Sunday, August 17, 2014

ON THE TREK & ENVIRONMENT - PART 2 (B)

[This story is an improved version from mini cassette recordings of Mekkar’s actual voice in 1990 while hiking and walking as a University student; Then, it was converted to a Windows Media Audio File and transcribed in 2011. Mekkar’s spoken English skills are nowhere near as polished as Saavo’s are. Continued from PART 2 (A) in May, 2014.]

The hunters are familiar with their quarry and realize that females are attentive to their young and usually have a smaller set of antlers than the male counterparts. Caribou and reindeer are the only deer species that produce a rack, though normally less impressive than the males. A full grown mama can take out a raider just as quickly as any masculine member of the herd. With similar weaponry and quickness too!

These aspects reflect a key part of the native society Mekkar grew up in. The language of the area expresses this as well. The terminology typically lacks a gender distinction in Mekkar’s native tongue. Similar words that refer to animals have been modified over time and have been made applicable to humans. Similar to many places, people have continually updated and modernized the vocabulary up to the current day. This is the case in many areas of speech and reveals an always evolving process of adaptation.

Some natives through typology still have the belief that reindeer and a few other animals can survive better in this Arctic environment than humans. Others have the opinion that wild creatures do not need people at all to adapt to these surroundings since they have been doing it for a much longer time. Still, dissenters believe that many individuals are unable to endure the harsh conditions and bitter climate by themselves. In those cases, creatures take precedence over people even in spoken communication. The battle rages and those sentiments are always open to debate among the locals. Still, going back to the source, the cycle of life and existence, the intertwined puzzle – everything stems from that. The view is that all examples emerge from that point or beginning in some respect.

Mekkar was in a state of wonder and also was anxious at the same time because of the helicopters. He knew that those flying vehicles were another thing that could destroy them and the herd also. The youngster overheard conversation about how the field wasn’t now limited to only dealing with natural predators in this setting. As a boy, he was still learning about aspects regarding the cycle of life. It was hard to fit those concepts to anything related to the flying enemy overhead. The confusion and lack of understanding greatly increased his stress levels. All the trekkers realized the natural balance between various wild creatures. On the other hand, this way of thinking does create some paradoxes. For example, the number of various enemies against their own herd animals actually creates a sense of evenness to prevent over population of any one species. It would be a bad idea to screw with the natural process by wiping out all of the wolves or bears, for instance. Fortunately, this concept was not the main concern in anyone’s mind among the trekking party at that moment. The end result would be some other great enemy would take wolf’s place.

Modern society has not learned this lesson. They still have the misguided concept that humans can control the earth and nature to a fairly high degree. History should have taught people that the opposite is in fact the case. When there is too much or too few of a species other issues can arise. Varieties must adapt, become resistant, modify themselves, take on another form, or disappear altogether. Setting artificial limits and restrictions or enhancing over-the-top growth will eventually result in the whole chain of life getting messed up and thrown out of whack to the detriment of all.

Anyway, now these added elements can affect the environment in multiple ways all at the same time. All anyone can do is estimate the damage and effects within the concept of the whole cycle of life. That is truly what Mekkar was bothered by, even if he didn’t comprehend all the aspects of its meaning, yet.

Like native children, the animals can get somewhat used to the sound of the helicopter. However, they can also be greatly distracted by the flying machines and panic. The tendency is to flock or huddle together when the flying machine hovers so close to the ground. Ideally, this tactic is done in more wide open areas without vegetation and cover. Hopefully, the herd will be seen from the air, as no threat, and be left alone. The distracted animals feel safer in numbers as to not be fair game for their enemies and invite a ground attack. Stragglers, drifters, and those who stray are the most vulnerable. The point is that one split second can make all the difference between life and death during a raid.
     
The confusion is somewhat similar, but not completely, to smaller pests like the fly. Mekkar says that when he approaches and surrounds it with both hands, it cannot decide which direction to go. There is a bewilderment and distrust of both directions to flee toward. A reaction is to stop or to run comparable to a fight or flight response that humans exert. [Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage by Walter Bradford Cannon, 1915]

This is all part of the fragile setting, the inter-relatedness of trust and expectation of predicted outcomes. The animals trust the herders only up to a point and usually if there exists some type of familiarity. Mekkar asks this question, “Do you trust anything that you are not familiar with? Probably not.” The trouble is, in more modern times, the modified environment have put a wrench into the entire system. It is more so in regard to war machines and combat. Who on the ground can predict what those outside the domain are going to do? This is the kind of stuff Mekkar began to ponder as he grew up and looked back on those situations he was involved in. His youthful captured thoughts were in a very undeveloped, superficial stage and would disappear almost as quickly as they arrived. Yet, these facets of thinking pave the way and frequently evolve into greater depths of research within the mind. Plus, listening to the wise leaders of his tribe didn’t hurt either. The young reindeer herder’s thought processes would later far expand the present capabilities of his brain. Mekkar required much more learning by him to improve his skills to someday possibly lead a trek of his own.

Following the path the seemingly intrepid party continued on to the east for many miles.  Well, it was probably less of a distance than a boy could predict. Mekkar has heard the joke told around the campfire about a relative walked fifty miles through the snow, uphill, and with no shoes. It seems that all cultures have parallel stories used to embarrass and implore a person to carry out an action they want to avoid. Yet, in this habitat and under these conditions, the escapade could be plausible indeed, especially on a trek.

In this case, Mekkar had already travelled many kilometers in deep powder. Some of which had hard crust on top and was soft underneath. Not to forget the blizzards, up and down countless hills, but the Arctic boy had solid footwear. Mekkar had on a pair of fur boots created for the harsh winter environment. Socks were not always needed either just some treated grass inside to absorb the shock and moisture. On their way east to areas Mekkar was not familiar with or didn’t remember travelling in. He sensed that he had been on this path before, possibly with his parents. He had been told, by Aslak, about a few of his previous trips in the region with relatives, however he was unable to recall any of those journeys. Either way, Mekkar was looking forward to going there in a more independent capacity.

Mekkar was thinking the settings might be more recognizable to him after the weather had slightly diverted the group from the normal route. He couldn’t be certain, though. He anticipated that he might meet a few people that he had a closer common ground with, even in speech. People around the world know everything is all relative to the region one is from. Other places that one cannot readily identify have a whole new set of surroundings and challenges to get acclimated with. Too bad, Mekkar found out that was wrong. As they pushed on, the youngster noticed the people seemed more different than he would have expected. Disappointedly, the boy instead found fewer locals there like himself.

After all, he knew there were other tribes in the vast territory from one perspective, but to run into them gave a different view in person. The people appeared to him as similar to his tribesmen, but not exactly the same. Ansetti explained to Mekkar that the inhabitants here face the very same issues and struggles like him and his kin. It appeared to Mekkar, along the coastal areas in both directions on this journey that more families were dedicated to fishing instead of reindeer herding. These folks work on the boats which he thought was kind of odd. It was a different type of community than his own back home. Then, at that point it struck him that he could relate as he had just completed employment on a boat to begin the working portion of his life. Mekkar next summarized, after conversing with Ansetti, that some exchange of goods might take place. Thus, the reason for stopping here and stocking up with a different variety of goods, some to take with them back home.

However, Mekkar was misguided in his assumption that by this age he would have already explored this whole region in some manner. Of course, if that were to take place Mekkar would have developed a negative trait of cockiness and attitude. He would have also used it as an advantage over his peers at home. Aslak warned him about any potential haughtiness and to use his experiences to enlighten his friends instead. The advice from the spiritual leader was for Mekkar to feel humbled and privileged to be able to share his good fortune with others. Not to lord it over anyone and brag about what he had done because there is always someone who has done and seen much more. Unexpectedly, what was to come was more dynamic than what he had already exposed to, seen, or would have guessed.

The route winded in a southeasterly direction, not far from sea, and continued on for about thirty miles (48.28 kilometers) or so toward the next small town. Unfortunately, before they got there, the trekkers faced another pack of aggressive wild canines. The stalkers were first spotted during Mekkar’s shift as a watchman that night. The youngest herder audibly called out to alert the others of potential danger.

Juhani was also on guard with Mekkar tracking the wolves’ movements as they sneakily looked to strike. The beasts were ready for action and it was a fairly large wolf pack. The wild creatures suddenly charged the herd seeking to surprise and devour. Wolves are deceptively quick and strong for their size. Yet, humans have a definite weapons advantage if they choose to use it. Guns are useful, but not in all situations due to noise and frightening the herd. One main goal of the herder is to keep their own animals from being spooked for any reason and stampeding away. Hence, knives tend to be more useful and stealthy.

Mekkar swiftly took his blade out from its sheath. Next, he went on the pursuit. Some of the other herders also got the attention of a number of the animals. Well, at least a few of them. Other tribesmen joined Mekkar in the immediate area, at the ready. Juhani later told Mekkar that they didn’t want him to be overwhelmed with too many attackers to combat by himself. A part of the attacking pack scrambled a bit. The natives protecting the herd had to be quiet at the same time while counter stalking the enemy. One reason is too not attract the complete bunch and be outnumbered in any individual confrontation. Mekkar says that it is comparable to a military shadow, seek, and, if necessary, destroy mission. The other important aspect is to not spook the reindeer and cause them to run away as a group. No one wanted to watch their valued possessions just vanish from sight.

The strategy chosen was to divide and encounter a few of the adversaries at a time, not all at once. The hope was to split the raiding party up and maybe the majority might scatter after the herders made their move. Mekkar attributes the approach to engaging the leader and defeating that individual first. Then, the rest of the gang tends to voluntarily remove themselves from the battle. Aslak tried to explain to the lad that is an aspect of psychology. Specifically, a theory that after the head is removed as a threat and cannot take an opponent on, the rest of the gang normally loses hope in their chances of victory in the battle. The wise man commented to Mekkar the logic had meaning to people alone. Applying the same to animals without much field examination and evidence was another matter altogether. Not many want to test it out in live situations to avoid injury or death.

Akin to most animals the band of wolves also has a leadership hierarchy. Even observers soon can identify which one is the alpha male or who the boss is. Mekkar has used the New York Yankees baseball franchise as an illustration of this leadership system. Under the operation of George Steinbrenner, there was no dispute or question of who was large and in charge. Mekkar now had the lead animal in his sights and sought out a confrontation to make his mark. On the other hand, Juhani had done these treks for a long time for years and years and first spotted the same one the young herder in training was pursuing. Problem was Juhani had a longer distance to cover. Mekkar’s original task description was to help keep the throng bunched together and not let any in the back stray off. Yet, the inexperienced Mekkar let his sight and rush adrenaline overtake him as he broke away from his pre-assigned task. No matter what happened the boy felt that was ready for a strike just in case.

In the nick of time, Juhani arrived on the scene and he faced off with the top dog with his knife already drawn. The wolf rushed as it felt threatened and sprang at the veteran herder. Mekkar saw this happen and thought to himself that this scenario can’t be occurring, it was not real. It seemed to the young boy that the animal jumped ten feet through the air like a long jumper in track. The wolf had its teeth bared with a snarl. Mekkar’s impression was as if the beast wanted to leap toward Juhani’s throat or whatever the animal could grab with its powerful fangs. Still, Juhani was not a small individual and had enormous strength unlike Mekkar. In an instant, Juhani brought up his large knife to the chin of his aggressor. He drove it through the protruding jaw and broke a bone in the assailant’s neck as he had been trained so many years ago. The decimated head wolf of the pack was now gone.

Nonetheless, there was a hint that others of the group didn’t see their fallen leader as they were occupied in their own pitched skirmishes. After a few more of the attackers had been put down, a couple of gunshots rang out with a pop, pop. Arrows made the ppfft sound as they whizzed past. Bows were repeatedly firing their projectiles off one by one. The scene was unfolding rapidly in front of Mekkar as he observed one of the aggressors nearby tagged right in the head. Finally, the opposition unit started to scatter.

Some of leaders thought it was stupid to bring out the guns and risk the stampede of whole herd. One of them commented toward the boy the necessary additional firepower was needed for that drastic action. Mekkar needed to get back to his responsibilities and contribute his efforts to keep the now frightened herd animals from straying. The mood of the reindeer was on edge right at that time. He along with the other tribesmen knew that if any of their hooved animals had departed during the clash they would have been gone. Most likely killed by the still remaining wolves in the vicinity. The enemies had retreated but were still in the neighborhood simply lying in wait, desperate to fill their bellies.     

Little did the adolescent know that two reindeer turned up missing from the herd. As soon as they left not even about one hundred and sixty four yards (150 meters) away Mekkar heard a loud sound. He detected the high pitch and knew one of the stray animals had been attacked. A few of the herders including the boy followed the noise they listened to. Those saw the wolf pack in action. Mekkar said in a low voice as to not be detected, “This is it.” The host onslaught was relentless by grabbing the hind legs while the hooved creature was distracted by the adversary in front. Once the aggressors got complete control another jumped for the neck and secured it. Oh, Mekkar secretly wished that he could leap upon prey like that. 

The small unit of herders realized it was no use trying to rescue one of the flock now, they all recognized it was a goner. That reindeer was stupid for running away from the bunch and became wolf food because it was too late to be saved, thought Mekkar. Then, Mekkar felt helpless and blamed himself for leaving his post. The young boy did warn the others. At the same time, he was of the opinion that he didn’t do anything to save one his tribesmen’s animals. The boy’s mind told him that he didn’t fully carry out his duty. Mekkar technically did not remove not one enemy combatant nor directly save any reindeer himself. The rest of the belligerents had run off. They must have had their fill deemed Mekkar. However, the assailants got theirs. One of them was picked off and later seen with the others of his clan ripping apart that one animal before it soon perished. Not taking it out with the first shot was not a good thing for that one adversary.

After the drama had died down somewhat, it was discovered that seven of the raiders had been dispatched along with two reindeer from the herd. Mekkar considered they had done a pretty good job by only losing two animals to that large of a blitz. Unfortunately, that assumption just showed his inexperience. Seven to two was not considered a good ratio. It was made clear that there should be a twenty to one minimum kill proportion of pack beasts to hooved creatures. The trek leader would not be happy with the outcome. Ansetti was very angry. Possibly it was at the lack of expectation of an assault, defense execution planning, or overall preparation of the crew. Mekkar never received an answer regarding this. Ansetti appraised the situation and was aware that if a party loses two reindeer for every seven wolves you will lose way too many animals. First off, the enemy will gain confidence and this herding group will most likely encounter more packs of potential foes in this area.

They set up the sauna and only a small part of the camp when the activity had died down. All of them appeared ready to relax and took a needed break, except for a few watchmen. Ansetti told them there that the meat eaters would be back on the pursuit. The leaders used the time to conduct more planning to prevent another outcome such as the one they had just endured. “This was only the first meeting,” said Ansetti to Mekkar while they were in the hot tent. What was odd to the boy was that all of the tents were speedily dismantled right after the impromptu gathering. The trek leader told Mekkar once again, “The wolves will be back because they see their own. The blood will attract them. They remember their catch from before and that will draw them once again. So, us and the herd should be on the move. Our goal is to finish this journey and get back to our homes safe and sound with our bodies and herds intact.”