Chapter 10 - many years after the key is found

Summer is coming to an end, and I am keeping busy. It is hard to decide what to do around this time of year: the food is plentiful and the animals bold, stuck with the same problem as I have, getting fat for three months of lean times. I'm drying blackberries and piling up cabbages in a hollow trunk with an alder-bough roof, tomorrow I may try for fish or just bundle and hang greens upside down from my roof for dry salad additions.

At this time of year at least herbs are hard to find, but I worry I can no longer taste rosemary, a sprig in every pot and a few leaves tucked between meat and bone with every roast.

Thankfully this is Oregon and even at this elevation it won't snow for more than a day, and it won't stick.

That was the excitement, so many years ago, that was what you'd call your friends over: go and look outside, it's snowing like crazy and it's sticking.

Often, 'sticking' was loosley defined: if it frosted the grass then it was sticking, even if the sidewalk was just dark and wet.

I had hopes of making arrows this winter for my compound bow, but it proved a bust even with the aluminum-shaft shots from the sporting goods store.

It was a mistake: several years ago the deer grew impossibly numerous, mowing down all greenery in their path and I nearly took down one with my skinning knife, so reluctant was it to run from my blueberry bush.

In that time I neglected the gathering of kale, cabbage, and the blackberries to dry to take the deer down full time. I shot carefully but still spent nearly a box of bullets, and in the end I didn't cure the meat poperly and much of the meat went bad.

Even so I ran out of my vegetable food quickly, and was reduced to nothing but acorns and deer for the first month of spring. I ended up stuffing down mouthfulls of grass just to be able to shit.

Now the arrows do not pierce the deer's hide from more than 25 yards, and they have grown skittish and less numerous.

If humans, other humans, walk through this part of the world still it is clear they have lost their old prejudices. Bedtime stories do not trouble these new men, and wolves are not trapped and killed indiscriminately.

I have seen them, stalking beneath my treetop home. My breath was a cloud before me when last I saw a pile of their bloody leavings.

Wolves have no interest in people but they will strip the hills of deer within a few years, and with them my only source of meat will be gone. If I were dying I could eat wolf, but I am not dying yet.

The time of innocence is gone, the time of bullets is ending.

The air is getting colder every day and the time of the wolf is creeping over my woods.

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