptied for supper…”
To which she answered only with a bit of an exaggerated scowl and a playful shake of the rabbit stick, as she handed him the stewpot and settled beside him with Will on her lap.