Friday, April 25, 2014

FURTHER NORTH

Mekkar had a relative from his mama’s side of the family who lived even further north than he did above the Arctic Circle. When Mekkar was young, he and his younger brother Alf would travel with Sirga to visit her relatives in that area. Most of the time his papa wouldn’t accompany them on their infrequent journey near the top of the continent. In those days there wasn’t even a paved road between the closest small town and the small inlet village on the other side of the island where Gretta lived. This was especially hazardous during the latter part of the calendar year when the road was basically plowed snow pack. Very much like a dirt road to make it accessible to vehicle traffic at all. Frequently, it was easier to get there by boat.

The inlet was a small fishing village of people who gather their livelihood from the nearby Arctic Ocean. That is, when the waterway approaches were not frozen over. The area hasn’t changed much since then, except for local animal observation tours that cater to travelers. Many tourists hope to see rare wildlife that inhabit a cluster of islands nearby.

The boy played in deep snow in the open area next to Gretta’s house. It wasn’t really a flat field in the usual sense, but a series of small hillsides to climb on. Most of the houses and the small number of businesses were mainly located on one strip of land. Otherwise, the surrounding landscape was fairly barren with just brush plants. Trees are unable to gain roots and grow on the rocky hills that are mostly confined by water. At least, that would be the average visitor’s perspective. Those same rocky plains would be blanketed in snow during wintertime. At times, the powder could be up to little Mekkar’s waist. For him that was one way to interact with a few of the local kids in outdoor activities. The choices were extremely limited as there wasn’t many people living in this area to start with.

Every so often, polar bears would arrive on the shoreline from one ice flow or another. Their goal was to scour around on land looking for any scraps of food they could find to fill their aching bellies. One time, Mekkar saw a rare event that was not only remarkable, but showed him the power possessed by these animals. A regular bear had arrived this far north on the tundra, which was out of the ordinary. Mekkar wondered why that bear was there when there almost no trees of any significance to forage on. Usually, many land animals don’t travel this far north of the forest areas due to the lack of available game. Mekkar thought that this fairly large brown bear must have gotten lost somehow and was way out of his element. It might possibly be delirious from hunger. When Mekkar eventually spotted this scene, he tapped some of the other kids on their shoulder. He wanted the whole group’s attention and warned them to be aware. The kids began to send signals between them and whispered to each other to be quiet. The hope was that the wandering unexpected visitor wouldn’t notice their presence very easily.

Of course, neither Mekkar nor any of the other children on that snowy hillside were stupid enough to yell at the lost animal. They definitely didn’t want to attract its attention. It was a good thing that bear was way over on the other side of the inlet and far enough away from them for any real danger to occur. The youngsters continued to keep their wits about them. Still, none of the now huddled children saw the large polar bear arrive into their view until it was nearby the lost brown bear. The other bear must have come upon the floating ice from another direction, thought Mekkar. Everyone assumed both were both males in gender because no cubs were there. However, when both animals were almost face-to- face one could see the arctic beast was much larger in size and towered over his counterpart. Someone pointed out that a territorial confrontation was about to occur. The polar bear then suddenly moved forward while still standing straight up on his hind legs. What an imposing figure he was. The two of them wrestled for a bit. Next, the arctic animal raised its hand and gave a back-handed swat to the lost brown bear’s head. A separation and decapitation occurred. The now deceased beast’s head went flying away from the torso for a few feet. After that, the smaller bear’s whole body fell to the ground with a resounding thud that sent tiny shockwaves.

Wow! The kids thought with the mouths aghast. They only whispered their surprise under their breaths in the cold air. This reaction was not only due to their frightened state, but because they were hoping to avoid the attention of the victorious animal. Too late! The lighter colored bear had used its keen sense of smell and could easily smell the little ones from a distance. It was decided among them, the kids should now respond with action and Mekkar led the group of kids back to the houses in the village. They figured the adults would know what to do to scare off any aggressive animals. They immediately began functioning on pure adrenaline. Full awareness with regard to exercising the fight or flight response and other undeveloped human mechanisms within their little beings. Soon, they all reached their destination back to the village structures. By the time they all reached their destination, each of them was completely out of breath. Yet, they didn’t seem to notice. Mekkar felt that the group did not care at this point. The desire was for the curious children to be in a secure place and out of harms way.