Lucy: A Biography–Part XVIII

Finally after ten years, I am close to publishing the heart-rending and fast-paced biography of Lucy. Written in the spirit of Jean Auel, this is the paleo-historic saga of our earliest ancestors as lived through the eyes of a female Homo habilis.

Since Donald Johanson uncovered the tiny three-and-a-half foot clawless, flat-toothed Australopithecine, we have asked, Who is she? And how could she survive in a world of mammoth predators and unrelenting natural disasters she had no understanding about? This book answers those questions as well as more fundamental ones like, Where did God come from? Why did man create his first tool? How did culture start?

Here’s a summary:

Lucy: A Biography follows three species of early man (Australopithecus, Homo habilis and Homo erectus), as they fight for the limited resources of Pleistocene Africa. Lucy, of the species habilis, blames herself for the death of her family and agrees to mate with a stranger (Raza). As they journey to Raza’s homebase, they are tracked by two deadly predators: Xha, of the smarter and more powerful species Homo erectus, and the violent and unforgiving Nature, a sentient being who meddles with fate and Lucy’s future as though it were a chemistry experiment. The story is carefully researched to shared the geography, climate, and biosphere that would have been Lucy’s world 1.8 million years ago, when man was not King and nature ruled with a violence and dispassion we call ‘disaster’ today.

Every week, I’ll post part of this story.

A note: While I took Lucy’s name from the infamous Australopithecine skeleton discovered by Donald Johanson, Lucy is a Homo habilis. Her adopted child Boa is an Australopithecine.

Here’s Part 18:

Chapter 7–Part 2

Homo habilis as Scavenger

“In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.”

—Charles Darwin, discussing his ‘dangerous idea’.

Sabertooth stretched her huge jaws in a feline yawn wide enough to swallow the head of most prey. Weighing as much as the largest of the Great-chimps and standing as tall, this Alpha mammal won every fight she picked. Blood stained her tawny fur and darker ripples accented the undulation of her muscles. The perky ears lay flat as she concentrated on her meal. Her yellow eyes closed as she lingered over each bite, certain that Snarling-dog and Eagle and the hominids would wait until she finished. She felt no fear, for Nature endowed her with one of the finest defensive designs. Her sharp claws immobilized prey while her spiked canines pierced the brain-stem and turned a warm breathing animal into dinner.

No other animal possessed these weapons. The skinny, big-headed, hairless creatures, poorly hidden in the grass downwind, grew thin weak claws, and their V-formed jaw with the shovel-shaped incisors and flat molars frightened no predator. Certainly not Cat.

No, Sabertooth found nothing to fear from the two-legged mammals that had appeared in her habitat. Like Eagle and Rodent, they were just more scavengers who ate what she left. Cat had seen them eat roots, grasses, fruit, nuts, insects, when she left them no meat. Cat had tried grass when Mother disappeared. The memory still lingered. ‘Distasteful’ seemed no criteria for the biped’s food selection.

Sabertooth paused, her stubby tail motionless on the prickled grass. She raised her head to sort through the olfactory scents. The herbal aroma of red oats overwhelmed her senses, but she’d learned as a cub to go beyond the first scent. She found the odor of Eagle and Snarling-dog, and the stink of the hominid pair waiting for her to finish, and another male behind them. She sniffed again—a whiff of old scat, days old, maybe from this same oryx. Somewhere, faintly, she inhaled moist green plants and humus-rich soil, and beyond all of these, the omnipresent tang of volcano. Her whiskers twitched, seeking a predator attached to any of the scents.

Nothing. Satisfied, she returned to her meal.

Nature shifted her position, just enough to catch a different angle on the hunt.

“What brought Man-who-preys here?”

Nature blustered, but only succeeded in awakening a shrew. Shrew sniffed and caught the tantalizing whiff of scavenge.

“It is not time.”

Nature gusted Sabertooth’s scent toward a Hipparion, lazily grazing on dry shoots and trying to reach the succulent new growth buried beneath. The smell of blood and fear and death set off alarms throughout her skittish nervous system. She whinnied in panic.

Downwind of Lucy and Raza, too far to partake of Cat’s leftovers, Xha of the band Man-who-preys flinched at the sound. He was solidly built, with a lean muscular body. His skin was already like pig’s hide from too much time under Sun’s searing rays, but few who looked into his close-set black eyes noticed. He exuded a dangerous quality, the sensation that the slightest mistake would unleash a maelstrom of retribution.

“Where did Hipparion come from?”

Xha posed the question to himself for he traveled alone, returning to his home base. His senses catalogued the smells—Sabertooth, the dead oryx, Snarling-dog. Nothing out of the ordinary. His wrist cords bulged as he clasped an obsidian cutter in one hand and his long-handled spear in the other. The bifacial tool was knapped to the sharpest of edges. What the spear brought down, the cutter could finish by the time the prey took its last breath. With them, he evened Nature’s odds. No Sabertooth canines, no Eagle claws, killed with more accuracy than these. This he knew, and with both, he felt safe.

Xha’s soundless steps padded through the grass, hugging the perimeter of the acacia thicket. As he combed the horizon for the paleo-horse Hipparion, an odd collection of colors caught his attention, out-of-place in their surroundings.

The bipeds. He scoffed. They were scrawny creatures with too many bones and not enough meat. He paused to watch them, hunkered into the bushes to await Cat’s left-overs. Something about the female looked familiar. Her flowing hair, straight and too-shiny, though she’d rubbed mud in it to tamp down the glow. Where had he seen that?

Xha mentally shook. It didn’t matter. Females were animals and Xha of the band Man-who-preys was hungry. Despite their unsavory flavor, they provided easy food. He zeroed in on the broad spread of the large one’s back, aiming his spear at the soft indent beside the backbone and under the shoulder. His powerful arm drew back and his stance widened. All else disappeared from his sightline as he bored into his prey.

Another nicker. The frightened Hipparion cried for her herd as she pawed the ground. Xha’s head canted back, even as his spear maintained its target. The horse would be a tastier meal. Aware of his unwanted attention, Hipparion took off across the grasses.

“They will be here when next I hunt.”

One last look and Xha sprinted after Hipparion, leaving the unsuspecting hominids hoping the horse’s whinny hastened Sabertooth’s departure.

Part XIX next week…

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth grade, creator of two technology training books for middle school and three ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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Discover the sizzle in science. It's not that stuff that's always for the smart kids. It's the need to know. The passion for understanding. The absolute belief that for every problem, there is a solution. The creative mind seeking truth in a world of mystery. The quest for the Holy Grail.

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Books I’m Reading

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The Land's Wild Music: Encounters with Barry Lopez, Peter Matthiessen, Terry Tempest William, and James Galvin
My Life with the Chimpanzees
Naked Earth: The New Geophysics
Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are
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Sand Rivers
The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body
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