Sharecropper Life – Part 2

Posted: April 10, 2016 in Book 1 TERROR IN TEXAS
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Millie directed Zack to cut the cable into six six-foot lengths. With her guidance, Zack created a one-way locking mechanism on an adjustable loop. He held up the first snare for Millie’s inspection.

She reached out with her hand. “Just a brush of fur will slide the loop tight” Sliding her hand into the loop, she pulled slightly and it snapped around her thin wrists. “They’ll be caught fast.”

She pulled the loop open and extracted her hand. She left Zack to make four more traps while she got to her feet and shuffled back into the cabin.

She pressed her fingers to Steve’s face then looked at Della.  “He’s not looking good. I’ll be looking for some willow when I go out with Zack. But unless we find a honey tree, that’s all I can do for him.”

“Better than nothing, I guess.”  Della answered.

Millie walked back out to find Zack had repeated the trap making while Millie was gone.  She guided him through making an anchor loop on a swivel on the opposite end of each cable.

“Now, they’re all done.” Millie announced. “We go to the woods.”

“Can I go Granny?” Penny asked.

Millie looked at Darlene than nodded. “If your mama will watch from the porch, you can come as far as the garden. When we get there, you gotta go back to the cabin.”

“Yes mam.” Penny nodded.

Millie walked inside the cabin and filled plastic bottles with clear fresh water. She opened cabinet doors until she found a small jar with a lid and dropped it in burlap sack she had fashioned into a shoulder bag.

Steve stirred in the bunk. He reached for his prosthetics when he saw the gathering of supplies being readied to go into the woods.

Millie raised her hand. “Not you. Someone has to protect the child and mother.” After a look around, she continued. “Della will take that pistol and a knife if you don’t mind.”

Darlene stepped to Millie and whispered. “He’s not doing well.”

“Give him that cup of broth I set near the stove. Take the warm water and clean his sores and bandage them with that ointment Della has. If we find a willow, I’ll bring some back for his fever.”

“I’ll do that soon as Penny gets back.” Darlene answered.

Millie led Penny, Della and Zack to the edge of the clearing. There, she pointed Penny back to the cabin. When the child was back in the arms of her mother and waving from the porch, she led Della and Zack into the woods.

The townspeople in Utopia had been generous in sharing clothes with all of them. Della had changed from her filthy scrubs to jeans, a t-shirt and a pair of jogging shoes. Zack was dressed in jeans and a t-shirts as well. After nearly a week in the same scrubs for both, it was a real relief. Neither looked like woodsmen, but Millie was determined to pass along what she knew.

As they walked, she pointed to plants. She described the ones that were toxic and which ones they could eat. She passed a willow tree and pulled handfuls of the young tender branches and stuffed them into her burlap bag.

Millie began talking about game trails and to spot them. She pointed at droppings and the differences between raccoon and what a squirrel left behind. She spoke quietly, but used each example to convey information.

Millie walked deeper into the woods studying the ground as she went. “I’ll show you what to look for, but you’ll have to go deeper into the woods to set the traps. I’m just about tuckered out.” At that point she pointed to the ground. “This is a game trail. Animals use the same paths to move from one place to another. Look for a choke point, a place where the trail narrows. That’s where you put the snare.”

She spent the next ten minutes showing how to place the snare. “We have to decide what size animal you’re trying to catch. This may not be easy, since different critters can use the same trail. The animal needs to stick his head through the loop. For now, let’s just say about eight or nine inches.”

Both Della and Zack nodded with each bit of information.

Finally, Della announced. “I think we got it.”

Millie stood with the aid of Zack big hand. “Use that hatchet to mark a trail so you don’t get lost. Don’t go more than a mile out. You got five more snares. Don’t put them too close. A struggling critter will warn off other animals.”

“Yes mam.” Zack answered.

“Don’t get lost. Stay together and mark the trees like I showed you.” She sighed with a puzzled look on her wrinkled face. Go a mile south, then a mile west and then north again. Always go to the right. Use that compass in the knife.” Millie ordered.

Della smiled. “We’ll be fine.”

Millie sighed. “I wish I could go with you, but my legs won’t make it. Be careful. If you be quiet you won’t scare off the game.”

Della and Zack watched the old woman hobble away. She placed her feet carefully on the path as she shuffled back toward the cabin. She had seemed so tireless since arriving at the cabin. Watching her now they realized, she was desperate to share as much information as possible. She provided answers and was determined to do whatever she could to help extend their stay. They realized that with her knowledge of foraging and trapping they could stay for quite a while.

Without Millie, the group would have only been able to spend a week or so at the cabin. Now, if their trapping efforts were successful, they could give Steve time to heal.

“Well, are we doing this?” Zack grinned. “Can you believe we’re doing this?”

Della smiled. “Not really. Lead out trail blazer.”

Della reached into the bag slung over her shoulder to verify the handgun was still present while Zack clutched a hatchet in his hand. He marked the tree as Millie had directed then verified the direction.

They walked deeper into the woods, following the game trail to avoid briars and brush, so when the trail turned they turned. When the trail forked, they kept to the right fork. They set each of the five additional snare traps.

“Well, how do you think we’re doing?”  Zack asked.

“I’m pretty sure we’re doing it correctly.  Now if we can just follow the same trail to recover the game. That is, if we catch anything.”  Della chuckled.

In the end, they found themselves near the base of the narrow road leading up to the cabin when they came out of the woods. Both Della and Zack were sweaty and dirty from their trek through the woods when they got back to the cabin. It was nearly five in the afternoon when Della walked inside the cabin.

Steve asked from the bunk. “Well, how did it go?”

“Long hot walk.” Della answered as she wiped at the perspiration at the side of her face. She settled on a chair at the table.

“See anything interesting? Other people or signs of other people?” Steve asked.

“There’s a good sized watering hole that spills into a small stream. It’ looks clean. We saw fish.”

Zack stomped up the steps appeared at the cabin door. He went to the sink and began pumping the handle. A moment later, water began to flow clear and fresh. He stuck his head under the flow and scrubbed at the dirt and dust clinging to his face and neck. “It’s hot as hell out there. Not even a hint of a breeze.”

Millie pulled his hand from the pump handle and pumped it slow and steady. Zack scrubbed at his face with both hand then pulled the shirt over his head and stuck it under the flow. He wrung it out, then wiped at his face and neck then draped it around his neck.

When Zack stepped back from the sink, he carried two large mason jars of water. He handed one to Della and then settled on a chair.

Millie handed Della a wet towel.

She nodded at the old woman. “Well that was an adventure.”

“Gal, did you two do a good job?” Minnie asked.

Zack wiped at his face and hands. “Yes mam. We did just like you showed us. How long before we know?”

“Trapping ain’t knowing until you follow the trail and check your traps, first thing in the morning. You be hoping for night critters.”

“We gotta get up early, we just got back.” Zack complained.

“If we’re planning on eating what we trap, we might want it fresh.” Millie answered.

“This isn’t such a bad place to be.” Darlene walked in the cabin to join the small gathering with Penny at hand. “Maybe we should stay here until the government gets the infected under control.”

“Maybe.” Steve answered. “For a while.” He lay back on the bunk and closed his eyes.

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