Boys' Life
January 1922
pp 12-13, 25

Og, Son of Fire
Chapter 4, "The First Camp Fire"
Chapter 5, "In Which the Wolf Becomes Dog"
(NOTE: mislisted in Boys' Life as Chapters 5 and 6)

Og, Son of Fire

by Irving Crump


Thus was born up there on the cliff five hundred thousand years ago the first campfire.

illustrated by Charles Livingston Bull

 

CHAPTER IV.

The First Campfire

 
ALL the horrors of such a terrible death were apparent to Og and the two wolf cubs. The hairy boy stood with staring, fear-bulged eyes and watched the slow, irresistible movement of the earthy walls as they came together. He could feel the movement of the ground beneath his feet as it began to sink downward and he could feel the vibration of a rumbling thunderous noise that came up from the nethermost depths of the earth. A great fear clutched his heart; a fear that somehow he and the now whimpering wolf cubs had put themselves into the clutches of a great and evil spirit who owned this cave; this huge wound in the hillside.

Yet though almost paralyzed with fear Og's brain worked. The Mountain That Walked had been defeated. He had withdrawn. Perhaps he was waiting outside in the steam fog or perhaps he had gone back down into the valley. If he were waiting outside, to go out meant death. But to stay in here meant death too, the horrible death of being buried alive. Outside death was uncertain. Then too he had a marvelous new weapon in this fiery stick of his. Perhaps with its aid and his swift legs he could defeat the mammoth. It was worth trying. They were deep inside the crevice. They would have to move quickly to get out in time for the walls were closing fast. Already one of the wolf cubs had started for the opening. Og turned and called to the other one. It was struggling under a heavy clod of earth that had fallen upon it and held it down. Og saw its plight. He was about to turn and bolt and leave it to its death. But something made him hesitate. He could not understand this strange feeling. He did not know that within him was growing a sense of loyalty and unselfishness that the hairy people never knew. He did not realize that this marked him as being a higher type of human than any hairy man had ever been, but he did know that an overmastering desire to help the struggling wolf dog swept away any selfish thoughts of his own safety, and he sprang back toward the rear of the crevice, dug the wolf dog from beneath the caved-in earth, then, gathering it under one arm and with the burning resinous torch in the other hand, he began a mad scramble for the opening of the crevice.

 
THE rumbling beneath his feet grew louder and more ominous. Earth and rock broke loose from the walls above and fell about him and on him. One huge stone struck him on the shoulder and its jagged corners cut deep through his hair and flesh. Og cried out with pain and staggered under the impact. Yet he stumbled and struggled onward while great beads of perspiration stood out on his low forehead, and his eyes dilated with fear. On and on he pushed, while the rumbling beneath him grew to an angry growl and the earthy walls on either hand and overhead rocked and swayed dizzily. The opening was only a little way ahead now. The first wolf cub had gained it and scrambled out into the steam filled air. Og envied him his salvation. He wondered vaguely whether he could make it or whether, there within a few short paces of freedom, he would be caught between the crunching, caving walls of earth and crushed to death.

He made a mighty effort to gain the opening. His great muscles swelled under the strain. Blood leaped through his arteries, the cords of his neck stood out and his breath came in great sobs as he struggled toward the air and light. One leap more and he would be free, one stride and he would be out of that terrible cave of grumbling noise, and crumbling walls. Og leaped.

At the same instant the rumbling developed to a roar, and a grinding crash, as the wall on either side of the crevice caved in and the earth settled. Og reached the air in a cloud of dust and a shower of earth and stones, and, in a perfect avalanche of debris, rolled over and over down the hillside, until he stopped with stunning impact at the foot of a huge boulder. For the space of several seconds he and the wolf cub lay there in a semi-conscious condition. Then slowly Og came to and sat up. And the first thing that he looked for when he became himself again was his fire stick. He found it close at hand for he had clung to it even in his mad plunge down the hillside. But of course its flames were out.

 
OG picked it up and viewed this fact with disappointment. The knotty end was a mass of glowing smoking coals but the flames were gone. Og crouched beside the boulder and looked at the hot end of the stick turning it over and over, and wondering the while how to rekindle it. He began to blow upon it softly. Why he did this he could not tell. But as he breathed upon it the coals grew redder and hotter and suddenly a tiny flame appeared, then another and another until the torch was rekindled.

Og gave a grunt of surprise at this and his low forehead wrinkled into a perplexed frown. Here was a thing that he could slay with his breath yet he could bring it to life again by breathing upon it. It was strange indeed, a thing he would have liked to puzzle over, for he had found that thinking was a strange and fascinating game. But he realized that the daylight hours were waning. Night was coming on and he knew now that with the Stalking Death abroad and probably many other animals down there in the valley feeding on the roasted horses, it would not be safe for him to linger. He thought of the cave under the cliff where he and the wolf cubs had taken refuge first and he decided to go there for the night.

Both cubs were close at hand, though the one he had rescued was unable to walk. Og gathered this one under his arm and calling to the other started out of the valley and toward the towering cliffs that he could see in the distance through the steam. As they made their way forward Og glanced at the hill where the crevice had been. What had been the crown of it was now a deep depression still filled with dust clouds. Og turned his head away for the thoughts that he and the cubs might even now he buried under that mass of rock and dirt were very unpleasant.

 
THEY were a long way from their refuge and Og hurried for he feared to be caught down there in the valley at nightfall. Night was the time when all the great beasts hunted and feasted and he knew that he would make a choice meal for the Stalking Death, the great panther, or Sabre Tooth, the huge cave tiger, as had many another hairy man in the past. Indeed, it was with a sense of relief that the hairy boy scrambled up the steep mountain side and crawled in under the shelter of the overhanging cliffs, for already the terrific hunting roar of the sabre tooth tiger was waking the echoes and in the gathering twilight this was a blood chilling sound to hear for the hairy men of that age.

Shelter gained, Og's attention came back to the fire stick which he still carried. It was then that he noticed for the first time, and with consternation, that the stick, once as long as his arm, was now less than a quarter its original size. Here was another perplexing phase of this new thing that he thought he had mastered but which he now found he could not at all understand. Why had the stick grown shorter? Where had the rest of it gone? Did this thing devour the wood? Was that what it ate?

Crouched up there on the shelf under the cliff Og experimented anew. He tried to see if the thing ate wood. He found another stick and held it into the flame. The red fingers reached out and took hold of it and, because this was soft wood, the fire consumed it quickly; ate it all so fast that Og had to drop it before it burned his fingers. There on the stone ledge it burned itself out. Og tried to feed the flames leaves. These were eaten up so swiftly that the hairy boy was frightened for a moment. He tried more sticks and more leaves, then he tried to feed it a stone. This it would not eat and Og marveled, for had he not got it from a stone originally? — yet here it refused to eat other stones. This red thing, this animal that could be slain or brought to life with a breath, that came from stone yet would not eat stone, was indeed a mystery.

Og held the fast shortening pitchwood torch in his hand and pondered. He saw the charred remains of the stick and leaves he had burned lying about him on the ledge. From these he gleaned still a new idea. He gathered more sticks and leaves in a pile, then laid the burning torch among them. And presently he had a fire that delighted him; a fire that gave him warmth and light and which he could keep alive so long as he fed it sticks and leaves.

 
THUS was born five hundred thousand years ago up there on the ledge below the cliff the first campfire, and as this hairy boy crouched before it and watched it with consuming interest while he basked in its warmth and light, he chanted softly to himself, "Og, og, og, og," which was his way of telling himself and the wolf cubs that he was a great man, that he had made a wonderful discovery and that he well deserved the name he had given himself.

And as he crouched there the roar of Sabre Tooth, the tiger, and the wail of the Stalking Death, the giant panther, floated up to him through the night, from the valley below where they quarreled over the cooked horses, but somehow Og felt strangely happy and comfortable by his fire. The light and the heat and the flickering flame tongues gave him a sense of protection in the night, a sense of protection that no other hairy man had ever felt; and the wolf cubs, sprawled in the warm glow, gave him an added feeling of companionship. He was happy, so happy that he wanted other hairy people to know about it; to see what he had achieved; to witness his triumph over the Fire Demon.

He began to think then of the other hairy people who had fled from the wrath of the volcano. He thought of Wab, old three fingers, his father, who was a mighty hunter with the stone hatchet. Og had a vague feeling that he was even a greater man than his father now.

He thought of Gog, the fierce old warrior with the scarred face and ugly disposition who was chief of the hairy people because no one had the courage to dispute it. Og hated him for many a hard cuff and unnecessary beating. He was a greater man than Gog now and he found malicious pleasure in the thought of taking his fire animal among his people and making Gog jealous with the flame that would be his. If he could conquer the Fire Demon assuredly he could conquer Gog. The old chief would never dare come near him while he held a fire brand in his hand.

Og decided to set out to find the hairy people again since the roars and wails that came up from the steaming valley told him all too plainly that it was no longer safe for him to remain in that vicinity.

 

CHAPTER V.

In Which the Wolf Becomes Dog

 
ALL through the night Og cared for his fire. It was to him a new kind of animal; a strange pet that he must needs feed at intervals else it would disappear. Og was afraid that it would eat up all its food and go out. This he did not want to happen for he dared not go back into the valley for more flame because of the danger lurking there. If the fire should burn out he did not know how to get more of it. For that reason he watched over it as a mother wolf over a cub. At regular periods he awoke and got up from his cramped and huddled sleeping position and searched around in the dark for more wood to feed it.

During this very first night at fire guarding the hairy boy learned a lesson that has been carried down through thousands of generations of camp fire watchers ever since. About the fifth or sixth time he had aroused himself and searched about for wood he got an idea. Forthwith he squatted down and started thinking again. The result was that he did not stop in his wood gathering when he had enough to replenish the flame. Instead, he kept on gathering wood which he piled up on the shelf of rock. After that each time he awoke he had only to reach over and take a few sticks from the pile, replenish the fire and fall off to sleep again. His wood pile lasted him until morning.

With the coming of dawn Og began preparation for his search for the colony of hairy men and women who had fled the valley at the first signs of eruption. First of all he made certain of his fire. His original fire stick had long since burned, so he gathered together a bundle of fagots of the hardest and most knotted and pitchy sticks he could find. These he bound round with bark, and lighted from the fire. Thus he purposed carrying his new found treasure, determined to guard it with his life, for he knew full well if the flames went out he could never replenish them again.

This done, he squatted down to think. First he would need a stone hammer; the first and only implement the hairy men had invented. He searched up and down the shelf and scrambled over the cliffs and hillside until he found a stone of the proper shape, round and smooth and water worn, yet rough enough to permit a grip for the lashings of bark that would bind it to the haft. Several times Og found stones that would almost do, and each time he squatted down and examined them. In the back of his brain he felt that he could make them satisfactory if he only knew how, yet his brain was not developed enough to invent the simple method of chipping them into the proper shape. The hairy folk had not yet progressed so far that they could with their own handicraft make things to serve them. They must needs find the stones ready to be tied into war hammers else they went without or used clubs instead.

Og was particular. Half the morning he searched until he found what he wanted. Then taking it back to the ledge, he selected a tough stick for the haft and with bark lashed the two together. When he had finished it he surveyed it with pride. Crude though it was, it was far better than any he had ever seen, even better than the one his father took so much pride in, and that was the best hammer among the hairy men.

This done Og sat and thought longer. He would need throwing stones; five round ones that his long sinewy arms could snap out with deadly speed and accuracy. Some of the hairy folk had learned to be expert at throwing stones. Og was among the best of them.

 
SEVERAL good stones he piled up with his fagots and his stone hammer. Then he spent more time in thinking. Gradually he worked out the idea that it would be a good thing if he could carry some provisions with him. This was an entirely new thought for a hairy man; never before had one of the race ever had intelligence enough to think ahead to the extent of providing for the future. They lived from day to day, feasting while food was before them and hunting only when they grew hungry again. With watering mouth Og thought of his feast of the day before; of the abundance of roast horse meat down in the valley of steam, traces of which were still wafted to his sensitive nostrils. But he dared not go back into the valley again. The presence of the Mountain That Walked and Sabre Tooth forbade this.

Og's eyes brightened as he saw the wolf cubs still sprawled beside the fire. But as he looked at them: they looked up at him and their tails wagged with pleasure. Og could not understand the strange feeling that swept over him, but he knew then that he could never bring himself to kill them. He would go hungry rather than slay them and cheat himself of their companionship. Og's sense of loyalty had grown out of all proportion to anything of the sort that had ever been possessed by a hairy man before. And so he gave up the idea of carrying food with him, but he stored the thought away in his brain for future use.

 
ALTHOUGH Og had been out hunting when the hairy folk had fled the valley at the first rumble of the volcano he knew well which way they had traveled. No hairy man of late years ever journeyed north. Always there was a cold, ominous spirit in the Northland who killed with icy breath and numbing pain and left his victims stark and stone-like; at least, that is the story that a hairy man had brought to the tribe years ago when he staggered among the cave dwellers and besought some to take him into their cave and wrap their arms around him and draw him close to their bodies as the hairy folk did to keep each other warm. He was the last of as many men as he had fingers who had traveled into the Northland. The rest, he said, were dead and turned to stone.

So Og knew that the hairy folk had not gone north. Nor had they gone east, for that was where night came from. Hairy men feared the hours of night for it was then that Sabre Tooth and the Stalking Death hunted. The volcano was in the west, so the only road that lay open was southward. Og knew the tribe had gone southward. He knew it because of his crude reasoning as well as by a pack instinct fully developed in him.

And so Og faced southward, and as he picked his way up the cliff and along the face of the rugged, rock strewn and partially wooded hillside he was indeed a strange sight, one big hand clutching his stone hammer and the other carrying his flaming fagots and his supply of throwing stones, while the two wolf cubs romped ahead and in front of him. The crest of the hill finally gained Og found that his way lay in a deep forest, a forest of such tremendous trees that Og looked like a dwarf among them. They were the giant sequoia, the ancestors of the few remaining big trees still left, and in Og's day they clothed a greater part of the entire earth. They were so tall that their tops were brushed by low hanging clouds, and so big at the base that Og knew that every man, woman and child in his colony, by joining hands, could not encircle them and Og's tribe was a big tribe composed of almost a hundred people. Og had seen the trees before and did not stand in awe of them.

The wolf cubs were working frantically to dig it out when Og caught sight of them. He watched them with interest for a moment.

FOR hours he swung along among the big trees, his eyes, ears and nose alert as always. Once the wolf cubs started two rabbit-like animals from their cover. Og saw them as quickly as the wolf cubs and as they whisked across an open space he dropped his hammer, shifted a throwing stone to his right hand and whipped it after one of the scurrying beasts with the speed of a bullet. Og heard with satisfaction the thump as it thudded against the rabbit's ribs. Then, as the animal leaped into the air, and fell to the ground kicking. Og gave voice to a hunting yell of triumph. He was about to rush forward and seize his kill when he noticed the wolf cubs. Both had given chase to the other rabbit, and so close had they been to that animal when they started it that it had to take to another cover immediately, which it did by dodging into a hollow under some rocks. The wolf cubs were working frantically to dig it out when Og caught sight of them. He watched them with interest for a moment. Then his eyes brightened with a new thought. Hastily he secured his own prize, then hurried over to where the wolf cubs were digging, throwing a veritable shower of earth between their legs as they dug their way deeper and deeper under the rocks. Og squatted down close at hand and watched them. Soon they had dug a hole deep enough for one cub to squeeze into. The more active of the two shouldered his companion out of the way and wriggled in. Deeper and deeper he went until just the tip of his tail showed. Then Og heard a growl, a shrill frightened squeak that was cut short by the crunching of breaking bones.

Presently the wolf cub began backing out. Og watched his progress and as his head came to view with the limp form of the rabbit dangling from his jaws Og seized him by the scruff of the neck and wrenched the rabbit from his mouth. With a growl the wolf cub sprang at him. But Og was waiting for just this and as he leaped Og's hand shot out and cuffed him so hard that he was knocked heels over head and sent sprawling into the rock pile. Og looked at him and smiled. Then as he came whimpering back toward him, Og tore off a leg of the rabbit and tossed it to him. He did likewise for the other cub. Then he squatted down and tearing the rest of the animal to pieces he ate the choicest parts and tossed the scraps to the wolf cubs. And as he crouched there eating the raw flesh of the rabbit his brain was still very busy (as the brightness of his eyes attested) with the discovery that the wolf cubs could be made capital hunting companions. He reasoned that he could teach them to hunt and give over their kill to him if he went about it properly and once trained they would be invaluable, for they were swifter of foot and keener of eye and of nose than he was.

Just how he was to go about this work of making them understand that he was their master and that they must do as he willed, Og was not sure. Being primitive, as they were, Og and the cubs were closer to a common ground of understanding than are humans and animals to-day. Og could read a great deal from their attitude and demeanor and he could see that already he had impressed upon them that he was wiser and stronger than they were, and thus their master. He realized that this was the first step in their training. He had a vague feeling, too, that the next step was the development of a spirit of camaraderie; a friendly sharing of everything, food, hardships and troubles. In that way he could help them and they would not get discontented and run away. He looked back to the occurrence of the day before when he had rescued the one cub from death in the crack in the earth, and he realized that already this spirit had begun to develop, and he marveled that these things could come about.

 
SO interested was he with his thoughts that he had consumed the rabbit and was licking the blood from his fingers when he thought of his fire, and of the miracle that fire worked with food. He experienced a sense of disappointment that he had not thought of this sooner and tried to cook the rabbit. But he realized that he had still another left and he decided to experiment with that.

All eagerness and enthusiasm, he began to gather great armfuls of wood until he had a huge pile stacked up in front of a towering boulder that had a sheltering overhang, which Og, wise woodsman that he was, recognized as a capital place for a night's camp. With his back to this he began to build his fire, lighting it from his still flaming bundle of fagots.

After he had a scorching blaze well under way, Og took the remaining rabbit, which he had slung over his shoulder by a bark sling, and with the dangling form in his hands crouched before the fire and studied the situation for a long time, while the wolf cubs sat and looked on expectantly. Truly he was at a loss to know just how to proceed with what was to be the first meal ever cooked by a human being. Finally the obvious and most simple method seemed to appeal to him and he dropped the rabbit into the flames and watched it eagerly. He crouched as close to the fire as he dared to watch the transformation oŁ the rabbit into cooked food. But presently he began to cough and spit, and hold his sensitive nose with his fingers. The odor of burning fur was nauseating and for a moment discouraging. Og could not understand it. He hauled the blackened animal from the fire and held it at arm's length, while with his fingers still on his nose he looked at it ruefully. Then his eyes brightened with a new thought. It was the hair that caused the stench; the fur. Then why not take it off? He never ate the skin and fur of animals anyway.

 
WITH his fingers and sharp sticks (the hairy men had not yet discovered the use of flint knives) he began skinning the rabbit, until presently he held in his hand a tempting chunk of raw meat. Og was of a mind to forego the cooking of it and eat it as it was, as he had always eaten rabbit. Yet the memory of the savory odor and flavor of the cooked horse remained with him and he put the rabbit again in the fire. Forthwith a most delightful odor began to assail his nostrils, and the wolf cubs began to get uneasy and crowd forward, their mouths dripping saliva.

So tempting and insistent was the odor that long before the rabbit was properly cooked Og dragged it from the fire to eat it. But when he tried to break the tender steaming flesh apart he grunted with irritation. It was so hot it burned. He laid it on a cool stone and waited impatiently for he knew now that things cooled off and lost heat when no flame showed.

What a feast that was. Og tore the flesh from the bones and ate with great gusto, making a loud smacking sound. But he did not feast without sharing with the wolf cubs. Many a savory lump went to them and all the bones that Og's strong teeth could not crack were theirs also. And as Og ate, his fast developing brain made note of the fact that wherever the flames had touched the rabbit it was blackened and burned. This meat did not taste as good as the meat that had laid on the coals and was cooked to a rich brown. Og decided that after this he would lay his meat on the coals after the flame had burned out.

So intent was the hairy boy at his feast that for a time he forgot to be alert. Indeed the need for caution was only recalled to him by a growl of one of the wolf cubs, as both of them got up and came around to his side of the fire, the hair on their backs bristling. Og, startled, looked up inquiringly. He neither saw, smelled nor heard any real reasons for fear, yet he sensed from the wolf cubs that something ill was in the wind.

While they were feasting twilight had come on. The sun had gone down and a blue half light of evening overcast the sky save in the west where great crimson and orange streaks were splashed across the horizon. But there among the giant trees where Og and the wolf cubs were, a really heavy darkness had settled down; a darkness that was thick and ominous to Og as night always was. Instinctively the hairy boy crept nearer the fire and moved his stone hammer closer to him as he peered with anxious eyes among the giant tree trunks any one of which he knew was big enough to hide the slinking form of Sabre Tooth the tiger, or the big cave leopard, or The Stalking Death.

Suddenly Og knew the danger that threatened him and he grew cold. From far down the night came a weird blood chilling call, that grew and grew in intensity until it seemed as if a thousand voices were howling in the dark. It was the pack call of the wolves and Og knew that this was the great pack, the pack of a thousand fanged jaws and sinister gleaming eyes. And they were coming in his direction.


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