Shelter Rock

Copyright 1991


   Some years ago I walked into the woods to look at some timber. The walking was easy. There was an old railroad bed built many years before but never finished or used. Without realizing it I had walked over a mile. Away from the modern world. Over a mile from the nearest habitation. No hustle and bustle here. It was as if I was in another world. I stopped and looked around at the forest. There was a stream trickling noisily beside the trail I was on. Tracks were there along the muddy area beside the water as if a bob cat had stopped for a refreshing drink from the cold water of the spring fed stream. Beside the trail was a rotted tree stump where a bear had clawed looking for grubs. On one side of the trail was a very large rock over hanging a large area just off the trail. It was a natural made shelter. It was possible for a man to walk fifteen to twenty feet back into the shelter of the rock. I was not a cave but it was possible for a person to walk in and be protected from any inclement weather. Rain, snow, or wind would be blocked by the earth at both ends of the rock.

   I wanted to look further into the back of the shelter. Standing at the edge of the trail and looking up at the bottom of the overhanging rock I could see an area that looked to be smoke stained from many fires over the years. There was a patch of weeds and low growing brush in the area between the trail and the shade created by the rock. I looked around and found a large branch that had fallen from a nearby tree. Using the limb I poked and beat around the weeds to, hopefully chase out any snakes that might be resting in the shady area. Having already seen several copperheads and a couple of sizable rattlers I thought this was a necessary action. Satisfied that I had accomplished what I had intended, I slowly and cautiously made my way to the edge of the shelter, out of the light of the sun shining through the green canopy of the trees above me. As I stepped into the shade provided by the huge rock I looked around me. there on my right was the remains of a fireplace, no doubt made many years ago. Looking up, there was a very dark area on the rock above the fireplace caused by smoke rising up from countless fires. It would probably be impossible to ascertain how many years this place had been used and by how many people.

   I stood and looked around at the fine, smooth, sand, unmarred by so much as the track of a bird. Near the edge of the shelter was a small area of the sand that seemed to be different from the rest. It was a shade darker then the surrounding area. There were stones, seeming to be purposely place in other areas. I knew I would not and could not poke into the sand to see what I could find as I had intended to do. It now seemed that it would ne a sacrilege. Then the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. In my mind's eye I could look back in time many years.

   I could see a time when an old Native American had taken shelter there. He had been tracking a deer to feed his family. Two large wolf type dogs were hanging back, staying behind him as their master had bade them. There had been a movement in the brush. Creeping noiselessly forward in an attempt to get a clear path for his arrow to travel to the deer, he was startled when a large black bear came rushing out of the brush. The bear had been feasting on the deer the old man had been stalking. Now the bear was enraged at being disturbed. The old brave was too close to the bear to turn and run. He had to protect himself as best he could. At close range he pulled back on the arrow in his bow and let it fly. The arrow struck the bear in the chest, the head going between its ribs and piercing its heart. With a roar of rage the bear charged the old brave. Even in its dying moments it was able to inflict mortal wounds. The old man plunged his knife into the bear many times before the red haze came over his eyes. He fell to the ground, bleeding profusely from wounds made by the teeth and claws of the bear. He did not see his dogs attack. Upon seeing their master being mauled by the bear both dogs ran forward to attack the bear in an attempt to protect their master. In its dying spasms the bear reached out with one paw, slapping one of the dogs, breaking its neck. As the other dog leaped through the air the large black bear grabbed its head in its jaws and crunched as it fell dead, the dog's head still in its mouth. Both dogs died instantly.

   Some time later when the sun was gone and the moon had taken its place in the sky, the old brave awakened. In great pain and weak from the loss of blood he has crawled to a place where he could take shelter. As he crawled into the shelter of the great overhanging rock he collapsed. As the last of his blood soaked into the fine sand, his spirit left his body to walk on, to take the spirit trail. For many generations no one used the shelter. A member of the tribe had died here. To shelter there now would be to show disrespect and desecrate the place. All the people avoided the area now.

   One early spring evening the weather had turned bad. The sun hid behind the clouds. It turned very cold. The wind was blowing, sending large, wet, snow flakes swirling through the air. Coming down the trail was a young man with his wife and a young boy. The wife was heavy with child. They must find shelter soon. If the baby came in this weather, without shelter, it might not survive. In the dusk they could see light coming from the shelter of the rock. As they came closer they could see a fire in the circle of rocks that made the fireplace. By the fireplace sat an old man with two large wolf type dogs. He beckoned the young people to come to the warmth of his fire. There was no other shelter nearby so the young couple and the youth entered the shelter with apprehension. Seeing no sign of a burial or anything that might indicate to them that they should not be here, they sat down on rocks before the warmth of the fire. There was bear meat cooking on a spit of green sticks over the fire. The old man invited them to eat. In a short time the warm fire had dried their clothing and their robes. With full bellies they lay down to sleep. Early in the morning, before the sun started its journey across the sky, they were joined by a new girl child, born to the young wife. The fire was built up to give light necessary to provide for the new born baby. When there was light the young man looked around. The old man was gone. There was no trace of him. There was not even not even so much as a track in the sandy floor of the shelter, not even a paw print from the dogs. It was as though they had never existed. They left at first light. As they walked down the trail the young man turned and looked back. There, standing at the edge of the shelter was the old man, his hand raised as if bidding them good journey, a smile on his face, the two large dogs with tails wagging at his side. Since that day, when someone comes that way in need of shelter and food, the old man is there with a welcome and a warm fire------and crispy cooked bear meat.

   Then the door of time closed. I was again standing there, peering into the shade under the rock, trying to see what my ancestors had left for me. A feeling came over me, a feeling that I should never reveal the location of this place. To do so might cause it to be desecrated. I walked out of the shelter, through the brush and weeds, not even checking to see if a snake might have crawled up while I was preoccupied by the vision. I walked away, down the trail. Just before I rounded a curve I turned and looked back. Again the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. Goose bumps covered my body. There, standing in the slanting sunlight coming through the trees, at the edge of the shelter, was an old Native American man, a big smile on his face, his hand raised as if bidding me good journey, two large wolf type dogs at his side their tails wagging. As I stood there, my mind in turmoil, the old man and the dogs faded away and disappeared. It was if they had never been there.

   Now, the haunting vision fills my mind. I often think back and wonder, Did I really see it?
Was my imagination playing tricks on me? Or was it real? If it really happened, How?
Someday----maybe----I will return. But not now. Not for a long time.

End

This story is a copyrighted article by Dick One Eagle, AKA Comanche, and may not be copied or used without express written permission of the author.