At the end of his life Red Mantle wrote down the story of
his early years living beside a massive forest on the largest freshwater island
in the world. Only after his death were his journals discovered by his nephew,
who read through them and published what has come to be known as The Hawberry
Kid. The following story was discovered in Red Mantle's trunk after his death
and has been transposed and begins as such:
It was a different time then, satellites were still not as
cluttered as they are today, freer and more like the old ways of our ancestors.
Of course you never realize it until later in life your best days - those most
youthful and so full of possibilities. Time was young and choices mattered. I
never told my story until now so allow for some leeway in my exact
recollection. Nonetheless all that follows actually happened to me when I was
11 years old.
It all really started with my dog Mosquito - a purebred
German Shepherd who followed me everywhere, ever since my father got him for me
when I was nine. Because we lived in the country, close to town but still
beside a forest, Mosquito and I explored every chance we had from the very
earliest times. My brother was older and spent time with his friends and my sisters
stayed in house.
I remember it was because of the newly required blood tests
to attend school as a way to monitor a student's health, but even then we knew
from the Snowden leaks that Big Brother was watching everything we did. All our
schoolwork was recorded on our laptops and our report cards went on a new
permanent record with the Ministry of the Interior. Homeland Security had
morphed into the comprehensive Ministry of the Interior, that went by the
nickname Cyber Monkey, and now dominated every bit of data typed into the
user's ID account. It was a time of newfound access to information. The new
morality was based on transparency. That which is acceptable to a neutral
online audience was moral in the eyes of Google. I knew all this at a young age
so the isolation of the woods and the wildlife that still murmured every hour
of every day just outside my backyard lured me as to a lost world.
The day Mosquito and I left for the forest was a day I still
didn't believe in mystical beings that have always been part of folklore from
the old country. There were a lot of things I didn't know that day I set out
for a passage into the heart of the forest to find what Black Racer had
You see I had had a dream about this ancient native known as
the Lammanite, the same as the original two tribes of the Ten Lost Tribes of
Israel landing in the New World a few thousand years ago. He wore bearskins and
had an Anglo-Saxon nose with long hair and faint whiskers, skin blazoned with
vermilion to protect against the sun. These were the same natives that greeted
early settlers on the east coast speaking some handed-down Hebrew words, most
importantly the word for their God was Jahveh. Some of their symbology was the
same root as for example the Scythians from the eastern steppe, also part of
the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. It was the Black Racer who first whispered the
idea to me that there was a long lost religious relic that had been hidden from
mainstream man for two thousand years and that I somehow was involved with its
discovery. I know it was more than one dream because I wrote it down in my
journal at the time. I had meant to record this story many years before but the
business of living life got in the way for a while.
There was a more feverish resonance to the dreams involving
the bear spirit Black Racer during the full moon mid summer. The night before
coyotes howled so loudly I thought they would come through our back window. It
was the birthing moon when the coyote mother had to let their offspring go, a
combination of scream, wail and howl. And instead of lasting 15 minutes the
coyote outburst lasted two or three minutes. Even the massive German Shepherd
whimpered onto my bed for the night,
I was drinking water on the steps on my porch patting Mosquito
and squinting into the sun. Having just cut the grass that fresh smell stirred
something in me, with the breeze and the hummingbirds that fed from our
hummingbird feeder. Red-breasted and green-breasted hummingbirds darted in for
some rich nectar whenever their sweet tooth had an appetite. My twin brother
Harry was there so he was avoiding his chores as usual.
We were wily kids, mischievous and never exhausting our will
to explore. It was if we both spurred each other so we would achieve new
heights even if it meant peril to other.
There was a purity of motive that was the hallmark of being
a twin. That was the main vitamin from which our humor stemmed - how far could
you push it without going overboard. Harry was a good wingman and Mosquito knew
he was not his master so the trio worked, so it was it supposed. There is
nothing purely stable between identical twins other than the engine from which
it springs, especially mirror twins: identical opposites. We were each one
natural lefthander and one natural righthander. Harry came out headfirst and I
came out feet first into this great world.
Harry wore his lumberjack jacket and high Mudraker boots,
like huge jackboots on such a short man. But that was the one thing about my
brother: the health and dryness of his feet were the most important thing about
leaving the house when living in the country. And his major thing during those
years was Indians. He wore a medicine bundle and wore the long hair and beads
that were given to him by an Ojibwa Elder, and turquoise around his neck. He
had the wild streak between us. I always deferred to him when it came to any
head-to-head. He took it as naturally as any twin structure dictates: depending
on the situation one twin will always dominate. The other is always
subservient. The survival of the twin team depends on this natural angle or
partiality in the structure.
When we hit the edge of the forest, due to the unusual close
presence of the coyotes Harry laid tobacco and did a prayer, something similar
to what he did at the sweat lodge on the reserve down the coast. I always liked
it because it gave me comfort. I had faith in Harry's judgment so whatever he
did with the Red Man culture was worthy of experiencing. If lay tobacco brought
good fortune then I was respectful for it.
Those days seem so long over today.
Harry's husky Klondike was the one who went far forward and
sought out paths, scents and recent activity. So that first day going into the
forest it was Klondike who led Mosquito forward where I followed close behind
with Harry taking his merry time. The twins and their dogs went forward along
the usual trail going north along the edge where there are many cedars, wet and
mossy, where many frogs and fowl live but where there are only fallen pillars
made of the finest kindling known to mankind. Mother Nature is notoriously
picky about where she dispenses of her booty so what is unique to this
freshwater island in the middle of Turtle Island.
But it wasn't Klondike who picked up on the first of the
fresh tracks. That was Harry who found them, almost as if he had some extra
sensory power. Unless he had read his dog. Mosquito was too concerned with
staying close to my leg. But Klondike had that Jack London Call of the Wild in
his husky gene pool but what was scary were the coyote pups that had been
screaming earlier that day. I remember immediately feeling fear, which was
unusual for me. The mother and father and pack will be close by and we didn't
want to disturb them. We wanted a way through the fallen trees. But when we
went deeper into the forest there were no sounds at all from the coyotes, only
the cacophony of birds singing.
Klondike had picked up on a scent and when I finally saw the
prints I didn't know what it was. For sure it was a cat but due to its large
size it could only be a lynx. Klondike and Mosquito were wagging their tails as
they found a tunnel through some cedar foliage, noticeably altered as if a
beaver had done it. The dogs went through easily but Harry and I stopped there
for a while, mulling our options. We had been up and down the uneven wet
terrain and had never found anything that allowed human passage so the prospect
of crawling through an heavily grassed and branched wet patch that was blocked
by trees. Without a word we both went on our knees and bent through the hole,
soon regretting when we were halfway though a tunnel of solid wood. But when we
came to an opening we both stood, removed our kit and ate some tobacco.
Some time passed before the dogs returned and we took inventory.
In the meantime Harry consulted his compass. As long as we
could head due west we should hit a deviation on the satellite images - the
apparent opening in the center of the massive forest along the North Shore.
With the recent black bear sighting by Farmer Burt, Harry offered the Great
Spirit some tobacco in honor of the bear.
The foliage was still thick but due to the constant wind
coming from the prairies in the west the fallen cedars and poplars all pointed
east so Harry and I followed long furrows running west until we hit a patch of
rock. With only a thin layer of soil few trees grew in the area but there was
also a corner where some form of wildlife lived. There was lots of evidence of
deer but the birds had their utopia in the depth of the forest. The air was
full of birds. And sounds of birdsong added to the vibrant hue of the lush
Ever since we were young kids Harry has always had a vivid
imagination so when he spoke of spirits and signs from God I had always let him
have his fun but when he spoke of a figure he saw against the background of
trees was a Native who was wearing bear skins I listened.
"This Indian who was trying to look like a black bear didn't
really say anything, I mean any English words. He pointing and grunted, but
made his point clear when I saw what he was trying to say." Part Loki and long
exposed to mischief, Harry let the words hang in the air, offering no word
about what the Black Racer had communicated to him. "He ignored you. Didn't
even acknowledge your presence."
"You saw him?"
"You didn't see him?" I shook my head. "He was sort
of camouflaged but he was plain to see."
"Wearing bearskins?" He nodded. "I've seen the bear man in
my dreams before. I call him the Black Racer."
"As in the snake?"
It is strange I gave him a name of one of the big snakes in
the area. And the Black Racer reaches five feet in length with a huge head.
"As in the snake. Yes. I saw him with a very large head."
"Any angel or spirit being would likely have a large head if
you think about it." I didn't have to think about it. Harry was usually always
right when it came to how he saw the world and his quantification of that view.
But more than that, he had a way of choosing words that were succinct and
simple, at least to me but I was his identical twin brother.
One thing that was very important for us twins during this
time was having our own stuff. For example when I got my dog Mosquito he got
his dog Klondike, and when I got my off-road dirt bike, Harry got the same
off-road dirt bike but a different color. Sharing the things you loved was too
hard so we both wanted our own things. Even together in the forest we acted like
two separate teams each with a canine.
"So he pointed there at the cluster of trees." Klondike
seemed to know where to go so they followed the husky through some streams
flowing towards the west. Mosquito was panting and was covered in burrs and bits
of broken branches, still close to me, protective and ready.
"It was a sign. We have to follow it or it would be rude."
Written somewhere in the ancient code of twin etiquette it was clearly stated
that allegiance to ones principles was paramount above all else. By not
adhering to ones beliefs there is a wearing away of integrity. And no man wants
to lack integrity.
So I trusted in Harry's testimony and wondered why the Black
Racer would reveal himself to him but not me. If he pointed to something bet we
would find it. Twins on a set purpose are hard to stop. And I couldn't see what
on earth would come upon our path. But that was before I knew about the spirits
that lurked in the forest.