After a long drive into twilight we finally find the X, the spot, where treasure waits beneath the snow. We circle our snowmobiles, flood the spot with light, and then the men attack with picks and pry bars, chipping away ice and stone, antler, hide, and bone. Four caribou are buried here; Ikey shot them during the summer and, unable to carry the meat away, cached the carcasses for later, for now. It’s a common thing, burying meat. Men do it, wolves too. Some say men learned the trick from wolves back near the beginning, and many of the hunters I meet have a cache of fish or caribou waiting, fermenting, out on the land. The meat in Ikey’s cache, buried for months and somehow spared by wandering bears and wolves, is ice-hard and heavy. Stones cling to the still-red flesh and the rot-scent is powerful, even in frigid wind. We dig, pry, pull. Chop. Curse. Cold sinks into our fingers and the scent melts into our clothing. Slowly we drag up the bodies and heave them onto sleds. Back in camp the meat will be shared among the elders who love its strong raw flavor. Most of the younger men don’t, and there’s nothing back in city life, in the Whole Foods or bodegas, that could prepare me for a taste of months-old muscle. But for the old-timers, men who grew up without much variety, this is comfort food. The meat, like the method, telling of another age.
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