The First Thanksgiving
The ship came down with the roar of a thousand tigers. This was a truly frightening thing. Even Gunn, the old shaman, had no explanation and shook his rattle without conviction. All day we hid deep in cave among the rocks where the ceiling hung like teeth. For many hours we hid until the little ones, crying from hunger, would not be calmed. Knees shaking I, Thog, led my bravest men to the cave entrance. It was dark and quiet as it should be. I led my men a little ways in the direction of the great noise. There was nothing to be seen. We would get a closer look in the morning.
That night no one slept. At daybreak I took two trusted men, brother Ank and uncle Thad, a long way around to the big clearing where the mammoth once grazed. There were not many mammoths anymore. They had all drifted north following the ice. My clan was soon to follow. We are hunters of the big beasts; it’s all we know. The world is warming fast; the big beasts are scarce.
Circling wide, we watched the clearing from the safety of the thicket. Brother and uncle were terrified. Ank had watered himself at the first sight of the great thing. It was shining in the morning sunlight. Tall as a tree, shining and still. When a black hole opened in its side, we retreated deeper into the brush. From a safe distance we watched men-like beings descend to the ground. The like-men were like nothing we had ever seen. They wore strange furs that shined and objects on their heads that reminded me of hides. After a day of watching we slipped away and returned to our camp.
That evening we told of the day’s events. The fire blazed and Ank and Thad sang of how they stood brave against the like-men. How at first they were afraid, but in the end they were strong. The clan loved new stories and beat their thighs in appreciation. I did not see any need to correct them.
There was meat enough for a few more weeks, but it was time to speak of going north. Maybe tomorrow we would speak of it. Tonight there was boasting and dancing. Old Gunn, the shaman, brought out his drum. Ank and Thad told their story in dance and made me dance with them; we shook our spears long into the night.
For the next several days the clan kept watch on the newcomers. Daily there were more stories of puzzling behavior. Nightly we debated what they might be. Were these beings gods or devils? Maybe we should strike them before they strike us; a pre-emptive raid to drive them back into the sky. We watched the newcomers point their twinkling things at every plant and insect. What were they looking for?
We grew alarmed when the like-men wandered close to our cave. We prepared to fight them if they tried to enter. Instead they entered the cave long abandoned by the Haq clan many season’s ago. Haq and his people went north to follow the mammoth. We do not know how they fared. None have returned to tell us.
Every day the newcomers wander further from their tall cave. Are they hunting? We knew it wouldn’t be long before our cave was discovered. What would we do then? Time was short. A council was called.
Old Gunn spoke of a time before time, when ancestors roamed the world. Half men, half gods they were. They taught our father’s fathers to hunt and use fire. Old Gunn said they were strangers who taught these things to us. It was hard to believe there was ever such a time.” Old Gunn sat rocking and singing a song so old it was a language only half remembered. By the end of the meeting the fire was low and in it’s way an agreement was reached. The clan would leave the next day. The remaining food would be carried, the flints, a burning coal, the weapons and tools, the infants. Nothing would remain except the drawings on the wall in Old Gunn’s chamber.
Next morning we packed what we could carry and set out to find better hunting. It was late for such a move, the land was changing, the big trees were gone, the days were too warm. The big animals were gone. We had no idea what we would find in a new land but starvation faced us here. We had hardly begun the trek when we met the newcomers face to face for the first time.
Spears were raised and it might have turned out badly if Old Gunn had not approached the strangers with hand raised. The strangers appeared as frightened as we but returned the sign. Slowly we began to relax and a kind of communication was established.
The strangers pointed to their mouths and stomachs telling us they were hungry or so we thought. We pointed to our spears and signed that there was no game. One of our women, Ama I think it was, opened her bundle of dried meat and offered the new comers a strip. Much discussion ensued. Ama ate a piece and passed it to them. One of them took a bite and pronounced it good. We fed them all and tried to tell them there was no more. I don’t know if they understood.
We decided to put off our migration while we talked with the visitors. They too had come to hunt but found little to eat. It was little wonder they had no food, as their hunting skills were poor though their weapons were quite amazing. Together we hunted small game, which meant hunting daily. We showed them which roots were good to eat and where the berries grew. We told them stories of the great hunts for mammoth, bear and rhino that once we hunted, but were now only to be found in the land of ice or paintings on the cave wall. The like-men indicated they wished to see these creatures for themselves.
“They are many weeks march,” we told them.
“Not for us,” they replied.
The trip to the North was more frightening than anything I could imagine, but it was fast. I kept my eyes shut tight as the flyer zipped faster than any bird over the treetops. When it landed we were in the North where the big ice is. Once the big ice covered all now it has retreated and left the land to bake and dry. There were still big animals there. We easily found mammoth and slew them. We took the meat back to the cave. There was plenty. We made many trips and made much meat.
Those were times of great feasting. We dried much meat and gave our friends what they needed. Before they left they showed us how to plant seeds and let the sun and the rain make our food. It was a great gift. We have been doing it now for many seasons and it is good. It is not mammoth meat but it is not so much work either. All in all, it was a good trade.