“Werdna, come here!”
“Old Mother, what is it you require?” Werdna asked, as he danced on the hot sand of the river bank.
“Werdna, listen to me. I’m hearing human noises. You must be quiet. Go quick, behind that blackberry thicket.”
“You’ll come too?”
“I’ll follow.… Go now.” Old Mother shoved her daughter’s male offspring hard to the shoulder, for he kept standing, looking down at her.
“Come on! Come on!” Werdna demanded. He felt strongly that something was wrong with his relative and kept to the spot. Then he saw it. There were long ribbons of bright-red blood swirling in the current of the river. “Mother you’re hurt!”
“Listen to me. It’s nothing. I’ll be along soon. Go now.” Old Mother hissed at him while she twisted and tried to pry the boulders apart to free her huge big foot. It was wedged tightly between two shiny, submerged boulders.
Werdna knelt, sniffing the blood and watching his Old Mother’s hairy hands work at freeing her foot. He now could smell the humans as well as see them. Three of them were across the river, laughing loudly while launching an inflatable orange boat.
Thoughts raced fast through the young bigfoot’s keen mind. A blackberry bush waved gently in the river breeze, not too many feet away. Instantly it came to him that the bush would make a good blind to shield them from the humans. On all fours he slowly, as if in slow motion, worked his way over sharp river rocks to the bush and yanked with a mighty tug. With prickly stemmed bush firmly in hand, still in slow motion, he plunked it down on top of Old Mother’s foot that was still caught tightly. They put their heads down and huddled close behind the blackberry bush. They kept as still as still can be; sure they wouldn’t be seen by the intruders.
Once launched into the swift river, the orange boat would travel within a few feet of them.
They pressed tightly together behind the blind. Werdna reached for the bush for it was floating and not staying where he’d wedged it. He had no time to affix it properly. Carefully he extended his arm, bent low and grabbed hold of the roots of the bush. It was an awkward position that he was forced to hold. His arm burned from the strain of it.
The inflatable boat with its laughing humans was now on the river. One of them spied a fish. They anchored and were now fishing, close to the bank where they’d just put in the orange boat.
Werdna’s arm was so fatigued it shook. It hurt fiercely from the constant stretch to keep his hand latched to the roots of their shield.
The annoying humans were only twenty bigfoot strides away from them. He was becoming lightheaded. Old Mother bent, huffing in low puffs, trying with all her ancient might to reach the bush and help her brave grandson.
“No! Old Mother, don’t.” The bush bobbed, for a certainty exposing the tops of their fuzzy heads. “I can manage,” Werdna cautioned. But it was not true. He felt any minute he was going to topple into the water atop his Old Mother’s lodged foot and the bobbing berry bush.
And still the blood ribbons continued flowing from the injured foot. Werdna could not make his nose stop twitching, for the odor of blood excited his senses, he being a fit wild animal.
The voices seemed to be coming closer. Werdna couldn’t make himself peek over the top of the blackberry bush. And, of course, his Old Mother would not allow him even if he did muster the courage.
Oh, but do not let these words prevent you from believing Werdna’s true nature, for he is a very brave little bigfoot. And he has stories to prove it. His relative sitting here is quite content to be in his presence. She knows his worth, and she knows he is already stronger than she.
Werdna is her favorite youngling of all her children’s offspring. But the sad truth is Werdna is the only close kin that she ever sees. Werdna’s mother, Old Mother’s daughter, has journeyed over the mountains with her oldest son to help establish him in his own territory. This took place two snow seasons ago.
Often Old Mother thinks about her daughter. And she is sad. She does miss her and routinely she stares into the distance, hoping to see her coming down from the high mountain to the west.
The hair on Werdna’s arms glistens in the sun, as he holds the bush with two hands. He’s now on his belly. If only the men in the orange boat would drift down the river and out of sight, so they could work with vigor at freeing the caught foot.
Old Mother is giving her foot a rest from trying to work it free. She is daydreaming while running her hand across Werdna’s shoulders. He grunts, to let her know it feels good. He has turned his head to the side, resting his hair-covered cheek on the warm rock under his chest and head. He’d love to slip into a deep sleep, here with his Old Mother rubbing his back.
Next thing the young bigfoot knows, Old Mother’s weight is pressing into his arm and side. What’s happening? Sleep. He’d fallen asleep! The ankle bone snapped just inches from Werdna’s ear. The blackberry bush had fallen forward into the river. Old Mother had tried to catch it before it dropped, exposing them to the sight of the laughing men. The bush was already out of sight at a near turn in the river’s channel.
The noise of the bush falling into the river was slight. When Werdna drifted off, the top-heavy bush gradually leaned until it was just inches from the water and then Old Mother dove for it, breaking her ankle. Instantly, the two huddled close and kept very still. It was not easy being still, the foot throbbed. The blood still flowed from the injured foot. It was still firmly caught between the grey and black speckled rocks.
One of the men noticed the bush and wondered aloud at the dark splotches on the far bank. He was sure, he said to his companions in over loud voice, that they were not there earlier.
“Come on, let’s go downriver,” one of them shouted.
Another said, “I want to swing by the bank over there and get a look.”
“I still haven’t filled my bear tag.” He patted the huge handgun attached to his belt.
Werdna heard the word gun, as the three continued to argue about how difficult it would be to get the animal home, if it were a bear. He’d heard the word gun before and knew what it was.
Grandmother and grandson sprang into action. Werdna got to his knees and grasped the broken ankle. He jerked and pulled with all his might. Mother gritted her teeth. She tried hard, but couldn’t help but utter a wail of pain. The foot was freed, but a tuft of fur and a patch of skin were now going the way of the blackberry bush, down the river.
“Shoot! Shoot ‘em!” the two men yelled at their companion with the large gun.
Excited at the men’s shouts to fire at the “bears,” he fumbled the gun, then forgot to take off the safety as he pointed it at Werdna and Old Mother. He cursed continually.
The sound of the river flowing, the geese flying overhead and the soft breeze were not noticed by the pair of bigfoot. Any other time these sounds would soothe, but in both their minds now no sound did they recognize but the warning voice within, that shouted, “Get from this place and make your way to the cover of the tall trees!”
Werdna fought the urge to whimper. He was scared. He knew first hand what a “gun” could do to his kind. One of his older brothers had been shot several times and finally after many agonizing days, he lost movement and had to be put under the ground.
In the river at their feet, huge boulders touched shoulders, leaving a deep pool. Any second now “stones” from the gun could come their way. Mother shoved Werdna into the water telling him the while to get into the pool between the rocks. She followed.
Ping, Ping, the stones shattered the boulder inches above their heads. The stones finally stopped pinging off the rocks. The river sloshed in their ears making it hard to hear the men in the boat. Were they coming closer? Would they be on them any second now?
Old Mother growled, as Werdna peeked cautiously between the two tallest rocks. Good, the men were still in the exact spot as always. One was reeling in a large fish.
“We’ve got to go. They’re busy with a fish,” Werdna said to his kin. “I see no gun.”
“Werdna, child, listen to me, we must keep close to the earth, down on all fours. We want them to believe we are bear-kind.”
“I understand, Mother.” Werdna required, danger or no, to get from the water. It was becoming filled with his Old Mother’s blood.
Old Mother was also becoming aware of the smell of it, and recognized the natural agitation the blood was causing her grandson. She too was inhaling deeply. Yes, they needed to get from this place.
“Are you ready?” Werdna asked.
“I am.” Old Mother tested the injured foot by pressing it into the boulder she clung to. She was sure she would be hopping and crawling in her escape, the pain was so great. “Listen to me, Werdna,” she gripped tight his strong shoulder, “no matter how slow I limp along, make for the trees as quickly as you can. I will not have you injured by that gun.”
“Mother, don’t you think it would be best for us to huddle together, to fool the men?”
“You would be right, if I were not injured. I want you to survive. This is all my fault. I was careless in getting my foot caught.”
“Mother,” Werdna interrupted, “I will not leave you.”
“You will listen to me. Go from this place now. Go on. Once you’re safely in the trees, I’ll follow.” She bobbed in the deep water, the faint smell and taste of blood in her mouth. For a certainty she was being selfish, for the ankle didn’t feel too painful here in the water. But, she was sure it would hurt beyond measure on hard ground.
Werdna whimpered now. He was not afraid for himself. He was sure he could sprint into the trees in a flash, even bent to his knuckles. His concern was for Old Mother.
“Go now. Watch from the trees. Stay safe, live to a long age.” She now tangled her stout black hands in his fur around his thighs and shoved him toward a moss covered rock at the bank. He slipped back into the water. “Go now! Go around the rock, stay down. Pretend to be bear-kind, but go quickly,” she hissed. Again she grabbed hold his fur, hoisting him out of the water.
Exposed now, he had no choice but flee. He glanced toward the men. One of them had the big glistening fish held high so they could all admire it.
“There goes the bear! Get the gun!” Little did they know what awaited.
All of a sudden, the orange inflated boat rocked crazily and the bow came up so high that the three men toppled into the swift, cold water.
Old Mother ran her nails across the supple material of the boat, leaving a long gash.
The men, instead of laughing were now yelling and cursing. They could not touch the river’s bottom. They were swimming as hard as they could to get to shore.
Old Mother swam again underwater to the near bank where trees were right to the water’s edge. Crawling into them, she glanced back. Not one of the men noticed her escape. She quickly hid herself. Later she would swim back across the river and join her grandson.
Old Mother’s foot was permanently deformed from being caught between the river rocks. And for a long age, men would make comment when they happened upon the deformed tracks of this brave bigfoot.