All they had was dried pieces of something. He picked a piece up and recoiled in absolute horror.
“What is that horrible smell?”
“We smoke our meat. It smell like smoke.” Spotted Eagle explained patiently.
“Smoke? Meat?” Jacques nearly fainted. “I need some vegetables – do you know what they are?” Jacques turned to Spotted Eagle and shook his head. “A hundred years old? I doubt that. It’s impossible.”
“Because text books always right huh?” And Spotted Eagle was grinning. He picked up the pack, stuffing that piece of meat back inside with his grimy, germ-infested hands. “Okay, let’s go. Probably have to spend winter in the mountains. Won’t be much vegetables around then. Yes, we eat vegetables – in the summer, but they spoil fast once we pick them.”
“And meat doesn’t?”
“Naw, we salt it and it stays good.” Spotted Eagle motioned to the other three to follow and started walking towards the canoe. “Come on – or you wanna go back. You gonna starve if you don’t eat meat.”
Salt, meat…. But Jacques scrambled along on his weak legs. They were hurting – a completely unknown development. “Do you have any pill I could take for the pain in my legs.”
“No pain, no gain.” Spotted Eagle grunted. “Here…”
Spotted Eagle broke off a branch of the willow trees lining the river. Quickly and efficiently he sliced into it and stripped the bark off. He handed it to Jacques.
“What do I do with it?” Jacques’ legs hurt too badly to care anymore. This was his new life.
“Suck on the sap. It gonna stop pain.”
“What’s in it?” Jacques did as he was told. Was a tree a vegetable? At least it wasn’t an animal.
“How I gonna know?” Spotted Eagle snorted. “I’m a scout, not a medicine man. But it works don’t it?”
Surprising Jacques to no end, it did.
He crawled into the boat and couldn’t stop the novel feeling of excitement inside. He was afraid to tell Spotted Eagle about his feeling. No one could understand such a feeling surely. But he hoped he lived long enough to see the Pacific.
He felt guilty, watching little Bob rowing. How quickly all that was right and good was forgotten as he anticipated seeing the Pacific. He was nothing but selfish and mean.