By the time they were half-way through the mountains (so Spotted Eagle said – Jacques was beginning to believe they would go to the ends of a flat earth) they had to stop. The rivers were frozen. Jacques was now wearing animal skins willingly in order not to freeze. The snow was so high, it was impossible to plow through it.
The village had a ‘medicine man’. Jacques was beginning to appreciate this primitive practice. It appeared as though these men could cure people – sometimes it seemed like just chanting did the trick.
For many days he stayed inside a tent. All the others seemed to do was plow around in the snow, laughing, sliding and jumping. No one appeared intimidated or afraid of the animals that occasionally roamed around.
“You live with the animals?” He was curious now, not censuring Why were dangerous creatures like bears allowed to roam around people. He decided to stay inside.
“No. They just come around sometimes. They do not live with us.”
But the tents were smoke-filled and often his chest hurt. Finally he dared venture outside and joined in the activities. To his surprise he started gaining strength. He could imagine joining those joggers that insisted on trotting along smooth paths every morning- inside. He could run, not trot slowly, he was sure to pass them all. But not only was he banned from the inside – he had no desire to return either.
By the time the snow started melting Jacques not only felt better but he had a girlfriend.
“You have wife and kids?” Spotted Eagle looked on with disapproval.
“I can’t go back. They won’t let me.” Jacques was somewhat sad and somewhat relieved. He was beginning to like this life better. Sometimes he had to make decisions but it was a heady experience. Sometimes he dreamed of going back and telling everyone, but that dream was lessening every day.
Spotted Eagle grunted, then put his hand of Jacques shoulder. “You come a long way Jacques. You can stay with us. – you know how to make bread – white bread?”
“No, but I can learn?” Jacques said hesitantly, oddly feeling fine with that task. He saw the kids, giggling and wet, sliding down a slope. “I’m going up again – you coming?|
Spotted Eagle laughed but Jacques finally realized he wasn’t laughing at him – he was laughing with him.