Joseph Bruchac

highly acclaimed children's book author, poet, novelist, and storyteller, as well as a scholar of Native American culture



I’d buy more books if I had the money and a place to keep them other than my pack. One day, probably years down the road, when Pop and I have a place of our own again – as Pop promises we will – I am going to have a whole shelf of books in my room. Maybe two.

But even without school, I have kept on learning. Pop knows a lot. Though he doesn’t often share what he writes, he keeps a sort of journal – an old half-used ledger book that he was able to buy for a nickel from a shopkeeper we did some odd jobs for. Now and then he will pull out this half pencil he keeps in his shirt pocket to write down his thoughts as he takes note of things. Maybe the weather or where he found a good place to camp, or the name of some farmer who treated used friendly-like.

Some of the other things he writes down, as he remembers such things his own parents taught him, are about plants. He has read to me from that journal names of all sorts of things and how they might be used – like how chewing green willow bark cures a headache or how tea made from pine needles is good for a cough.

I’m studying the trees and plants by the road as we trudge along. It being March and us being in the southland, there’s the chance of finding things ready to gather. Yesterday there was a fine cattail marsh I pointed out. No houses around. No one likely to drive us off. We took off our shoes and waded in. Red-winged blackbirds – Pop’s favorite birds – were calling all around us and bobbing on the tallest stems. The young stalks pulled out easy. The bottoms of their stems were white and crunchy to taste. Better than celery.

No marshes today, though. No nut trees ready to harvest yet, it being months too early. But the brush bodes well for the presence of rabbits.

“See that, Pop?” I say. “Rabbit run.”

“All right, Cal,” he replies. “Good eyes, son. After we make camp, we’ll set up some snares.”

Sometimes, in addition to finding myself in the past in someone else’s body, I can also sort of look ahead to what’s coming. Where we camp for the night will be high enough on a hill that no rain will flood us out. A nice dry oak grove.

I can hear Pop talking to the rabbits as he puts out the snares.

“Hey, you, we need you.

“Come on, rabbits, we need you.

“Hey, you, we thank you.

“Come on, rabbits, give us food.”

from Two Roads by Joseph Bruchac © 2018 Joseph Bruchac (Penguin Young Readers Group)


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