The days were getting shorter by early September and there was a chill in the air at night and frost in the mornings. The first major snowstorm could come any time and they could be snowed in for weeks. He talked with Sarah and she thought spending another month on winter preparation was a good idea. She needed more winter training and he thought the others did too.
The morning of circle Zee, Nikki, Kevin and Ox all proclaimed their newbies ready to solo. They were all interviewed and questioned by the elders and approved for soloing. Each of them had winter gear they had to show the elders. It was very clear the elders were concerned about the training newbies were getting now that a sudden storm could snow a person in for weeks at a time. Tobal made a point of congratulating the two girls and Kevin. He didn't care about Ox and avoided him as much as possible.
Zee was a little cool toward him but returned his congratulatory hug and started talking a little.
"I was mad at you for awhile", she said. "I didn't really think you meant it about training all winter. I thought you were just rejecting me and no woman likes that." She put her hands on her hips and wiggled them a little with a grin. " Then I remembered Rafe and how last year he trained at least two newbies and I wasn't so sure anymore."
"Zee", I really am training newbies this winter. If I wasn't, you would be a good partner. We've always gotten along pretty good. Have you found anyone to partner up with yet?"
She sighed, "You are serious aren't you. I have a few people in mind but I haven't really made a decision yet. I want to take this month off and work on my winter base camp first."
He noticed she hadn't specifically mentioned Kevin and decided to ask him, but first he wanted to congratulate Nikki on training her first newbie and wandered off to find her after wishing Zee well on her base camp project.
Nikki was getting her robe from Angel as he got his. They went to the teepee where they had left their packs and were changing into the robes
"How did you like training you first newbie?" He asked casually.
"It was great! I'm training another this month." she looked at him. "I really want to train another one before winter sets in. Do you think I can?"
"I don't know", he told her. "I've already decided I need to go back and help Melanie and Sarah get better prepared for winter. Their newbies could use a little extra training too."
She thought about that a bit. "Zee did a really good job of getting me prepared for winter weather and my newbie's well prepared too. I don't think we will have any trouble. I know it's a sore spot, but perhaps two months of training is needed. Have you ever thought about it?"
He bit back an angry retort and instead simply said. "I do think training newbies during the winter should take two months. There is too much to learn about winter gear like snowshoes and working with furs for winter clothing.