I awoke to stillness, something seemed wrong, I reached around to grasp one of the cats... they were gone. I got up looked out side but everything looked to be alright Socar walked by and I asked if he had seen the Cats. He answered, “about 2 hours ago Sondi went into the cave and a few minutes later Bruno and Runt followed her.
This did not alarm me the cats often hunted alone. I sat down and thought about the past two years since the clans had merged things had prospered and with the new babies the clan was almost a hundred strong.
It is time to consider eradicating the lomen they were a blight on our peaceful land. But first, When the cats returned I plan to go to the shadow at the end of the valley and see if it is a cave and another way out of our valley. This was something that had to be carefully planned.
Lateen had taken a group to check it out a few months ago. Drago, Goba, & Teal went with him. The women were free to do more things since the older women would take care of the children and watch the babies. Teal was with the group to try out and idea she had had.
She had been working with the cattle and had befriended one of the calves. She started working with it trying to train it. She had a rope around its neck and the calf was walking around dragging the rope behind it. The rope became tangled in some dried brush and the calf continued to walk around an seemed oblivious of the brush. Teal looked over to see Shad arriving pulling a travois. Teal looked at the travois and back at the calf ...a new idea was born. She cut some longer poles and made a new travois. She tied a piece of rope around the calf' s neck then she took the poles to either side of the calf and tied the poles to the rope.
The calf took it right in stride and Shad was shocked to see Teal leading the calf around pulling the travois. Eventually Teal would make changes to the system by adding wide leather strap across the chest of the calf now named BO. She also added a back and belly strap to keep the travois even when BO was pulling it.
The group hunted as they went...mostly for small game using their slings. It was an easy trek since BO carried all their supplies. When they neared to what they judged to be two miles distance the ground looked scraped and brown the trees looked as if they had been stripped bare. Suddenly the ground shook and a very large hairy creature charged out of the trees.
It had 6 foot long tusks and a long nose and big floppy ears. It curled its nose and bugled. It came to a stop lowered its head and shook it back and forth. Then it bugled and there were many answers to its bugling about thirty .
Lateen stood and stared and said, “Mammoth! I have heard of them but this is the first I have seen. We go Back.” From where Lateen was standing he could tell that the valley did not end in the shadow but made a gentle right turn and he was unable to see the end. One thing was sure he wasn't going to challenge the Mammoths to find out. Especially since the valley narrowed to less than a ½ mile across where the mammoths were feeding. And 100 yards of it was the river.
When they returned and told Mondo what they had found. He was excited but decided not to rush into anything he told everyone to put their mind to the task... How to get by the Mammoths... there was no need to kill them they had plenty of food. Time passed and no one had any ideas
Then one day Ludi was watching 3 year old Rena playing in a pool off the river. She had sticks tied together and had a bug on the sticks. She had a longer stick and was pushing her little raft around till it was caught by the current and whisked away down river. Rena was thrilled and laughing and clapping her hands saying, “ bug gone!”
Ludi told Mondo what she had seen, he immediately saw a way to use the information. Near by was a grove of Bamboo some of the shoots were 6 inches in diameter and over eight feet tall. They cut 4 lengths of the 6 inch and lay them out 2 foot apart. Then tied a 3 inch piece across each end. Once they had it framed they began using leather strips to tie the 3 inch poles to the bottom making a deck. Not knowing the depths of the river they cut four poles 12 feet long in hopes they could pole and change directions. The had not come up with the idea of a rudder. They were proud of what they had.
The next thing was to decide when to go... then fate stepped in and the Cats disappeared and forced them to wait. Days passed and no sign of them I walked out the bramble gate and looked around and saw nothing. I walked on down the dry wash...it was not what I could see but what I heard..
Cave lions mate once a year usually in late summer and the gestation period is about 4 months then 1 to 2 kits are born and stay with the mother for about 2 years. What I was hearing was the sound of many cave lions and this was the right time of the year. Females tried to breed to the strongest male but if available would mate with all males available.
The average size of a male cave lion is 10 foot long and weighing 600#. Runt was about 8 feet and weighed about 500# Bruno was an exception he was close to 14 feet and almost 1000#. Sonda was large for a female weighing in at 650 and 9 foot long. Probably since they never had periods without food.
Generally Cave lions hunt in pairs are groups and the females usually do the hunting. That is what makes my lions different the males are trained hunters as well ...they are a team.
Now I knew what we were facing I could began to make firmer plans. Two weeks later the Cats were back. I was just getting out of our hot pool and was nude when I heard a menacing growl. I turned around only to find my self facing a strange female cave lion. She was quite small, not over 6 feet long and 350# not that it mattered right now. She went into her attack position by crouching and beginning to move toward me.. I stood frozen.
Then I heard the roar I was familiar with and Bruno bounded over the female and placed himself between the lioness and me. Sondi just walked in and lay down to watch the show. Runt walks up to the female and clamped his jaws on to the nape of her neck and forced her to walk up to me.
I first rubbed Bruno' s head then Runt' s before moving the back of my hand to the female. She leaned forward and sniffed my hand and her pink tongue slipped out and licked my hand. I stroked her head then ran my hands over her back and scratched her ears.
I glanced over to the cave entrance and saw Drago. I called him over and had him follow the same routine as I had. I sent him out to tell the clan we had to meet another cat and they were to come in one at a time. I motioned to Runt to release her. She stood there content. I had also told Drago to bring small pieces of meat so that each person could feed the Girl as they met her. Bruno stayed watchful through out the introductions. When all had met her I walked her into the pool and washed her she seemed to like this. Drago had stayed close the whole time. He asked what was we going to name her I said “Girl” When I said that she looked up at me then to Drago.
She moved forward and licked Drago' s hand and rubbed against him. It looks like you have been chosen. The way Runt is acting she is his mate so you have two to work with it is up to you to train her. I think both Sondi and Girl are pregnant. When we make the trip to the shadow we will have to leave them here you will have to take care of them..
For awhile when you walk thru camp and are approaching another person place your hand on her back it will give her assurance that you are with her. Also make you a pouch and carry small pieces of meat to reward her as you work with her. And remember don't ignore Runt he could get jealous.
We had our plans almost complete but there was one thing bothering me. The river abutted the valley wall on the right side as long as we stayed to this side of the river we could pass with no problem. But when we had to return how were we to get back. First I decided to cross the river and look at what lay ahead.
There is a low water crossing just a 150 yards from our encampment Drago, Lateen, Sonda and I and the cats crossed to the North side of the river and made our way to the Valley Wall. Teal and BO no longer a calf would be following with its travois loaded with our supplies. We noticed that the current wasn't too swift on this side of the river.
While we trekked to the river wall I had other concerns. Like why did the Mammoths stay behind the canyon bottleneck . They were big enough they could rampage all thru our valley. Then I remembered the Cattle, until we physically moved them they had stayed in the North east sector. I scratched my head...maybe the valley was responsible.
We found a large bamboo grove with average shoots about 1 ½ “ in diameter with a few up to 3 “ in diameter. I cut one of the larger shoots and cut an angle on one end. I drove it as deep in to the rivers edge as I could using just my strength. I looked around and selected a large flat rock weighting about twenty pounds.
By lifting the rock and hitting the bamboo I was able to drive it deeper till it was in the ground almost 3' deep. I moved further back along the bank about 15' this one I buried deeper. This was to be my anchor. The first pole had the rope looped around it so it could be fed out slowly then the end was tied to the second pole.
The other end was tied to my waist in my hands I had one of the smaller shoots to feel the bottom as I moved forward it also helped me keep my balance. The water was about 4 feet deep I moved to the end of the rope and could see a place to land but it was about a 100 yards ahead and the water was beginning to get faster. As I turned to head back I realized how difficult it was going to be to get back. Drago and and Lateen were hard pressed to draw me back to them.
I had an idea of what we would have to do but it was going to be very time consuming our pregnant cats may have their kits before we were through. 1st we would have to move a large portion of our village to this point. We were going to need the manpower. We were going to build a walk way about a foot above the water.
Back at the village I explained what I had in mind, the women with their nimble fingers would tie the walkway portion after the men had completed the frame. The legs of the walkway would be 3”x 12' of which 3' would be buried in the river bottom. Each pair of legs would be joined by 3” x 2 ½ ' cross pieces. Each pair of legs 6' apart, Bottom frame resting on the cross pieces and tied with wet leather straps to be 1 ½ “ by 8' over lap to be whipped together. Walkway to be 1 ½ “ by 2 ½ ' bamboo pieces. That is the plan.
We cut a couple of more of the 6” bamboo shoots so we could roll our raft into the river. We loaded as much of the larger 1 ½ “ to 4” diameter bamboo as we could. We attached a rope to the front of the raft and a guide rope to the rear and walked the raft to our new village site.
The Mammoths had finally noticed us and even waded out in the river and bugled at us but the river was too deep for them to bother us. When the raft was unloaded Teal and BO took over and drug the raft back to the village for the next load.
While the transfer was going on I took the cats back to the bramble gate for a large animal hunt. Malo and Socar went with me and 5 of the women were standing by with their travois ready to haul the meat back.. We located a herd of Moose and turned the cats loose. As soon as they hit the grass they seemed to disappear. They blended so well with the terrain you had to look real close to spot them/
I whistled and the cats surged out of the grass and grabbed throats and noses. We rushed in with our spears to finish off the moose. Bruno had taken out one by himself, Sondi had hers down, and Runt had his by the throat and Girl had one by the nose. By the time the spears quit flying we had 4 moose to skin and to haul back. The women helped to put the meat on the travois. When we reached the bramble gate we took one carcase and cut most of it up to start smoking.. Two went on to the raft for transport to the new village..
The next day we were ready to put my idea in to operation. We already had two bamboo poles buried in the river bottom 15 ' apart we added another pole beside each one about 2 ' apart then half way between the 2 already in we added another pair of poles this is how we continued until until the water was becoming to swift. Then we drifted the raft down and spacing the poles continued to drive the bamboo poles in to the bottom. When we were half way with the poles we begin to tie on the smaller poles to form a bottom rail.
Next we began to tie on the 1 ½ “ by 2 ½ ' bamboo pieces to form a walk way. It was a slow process and very tiring. While working off the raft we had to be very careful. And had to keep a rope tied around our waist. I fell off twice and the others at least once. We kept at it and after three weeks we had the first half complete. The rest would be very hard since the water was swifter and it would be hard to hold the raft in place while driving the poles into the bottom.
After we had all the support poles driven into the bottom and the crosspieces and frame poles things went faster but it still took another month to reach the other side of the blocked area. And we could stand on the North side of the river and be clear of the Mighty Mammoths. I sent most of the people back to the main village. Leaving Hobar and his wife at the river camp Teal and BO made trips back and forth with supplies. Drago and Sondi and Girl also stayed at river camp.
Malo, Lateen, and Socar would accompany me and my Cats. We carried our supplies over our walk way and drug the poles to rebuild a travois to carry our supplies once we actually started.
Runt took point with Malo right behind him. Ahead we could see where the valley made its right turn, the river also made the turn. It was still over a mile before we would able to see around the corner and into the Shadow. Bruno loped along at my side, since he was calm so was I.
I looked at the river, it was getting swifter and was glad we hadn't had to continue in the water. There was a roaring that seemed to get louder with each step . The water began crashing against large boulders and white water was spewing. It was if we were walking in the rain.
Once we reached the bend and looked around, the river had swollen to almost cover the cavern floor that greeted us. Yes as we suspected there was a cave. Far in the distance we could see a faint light.... Maybe an opening?
The area beside the river became narrower with each step, in some case it was wet and very slick. Also it seemed the land was tilting and we were going slightly down hill. As we neared the opening the noise was almost deafening.
Our walk way was almost gone when we emerged. The river cascaded over a cliff about thirty feet high and crashed in to a beautiful lake below. There was a natural and quite well defined but little used game trail descending to the Lake below.
It appeared that at one time animals used this trail to enter the valley but an avalanche had changed the river by dumping large boulders into the river. Also making it impossible to cross to the river to gain access to the valley.
Here we had found another Valley but maybe not as peaceful as ours. The first thing we heard was the yelping of Dire Wolves. Dire wolves were smaller than our cats but they hunted in large packs that could overwhelm us, our plan was to avoid them if possible.
Malo pointed to a disturbance in bushes along the lake shore. We watched from concealment as a behemoth burst through it was a Woolly Rhinoceros and calf being chased by the dire wolf pack. The front horn was about 2 feet long, the rhino stood over 6' at the shoulder and weighed almost a ton and a half. The calf was about 4 ' at the shoulder.
Mother and calf ran into the lake until the calf was neck deep then they turned to face them .The wolves jumped into the water and attempted to reach the calf. The adult would scoop with it's horn and lift and toss the wolves deeper into the lake. There was a swirl and the wolf disappeared, a pair of eyes arose above the water.
Another toss, another swirl, another pair of eyes. This continued for awhile and the wolves seemed to be losing, more than half their pack was gone. They finally gave it up and retreated, mom and babe climbed out of the lake. Mother Rhino turned and looked out into the lake and made a cuffing noise, as if to say thanks. One by one the eyes dipped underwater and were gone.
I asked Lateen if he had ever seen anything like that. All he could do was shake his head no as he continued to look over the smooth lake.
We remained alert, realizing this was not our Valley. This area was teeming with animals some of which we had never seen. We almost walked in to a barren looking area with what looked like piles of mud some of these were10' tall. While we were trying to figure out what they were an odd creature waddled in to the area. It looked to have armor plating like the rhino. It had a pointed mussel and a tiny mouth with a very long sticky tongue. On its front feet were claws t least 6” long.
It climbed up the side of one of the mud spires and began digging in with its claws. Ants went every where. The creature ran out its sticky tongue and began to eat the ants by the thousands. An ant landed on my arm and stung me I smashed him but it didn't stop the stinging.
I had seen all I wanted this made me really appreciate our Valley and I decided it was time to go back.
As we retreated back to the trail Runt ran past and headed toward the water fall then he disappeared into it. Bruno followed, we followed him, We found ourselves in a small cave behind the falls. We heard voices, turned and peered thru the cascading water.
Two lomen... they were following our tracks as they neared the trail to our valley , I motioned and Bruno and Runt burst thru the water and brought them down before they had a chance to breathe.
Malo said, “Wonder if it works for us” he dragged one of the lomen to the lake edge and gave him a shove he drifted a few feet then...a large swirl and another the crocs were having a feast . So we decided to give them the other one.
We went back over our trail and cleaned the ground of all tracks. When we reached the trail we covered the trail with fallen branches to make it unnoticeable and impassable.