Cold. Really cold. I look outside the flaps at the cloudy day as Crazy Elk stokes the fire. Winter Hawk would be bouncing off the walls if we had walls. Clicking and whistling mixed with claps and laughing as he dances around the inside of the Tee-Pee.
"What wrong with Winter Hawk, Big Bear? Him more crazy than usual"
"CLICK, CLICK, HO, HO, HO, WHISTLE, CLICK, LIP POP, CLICK!" *Clap, clap, clap* "WHISTLE CLICK!" More dancing and laughing as Crazy Elk just stares at Winter Hawk now, one eyebrow cocked up in question.
"He's just excited for Christmas is all. We promised to decorate the tree today" I reply, still looking at the sky outside.
"Hmm." say Crazy Elk, "It too cold. No decorate tree today"
Suddenly the laughing stops and I turn to see Winter Hawk standing motionless now, staring at Crazy Elk. All that could be heard is the crackling of the fire through the silence.
"Click...click...whistle...." says Winter Hawk with almost a whisper. His eyes narrow, his breath deepens and becomes rapid now as his chest heaves from the pressure...And he begins to cry.
Moving to one side of the Tee=Pee away from us, he faces the wall and pulls his knees up, burying his face in his arms as he sobs now. I shoot a look at Crazy Elk who has a look of shock on his face that is probably a match for mine.
"Oh! Way to go, Crazy Jerk!" I yell.
"I not know he cry. I more worry he try scalping me!" said Crazy Elk, still looking confused by the entire situation.
I get up and walk over to the huddled form, putting my hand on Winter Hawks shoulder gently. "We will decorate the tree. We will do it today." I say softly.
I feel it before I hear it. He is laughing as he looks up at me. "Click, click, cheek flip, whistle!" He jumps up, grabs his furs and runs out of the tent. I stand there a moment, mouth open as look over at Crazy Elk. I run over to the entrance of the Tee-Pee, shouting after Winter Hawk. "WE ARE NOT SUCKERS!!!"
We have most of the tree finished now. Making pine cone ornaments, painting some with berry juice to add color some color, feathers from different birds placed randomly around the tree and then whole berries, and bones even, made into decorations. I stand back to get a better look and would have to say it didn't look bad for a makeshift wilderness Christmas tree.
We had decided to use vines taken from the forest to make garland, wrapping several around each other, braiding them together. As Crazy Elk worked on this, Winter Hawk excitedly clapped and wanted to go gather more of it. Apparently, he didn't think we had enough decorations. He returned later, walking back into camp, with little wreaths of vine he had made himself that he put around Petey and Chancey's necks. As we begin to unwind the rest of the vines he had brought, he was humming "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas". I had to smile.
We continued to decorate, Winter hawk continued to hum, even if a bit off key from time to time, and about halfway through wrapping the last of the vines around the tree, Crazy Elk on the other side yells. "IT STUCK, BIG BEAR!"
'WHAT'S STUCK?" I ask loudly as the tree was quite big and he was on the opposite side.
"VINE STUCK IN TREE! NEED TO CLIMB UP, GET UNSTUCK" He replies.
I sigh deeply. Almost done and we hit a snag. "I'LL GET IT" I yell back.
I look around for something to reach the garland/vine with. We had been using sticks to put the garland around the tree, a time consuming process, but it had worked up to this point. Winter Hawk suddenly jumps up and down, clapping frantically, and whistles, then he runs around the back of the Tee-Pee. He returns a moment later with a homemade ladder. I just look at it a moment then at him. i shake my head, mostly in unbelief as Crazy Elk walks to our side of the tree.
"Where did that come from" I inquire.
"Click, click" says Winter Hawk, smiling as he hugs the ladder beside him like it is a Beauty Queen.
"You made it...How long ago did you make it?" I ask.
"Click, whistle" he says, still grinning as he runs his fingers up the wooden structure.
"Really. Our second day out here. And you are just letting us know now we had it?" the irritation in my voice coming through.
"Click" he grins.
"So let me get this straight...We had this ladder when I fell in the pit...We had this ladder when I was hanging upside down from a tree...WE HAD THIS LADDER?!?! THIS LADDER RIGHT HERE?!?!" I say, grabbing it from him now.
"...Click..." replies Winter hawk, just looking at me now.
"WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME WE HAD A LADDER BEFORE?!?!" I shout!
He is quiet a moment, then replies calmly. "Whistle, lip pop, click"
Winter Hawk walks passed me to the tree and starts humming again as I stand there, the anger rising up in me as I consider choking him from behind.
Why had he not told me about the ladder? Because, he said, I had never asked about the ladder! Crazy Elk must have seen me start for him because before I even realized my feet were moving and my hands had started for Winter Hawks neck, he was between us, holding me back from the intended victim. I take a deep breath and shake it off, telling myself, "Just shake it off" over and over. It wasn't working.
I was livid by now. I grab the ladder and start for the tree.
"GET OUT OF THE WAY!" I growl.
I Put the ladder against the tree and somewhat steady it, now mumbling to myself...
"..Cause you didn't ask...What the crap?...Because I didn't ask?...I'm gonna kill him...I swear I'm gonna kill him..."
I begin to climb the ladder now, still mumbling, but I stop talking to myself to bark at the two Knotheads below me.
"HOLD THE LADDER!!!" I shout down at them.
I hear the whispers coming from below me now.
"Why you not tell him?"
"Whistle, lip pop, click"
"That no excuse"
"Click, click, whistle"
"It not matter if you would have asked"
"Shut up. You dumb"
"BOTH OF YOU SHUT UP!" I finally shout down at them.
I get to the top of the ladder, reaching for the garland that is caught on the branch above me. That was when I heard it. I couldn't tell if it was me on the ladder or something else, but it sounded like...Scratching? I listen a moment and hear nothing else, then grab the garland working it loose from the branch it had been stuck on. I grip the ladder to start back down to the ground when I get struck in the side of the head by something hard.
"Oww!" I yell out, looking in time to see the acorn fall to the ground. Acorn? What the...Wait a minute, I think to myself. Scratching again. My eyes narrow in thought as I push back a limb of the tree slowly, looking cautiously into branches.
In a blink, out pops the little furry head. Startled, I scream, and startled, it screamed, too. It must have been the shock of the moment, because as the squirrel panicked, it ran the wrong way...Or maybe it meant to run at me, I don't know, Maybe I had misinterpreted what I thought was the squirrels scream of terror and it was instead its battle cry. Either way, it latched onto my face like a hairy claw.
"AHHHHHH!!!!!!" I scream again.
"TACKATACKATACKATACKA!!!!" came the high pitched rattling off from the squirrel.
I instinctively pull away hoping to put distance between me and the squirrel, but I unintentionally begin falling backward. My weight and the momentum pulled the ladder away from the tree, standing us straight up in the air like a pair of stilts.
Winter Hawk and Crazy Elk had jumped back when the ruckus started, not knowing what was going on, just hearing me scream like I was dying. Winter Hawk had grabbed his bow and arrow and took aim, ready to release the arrow when Crazy Elk threw a hand up to stop him.
"You not shoot that! You hit Big Bear!" yells Crazy Elk.
"Click, click!..ohhhhh...click!" says Winter Hawk with that 'Look' in his eyes.
Throwing down the bow and arrow, he looks around for something else.
Wobbling around, I hold onto the ladder, the squirrel tightening his grip on my face as the ladder tilts side to side, walking in circles with us at the top, spinning around with us on it.
*KAWHAP!!!* is what it sounded like. Almost exactly.
It felt like my head exploded, causing me to scream louder as my eyes shut tight from the pain and scaring the squirrel even more and almost making me lose consciousness.
Meanwhile, on the ground...
...Crazy Elk grabbed the sling shot away from Winter Hawk. "What you do?!? You hit Big bear!" he yells.
"click, click, whistle, lip pop, whistle" replies Winter Hawk with a wide grin and wild eyes.
"I no care how close you come, you not hit squirrel, you hit Big bear in head!"
"Click, click" retorts Winter Hawk as he holds his hand out.
"I not give back. You shoot it again!" says Crazy Elk, oblivious it would seem to the events still unfolding on the ladder.
Winter Hawk sucks his teeth. "Click...click".
Crazy Elk quickly recognized the look and took off. Winter Hawk, lets out a war yelp pulling his knife, taking off after him.
It didn't matter really, I doubt they could have done much to stop what was about to happen. As they ran by me, the ladder finally lost it's precarious balance and fell straight into the tree. As I hit the tree, hard, the ladder twisted out from under me in the limbs and branches, coming in on top of me. The squirrel seems to see it as the chance to save himself, but not before looking me square in the eye first.
"Tackatackatacka" it says, as it's little teeth lock down on my nose, causing me to scream again in pain, then it leaps to safety somewhere in the tree.
I must say, the bite did rouse me from my nearly unconscious state, quite painfully so, and the pain of the sling shot projectile still lingered in my head. Also on the downside of this situation, I was now wide awake to feel the entire fall through the boughs of the tree all the way to the ground.
Every limb of the tree, it seemed, twisted something the wrong way, every branch, it felt, smacked against me like Mark McGuire was at the plate. Luckily, the vines we had used as garland had wrapped around me during the fall, stopping the impact with the ground by mere inches, as I hung like there, a badly tangled marionette.
Crazy Elk and Winter Hawk walk over now slowly, having stopped their chase when the fall began. Winter Hawk crouches down and looks at me in the vines.
"Click, whistle?" he asks quietly now.
"Hmm. Ladder be good idea" says Crazy Elk, looking at the ladder now.
I moan again.
Winter Hawk stands with a long sigh, shaking his head slowly. "Click, click..."
"Yes, we redecorate" says Crazy Elk, as he looks at the tree now.
I don't remember how they finally got me down or out of the tree. Mercy was somehow shown to me as I finally passed out. It may have been the combination of pain and hanging upside down that did it, but thank the Lord that it happened.
I awoke, once again, wrapped in the furs beside the fire in the Tee-Pee. The flap was pulled back and Winter Hawk and Crazy Elk sat side by side quietly at the fire outside, looking at the now decorated tree as the sun slowly sat on the horizon. I realized I couldn't move. Splints made of branches and wrapped around different parts of my aching body kept me held firm. Upon trying to move, I realized I didn't want to move much anyway. My eyes where almost completely shut from the swollen nose bite of the squirrel and some foul odor came from the herbal salve that was rubbed on it. I just lay there and tried to breathe, though it was short breaths, from what I could figure, must be some broken ribs.
I just lay there, looking outside now. Wondering why I was allowed to live while other so mercifully died from even lesser tragedies than had befallen me.
Although these thoughts ran through my head, I had to admit, it was a very pretty for a wilderness Christmas tree.