Woods Runner - By Gary Paulsen Page 0,1

years ago, when Samuel was ten, he had seen one of these men, a man who moved like smoke, his rifle a part of his arm, a tomahawk through his belt next to a slab-bladed knife, eyes that saw all things, ears that heard all things. One family in the settlement had a room on their cabin that was a kind of store. The man had come to the store to buy small bits of cloth and powder and English flints for his rifle at the same time Samuel was waiting for his mother to buy thread.

The man smelled of deep forest, of smoke and blood and grease and something green—Samuel knew he smelled that way, too. The stranger could not be still. As he stood waiting, he moved. Though he was courteous and nodded to people, as soon as he had the supplies for his rifle and some salt, he left. He was there one moment and gone the next, into the trees, gliding on soft moccasins to become part of the forest, as much as any tree or leaf or animal. He went west.

Away from man, away from the buildings and the settled land.

Now Samuel heard a new sound. He moved his eyes slowly to the left without turning his head and was rewarded by seeing a tick-infested rabbit sitting by a tree trying to clear the insects out of his ears. Samuel smiled. Even in dead of winter the rabbits were always trying to rid themselves of the pests.

The sight made him think of his mother, who was intensely curious and had once asked him to take her into the forest. They had not gone far, not over five hundred yards from the edge of the clearing, and had stopped under a towering oak where sunlight could not get through. There was a subdued green light over everything. Even their faces looked a gentle green.

“I have to go back,” she said, her eyes wide, wrapping a shawl tightly around her shoulders, though it was summer-warm. “This is too … too … thick. Even the air is green. So thick it feels like it could be cut. I have to go back now.”

Although Samuel’s parents lived in the wilderness, they were not a part of it. They had been raised in towns and had been educated in schools where they’d been taught to read and write and play musical instruments. They moved west when Samuel was a baby, so that they could devote themselves to a quiet life of hard physical work and contemplation. They loved the woods, but they did not understand them. Not like Samuel.

They had told their son that they didn’t belong in towns, either. They weren’t comfortable in the world of roads, houses and villages. East of the imaginary line in the cabin was what his father and mother called civilization.

They told Samuel about the chaos of towns that they’d escaped. There were noises—hammers clanging at blacksmith forges, chickens clucking, dogs barking, cows lowing, horses whinnying and whickering, people who always seemed to need to be talking to one another.

There wasn’t noise in the forest.

There were smells: wood smoke filled the air in every season because it wasn’t just for heat, but to cook as well; the smell of oak for long fires, pine for short and fast and hot fires. The smell of bread, and sometimes, if they were lucky and had honey or rock sugar to pulverize in a sack with a hammer, sweet pie. The odor of stew cooking in the cast-iron pot over an outside fire or in an iron kettle hung in the fireplace, the scent flying up through the chimney and out over the ground as the wind moved the smoke around. There was the tang of manure, stacked in back of small shedlike barns to age before it was put on gardens; horse and cow and chicken manure from their farm and other farms. So many smells swirled by the same wind throughout the small valley.

Their valley was like a huge bowl, nestled in the hills in far western Pennsylvania. Here lived, and had always lived, Samuel Lehi Smith, age thirteen, with his father, Olin, and his mother, Abigail, parents whom Samuel did not always understand but whom he loved.

They read to him about the world beyond from their prized books. All the long winter nights with tallow candles burning while they sat by the fireplace, they read aloud to each other. At first he’d listened as