Fool Hen (excerpt)

Eventually, the pain subsided. Bud propped the quarter of elk against a tree and tried to pry his boot off. The swollen ankle throbbed against the tightening leather. He pulled out his hunting knife and cut the laces. Sitting cross-legged on a fallen birch, he winced from the effort as the boot came loose and laughed with the pain. Bud often laughed when he was afflicted with tremendous pain. It scared his wife but it helped to ease the pain somewhat. Sometimes tears appeared, but not usually.  Bud shook his head at his stupidity. He took stock. Nice warm October evening. At least three miles from the truck, one hour of good light left and a headlamp in his pack. No reason to hurry.

Bud pulled an ace bandage from his pack and wrapped the ankle. The throbbing became more intense. When he tried a little weight on it he almost passed out. He didn’t laugh this time. He became dizzy and felt the ground rushing under him. Bud sat back down and put his head between his knees for a few minutes. When the queasiness passed he sat up straight on the birch log. He looked around for a couple of thick branches he could cut for crutches. The ankle was obviously broken. It might be better to gather some firewood and wait it out until some hunters arrived in the morning. Bud knelt down to see if he could crawl on his knees to gather wood, but it was difficult to raise his broken foot enough so it would not drag on the ground. He began to think about the triangle of disaster. Bud remembered from his training that you can easily survive one thing going wrong if you keep your head. Two things going wrong was survivable but demanded extreme concentration. Three things going wrong usually sends you to the bottom of the funnel.  Bud tried to relax and think about how to not let two more things go wrong.

Bud took stock. He had six granola bars, two full canteens of water, a thermos half filled with coffee. If the weather held relatively warm he could wait it out until morning with just his foil wrap survival blanket in the fanny pack. Careful not to disturb the broken ankle, Bud unhooked the fanny pack and unzipped the emergency pouch. He spotted the little plastic orange whistle. As far as he knew, he was the only hunter within at least 3 miles of this narrow slice of a canyon above the Blackfoot river. Three SOS shots from his rifle would work better. He readied nine shells and counted the remainder— five more. Bud regretted not carrying the extra box of shells. He loaded the first three shells into the magazine of the Browning .270 and fired off three shots, waiting three seconds between each shot. He sat back against the birch tree and listened for an answer. Something large, perhaps a deer, scuttled in the brush behind Bud. Two ravens graveled and croaked at each other across the surrounding ridge tops. A white eyed pine squirrel began to chatter in a large fir tree above Bud, but no shots answered him.

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