The next day Daniel pulled up to Shepherd’s cabin in his snow machine. Shepherd greeted him at the door and they visited over coffee. They spoke little of the events the night before.
Daniel rose from the dinning room chair. “I wanted to check on you and tell you thanks for seeing Nan home safely. She can take care of herself, but things can happen.”
“She is a beautiful daughter,” Shepherd said. “You and your wife are blessed.”
“Thank you, my friend,” Daniel said. “Now that you know where I live, come, stay anytime.”
“And the same goes for me,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd thought highly of Daniel, his family, and his people. They were the peaceful ones of the American natives. They did not want to quibble or fight over hunting grounds and territory, but rather chose the worst of environments certain no one would dispute with them over the land. “And her I am,” Shepherd said. “He treats me like a brother, but history tells him I am a competitor; a part of a social structure that will consume him and his way of life as sure as the legend of Amoruk.
Life there was as struggle especially families. In New York life revolved around how to entertain and amuse yourself. Shepherd’s short time with Daniel’s family brought him to the realization that everything revolved around survival and food. They were a part of the food chain in a very real way, not in the abstract.
Shepherd did not have such worries. His pantry and larder was full. He had enough money to last a lifetime. He could not imagine gutting an elk or moose. He cleaned fish with an uncle when he was a boy and it made him vomit. He knew the day would come when he’d have to do it.
Pal was playful and eager to please. Shepherd taught him a wide range of voice commands and hand signals. The experience was good for both of them, especially
Shepherd; it took the edge from his New York impatience.
Shepherd and Pal spent days full of wonderment; Shepherd, his first winter in the wilderness and Pal the first year of life. Behind Shepherd’s wonderment was imagination. At times he haunted him at night; imagination that was built and nurtured on experience and reality. What secrets did the cold and dark hold? Did Pal already know them? Both became comfortable as wind, cold, and snow fashioned the landscape and imagination.
“I really like it here, Pal,” Shepherd said petting him with long strokes. “I’m breathing again.”