1953

If god himself were to drop down out of the sky and lend a hand it wouldn't have been a better day for Preston Lucious Culver. He stood up to his chin in tangled underbrush, thorns scratching angry messages in his pale skin. This was his day and he would rejoice until the end of it.

Squeezing himself into a thicket surrounded by the wildest brush the free world had yet to see he smiled inwardly and lay down pressing his ear to the ground .Feeling the eternal heart beat of the earth. This is what it was all about. This oneness of self and environment. He blended into the scenery like he belonged there, some pale skinned indian with sun-bleached blond hair and eyes bluer than the sky on a crisp spring morning.

This was the first day of summer and Preston would be damned if he spent it cooped up in a cottage solving arithmetic problems as if the world depended on it. Sure he was a smart kid working figures up there with the best of them but this was no time for book work when the world was just settling in for a long haul. Stocking up on essentials for the next-go-round. And he was right out there watching it. Not in the way his parents did but in the way an eight year old with a bow and quiver full of arrows he'd fletched himself slung across his shoulders would watch. Following tracks looking for signs of bear and wolf and deer. Just stalking through the underbrush like Hiawatha out for a hunt, bringing back meat enough for the whole camp.

Preston leaned back against the rough bark of a towering ponderosa and smiled up at a gray backed squirrel peering down at him through the branches. This was the life, laid back beneath the canopy wrapped in a cool layer of freedom beneath a sky so deep and blue he felt as if he could just fall right into it. Yes this was it, the Montana Rockies, wild untamed. His domain. An eight year old with bow and arrows and a hunting knife strapped to his right shin living off the land enjoying the freedoms of the untamed wilderness. The original Buffalo Bill. That was his hero Buffalo bill, Wild Bill Hickok and all the other gun slinging mountain men.

Of course he couldn't have a gun no. Guns were cruel, vile dangerous, unfair. His parents trekked the wild Montana mountains with nothing but a 35 millimeter camera and unlimited rolls of film. That's the only shot they ever took. Down the barrel of a fancy video recorder equipped with a microphone so every snarl of wolf or bear or wolverine could be heard. Shot by shot grizzlies elk moose wolves black bears brown bears every creature that ever ran walked crawled flew scampered or swam .Captured on film and mailed off to some magazine company somewhere in the north east and magically a check would appear at the counter of Craig and Bronns Outpost down in Libby. Along with a box of more film , replacement lens blank shots and the occasional letter of commission " We need more bear" " Timber wolf" "Moose". Yup that's how life went when you were descendant from great ness. Three generations of rough necked old gold diggers ,crooners and trappers raised at the foothills of the great Rockies.

The sun was beating a steady rhythm down through the trees by the time Preston dragged him self up out of the bramble and made his way back along a game trail that lead practically to his back door. There was no one home .Not this time of day, now with this kind of beautiful weather .Perfect for she bears and last years cubs to be out by the lake fattening up for winter. Perfect for white tailed deer and bull moose to begin strutting around with the first knobs of velvet sprouting from tiny heads on thick necks. Perfect for any boy just growing up in the wilds to be out enjoying the fruits of life. But first, he had to put an entry in his journal about the mornings events. 'Just so as we can know what you've been up to son.' his father Preston senior would say cleaning the dirt from his well worn face by the sink late at night.

He quickly scratched a note or two about the morning, breakfast, chores , book work. Then he got into the important things. The animals he saw, the new trail he found the snare he set across a rabbit den where a whole mess of little blond haired hoppers peered at him wide eyed as he studied them. Then where he was headed now, only a few quick sentences but enough to gray the hair of any city mother who worried about such trivial things. He left the journal on the breakfast table restocked his knapsack and canteen being careful to insert the stopper carefully this time lest it all spill out again. Then slung his quiver of arrows across his chest snatched up his bow an a stout fishing pole and angled out through the east door heading down towards Wolf Creek.

At first look Wolf Creek with its steady trickling current was no bog a deal but when Preston threw out a weighted hook and braced himself against a rock the whole world would have gasped at the specimen he dragged up out of the water. Now under any other circumstance nothing this size could possibly inhabit the little streams and backwaters of this valley but when you look at the tribute this creek fed into it was more than understandable. Even from this distance of a couple dozen miles the mighty Kootenai Falls bellowed pulling savagely at every drop of water in a fifty mile radius and hurtling it down a three hundred feet decline in less that three hundred yards. This prize here, this sneak of a trout had slunk his way in from some distant rivulet. Bypassing the falls, made its way up here only to land thrashing on the banks of a trickle down stream and gutted by a little boy with a knife almost as long as his forearm. This was the life.

Struggling under the weight of his prize Preston staggered up the grade and through the pine forest picking up an old deer trail a few yards off the creek path. He would follow this trail until it met up with another and follow that one a few paces uphill until he came out on a bluff overlooking Wolf Creek . Below him the water sparkled like an emerald catching and holding the light of early afternoon. Before him , right at his feet was a plethora of berry patches some just ripening to a sweet juicy burst. Others awaiting the first kiss of fall before yielding its sweetness to any tongue be it man or bird or beast. Dropping his load Preston rearranged his supplies unstrapped his knapsack and before the sun could drop down behind the forest line he had it stuffed full of sweet black and red berries , a fine accompaniment to the fish if he said so himself.

He got back home in time to feed the animals. You know the usual farm crew. Three sows and a bull, a pen full of clucking hens and of course what no farm is complete with out an old cud chewing cow and a stumpy goat with teats straining against its load of milk. He placed the fish, already gutted and scaled in a pan of salted water in the kitchen dumped the berries in a bowl and cleaned himself up. He was milking the goat when his parents dropped down out of the mountains following a worn trail over the hillside.