Chapter 4- Part 2
“Ok folks, first rule of collecting wild edibles is never eat a plant unless you know what it is without a shadow of a doubt. Which is why we're starting with some easy plants everybody should know.” Indie stood in front of a group of five women as Susan and Ryan handed out buckets. The women exchanged smiles. “So you all know what a dandelion looks like?” Heads bobbed up and down. “All right then I don't need to go over it. Did you know dandelion leaves are edible?”
Bending over, Indie plucked several leaves from a nearby plant. “Plants without flowers are less bitter than those with, the plants also lose the bitter taste after the first frost. What we're going to do is take our buckets and pick just the leaves from plants with no flowers. These are going to be used as a salad for dinner tonight, but they can also be boiled.”
As the women began picking leaves Susan approached Indie. “Are you serious?”
“Mmm hmm. Once we're done, Mom's going to show everyone how to prepare the food.” Indie knelt and plucked a few leaves tossing them into a bucket.
“But they're weeds.”
“Doesn't mean they're not full of vitamins and will fill your belly.”
Grudgingly Susan began tossing leaves in her bucket. After picking leaving for a while, Indie got to her feet and wiped her hands on her jeans. “Ok ladies, for our next plant, we need to head over to the lake.” As they moved off, Ryan fell into step with Indie.
“Why am I the only guy doing this?”
Indie shrugged. “It was voluntary and all the other guys decided to go hunting.”
“So the other men are hunting and I'm picking flowers.”
“Think of it this way, when they can't find food, you'll be able to have something in your stomach.” Indie stopped next to the edge of the lake. Turning, she addressed the group. “Does anyone have a problem getting wet?” There was a murmur then hesitant shaking of heads. “Good, because our next plant is cattail. Right now we're going to look for new shoots to dig up. We're not going to harvest very many, only enough for dinner tonight.”
Taking off her shoes and socks, Indie rolled up her pants. She braced herself and stepped into the freezing water. “Holy crap that's cold,” Indie gasped, and behind her there was a twitter of laughs. “Okay, new plan...” She rolled up her sleeves. “I'll pull some plants and no one else needs to get wet.”
“I like that plan,” one of the women called.
Grasping a cattail, Indie nodded. “I thought you would.”
She pulled a few plants free of the mud and water and tossed them on the bank. After she climbed out of the water, she dried off with the towel Susan offered. “So you take these, peel off the outer layer and eat the tender inner stalk.” Indie showed them how to pull back the outer layer, before dumping the rest in a bucket. “You can use almost all of the cattail. Leaves can be used to weave mats or baskets. The fluff makes good dry tinder to start fires.”
“So what's next, Teach?” Ryan asked.
“We'll be heading down the path to the ATV lot.” She caught Ryan's arm as the women turned toward the foot path. “I want you to go grab my twenty gauge and meet us there.”
“Bear, moose, zombies. We could see a deer.” She shrugged.
“Got it. Meet you there.”
Indie turned back to the women. “So, here's what we're looking for. Burdock. You all know what that looks like?” They nodded. “Second, we're looking for daisies. We want the burdock roots and leaves from the daisies.”
Ryan caught back up with the group as they started down the path. She glanced over and grinned at her pink gun slung over his shoulder.
“What? I thought it brought out my eyes?” He fluttered his eyelashes at her.
Indie chuckled, then turned her attention to her students. Walking behind the others, Indie glanced off the path. Her gaze fell on a bunch of mustard. Smiling, she tugged on Ryan's arm. “I'll be right back.”
Making her way through the undergrowth, she knelt to pick some of the leaves to show the women. Behind her there was a snort, then a growl. Dropping what she was doing, Indie turned to find a black bear standing a couple yards from her. Slowly she got to her feet, keeping her eyes on the animal. It was small, probably a hundred and ten pounds, most likely female. Who hopefully didn't have a cub up a tree nearby. Its jet black coat tapered to a tan color on the animal’s muzzle. A muzzle full of sharp, pointy teeth. Indie took a step back and it huffed, shaking itself.
Indiana's heart felt like it was going to beat out of her chest. She slowly raised her arms, waving them. “Listen girl, I don't want any trouble, so I'm just going to back up and get out of here.” She spoke calmly, resisting the urge to turn and run. The bear huffed and took a lumbering step forward. “Seriously, bear, I'm just going to get lost.” She kept moving slowly backward toward the path and hopefully safety. “I swear I don't have anything on me, there's some yummy stuff in the bucket if you’re hungry.” She was babbling, trying to keep her voice calm so it knew she wasn't a threat.
The bear did something like a snorting huff then charged. Her stomach dropped, and so did Indie. Landing on her knees, she curled herself into a ball, lacing her fingers over the back of her neck. As her life flashed before her eyes she heard the blast of a gun followed by a wet thunk. There was a second blast and the bear dropped.
Cracking an eye open, Indie stared at the beast. It still quivered, but was no longer moving. As the ringing in her ears cleared Indiana could hear someone shouting her name and crashing through the bushes. Ryan appeared in her range of sight and knelt next to her. Jerking up, she threw her arms around his neck, her hand brushing the still warm barrel of the twenty gauge slung on his shoulder.