Redtail asked Lena, “So how did you come to be part of the Wilder community?”
Lena laughed. “I was just drawing in my breath to ask you the same question. I was born and raised here. Went to school in Higginsburg and did 6 years in the Army. I guess Wilder spoiled me. I love the quiet and the friendliness. I still get my share of excitement. How ‘bout you?”
“Oh wow,” began Redtail, “Beyond a week or so ago, it’s all a blur. All I’ve remembered of my past is my puzzlement this morning after noticing a lack of pines and sandy soil here, and that I seem to have a little background in survival skills. My real memory begins with walking in the woods with not a care in the World. I just feel refreshed, but can’t remember from what. After a few nights, I settled on a site near a creek in what I thought was a secluded area, then George caught me, welcomed me, adopted me, and I was hooked.”
“It must be confusing not knowing who you are or where you’re from,” said Lena.
“Not really,” said Redtail. “I’m me, and I hardly ever have to get my own attention, so any name’ll do ‘til the official one comes back. And my only concerns in life are food, shelter, and Sunday, I get to go to church again. I’m probably more content now than I’ve ever been.”
They both looked at the windshield and almost in unison said, “Here it comes,” as the first few raindrops tapped the window.
Redtail continued, “Someone’s probably wondering where I am and what I’m up to, but my worrying about it won’t do any good. I figure about all I can do is wait for my memory to come back, or say, ‘Hey! That’s me on that milk carton.” Redtail snorted a little laugh.
Lena smiled and asked, “What’s that laugh?”
Redtail said, “I pictured myself initiating the search for my past. I’d probably cause a stir or even trouble if I was to walk up to people asking, “Do you miss me?””
Lena gave a little chuckle and said, “I supposed that could be a little awkward. What do you plan to do with yourself in the rain tomorrow?”
“Oh, I dunno. After church, probably find a leaf to curl up in to hide from the rain like the other critters do. I’m pretty well stocked for a few days,” said Redtail. She gasped and then breathed a sigh of relief. “I thought I left my bag of food at Big Al’s, but the author must’ve stuck ‘em in the car when I wasn’t looking.”
Lena asked, “How you getting to church?”
“George is taking me,” said Redtail.
“Wow!” said Lena. “You actually got him to do that?”
Redtail told her, “He offered and didn’t flinch in the slightest. In fact, he gave me a new Bible yesterday.”
Lena said, “Frank and I have been after him for years to come back to church. He always seemed to have something come up or lose track of what day it was. Funny: he never missed one of his survival presentations.” She gave a sigh and laugh.
Redtail seemed to take quick interest at the roadside, so Lena asked, “Did you see something?”
“Actually, no. I was surprised at how quickly the buzzards finished the snack I left for them,” answered Redtail. “The boys and I ate most of the rest of that woodchuck.”
“Oh, that was the roadkill they were so excited about,” said Lena. “Frank and I enjoyed about a month’s worth of roadkilled venison, but I always tell Frank, ‘fresh venison doesn’t count as roadkill.’”
Redtail asked, “So, what brings you out to Perry’s Bend?”
Lena said, “Most Conservation Areas allow foraging –above ground, no digging. I’m trying fr some raspberries and to see if any dew berries or blackberries are close to ready.”
Redtail gave a little laugh, “I just pictured Grandpa George quizzing me on the differences between those berries.”
Lena said, “Yeah, Mr. A’d probably like it, too, if we told the readers.”
Redtail asked, “Who’s Mr. A?”
Lena explained, “That’s what Sarah named Mr. Author, but that’s in a different writing altogether.”
Redtail said, “Yeah, I’ve had a couple run-ins with him. OK, raspberries and dewberries have round stems and blackberry has a grooved stem –at least the wild ones. You’re next.”
Lena smiled, “Raspberries are ripe around Memorial Day and Blackberries around the 4th of July with dewberries in between. OK, you go.”
Redtail continued, “Raspberries and blackberries are on upright or arched canes and dewberries are low, sprawling ground-huggers. Your turn.”
Lena said, “Ripe raspberries come off the plant like thimbles or stocking caps or little cups. Anyway, the berry core is left on the plant, while dewberries and blackberries come off core and all. Hmm. Is there more?”
They both rode quietly for a few seconds and Redtail blurted out, “Oh! Raspberry and dewberry have three leaflets and blackberry often has five.”
Lena added, “They’re all spelled different, too.”
Both smiled and rolled their eyes.
Lena said, “I gotta get you out to the Bumpy Log some night to meet more of the gang. I think you’d like it. George is even a semi-regular out there.”
“What’s the bumpy log?” asked Redtail.
“It’s our social club,” explained Lena. “It’s out in Nowhere –right in the middle, actually. Why it’s pronounced Now-Here is kind of a fun story, but it’s right in line with Missouri’s Ne-VAY-da (Nevada) and Ver-SAILS (Versailles). We can tell you the place name tale when you visit –sort of dangling a carrot for you.”
Redtail said, “Sounds like a tasty carrot, too. I love the lore behind this area. The museum in town is gonna be a hang-out for me.”
Lena said, “Oh no! You gotta come out to the club to get the story. It just wouldn’t be same getting it from the museum.”
“Well,” said Redtail, “I’ll try to be patient. My communication network isn’t real effective, so it might not be easy to schedule stuff.”
Lena said, “I know where you live. We’ll work out something. Shoot. It looks like we’re here. You game for berry picking?”
Redtail said, “I’d love to, and actually need to, but I gotta get other stuff arranged before it rains. Can I get a literal rain-check?”
Lena said, “Sounds good. I’ll hunt you down soon.”
“Thank you so much for the ride,” said Redtail. :Ah! There’s a raindrop now. Excellent timing!”
Redtail hopped out of Lena’s car, grabbed her stuff and and they exchanged waves. Redtail headed out to her new camp and Lena departed for Perry’s Bend.
George wasn’t back from his Big River program, so Redtail had the quiet place to herself. She went to the new wet-weather site and stood. She folded her arms and tried to arrange her thoughts.
Redtail smiled as she imagined a T-ball coach yelling, “Line up!” to a bunch of four to six year old kids. The coach gives an exasperated laugh and rounds the kids up one-by-one.
“OK, you stand right here. This is an important job. You’re the line-leader.”
One little girl looks up from her mound of dirt she’d been playing with and whined, “I wanted to be line-leader!”
“Here, you stand right here and be Assistant Line-Leader.”
The coach caught another and said, “Now you stand here –Come back! Yes, I know it’s a bug, but you have to be number three.”
On to another player. “OK, you stand-- Wait a second, you’re not on our team. Yours is over at the next field, see, right over…” He didn’t finish and the player was scampering off to the other field.
Redtail smiled and thought, “One by one.”
“I think food is OK for a few days. Church tomorrow. I better get my new clothes hung up to de-wrinkle.”
She stepped into the tent and into a side room. She stood as straight as she could without touching her head to the ceiling. Her head was slightly bent over, so she decided to make her closet tripod about shoulder height. She stepped back outside and found three straight eye-height sticks and two more that didn’t need to be quite so straight.
Redtail fastened the three straight pieces together about six inches from the top and gently spread the sticks about three feet apart at the base to form a tripod. She cut the other two sticks about in half and fastened three of them as crossbars on the tripod legs. The fourth, she laid across the crossbars as her closet-rod.