Og, Son of Og
Dodd, Mead & Co. 1965
Chapter 6 Og's "Dogs" pp 37-44
He had reached far back in his memory for this idea. He remembered that his father Og, son of Fire, had built a raft when he had been a very young boy, before he had been stolen from the cave village by the great apes and kept captive for so many years.
Haunting recollections of his father and how he had built the raft of logs and twisted willow bark and vine had come to Og, dimly at first but stronger as he thought of them with almost painful effort.
Suddenly the cave boy became fired with ambition. He would build a raft so that he could cross this river.
It did not take him long to drag together as many logs as he had fingers of both hands. Standing on these or wading around them, he bound the logs firmly together with vines and tough bark. It took him all of one day and the best part of another before he finished the craft. But when he made the last piece of vine secure, he was elated. He had made a raft not quite as big but just as sturdy as the one his father and the cave people had made. Young Og became eager to try it.
Then the cave boy rested from his effort. Standing with the wind blowing back his long hair, he gazed off across the muddy water. The fact that he was master of his own craft and one he had built himself gave him a sense of power such as he had experienced only once before. That had been when he had made his first fire.
The river was swollen and dirty. The surface was cluttered with flotsam of all kinds. Young Og let his eyes rove over it as he looked toward the opposite shore. His attention was attracted by something moving on the trunk of a huge, floating tree. He looked closer, and his face wrinkled into a satisfied grin. The flood must have driven two animals to take refuge there. They could be easily captured, and they meant food to the cave boy. Picking up his long pole, he worked the raft across the current to intercept the objects on the floating tree.
At first the cave boy could see only that there were two animals crouched on the big tree trunk. But as he drew closer, he saw with satisfaction that they were half-grown wolves. Young Og could not know that the flood had washed out the den in which they and three other members of their litter had lived. These two had managed to struggle to the temporary safety of a floating log. The others had been drowned.
Young Og did not care where the young wolves came from or how they got on the log. To him they represented just one thing, food. Young wolves weren't as tasty as a big rabbit, but they were something to eat. As the raft and the slowly floating log began to draw closer, Og picked up his weapon and waited until they were close enough so he could spear first one, then the other on the flint-tipped shaft. Later he would eat them, either raw or scorched by fire when he got on shore and could kindle one.
But as raft and log approached each other, the watching cave boy noticed with interest that the young wolves did not glare at him and show their teeth in savage snarls as adult wolves would do. Instead, they looked at him eagerly and uttered soft, whining sounds. They were pleading to be rescued from the log they were on. Their tails wagged in friendly fashion, too, suggesting that they trusted the cave boy. Because of some strange, incomprehensible impulse, Og lowered his weapon and, making a soft, clucking sound to them, held out his hand.
Instantly, the young wolves' ears cocked up, and they began to caper excitedly. The moment the raft was within leaping distance, they bounded aboard Og's craft and began to grovel at his feet, licking his hairy legs as they made friendly sounds.
Og watched them curiously, his brow puckered in thought. Slowly he remembered that his father had once told him that he too had once rescued two wolf cubs from death and that the animals had become his friends. They had lived with him, hunted with him, and fought for him. They had even attacked a hairy mammoth in his defense, and both had lost their lives trying to protect him. His father had called these creatures "dogs," which to a cave man meant that they were creatures who repaid friendship with loyalty.
Strangely enough, Og too felt happy that they were on the raft with him. He liked their company, and that was why he did not strangle them and tear them to pieces for food as he had intended when he had first seen them. In his slow way he reasoned he could always do that if he got very hungry.
Picking up the long pole, he began to work the raft toward the distant shore of the swollen river. But as he poled, his mind was working. Maybe he had better kill the young wolves before he reached the far bank, he reflected, because once they could leap from the raft to dry land, they would probably dash off into the forest and get away. Then his meal would be gone.
For a while Og watched them with puckered brow as he worked, guiding the raft with the long pole. Soon the heavy current of mid-river gripped the raft and caused it to twist and turn crazily. Presently the cave boy found he had his hands full trying to guide the heavy craft toward shore. He struggled with all his strong body to battle the sullen flood while the young wolves sat watching him, pink tongues lolling, eyes warm with interest.
While he watched them, one after another the vultures spiraled downward. Two came to rest on a boulder. But the third dropped down behind the big rock. Presently the others followed. Then, as the raft drifted slowly downstream, Og and the young wolves could see that the boulder pinned down the black and white body of a tapir much larger than a three-toed horse. It was probably one of a band of these creatures that had passed that way and had been killed by the rock when it had come crashing down from the cliffs above. Og grew excited. "Hi-yah!" he cried. "Here is big meat." With all his strength he began to pole his craft shoreward, forgetting the young wolves that jumped about the raft and yapped eagerly.
Before Og could get the raft close enough to have it ground itself and stay still, it drifted past the point where the tapir's body was pinned down by the boulder. But even as it scraped on the stony bottom, the young wolves leaped excitedly into the shallow water and scrambled up the rocky beach. Then they bolted as fast as they could run toward the fresh meat.
Young Og was not far behind them. As soon as the raft was firmly grounded, he grabbed his spear and leaped into the shallow water, too. He soon was running up the stony beach toward the feast that awaited him.
For a time the cave boy and the young wolves ate voraciously. Soon, his appetite blunted, though not completely satisfied, Og sat back on his haunches and licked his dripping fingers. The meat had been good, but he could not help thinking that it would have been so much better if he had a fire to cook it over. He thought of making one. His eyes began to search the shore for handy driftwood.
He found himself looking in the direction of the young wolves. For a moment he watched them tearing at the tough rump of the tapir. With a grin he hacked off a piece of tender meat and tossed it to the nearer of the two. Pouncing on it, the wolf gobbled it down gluttonously. Og cut off another piece to toss to the other wolf. But his head jerked up quickly as a sinister, blood-chilling sound came down the wind. It was the horrible, laughing cry of a giant hyena.
The cave boy shot a quick glance at the two young wolves. They stopped eating. With ears cocked, they nosed upwind, as growls rumbled in their threats and their backs bristled. That hideous cry meant hunting hyenas were on the prowl and close at hand, too. Og guessed that they scented the blood of the tapir also and were coming down the river shore expecting a feast.
Of all the animals the cave people feared, these were the most dreaded. They were savage, slinking creatures and arrant cowards. They rarely attacked in the open like a cave tiger, but they would slip into a cave at night to attack the sleeping people. But sometimes, if they were really hungry, they were known to hunt in the daytime. Og gripped his spear and stood up while the young wolves came around the carcass of the tapir and, growling defiantly, stood beside the cave boy. They plainly showed they meant to fight by Og's side. That warmed his heart and gave him courage.
Suddenly they saw the hyenas, a pair of ugly, hunchbacked creatures, slinking among the boulders. Their appearance chilled Og's blood. For a moment he wanted to retreat, to break and run back to the river and the raft, his only refuge. But the young wolves displayed more courage then Og felt, for when they saw the repulsive animals, their backs bristled and their eyes glared as they made short, charging rushes toward the marauders. They bared their teeth and howled their anger, indicating plainly they meant to fight for the meat they had found.
Og was loath to show any lack of courage in the face of their bravery and, moving forward with the young wolves, he began to shout and brandish his spear. However, these hyenas were not as cowardly as most of their kind, and they were very hungry. Og's threatening attitude, his shouts, and the charges of the young wolves did not frighten them. They slowed up a little and became more cautious. But they came on. The cave boy knew that he and the young wolves might be in for a savage fight to the finish.
The howls of pain and the retreat of his mate caused the male hyena to stop in his tracks, uncertain for a moment whether to follow her. As he hesitated, the young wolves saw an opportunity and took advantage of it. Like two hairy thunderbolts, they rushed in and leaped for the hyena's throat.
Howling with pain, the hyena tried to shake them off. But so savage was the young wolves' attack that the bigger beast lost his footing and went down struggling among the rocks. As he tried to fight his way back to his feet again and get free of the savage young animals swarming over him, Og saw his opportunity and finished the battle with a blow of his stone axe.
The hyena's body collapsed and sprawled twitching among the rocks. For a few moments the young wolves continued to swarm over it, snapping and snarling savagely, but Og drove them back with shouts and hard cuffs. When they finally sat back and looked at him curiously, the cave boy grinned happily.
"Hi-yah! This is good," he gloated. "I have found two dogs, and together we have killed a great hyena. I have something to show my father and tell the cave people when I get back to my village. I have two new friends."