Hunter Gatherer

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Michael Higgins and his mum live in a parallel world where agriculture hasn't been invented. So they must go hunting and gathering food for the annual Christmas dinner. Enjoy the Christmas with the
Hunter Gatherers.

Submitted: December 16, 2017

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Submitted: December 16, 2017

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It was back in December 1985. I was 10 at the time. I lived in Bushmere Road with my mum in Gisborne, North Island, New Zealand. It was on a Monday morning that I woke up. I sat up, rubbed my eyes as I yawned. I climbed out of bed, got dressed into my clothes and ran down the hall to the dining room that was adjoined onto the kitchen. 

"Good morning," said mum with a cherry voice and a smile on her face. "How are you this morning?" 

"Good, mum," I replied smiling as mum placed a bowl of raspberry stew on the table. "I love raspberries. Yum". 

I grabbed my spoon and shoved some raspberry stew in my mouth. The raspberry stew tasted nice with its natural sweetness. Mum makes it herself from the raspberries that we gather in the native forest which covers the whole country. That was how we get our food in this world. By hunting and gathering. 

"Michael," said mum "I was thinking that maybe we do a bit of hunting and gathering in the Waimata Valley". 

"But we got a lot of berries, mum" I said. 

"I know. But we need more food for the Christmas dinner we're preparing in two days. Keen?" 

"Oh, boy. That would be awesome". 

"Finish your breakfast. Then we'll head off". 

Once I had finished my berry stew and drank down my raspberry juice, we went into the wooden garage and grabbed some fishing gear, a couple of rifles and a bunch of baskets. We placed our gear in the back of mum's yellow Holden Kingswood ute with the white cover on the back. We climbed into the ute, mum backed out onto Bushmere Road and we took off to the west. We then turned onto the main road, left onto the Back Ormond Road and left onto the Waimata Valley Road. 

The hot sun bared down through the forest leaves. Mum turned on the radio station in which we listened to songs such as Tainted Love, Sierra Leonne, Six Months in a Leaking Boat and Material Girl. We went over the rolling hills of the Waimata Valley. About an hour later we arrived at the old Waimata Valley School building which was at the bottom of the valley. Mum pulled off the road and parked next to the building. 

We climbed out of the ute and placed the baskets onto the trolley next to the house. Mum showed me the ruins of the old house. 

"This is where I grew up as a little girl," said mum "My dad took us hunting in the forest while mum went gathering fruits and veggies". 

It had always been the tradition that the men did the hunting while the girls did the gathering. But, unfortunately my dad had died when I was only five, which was a few years back. So, in order to provide the meat, mum had to go hunting as well as gathering. Mum suggested we'd gather berries first. 

We gathered the raspberries, boysenberries, strawberries and blackberries from the vines that thrived in the forest. The vines were prickly. I occasionally scratched myself on one of the thorns. We used our knives to pick the mushrooms from the forest floor and mum cut some bracket fungi from a log. We also picked the puha, which thrived in the forest, and went out to the edge of the river to gather up the water cress too. 

Once we had gathered up all the berries and veggies that we needed, we placed them in the back of the ute. Mum grabbed the rifles and handed one to me. I caught the rifle in my hands. Mum offered me the bullets which I loaded into my gun. Every weekend, mum had me in the back of the house doing target practice with my rifle. Mum would place the tin cans on the log and I had to shoot the cans until mum was satisfied with my shooting skills. Mum wanted me to be able to hunt my own food. We needed to hunt to survive in the real world. Even in Europe and America. 

We ventured into the forest as we kept an eye out for woodpigeons in the trees above us. Mum whispered to me "Be quiet. And step carefully. We don't want to scare the pigeons away". 

I spotted the wood pigeons sitting on the branches. They had a green chest with a gray head and yellow eyes. I aimed my rifle, pulled the trigger and … BANG!  

"I shot one, mum" I yelled excitedly as the pigeon fell from the tree. 

Mum shot another pigeon in midflight. It fell onto the forest floor and we went and collected them. We shot a few more pigeons. Then we went to the top of the river and hid behind the bush, being every quiet as we did not want to disturb the ducks swimming in the river. I aimed my rifle, pulled the trigger and BANG! The other ducks took off into the sky so we shot them in midflight. They fell into the river. So, we climbed down the bank, waded into the water, grabbed the ducks and placed them into the bag that mum carried. 

Mum decided that we had shot enough ducks so we walked back to the ute and placed them in the chilly bin with ice packets in it. We climbed back into the ute. Mum backed out of the drive way and we headed home. 

Once we arrived home we placed all the berries in the fridge to keep cold. We took the native ducks and wood pigeons that we shot that day to the verandah where I helped mum to pluck the feathers off. It was hard work. Once we had plucked all the feathers off the wood pigeons and ducks we placed them into plastic bags and put them away in the freezer. 

 

*** 

 

Mum woke me up in the middle of the night and said "Michael, it's time to get up. We have to go eeling". 

I reluctantly climbed out of bed, rubbing my eyes. I was still sleepy, but I understood that we needed to catch some eels for the Christmas dinner. We grabbed the spears and sacks out of the garage, mum used the torch to show the way. Once we placed our gear in the back of the ute, mum backed up onto Bushmere Road. 

We turned left onto Bell Road and right, through the gravel road to the edge of the river. We went past the piles of gravel that had been gathered up for making more roads.  

Mum parked the ute at the edge of the river. We went around to the back of the ute. Mum grabbed the spears and passed one to me. Then she grabbed the bag. We put on our waders and strolled into the river. 

"Be nice and slow," said mum, "Be patient. Careful not to scare the eels away". I spotted the eel swimming along the bottom of the river. "OK, son. Strike" whispered mum. 

I waited very patiently as I held the spare into the air. Once the eel was perfectly still, I quickly threw the spare into the river, stabbing the eel in the head. My heart was beating. I had caught my first eel. That was such a thrill. Mum opened up the sack as I placed the eel inside. It was my mum's turn. She waded through the river, holding the spare patiently. With her quick reflexes she thrust the spare into the water. She grabbed the eel and placed it in the bag. We caught a few more eels before we put them in the back of the ute and went home. 

Once we arrived home, we placed the eels in the deep freeze.  

"Better get to bed" said mum "We'll get up in the morning. Take the charter boat fishing". 

I climbed into bed. Mum tucked me in and kissed me on the check as she said "Night, night". 

She walked out of the room and looked back as she switched the light off. I feel asleep. 

 

*** 

 

The next morning, we took a charter boat on a fishing exhibition off the coast. We climbed aboard the boat with the other fishermen. We left the harbour. As the skipper took us out to sea I could see the sandy beaches with the waves crashing towards it. There were cars driving alongside the beach next to the forest. The city dwellers got most of their food from these fishing exhibitions as well as forage around the forest. 

Once we were out at sea, we threw the line out into the ocean. Everybody had to bring their own chili bins. The boat bobbed up and down on the sea. Mum told one of the other fishers "Isn't the weather lovely?" 

"Yes, it is," replied the other woman "What a fabulous day". 

The day was fabulous. The sun shone brightly in the sky, reflecting off the clear blue water. There were a few clouds in the sky. Mum talked about our trip to the Waimata Valley and the upcoming Christmas dinner. And who was coming to dinner. 

Suddenly I felt something tuck on the line. Mum told me to pull the line. "Pull, pull, pull. Let it slack off a bit. Pull". 

I eventually pulled the fish in. I could see it clear in the water. A snapper too. As I pulled it in, the skipper got out the net and I placed it in the net. He explained how to unhook the fish. I stuck my hand in the fish's mouth and carefully slid the hook out. I placed it in our chili bin which had been packed full of ice. I threw the line back in the ocean. That day I caught two more snappers. Mum caught a barracoota. 

Once we returned to shore, we placed the fish in the back of the ute and headed home, stocking up on alcohol along the way. 

After we had gotten home, I assisted mum as she gutted the fish, placing the raw offal in the rubbish bag. Mum filleted the fish and popped it in the freezer. 

Once we had finished processing the fish, we went out into the forest looking for pine trees. We found one, cut it up with the saw and brought it back to the house. Mum placed the tree in the pot of water. 

That evening I helped mum to decorate the Christmas tree with red and blue spheres, silver, blue and yellow tinsel, angels, golden spheres and placed an angel on the top of the tree. 

"There," said mum "Doesn't it look fabulous?" 

"Yeah," I replied "It looks great!" 

Some people use the artificial Christmas trees you buy in the shops, but mum always chooses a natural tree and cuts it down to use as a Christmas tree. The tree looked beautiful with all its decorations. 

"You better get to bed, Michael," said mum "else Santa Clause won't visit you". 

 

*** 

 

The next day was Christmas morning. I got up, got changed into my clothes and ran into the dining room to find some wild strawberries in a bowl. 

"Merry Christmas" cried mum as I greedily scoffed down the wild strawberries. 

"Merry Christmas, mum" I said with my mouth full of strawberries. 

"If you look under the Christmas tree you may find that Santa left you something". 

After I had finished my breakfast and drank down some strawberry juice, I ran off into the living room where our Christmas tree had been set up. I found the present with my name on it and ripped into the present. 

"It's a transformer!" I shouted. I had been nagging mum for a transformer for weeks since I've been watching the Transformers on TV. "I've always wanted one. Thanks mum". 

"You're welcome, Michael". 

The transformer was a light green frontend loader called Scraper. He was my first transformer and he was one of the Decepticons 

"Do you want to put up the nativity scene?" Asked mum. 

"Yeah. I'd love to". 

"You go put up the nativity scene and I'll go prepare the deserts". 

I went and grabbed the box out of my bedroom closet and took it into the living room. I opened up the box. Placed the piece of wrapping paper on the top of the TV and placed figures of a hunter, gatherer, Mary, Joseph, the three wise men and three angels around the figure of baby Jesus. Christmas was invented to celebrate the birth of Jesus. 

I then went into the kitchen where mum made the desserts. Raspberry stew, wild berry salad, blackberry tart, jelly and blue berry pie. After we had lunch, mum started cooking roast woodpigeon and duck in the oven while making fish and eel on the fry pan. 

My big sister, Julie, came to visit with her husband, Darrel, and their new baby daughter, Sarah. I came and hugged her. They had come all the way from Hastings, Hawkes Bay, to see us. Then came my eldest brother, Trevor, and his pregnant wife, Florence, who was wheelchair bound. She had multiple sclerosis which meant her muscles were deteriorating. My other brother, David, ran off to Western Australia because they would not let him be the forest ranger since he was two young. So, he never came to visit us at Christmas. 

Mum yelled "Michael. Can you go into the forest and pick off some pepper tree leaves, fern frond, fennel and mint?" 

I ran into the forest with a basket and picked up leaves off a mint, pepper tree, fern leaves and fennel. I returned to the kitchen where mum threw the herbs on the fish and eel. Everybody opened their presents. Florence got a new jersey and Julie got a book. She gave mum a new mug with a picture of a horse on it. 

It was later that Uncle Cleave and Auntie Megan came. They were both in their fifties then. They gave mum a crystal glass set. Once everyone was here, everybody went and dished up their food. There was puha, fern, water cress, snapper, eel, duck and wood pigeon. It was a glorious meal and I felt full afterwards. 

 Then mum said "Desserts ready!" 

We got our bows and dished ourselves some raspberry strew, blackberry tart, wild strawberries, wild berry salad, jelly and blueberry pie. It tasted all sweet and juicy. Such lovely food. 

"You know, Michael," said Uncle Cleave "Back in Britain, and the rest of Europe, they have cow, sheep and ham for Christmas. And they have European fruit salad too". 

"In America they eat buffalo, turkey, geese and chicken for Christmas," said Julie "With cranberry sauce and wild maize". 

All over the world people eat whatever food is available to them. After all, you can only eat what you can find in the forest. If food is scarce, you die. 

Once we had finished our pudding we had hot strawberry brew. We sat there watching the annual Christmas Variety Show on TV. There were Christmas Carols and performances by U2, Duran Duran, Whitney Houston, Split Endz, Rod Stewart. And performances from Monty Python and various comedians. 

"This show never gets old" said mum. 

"Amazing talent on this show" replied Darrel. 

"Merry Christmas," said Julie raising her glass "Happy New Year". 


© Copyright 2018 simon arthur. All rights reserved.

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