Each summer when my daughter goes to camp I write her a story and send it to her in parts, one each day while she’s gone. This time the story is kid Robin and the Robber Barron a sort of retelling of the Robin Hood stories.
Each day Tintye had several appointments with expert members of the Tribe who would teach him and the other boys and girls the skills they needed for living and surviving with the Tribe. That frst day when Owantutaye the chief had placed her under Tintye’s care, Tintye spent the morning after breakfast with Owannu, Orren’s mother, learning how to fish, and Robin went with him.
That morning they were learning how to make basket fish traps, good for catching fish in some of the shallower streams that wound their way through the canyon. The baskets had to be long and narrow with a wider opening at one end, A small door flap was created to cover the opening, and the door flap only opened in one direction so that when the fish swam in to get the bait laid deep at the end, the flap would close behind and thus trap the fish inside.
Of course, to trap fish this way first you must have a trap, and so that’s what they were maing. Using reeds gathered from the river where it was wide and wet, they were folding them around sticks the lengths of their forearms using basket weave patterns. The trick was to wrap it tightly and strongly enough that the fish could not break out, but thin and open enough so that the fish wouldn’t be afraid to go in in the first place.
As was expected, Orren was an old hand at this and made perfectly sculpted traps in so short a time that he was able to wander around and help his mother advise the other kids. When he got to Robin, though, he just snorted. “ Little one, you just going to have to start that one over. Your sticks are too tight and there’s no way for even the little fish to get in.”
Robin dropped the project in frustration, “ I can’t get it…”
Tintye heard the dejection in her voice, “Don’t worry Robin, you’ll get it. It is just your first day. Look at mine, it isn’t much better than yours, but I’ve only been at it a little longer than you, but look at Orren’s, he’s been at it a long time. How long have you been weaving traps, Orren?”
Orren scratched his head, “Mom says I unraveled one of her finished traps when I was only two, so I guess that’s when I’d say I started. Don’t worry Robin, we all get it in our time. Let me show you something….” He picked up the trap she’d been working on, “ If you hold your thumb in between the sticks as you weave, like this…. Then the sticks stay further apart and you have a more rounded basket. You don’t want it too rounded, though, or it won’t sit right in the stream and the fish wont go near it.” He handed it back to Robin. “ If you unravel it a bit you should be able to get the sticks widened out. If it just doesn’t work you can just start over. Plenty of sticks and reeds at the river.”
Robin nodded and looked down at her work, then she looked up and said, “Thank you Orren, and you , too, Tintye.” And with a heavy sigh said, “I’ll keep working.”
Robin was someone to whom things had come easily, so these first few days were hard for her. These outdoor skills were new to her and she found them hard and at times dull. Her mother had taught her to face work with bright energy, so she continued to greet work with an open heart in her Mother’s memory.
Besides, some of the work was fun and even the work that wasn’t at least kept her mind and body busy and away from the grief that still sat in her heart. Her new friends helped with that, too, especially Tintye who, by being her constant companion, was also her constant distraction.
One bit of work that was fun and distracting was Archery. As she and Tintye had so very carefully been reading The Adventures of Robin Hood, Robin had swooned with the throught that she was, somehow, an incarnation of Robin Hood and that she’d find some way, with Tintye as her Little John, to find and bring justice to the bad men who had killed her parents.
So when the day came when Tintye and she were asked to join in the Archery Lessons one afternoon, she marched out ahead of him, head up high, awkwardly trying to carry the too-large bow without dragging it through the grass while still marching with her knees high. She’d have been alright except, just a few yards from the grass bundles that marked the Archery Practice field, she tripped in a gopher hole and went head over heals to land, face down, and all 4 limbs splayed out. Rallit, the Archery master, ran out to her to make sure she was OK, and the boys and girls who were there just laughed.
Hearing the laughter Robin jumped up, fuming, in spite of her scratches and scrapes, but Tintuye was suddenly there, helping her up and brushing her off, and that calmed her.
Satisfied that she was alright, Ralllit moved to her bow. Luckily it was not the worse for her tripping. “Tintye, perhaps you can help her carry her bow until her arms and legs grow into it. I’d hate for either of them to be damaged from a fall.”
Tintye nodded and Rallit herded them over to the group, and began discussing how to practice Archery. He took a stance, knocked an arrow, and let it fly toward a target a few yards off. It hit very near center as all of the boys and girls had expected, and looked increadibly easy.
For some it was easy. For Hetcha and Athla, the twins, it was smooth and easy motions resulting in targets peppered with fletching grouped within a hands width. Lath was a little less accurate, but the speed with which he could knock a new arrow and let fly again was breathtaking, and none of his arrows landed more than a foot apart. But for Tintye, it was special. He’d had almost none of the practice of the others and yet his arrows landed together like they were chained, and his stance and form were beautiful to see. Even this early it was obvious he had a gift.
Robin caught herself several times watching him, but that was mostly because she was having such a hard time herself. She just wasn’t big enough for the bow and wasn’t strong enough to pull back the string to her cheek. She had to pull back so hard that it would raise her arm up toward the sky and she’d let loose the arrow into a long, high arc that would land in the dirt well short of the target.
Once she fell over backward and the arrow went almost straight up to actually land behind her, the boys and girls scrambling to get out of the way lest they be impailed. They dragged a log over for her to brace herself against after that.
She did finally hit the target a couple of times toward the end, but nowhere near the center. But she was proud to have done it just the same. That pride couldn’t overcome her shame, though, at not being the Robin Hood she’d hoped.
Tintye could see what she was thinking, though. “Even Robin Hood was not a good archer when he started. He had to train and practice just like everyone else. He became good, but he started out a rich, pampered boy. You will become good, Robin. Just give it time and want it.”
Robin nodded and Rallit and Altha came over. Altha said, “Rallit, don’t we have some smaller bows that Robin can work with?”
Rallit shock is head, “We could do that, Altha, but then she would just become used to the smaller bow and then have to readjust to become used to the larger bow all over again. Robin, I want you working with this same bow until you can use it with ease.
Altha said, “My brother taught me some exercises I did to stremgthen my arms. If you like, Robin, I can show you, too. Then your arms will be stronger faster.”
Robin nodded again, “Thank you, Altha. You shoot so well I’ll take any help you can give me.”
They took one last look around that nothing was left behind, picked up their gear, and marched back to camp, Robin being extra careful of gopher holes.