Chapter 7 - Rabbits

Alaska's original inhabitants populated the land for long before written history existed. They hunted and gathered from the land, saving food up for winter and hunting year round. I figured I could do the same thing, some of my friends had taught me how. They would hunt with their families and learned from a long standing tradition. It was this tradition that inspired me to keep travelling along the river. I had no idea how long it would take. I just knew there was no turning back now. There was no where to go behind me, and I had to keep pushing forward and find food. As I woke up I could think of several things I could eat. I could eat wild grasses, which had little human nutrition I could digest. I could eat algea, which would be a viable food source if I could find pools of it near the river. I could eat lichon from the trees, but there wasn't much of it out there. This was going to be difficult.

I got up from my bed and shivered. I hadn't slept well my first night in the wild. I felt much better as I went into the sun and drank some water. As I looked up across the shore, I could see a small rabbit poke its way out of a hole in the bank. I paused, holding perfectly still. Rabbits can be hunted, but are most easily snared. I could set up a snare to catch this rabbit, but I might not be able to stay here. It had been less than twenty four hours since I had eaten but I was still very hungry. Being as I had spent so much time building a place to sleep where I had survived, I figured it was worthwhile to stay a while and try to snare the rabbit.

I walked up and down the shore, spotting another spruce tree with exposed roots. This time I pulled a smaller, longer root from the tree and tied it into a snare. I saved several more roots for more snares as I suspected this was more than one rabbit. I crossed the river, swimming and wincing at the cold, watching the rabbit dart back into its hole. After I reached the riverbank, I attached the snare to a root near the hole and positioned it directly above the hole. I was certain I would catch the rabbit, it was just a matter of time.

I decided not to cross the river again because of the cold. The river was shallow so it wasn't difficult to cross, it was simply very cold being water from snowmelt of the winter before. Instead of crossing, I worked my way up and down the bank looking for rabbit holes. There was another one just downstream, and another one up the bank. I outfitted each hole carefully with a snare and then walked some ways up the bank where I could watch the snares closely. I didn't see any more rabbits, but I figured there had to be more around. A few rabbits could last me a long time in the wilderness if I cured the meat properly. I didn't have a fire to cook or dry the meat but I had the sunlight, which was good enough for me.

I found myself getting very tired. I hadn't slept well the night before because of the bitter cold, and in the warm sunlight I began to feel the exhaustion kicking in. Just steering the raft the day before had taken its toll on my body. I drifted off into sleep and dreamed of France, where I had spent time outside sleeping in the sun too. Something about being outside in the wild always seemed to charm me. It was something more natural and real than much of this earth, taken over by technology.

When I awoke the sunlight was draining from the sky as the sun set over the horizon. I quickly got up, ignoring the pain of hunger, and walked down to the riverbank to check my snares. Sure enough, I had a catch at the first hole where I had set a snare. I untied the snare and brought the rabbit down to the river, drowning it silently. I wasn't sure how to eat it but I was famished, so I took the sharpest rock I could find and cut open the flesh along the belly just like other kids had shown me. I discarded the entrails, and began knawing on what meat I could find. I didn't bother lighting a fire, having little experience with this anyway. It wasn't much of a meal, but it felt like the most filling thing I had had in a long time. Indeed, this was my first experience going some time without eating.

Fearing the cold at night, I decided to cross the river again and prepare a better den for the night. I reset the snare and crossed the river bringing the rest of the dead rabbit with me. Leaving the rabbit by last night's bed, I gathered up spruce branches until it was twilight. I lined the outermost branches with mud and dirt to build a makeshift shelter, and then burrowed my way underneath, covering myself in mud and dirt as I did so. I was wet and uncomfortable, but this time I wasn't quite cold.

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