Chapter 12 Summary
Two whales had washed up on the sands many years before, and Karana finds some of the rib bones to use in making her fence. She has to dig them out and carry them to the headland. They are long and curved, and after she places them in the holes she digs, they stand taller than she does. The girl puts the ribs close together with the curve facing out, making them impossible to climb, and weaves them together with many strands of bull kelp which will shrink tight when it dries.
The fence takes her a long time to build; it would have taken her longer if the rock were not one end and part of one side of the fence. As an entrance and exit, she digs a hole under the fence just big enough for her to slide through and lines it with smooth rocks. Over the outside entrance she places a woven mat to keep out the rain; on the inside she covers the hole with a large, flat rock. Inside the fence, she is able to walk eight paces from one side to the other, which is plenty of room for her to store the things she gathers and wants to protect.
She built the fence first because it is now too cold to sleep on the rock and she needs protection from the dogs. The house takes longer to build because it rains again and because wood is scarce on the island. The few trees on the island are in the ravines and are small and crooked. It takes her many trips before she has enough wood to complete her house. After setting the four corner poles and creating a roof from eight more poles, she binds it all together with seal sinew and covers it with the broad-leaved female kelp.
It takes her half of the winter to finish building, but she is secure as she works and sleeps. The foxes come when she is cooking and wait outside the fence; the dogs also come, growling and gnawing at the whale ribs in their frustration. Karana kills two more of the dogs but not the leader. During the building time, she eats shellfish and perch which she cooks on a flat rock. Once her house is built, she begins making her cooking vessels and utensils.
She finds two stones with hollows in the middle that she sands into deeper depressions for cooking bowls; with these she can save the juices of the fish rather than wasting them. She weaves a tight basket for cooking roots and seeds. After it dries, she coats the inside with softened pitch from the shore and makes it watertight. She will drop small heated stones into the basket with water and seeds to make a gruel. The girl also makes a fire pit in which she can cover the fire with ashes and simply blow the embers back to life the next morning. This will save her much work. To protect her stored food from the many gray mice on the island, Karana creates shelves from several cracks on the rock wall where she can store her supplies and the mice cannot reach them.
As winter ends and the hills are starting to turn green, Karana’s house is comfortable. She is sheltered from both animals and...
(The entire section is 850 words.)