Mountain Man

Tun and his team, garbed in their finest dressage, paraded the length of the village of Tunkan with their ornate racing sled. Half way through making their grand entrance, children on both sides began to run out and chase after them, some with their curious dogs in tow.

“It’s Tun! It’s Tun!” they shouted between excited screeches, they called out to the big man “Tun! Tun!”. The running, giggling mob swarmed around the sled, more than a dozen on each side. As they neared the driver, he’d reach out with his great and powerful paw, grab a kid by the back of the coat and lift them as high as his head before dropping them, quickly but gently, into the sled. A couple of kids ran up to the sides and jumped on, standing on the side rails or hopping in the sled, beginning to fill with heaped children. They rolled and climbed over one another, a tangled ball of squealing arms and legs.

At the end of the main street of the settlement, Tun pulled the team off to the right, and called for them to stop. The remaining children, those that hadn’t reached the sled, now caught up and the whole herd formed a great, giggling, shouting, jumping circle around the sled, team and driver.

“Mind your manners, now.” Tun called out to the team, though undoubtedly the children thought he was addressing them. Kids ran up to the dogs, some reaching up to pet their heads and backs, some throwing arms around necks for great hugs. Anchu had never seen children before in his life. He could understand they were people, knew they were offspring, but their size was disconcerting. He was a little startled and scared when they charged at the team, and he let out a little growl of discomfort. Tun was beside him in an instant. He placed his great hand on Anchu’s shoulders, looked him in the eye, and gently admonished him.

“Hey! No growling at children!.” His stern command immediately followed by words in a soft inviting tone, “Look! They’re nice! We love kids!”

Anchu could not actually understand the words he spoke, but could infer Tun’s intent. He took cues from the other dogs, who appeared to welcome the attention and touch of the little ones. Sasha, too, enjoyed the petting and hugs, having met and loved children in the village of Kantuc, where she spent many playful, idle hours.

Now the youngest children in the village, some just barely able to walk, caught up with their running siblings. Some stood at Tun’s feet, looked up at his face, and held up their hands, their arms outstretched in the universal symbol of pick me up! He pulled them up, one by one, stacking them like cordwood. They grabbed onto anything they could; the fringes of the jacket, Tun’s ears, his hair.

When he had five toddlers stacked in his arms, he enclosed them in his embrace and began to dance, softly and slowly, turning circles, waltzing into the street. The gaggle of kids followed, a great, undulating, hopping, giggling swarm, moving through the village as one. After a minute of waltzing, Tun returned to the sled. He placed the toddlers on it, and picked up the sled bag. He held it high above his head, turned a full three hundred sixty degrees to show everyone in the gaggle. Toddlers stood agape, staring at the giant man, and those children old enough to remember and recognize the gesture literally screamed with excitement and anticipation.

Tun bent low, trying to squeeze down to child size, an impossibility given his height. “Alright! Gather round!” The kids responded all at once, and mobbed the big man in a hail of hands and laughter. “Little ones first.” Tun commanded flatly, as if he were father to every one of them. The children quickly obeyed, older ones moved back, helped the younger ones move closer to the sled. “Here we go!” the words accompanied a flourish of the hand as the contents of the bag were emptied onto the floor of the sled.

A single, rising “Oo!” could be heard, as the crowd pressed a little closer, yet mindful of the smallest up front. A menagerie of animals spilled from the bag. Carved of wood, each one was just the right size for a child’s hand. There were reindeer and wolves, some sitting, some standing, some lying down. There were foxes and wolverines. There were dogs and more dogs, some with tiny string collars, some with whole mushing harnesses. There were many polar bears, among the easiest to carve, and there were walruses and seals, animals these children had probably never seen.

The littlest ones grabbed one for each hand, as is their nature. An older child chided them, “One each.” he said warmly.

“That’s alright,” Tun addressed the boy, “little ones can’t count.” His wit and a wink and a smile caused the child’s face to light up. After the grabby little ones, the rest of the children approached in well-mannered and orderly fashion, carefully selected an animal, then turned to the others as they compared their finds. Most of the children crouched in small groups, placing their toy animals on the ground, adding the sound effects of dog or wolf, wolverine or driver.

Some of the children clenched their prizes in tiny fists but stood, clinging to the Gifting Giant. One of the toddlers would not be silenced until he was lifted again to the perch on Tun’s chest. Children old enough to do so would throw arms around Tun’s neck, hanging down his back as he moved about. Others would stand on his feet, clamping their arms around his tree-trunk legs, riding about like loons on their parents’ backs. As the pile of children stooped to play or made their way back to their parents to show off their prizes, adults formed the next wave.

Not unlike the children, they rushed to the gentle giant, eyes wide, smiles gleaming. They reached out to shake his hand only to be pulled close and hugged, patted on the back. Those too impatient to wait for a frontal greeting gathered around the sides and the back of the driver and his sled. Some reached up and patted his shoulders, others simply stood and stared with big, simple grins and child-like expressions of wonder on their faces.

Sasha was mesmerized by the onslaught of friends and well-wishers. She’d never seen so many people in one place in her whole life, and it seemed every person in the village had come forth to greet and honor Tun, formed circles around him, reached out to touch him. She felt a little left out with Tun’s attention commanded by others. She let out a little whimper, looking for her place in the order.

“They all want to be near him.” Stone said in response to Sasha’s cry. “Just like us.”. He sat contentedly watching the roiling activity around his driver, as if he took nourishment, energy, vitality from the exchanges.

Anchu interjected with his displeasure, “But he’s ours. He’s our Tun!”

“Silly boy”, Sasha comforted her brother. “Don’t you know the more you give love the more you get? If you need more, just make it!”

Stone was still staring, dreamy-eyed and in awe, like the children, of this mountain of love, kindness, goodwill and caring.

“Don’t fret, Brother Anchu” he concluded, never taking his eyes from the man. “Tun has enough love for everyone and everything in the world.”

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