Lately, I discovered that Walter Muma has published nearly all of my published articles on his website, http://wmuma.com/tracker/index.html , "The Tracker Trail Website", featured in my "Links", above. His reproductions are much better than my own! Some day I hope to reproduce those article on this website again, but for now...go see Walter's site.
The following two articles appeared in "The Tracker Newsletter", Vol. IV, #1, 1985
Canoe Stalking, copyright, 1985
by Rick Shrack
After obtaining a canoe, I relished the increased mobility and the easier access to the outside world from my wilderness home near Slana, Alaska. With it I could travel faster and carry more cargo. Our Native American brothers have donated much from their culture, but the canoe is one of my very favorites.
Negotiating the creek I live near isn't very difficult -- no rapids, no fast water, no fun at all! To be rather frank, it can be downright boring!
The creek has a variety of names -Grayling, No-Name, and Paradise being most frequently used. The last, I assure you, is the least likely. The first is most accurate. The second is only good if you are looking at a USGS map. It is home to beaver, muskrat, grayling, trout; a stop-off for transients such as mallards as well as a nesting area; and a spawning spot for red salmon. I have tasted all but the waterfowl and beaver. Numerous springs feed the creek, but so does a glacier at one side drainage. Who cares? Now that you have been somewhat introduced, it's about time I got to the point, right?
Heading upstream requires diligence, especially at late dusk, as the creek is quite shallow in spots and trees overhang, creating "sweeps." Rounding a left-handed turn, I spied a chubby little rascal sitting at the water's edge. I approached as silently as I could, tiptoeing on the paddle's tip until adjacent the muskrat's site.
"Hey, you," I spoke gently. No movement. I tapped it on the shoulder, saying, "Hey, bud, Tom says you really 'otter' be more careful!" The muskrat's eyes opened from an obvious sleep and blinked. It rubbed its eyes, trying to dismiss me as a dream, apparently. I held my "ground" by holding a branch and the marsh rabbit snorted, "Can't even get comfortable for a decent night's sleep around here anymore! Why don't you homesteaders take a flying leap?"
Testy! Well, I know he didn't really mean it. I mean, heck, he should have thanked me, especially with a pair of great horned owls patrolling the creek regularly. Maybe he just didn't know better. I hope he took the hint.
Not too long ago I saw the same muskrat swimming upstream, same as I was -- only canoeing, you understand. I know it was the same 'rat because of the glint of hate in its eyes.
As I endeavored to overtake the swamp critter, he attempted to dive, but he was too close to shore. All he could do was make abortive tries, plunging his nose into mud immediately each time. Then his little legs were trying to run. Guess he figured that if the water was too shallow to dive, surely he could run! Wrong, buck-tooth breath!
I was laughing so hard as I passed the comedian that I almost failed to hear what made me suspect it wasn't an Alaskan muskrat, but rather a southern-state relative. I could have sworn I heard something that sounded like a "sunny beach."
The Death of a Brother, copyright, 1985
by Rick Shrack
A brother is a kindred spirit. I have many brothers. Besides my physical brothers, my spiritual brothers, and my Tracker brethren, all the plants and animals are my brothers.
I have a friend who is so close to me that he "sticketh closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24). But I have a brother that has been there at the special spiritual times of my life. He has emphasized my heart's soaring many times and drawn me closer to my surroundings. He has rewarded me and strengthened me when nothing else could. My brother's death was a great loss, but those that remain continue to carry on his legacy. This story is for him.
Since living in Alaska, I have drawn closer to the earth and to my God. My physical strength has increased exponentially by repetition of canoeing and sawing, both necessities for me here. But before I could canoe, I had to walk in order to post the mail and obtain supplies. The walk was relatively new because I did not know the territory, and each time I ventured out I would try to find the best route home. Up till now, the trip was almost always a three-hour hike one way. No matter how I go I must cross three creeks. Not bad, but they are always bone-chilling.
On this particular day I had an unusually full pack, and had decided to return via game trails near the river. Theoretically, it would be an easy trip . . . theoretically. It took approximately an hour to cross the first creek, a quarter mile from the road. I'd never seen such thick alders and willows! However, I did stick within sight of the river, as the trails were quite good beyond the first creek.
Topping a bluff along the river, I saw the body. Predators and carrion-eaters had made him almost unrecognizable, but I knew my brother and his dress, for it was nearly always the same. He had been decapitated and his torso had been throughly eaten, leaving only his legs and remnants of his raiment.
What had happened? How long had he been there? My mind searched for answers as my eyes searched for clues. Tracks were nonexistent on the thick, mossy carpet, but the age of his meat and the general disturbance of the surroundings led me to believe that my brother had fought savagely for his life although he may have made a grave error in choice of prey.
Apparently my brother, the bald eagle, had picked a far superior foe and had lost his life after a valiant but useless battle. Despair and hurt flooded me over this bad medicine. I thought of Tom and his deer in the chapter titled "Guardian" in The Tracker. Was I a guardian? No, at least, not yet. Did I have the right to mourn? Yes, because he was my brother, and he had rewarded me before by his extremely good and powerful medicine. (See the article, "The Reward," on Walter Muma's page!)
I searched diligently for my brother's skull, his final track, but in vain. Apparently, his conqueror had retained it for his own grisly prize. (Lions have done this in Africa, but it was argued that they were "possessed"!) This was one time the skull had not been the final track, unless it lay at the end of the victor's trail.
I collected what I could of his body (NOT to sell!) for I knew that, despite legalities, he was good medicine for me and an unrelinquishing power. This is why I feel he died for me just as Christ did for the sins of the world.
My trip took five hours. Whether it was from sadness, preoccupation, or merely a mistaken course, it will forever be a part of my memory: the day I found my brother's body. How I hope I will never have to find any brother's body again!
All other articles that appeared in any of the
"The Tracker Newsletters" which are displayed on Walter Muma's site, featured on my Links page.
Commentary to "The Reward" and an updated analysis:
Tom Brown had declared my particular class as a "good medicine class". Why? I'm not sure, but he had medicine sweats, contrary to the non-medicine sweats of other classes. And he had added a pipe ceremony in which we participated to welcome us to the Tracker Brotherhood.
The article, "The Reward" was written as the result of a self-imposed survival trip and a fasting from time to clear the cobwebs of the my mind alone in the wilderness. Little did I know then how close I truly came to walking with the spirit, or walking as "one" with the wilderness, that Tom mentions so often in his books. I not only felt that spirit, I saw it at work by allowing me to not be cold...to become one with the wind (hence the beginning of the article) and cold. I also felt its extreme hurt and disapproval of the logging area.
Since the strange end of the article, I have read "Grandfather", "The Way of the Scout", "The Quest", "The Vision", "Awakening Spirits" and "The Journey", all by Tom. These books have enlightened me greatly as to how Tom and Grandfather's thoughts and abilities are used and had become part of their daily lives. It has truly amazed me how mere men can think the way these men have thought! It was NOT strange to Tom that I listened to a clear, strong voice of my body while I was in the pureness of those Utah mountains that summer day. Not strange, at all.
Now, as I look back on the event, I even doubt that it was my body at all, but the voice of the spirit-that-moves-through-all-things and the result of its moving in my life, both mind and body. Why? The only other time of my personal life that I ever heard such a strong and clear audible voice was through the sincere prayer of this man searching for his particular service (his "vision"?) for Almighty God. I also believe that the spirit-that-moves-through-all-things IS God. Scriptures talk about God being the "thing that holds all things together" or "consist". Without Him, I'm quite certain that all "things" or "mass" would literally drift apart. Consequently, I believe God is that "power" or "spirit" that holds an electron in orbit around the proton of an atom. (John 1:3, Colossians 1:16-17)
Learning about Grandfather in greater depth was riveting as well as enlightening. I even considered it literal "joy"! Knowing what he had seen and done seemed to have allowed me to know both Tom and Grandfather on a more personal, more intimate level. Now I realize how Tom KNEW it was me on the other end of that phone. He not only knew who it was, but when I'd call, and that my reward was no doubt an eagle feather! (Just for those who are skeptical...it was!)
I've learned, too, that I just couldn't abandon my responsibilities and turn my back on society. Because, you see, I was also given the opportunity to teach others, mostly young boy scouts, wilderness survival, nature observation, hide tanning, tracking, and stalking. These lessons were sprinkled with some of Tom's teachings and some even asked about him and his viewpoints. Once I was able to homestead, I realized I couldn't just "drop out"! That was when I moved to Anchorage from Slana.
We ALL have the responsibility to teach others, especially if we've been given any knowledge imparted by Tom Brown, Jr, "The Tracker!"