PART ONE – A BEGINNING
Mount Pavin, in the Chaine des Puys mountain range in present-day
southern France, erupted in 4040BC.
Busher had been squatting behind the trunk of a large oak tree for a
while. He raised himself up enough to look down the ancient animal trail
that passed on the other side of the tree. The path was empty, so he
returned to his former position. It was late spring and the leaves were
out, colored a vivid green that would turn into forest green to survive
the summer, giving excellent cover. This was one of Busher's favorite
hunting sites. Huge oak trees, surrounded by younger oaks, lined the
well-worn path. Acorns, oak sprigs and young oak saplings covered the
ground under the wide canopies. Many of the older oaks had dropped their
heaviest limbs in an effort to stay erect. The very oldest trees lay on
the ground in decay, releasing their life-renewing nutrients for the
coming generations. Busher was very comfortable with this circle of
life. Other types of trees grew on other mountainsides. There were no
mixed forests and Busher accepted that. There had never been a “why”
in his thoughts. That would soon change.
Busher had been near this same spot since daylight started to fade. He
dozed a bit, then got up and searched for something to eat, waiting for
sunset. He was hoping a large deer would come along the trail so he
could kill it and carry it home. There was no sense in hunting for deer
during the day, but now that it was getting dark, deer would begin
foraging. If he killed one, he would gut it and leave the entrails for
the scavenger animals. Because he wanted a huge deer, to get it home, he
would have to remove a lot of its weight. Every part of an animal was
sacred and had a purpose, but on this trip, only size mattered to
Busher. If he walked with it all night, he would be at the spring hut by
morning. The journey would be long, but he would be under a full moon.
Familiar with the trail, he knew the way to this specific home because
it was the spring season hut his grandfather had built and his father
had used. Now it was his.
The hut was his and Treaulee's, his mate for over a year. Busher wanted
a large deer to impress Treaulee. He felt very awkward around her
because she seemed so skillful at completing her domestic chores. She
knew every clay pot, every wooden and bone utensil, and could cook
anything. She would also make beer, the drink he enjoyed when they
worshiped the gods. Well, when she worshiped the gods. Busher was
confident that Treaulee did all the things necessary to keep the gods
happy and away from them and their life. He was there just for the beer.
The gods always seemed to be angry, and the best thing to do was to pray
that you never got them riled. That's what Busher thought, anyway.
Busher jumped. He picked up one foot and shook it, then the other foot.
I felt ants under my feet. He checked his feet and legs. Hmmm, I must be
While Busher waited for his prized deer, he rubbed the scar on his arm.
It was a new addition to his many scars. Two scars on his forehead were
from falling out of a tree while hunting. That was also when he'd broken
his nose. He had dozens of small scars on his legs from chasing game
through the woods. However, the scar on his right leg was his reminder
of how close he'd come to being killed by a bear.
The scar on his arm still itched. He'd been gutting a deer when his
flint blade made the wound. Treaulee was able to stop the bleeding and
cleaned it with an infusion of comfrey and packed it in mud. Her skills
had prevented the infection that would have meant certain death. The cut
made it impossible for him to hunt for an entire kalen, so they depended
on Treaulee's gathering skills to keep them fed. This current need to
find a large deer was to show his gratitude to Treaulee for saving his
Busher's thoughts about Treaulee and his scar vanished when he heard the
faint rustle of leaves and the crunch of twigs that announced the
approach of a galloping deer. Odd, he thought. He wondered why this deer
was running so fast.
As it got closer, Busher could see it was a large enough specimen to
impress Treaulee. It was strange that the deer was rushing toward him
with no thought of predators or its destination, but Busher was going
ahead with the hunt regardless. He laid an arrow on his atlatl and
waited. As the deer neared, he held his breath. He rose up, thrust out
his left arm and drew back his right arm which held his weapon.
Suddenly, hearing more rustling sounds from down the trail, he relaxed
his stance. A herd of deer was running toward him.
Busher was afraid. This is not right. What is pushing them to crowd
along the trail? he wondered.
He looked down the trail again. Busher saw a huge buck, almost a hand
taller than the others. What good luck! He wanted that deer. He resumed
his stance and as the big buck passed, he hurled his arrow. It struck
the heart and the deer crumpled to the ground. Panicked, the other deer
stormed past. In moments, he was alone with his kill. He dragged the
deer off the trail and prepared it for travel. When it was ready, he
heaved the huge animal over his shoulders and began the long walk home.
As Busher walked, his thoughts became more clouded, confused. Something
strange was going on and there was nothing in his experiences or his
father's or grandfather's stories that might explain this. "I do not
like a riddle," he mumbled. "After I rest for a day, I will talk to
Treaulee and we will figure out why the deer were running on the trail."
However, nothing had been resolved when, two days later, the next part
of the riddle came. The ground beneath them trembled.
"What is happening?" yelled Busher.
Treaulee, terror-stricken, couldn't reply. Dead and weak tree limbs
crashed to the ground. One fell on the hut, punching a hole in the
thatch roof. A hail of acorns blanketed the campsite. They fell in one
great mass as if an enemy were pelting them with stones. Treaulee raised
her arm toward Busher in a silent plea for help, tiny droplets of blood
sprinkled her face and arms. Busher shielded his head but his hands and
arms were speckled with blood.
In moments, it was over. The forest around them was silent. Busher and
Treaulee waited, but nothing more happened. They spent the morning
mending their wounds and by the time fullday had passed, things returned
to normal. Birds chirped and animals scurried about the woods. The brief
violence caused no more physical damage than superficial puncture
wounds. However, Busher felt he had lost his understanding of the
cadence of life.
At dusk, Treaulee served their evening meal. "I think the gods are
angry," she said.
"If they are going to speak to us, I do not want to hear it!"
After their meal, Treaulee took a burning stick from the fire and walked
over to a quiet spot. She pushed the butt of the stick into the ground
and sat cross-legged next to it to meditate. When she got up, she went
to sit beside Busher.
"I do not know, Busher. I feel something is happening, but I do not know
Busher put his hand on the back of his neck, groaned and looked skyward.
He dropped his head and sighed. “I will start on the roof at sunrise.
I want to get back to the way things are supposed to be.”
"This is just the beginning,” she said. “There will be much more and
worse. Much worse. We will become like the deer on the trail."
The following morning, Busher and Treaulee were awakened by a terrible
"It is time to go, Treaulee. Whichever god is getting ready to speak, it
will happen soon. I do not want to be here when they speak. We are not
welcome here anymore."
Busher broke camp right away. Methodically arranging everything in their
carry-sacks, he knew what would have to be left behind for the next
spring season. He packed as if the spring and summer seasons were over
and fall was upon them.
While Busher packed their belongings, Treaulee again spoke to the gods
in meditation. Busher felt out of place speaking to the gods. He thought
women better suited for that kind of thing. Women created the first
spiritual drink, beer. They performed the rituals in the worship
ceremonies and handled all the domestic arrangements.
Busher recalled his childhood. He and his father were the sole survivors
of a sickness that ravaged their clan. Busher remembered as a child,
after his mother died, they no longer attended the area gatherings to
worship and thank the gods. By the time Busher went to fulfill his
father's pledge for him to mate with Treaulee, Busher was the only one
left of his clan.
When Treaulee finished meditating, Busher approached.
"We are to descend from the mountains into a wide valley,” she said.
“We will make a new home at the bottom of the hill by the river's
edge. Contrebis, god of the home, advises us to travel toward the
"That is the path to the autumn worship site."
"We must go further. We must go down from the mountains. That is where
we will find our new home, by the river's edge."
"But I do not know what is past the worship site. How will I know the
Treaulee did not respond.
The next morning their journey began. Busher loaded one sack on
Treaulee's back, then swung the larger one on his own back, and they
walked toward the sun. Busher looked at Treaulee as they walked. He
realized how dependent he was on her being beside him. She had always
been dear to him, but this was deeper. Recent events were disturbing and
he feared for their future as never before.
Busher looked at her in earnest – her petite frame, her sweet, round
face and her light brown hair always tied loosely behind her. She smiled
most of the time, which was what attracted Busher. She wore the same
type animal hide vest and skirt that most other women wore. The vest was
stitched together with sinew and had two small closures to hold the
front together. It fell short of meeting her skirt, so he could see her
skin below her ribcage. The vest was the oldest part of her two-piece
wardrobe and the badger's tail she had originally stitched on the front
had been replaced by two simple squirrel tails, and those had lost their
How many seasons has she been draped like that and I have not noticed?
Busher thought. My mother and sister had a whole badger hide sown on the
back of their vests. With those striped markings, I could pick them out
of a gathering in a blink.
Her vest may have been well worn, but her skirt was freshly cut and
decorated. Just like all the women Busher knew, Treaulee wore her skirt
hung from the lowest point of her hips. She had attached a large
marten's tail to the back of her skirt to bounce and wiggle when she
walked. Busher looked beyond all the ornaments she wore. He was devoted
to Treaulee because she was the kind of person who would go out of her
way to help someone, especially if a child was involved. She adored
children, and with that perpetual smile, they were drawn to her. She may
have been petite in stature, but it was as though she were equal to his
own height and he could look at her eye-to-eye.
Three days into their journey, Busher heard an awful sound. He turned
around and stared into the sky at a most incredible sight. Gigantic
plumes of smoke billowed from the mountain's peak. Sparks and flares
screamed into the air while heavy clouds of ash surged into the sky,
obscuring the sun. Treaulee turned too, and they held each other as they
watched the spectacle. The gods were angry, but neither knew why.
Treaulee reflected, “If you try to understand nature and the earth, it
only makes the gods angry. We must be grateful for what they give us and
fearful if we neglect them. Do not reason, just obey. Enjoy when they
As they watched, the sun vanished. Noxious smoke and ash rose to
terrible heights and then laid its choking form over the adjoining
mountains and valleys. They watched as trees toppled in the distance and
burst into flame. Whole mountainsides were afire and in the darkness, a
sinister glow lit the landscape. They had traveled a great distance in
three days, but the ash traveled many times that far into the sky and as
the sun disappeared, the ash rained down. The gods attacked with
handfuls of fire.
Busher and Treaulee took refuge in a nearby cave. Busher spent the rest
of what should have been daylight, hanging deer hides at the entrance to
keep Treaulee from choking. Treaulee gave credit for the fire-show to
Nantosuelta, goddess of nature, the earth and fire.
Busher sat beside Treaulee and, for the first time since his mother had
died, meditated on the gods. Will the sun rise in the morning? It has
risen every day, but now that means nothing. The gods can remove the
sunlight, if they so desire.
They remained in the cave for a kalen, one full cycle of the moon. After
another few days, Treaulee realized she was pregnant, but she did not
want to trouble Busher. She knew the earth-shaking was an omen from
Nantosuelta and that message would be uppermost in Busher's mind. He
didn't need something else to cloud his thoughts. Preparing for the
problems and dangers of childbirth would have to wait.
When the air cleared and the sun rose and set as it should, they
continued their journey. After several kalen, Treaulee told Busher she
was pregnant so he would slow their pace. They stopped in the late fall,
making camp for the winter in an unoccupied hunter's hut. They unloaded
their carry-sacks and went about making the site adequate for surviving
the cold. Busher was busy storing wood and not prepared when Treaulee
screamed in pain.
“Ahhh. Busher, the baby is coming.”
“But it is not time. You said we had more days.”
“I was wrong,” she screamed in frustration and pain. “It is coming
“Treaulee, we have no clan to help us. I do not know what…”
Treaulee was not listening. They had talked about this and she realized
early on Busher would not be much help. She squatted down so fast, it
caused her to teeter in her birthing position.
Busher gasped and made a frightful face. His thoughts poured out, I must
get away from here, hunt for food, catch and skin a hare… I cannot do
“Are you hungry? I can go find us something to eat,” he blurted.
Treaulee tried to keep her composure. He was all the help she was going
to get. “Find a soft piece of hide for me to squat over to catch the
baby.” The birth pangs came on her too fast and the first few were so
hard it scared her. She had watched birth-bringers many times, but this
was her first and she was not ready.
Now the initial shock was subsiding and thoughts of the birth-bringers
in her clan calmly going about their actions helped her gain control.
She calmed down as she found the rhythm of her contractions.
“Come here… augh… hold my hands, steady me,” said Treaulee.
Busher grabbed her hands. Nantosuelta, she has a grip!
Treaulee's face blazed red; Busher's drained white.
“Just… hold my hands… augh.”
The baby's head popped out and the screaming jumped from Treaulee to the
newborn. Treaulee knew all the details of childbirth from the touching
and talking experiences of her youth; however, nothing had prepared
Busher for this. Emotionally exhausted, he cried.
He looked at their child. “Treaulee, look what you have done! He is so
She swaddled their baby in fresh rabbit skins and they both sat, looking
out from the hut into the evening sky. Busher put his arm around her
shoulders and squeezed, content just to be close to his mate. For now,
there were no needs beyond the reach of the three of them.
“I have seen what birthing a baby was like,” said Treaulee. “But I
never really knew until I did it myself. I had to live it to make it
“We need to make the campsite more secure against the weather,” said
Busher. “We may be here for a long time. There is no need to hurry.”
He paused, then changed the subject. “We do not need to wait to name
this baby. I think his name should have 'ash' in it because we survived
“And 'land' because we are going to a new land. He will grow up loving
the land,” said Treaulee. “We will call him Ashlan.”
Excerpted from "Acorns To Wheat: A Chasseen Family Saga" by David William Allman. Copyright © 2016 by David William Allman. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.