Follow the Drinking Gourd

Title: Follow the Drinking Gourd
Author: Artemis (ArtemisOK@
Series: TOS
Codes: S/Mc
Rating: [G]
Parts: 1/1
Summary:  Cadet Spock conquers the Texas wilderness, with a little help from his friends.
Disclaimer: CBS-Paramount owns Star Trek. No infringement intended, no money being made.
Feedback: Will write for feedback
Word count: 5105
Beta:  Thanks to Janet for the beta. All mistakes are mine own. 
Author's Note: Seventeenth Wave Challenge: Write an S/Mc beginning with the line "Why did I listen to that man?" However, as it grew it turned out to be a peach.
Archiving: My Place and The Spock/McCoyote’s Den




"Why did I listen to that man?" Cadet Spock asked himself.  He was lost and had asked a local denizen for directions to the Star Fleet Academy rally point.  The man, Joe, gave clear concise directions using local landmarks that did not mean a thing to the young Vulcan. He had never been to Central Texas before.


This had begun as an exercise in land navigation. Spock’s Survival Skills class had been given a map, a basic tricorder and minimum water and food rations with instructions to meet the designated coordinates at 1900 hrs.


At 1617, the tricorder stopped working.  Spock was looking at it as it went dead.  He had tried everything up to and including taking the ‘corder apart to no avail.  And now it was getting dark and cold.  That was one thing Central Texas did have in common with Vulcan, when the sun dropped behind the horizon the temperature dropped as well.


 It was imperative that he get to the rally point as soon as possible. 


The stars were beginning to come out. Alone in the wilderness, Spock smiled.  He remembered such a night, two weeks ago, when he and Leonard had sat down by the pond at the McCoy farm and watched the stars come out.  Leonard asked Spock where his home was. Spock said that Vulcan orbited a star that humans called Eridani A. So Len helped him to trace out the constellation, Eridanus, the river, and find his native sun. It was only 16.5 light years away. He shivered then suddenly feeling very small and very far from home.  Len held him tight.  McCoy pushed aside his bangs and kissed his forehead.


They talked late into the night, giving Vulcan and human names to the stars.  Spock was surprised that a medical student should know so much about astronomy. Leonard explained that he loved to sail. To really sail, you had to do it the way the old time sailors did: by the stars.  On a clear night, the sky was as good as any map.


Spock nodded.  That was what his Uncle Spevk had told him when he had begun to prepare for his kahs-wan. Thee must learn to navigate by the stars, little one.  They will never steer you wrong.  


McCoy pointed out to the young Vulcan the most important constellations finding your way on Earth -- Ursa Major and Ursa Minor .  He helped Spock to see that the body and the tail of the Big Bear made up the Big Dipper. (Yes, they have dippers on Vulcan. Sharing water there is very important.) The two stars in the front of the Dipper always pointed to the last star in the handle of the Little Dipper.  This was the North Star. It seemed to hang over the Earth’s north pole and never set.  If you followed the drinking gourd, you could find you’re way home. 


Back in the present, the alien plebe scanned the sky for the Big Bear.  Yes, there she was and just as Len had said the cup of the dipper pointed to the North Star.  The cadet’s rallying point was actually north-northeast of Spock’s present location, but the map that they had been issued showed that there was a road directly to the north of his location. The road ran east and would lead him to the camp. Thanking his ancestors that his flashlight still worked he started off.


He had been walking for one hour and twenty-seven  minutes when he heard the sound of stealthy footsteps ahead of him. Spock stopped. Perhaps it was a cougar? These large Terran felines could be almost as dangerous as a selaht.  He scanned the surrounding area for a weapon to fend off the creature should it attack, all the while reassuring himself that it was more afraid of him than he was of it.  He located a large fairly straight branch almost as tall as himself and a hand’s span in diameter and picked it up.


The steps faltered and there was a cry of dismay and disgust.  Spock smiled to himself. Cougars do not curse, most especially not in fluent Bantu. The sound had to come from Kendra M’Boto his classmate and friend. He hurried to catch up and offer assistance.


Kendra was dusting herself off when Spock found her.  She was about 1.65 meters tall, with chocolate brown skin and slanted, olive-green eyes. She wore her hair cut close to her scalp. While it may have been practical, it also brought out her delicate bone structure.


“May I be of assistance?” Spock asked.


Kendra jumped and screamed. “Spock! You startled me. We both seem to be off course. Did your tricorder quit too,?


“Affirmative.” He added “I intend to follow the Drinking Gourd.” He pointed up and to the north with his staff.


“I see.  My grandfather back on Kahlari told me about the underground railroad of North America and how the escaping slaves would use that celestial sign post to find their way to freedom and safety.”


“Yes, Leonard told me, too.”


“The famous Leonard McCoy. I have to meet him someday.” She smiled, bright white teeth flashing in the gathering dark. “So, do you have a plan?”


Sp told her his plan.  She agreed, but suggested that they make camp about 1930 if it didn’t look like they were going to reach their goal soon.


They walked on for another five minutes when Kendra said she needed to use the head.


She pointed with her flashlight. “I’ll be right over there.”


“That is not advisable.” Spock stopped her.


“Why not?”


“That is poison oak.”


“And you know that because…. ?”


“Leave of three, leave it be. Leonard told me that.”


“How did you meet this font of Earthly wisdom?” She asked while searching for a dense clump of bushes.


“His maternal matriarch and my mother’s aunt belong to the same poetry society.  My great-aunt asked that Leonard meet me when I landed, so I would not be alone on an alien world.”  He explained.


“That was thoughtful of the old dears.” She found a friendly stand of live oaks. “Say that poetry society wouldn’t be the Red Hat Club?” 


“Yes, you have heard of it?”


“In a minute.”  When she was done, she explained. “Yep, it’s based on a poem by Jenny Joseph. We have branches back home.” She quoted. “When I am an old woman I shall wear a purple dress with a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.”




“Read it when we get back and you’ll understand.” She changed the subject: “So where do you suggest we camp?  I don’t think we’re going to back it back to base tonight.“ she said.


“There is a small hill approximately 2.3 kilometers ahead. Do you see it?”


“Maybe? The one with the trees or the bare one?”


“With trees, the map refers to it as Live Oak Hill.  It takes us slightly off course, however, they will provided shelter, firewood and privacy should the need arise, again.” He felt his face flush. He had said too much: Dumb, dumb, dumb! 


“Right, take the high ground.” She nodded and held out her arm akimbo to him. “To Oz?”


He knew this from his mother. “To Oz!” he cried and linked arms with her as they set out.


After a few steps they settled down to carefully picking their way through the scrub using their flashlights and his pilgrim‘s friend.  They decided on use only one light at a time to conserve the batteries.  At one point, Kendra noted that the moonlight was nearly bright enough to forgo the flashlight all together.


As they were steadily climbing, they saw two flashlight beams moving to the west of them. Spock signaled “2-2” with his light and got the reply “5-3”.  That was their class number and their call sign.


“More of our classmates” he said allowed.


“Or perhaps an instructor?”  Kendra wanted this night to end.


They made their careful way toward the bobbing lights.  In the end it was two of their classmates, Dave Maxwell, a tall, board shouldered human male with wiry blond hair and green eyes and Sandy Tompkins. She was a petite human female with short black hair and light blue eyes.  Those who did not know her might think that she was stocky, but she was of average build for a heavy-worlder.


Dave greeted Spock and Kendra, “Hey, I didn’t know you two were together?”


Spock explained’ “We met up after the tricorders went dead.  Kendra and I both decided to head north…”


“We’re going northeast.” Dave said confidently.


“And how can you be sure of that?” Spock asked


“Because, the moon rises is the east and if I ‘shoot the moon’”  He aimed his right forefinger at the moon and turned his hand over to the left. “My thumb is pointing north. So northeast is between my finger and thumb.” He looked smug and waited for the other to praise him.


“That is one way to go about it.” Kendra said. “We are going to make camp when we reach the crest of the hill. Do you want to join us?”


“Yes!” said Sandy and “No” from Dave at the same time. “Come on, Sandy. You don’t want to be out here all night, do ya?”


“If that means resting, then yeah, I do.”  She nodded emphatically.


“Okay,” he shrugged. “When I get to the rally point, I’ll send a rescue team out for you. I’ll just tell them to look for the people sitting around a campfire singing Cum-ba-ya.”  He ‘shot the moon’ and strode off assertively, whistling as he walked.


Sandy whispered, “How do you know which way is north?”


“As Leonard told me, we can follow the Northern star. It is not magnetic north, but it will do for our purposes.”  As they walked Kendra and Spock told her about Ursa Major and the Drinking Gourd.


“Dave is ship-born. This is the longest he’s ever been on any planet’s surface.  He is so sure that the moon always rises due east.  He wouldn’t listen to me when I tried to talk to him about vernal shifts. Just because Callisto has seven moons doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m talking about.” She kicked at a rock.


They were steadily climbing the hill all the while monitoring Dave‘s progress.  The moon shone a silver light on the rolling plain.  They watched as a herd of animals approached their classmate. 


“What are those?” Sandy whispered.


“White tailed deer.” Spock said with some authority.


“How do you know?” She shot back. “Are they dangerous?”


“I’ve seen them on the McCoy farm in Georgia and they are not usually dangerous.”


As if on cue, the largest buck, with a twelve point rack, faced down Cadet Maxwell. The buck stamped and snorted.  Maxwell dropped his light and ran back towards his friends on the hill. The deer snorted again, as if to say, “That’s right! You run. This is my territory.”


When they finally reached the summit of the hill, Sandy stood watching as Dave stumbled back towards them.  Spock and Kendra set about to make a fire. 


Kendra asked Spock “Do you know how to start a fire, here, like this?  I’ve been camping, but we always had a fire starter.”


Spock replied, “I do know how to start a fire using what is at hand. Kendra, if you will clear away a fire pit, I shall begin to gather the materials I need.”  Soon he had everything laid out like a SFA drill.  Kendra put the larger pieces of wood in a teepee shape in the pit. Spock decided upon the bow and bit method. He used a bow made from a mesquite branch and the hem of his uniform. 


On this occasion, he did not hide his more than human abilities as he moved the bow back and forth causing the bit to whirl on its base, and soon the base was smoldering.  He quickly and carefully touched dried moss to it and blew, oh so gently.  It caught. There was a small flame.  Just like his uncle had told him, from moss to leaf, from leaf, to twig, from twig to branch. He placed a bundle of burning twigs in the branch teepee. Their camp fire sprang to life. Kendra nodded her satisfaction and smiled.


A short while later, they heard Sandy helping Dave up the hill.  He was cursing a blue streak. “Nature Sucks!” seemed to be his main theme. When they entered the circle of firelight Spock could not help but notice that Dave was making more body contact with his girlfriend than was necessitated by his injuries.  Inwardly the young Vulcan smiled, Cadet Maxwell was not as dumb as he seemed.


When Maxwell saw that he had a new audience he started in again. “I thought this planet was supposed to be park like.  ‘Safe as Earth’ my mother always says.  What would she say now if she saw those murderous  beasts with the smegging great horns chasing her favorite son?”  He eased himself down with a great deal of hissing and cursing.  “I’ve got contusions and abrasions in places I didn’t know existed.”


“Well, Dave, if it’s all that bad, why don’t you use your emergency recall and go back to The Academy?”  Kendra challenged.


Dave started. He opened his mouth then reconsidered and snapped it shut. To use the ER was to get an automatic zero on the exercise.  Every hours delay was supposed to be five points reduction on their grade. Arriving back at the rendezvous point at 0500 meant a “C”, but it was still better that an shameful zero. He decided to be the strong and silent type. 


Spock said; “Now that we are all back together, let us consider the best allocation of our rations.”  They stared at him. “Do we eat all our food now or do we save some for breakfast?”


“Save some for breakfast, “Kendra decided. The others agreed. 


As they ate they set up a watch schedule.  Spock had suggested 1.75 hours, but went along with the others when they said two hours was more manageable.  Spock agreed to take the first watch, then Sandy, then Kendra and lastly Dave.  Hide your extra rations thought Kendra. She tried to like Maxwell, but he was something of an opportunist. 


Dave pulled the wrapper off his energy bar and Sandy asked if she could have it.


“Why, so you can keep a little souvenir of me for when I famous?  He grinned and wiggled his eyebrows.


“No,” she elbowed him in the ribs. “I wan to make dew catchers.”




“Dew catchers. They’re in the survival manual.  I wanted to try and make a few under non-emergency conditions and as I can’t exactly go digging up the Academy grounds, now is the perfect opportunity.” she explained.  She set different types of dew catchers.  Some where just shallow holes lined with foil wrappers. One was a string attached to a branch leading down to the hole. Kendra helped her make an artificial spider web leading to a collection cup.


Dave watched in amusement, but didn’t interfere, why not let her try, there wasn’t any trid to watch. He asked Spock which one he thought had the best chance of working. Spock said the branch and string, although he would recommend using a nonporous filament. He began a long dissertation on the moisture farms of Vulcan.


‘Yip, yip, yowww!” a coyote called in the distance. Its lonely call echoed across the hills.  The cadets huddled closer to each other and the fire. 


“How about those Cubs?” Sandy ventured.


“I could not discern from its call whether or not that canine was female or if she had cubs.”  Spock answered.


“Oh, Spock,” Sandy explained, “I was just making conversation.  The Cubs are a baseball team.  The North American Cubs are one of the last professional  baseball team left on Earth, you know.”


“Yes, I see. My roommate, Chip, has asked me to attend a game Saturday.  I told him that I had a term paper to write, but he insists that I take in the local culture.” Spock shrugged.  “I am ‘taking in the local culture‘, in fact I’m on the Academy golf team, a human sport.  We have practice Saturday mornings and I really must research the effects of binary stars on graviton fields.”


“Maybe you can set aside next weekend?” Kendra started, “The West Indies and Southern Cal have a test match.” 


“That would be interesting.  Perhaps, I can persuade Chip and his current “flirt” to join us on afternoon Saturday.  I hope Leonard might be free for Sunday. I wonder if cricket is his cup of tea?”  Spock ‘innocently’ raised an eyebrow.


Dave asked, “Cricket? What’s that?  Do you watch little bugs race each other?”


“No, Dave. It’s not an insect race. It’s a team sport, sort of like baseball.”


“So it’s boring?”  He laid down with his hands behind his head.


“No” said Spock, “It is a challenging combination of athleticism and applied physics.” From a sitting position he mimed being at bat. His body turned towards an imaginary bowler, the bat angled downward.


Kendra laughed. “And where did you learn to play?”


“On Nova Britannia, when my father was attached to the Vulcan Embassy there.  Our embassy fielded a team - the Even Eleven. “ 


“Britannia, “said Sandy, “That makes sense. I remembered hearing somewhere that the British played cricket. But, Ken, if you don’t mind me asking, you don’t look British.”


“Neither does any player on the West Indies team.  Cricket remained popular in the former British colonies, even when England did not.” M’Boto explained.


“Oh.” Sandy’s blush was hidden by the glow of the fire. “How do you play cricket, anyway?


Spock started to explain; “At each end of the pitch is a set of wooden stumps, called a wicket. The bowler propels a hard, fist-sized leather ball from one wicket towards the other. The ball usually bounces before reaching the batsman from the opposing team, who defends the wicket from the ball with a wooden cricket bat. Another batsman (the "non-striker") stands in an inactive role near the bowler's wicket.


“The first batsman attempts to strike the ball with the bat, and run to the other end, exchanging places with his partner, scoring a run. The batting team scores as many runs as it can before the bowling team returns the ball back to either wicket. If the ball strikes a wicket before the batsman nearer to that wicket has reached safety, then the batsman is out. The batsman can also be out by failing to stop the bowled ball from hitting the wicket, or if a fielder catches the ball before it touches the ground. Once the batsmen are not attempting to score any more runs, the ball is "dead" and is bowled again.”


“And how long does this go on?” Sandy asked, sorry she brought up the subject.


Kendra picked up the thread; ‘It’s simple:  There are eleven players on each team. A player is in until he is out. The entire side is in until they are all out and then the other team is in.  A match usually begins in the morning runs through lunch right up until teatime.  Of course ….”


“God, “ Dave sighed. “It sounds like the Vulcans invented this game and taught it to the Brits.”


“Why thank you, Mr. Maxwell.” Spock replied, slightly cocking his head in acknowledgement.


After that they all settled down to sleep.  Spock turned his back to the fire and kept watch.  While he tried to remain vigilant his mind kept returning to thoughts of his Leonard. He remembered starry nights they had spent camping.  The day and night at the Outer Banks, the drift wood fire popping and hissing as they drifted off to sleep in each other’s arms.  Camping out because you want to feels far different from camping because you have to, although his many experiences in the former had taught him lesson that he could apply to the latter. 


He watched as moisture collected on Sandy’s dew catchers.  His fingers itched to make corrections. However, he had learn that such unsolicited help was not always welcome.  Moreover, he remember the harsh words of his uncle Spevk that to learn a lesson properly one must do it ones self.  Spock nodded.  Indeed, here Miss Tompkins could learn from her mistakes without putting anyone in danger.  Another voice noted that at least Miss Tompkins had tried, which is more that could be said for the Space Cowboy who was not at home on the range.


At the appointed time he woke Sandy and passed his staff as a badge of office.  He quietly pointed out three other camp fires that dotted the prairie.  Only one was closer to the rally point than they.  She nodded her understanding. Good, she thought, we aren’t the only ones stuck out here.  Maybe the professor will grade on a curve.


Tompkins’ shift was uneventful. She saw one lone coyote high upon a hill, silhouetted against the setting moon, its head thrown back howling. The primitive part of her wanted to creep closer to the fire.   The sophisticated part wished that she had a camera or that at least the tricorder worked.


She woke Dave with a kiss. He tried to pull her down to him. She hissed no and as the cobwebs cleared from his mind he remembered they weren’t alone.  Giving him the shaft, er staff, she settled down into the warm hollow he created in the soil and he stood watch over her.


When he stepped away from the firelight looking for that proverbial man and his horse, he noticed that the moon had set and he saw the Milky Way.  Really saw it for the first time, realizing why his ancestors had called the edge of their galaxy such a fanciful name. It was a vast white band nearly bisecting the dark sky.   It looked like spilled milk or better yet, a sash of diamond dust draped across a velvet waistcoat.  He longed to be back out there.  He fought off acrophobia, by reminding himself of the physical laws.  Soon enough, he promised himself, he would graduate and return to where things made sense.


Dave did not kiss Kendra awake.  He thought about with a wicked grin, but he wanted his goolies intact.  He had plans for them.  Instead he gently shook her shoulder and called her name.


Kendra took the staff that Dave proffered and began the last watch.  She poked the dying fire with it, bringing it back to life and adding more kindling.  It was silly, but she felt better with the stick in her hand.  She leaned against it.  One, she thought, this is my first alien world.  She looked up at the sky.  One down and 999,999 to go. 


She was checking on the dew catchers, thinking what a good science officer Sandy would make when she heard the hum of a transported beam.  She whirled bringing her staff automatically to the en garde position.  The other leapt up instantly awake.


It was their instructor and one of the upper classmen. 


“As you were,” Professor Powell said. They relaxed, although none of them really laid back down.  ’As you were’ is just a figure of speech, some kids learn that the hard way the first week at the Academy.


He walked around inspecting their campsite. He examined the fire pit. He nodded his approval and pointed to this and that as his assistant made notes.  Next they inspected the dew catchers. Here he smiled. “Initiative”  they heard him murmur to his aide.  His short turn around the camp over, he faced the cadets.


“Over all you did very well.  You had a guard. I didn’t catch you all asleep. You had a fire. It was neither burnt out nor out of control.  The place doesn’t look like pigs or plebes live here.” He chuckled at his own joke. They joined him. “You have rations for the morning - good. You attempted to capture more water - good. You should know that you are the only group who thought of that.” Sandy gave Dave a smug look.


He passed a medical tricorder over them and looked over Dave’s injuries.  “A few scrapes and bruises, well tended to.” He turned to his aide, “No burns this time, Jameson.” Jameson duly noted this. “I expect you are ready to head back to the Academy.”


Spock spoke up; “With all due respect, sir, we need to police our camp site before we depart.” Without consulting each other, they all concurred.  The professor nearly smiled.


“Very well. Jameson keep an eye on this bucolic bunch. When they believe they’re ready, shepard them back to campus.” He pulled out his communicator. “One to beam up.”


They all snapped to attention and saluted as he faded for view.


“Jeez, you guys did alright!” Cadet Albert Jameson gave them a big grin.  “This camp looks good. All ya needed were some hot dogs and beer! Seriously, this is the best  camp we’ve seen this morning. The Prof was about to give ya all A’s when Mr. Spock said that ya should clean up before returning, don’t be surprised to ya all get A pluses.”


They did their best restore the area to the way they found it. Sandy collected up all her catchers and with Jameson’s help determined that she had 59.15 milliliters of potable water.  Albert recorded the finished site and then the younger cadets formed up around him and beamed back to San Francisco.


The next day back in class the results were published:


Cadet Inori Hitaku had made it back before the tricorders went out.  He was a marathon runner. A+


Three cadets used the Emergency Recall as soon as the tricorders went out. Incomplete


Four cadets used the ER to return between full dark and midnight. Two D-’s, Two D’s.


The three whose camp was nearest to the rally point - all fell asleep. C’s


A lone cadet nearest to the north road, let her fire go out about an hour before the Professor arrived. B


The four campers to the west of Spock’s group had a campsite like Sunday morning at a frat house. Cadet Sean Finnegan somehow tripped and fell into the fire. His teammates ER’d him. Finnegan  - D, C’s for the rest.


Despite Cadet Maxwell’s run-in with the local fauna, the Live Oak Hill team performed exceptionally well. A+’s.




Young Spock called his boyfriend Leonard after the results had been posted.  When the preambles were out of the way, he began: “Len, I, that is my group and I, received A pluses on our Survival Trek and I have you to thank you it.” His eager face beamed over the vid-phone.


“Well, you’re welcome, darling.” Len couldn’t help but smile, Spock’s happiness was contagious. “But what did I do?”


“Without your insights into the flora and fauna of this continent, I and by extension my team members would have been as helpless as selaht cubs in the Forge.”


Len raised an eyebrow in challenge. Spock amended his statement. “Perhaps selaht cubs on the plains of Mashar.”


A slow warm smile spread across Leonard’s face. “That’s better. I didn’t think the Academy’s finest would be hammered by the Texas Hill Country. So tell me what happened.”


“It was an uneventful exercise at first, a walk in the park, until the tricorders stopped working at 1617.  We had to rely on our wits and personnel knowledge to resolve our predicament. Not only did our discussion on the Drinking Gourd help me to find my way in the wilderness, but thinking of you greatly heartened me.”  He told the tale, gentle reader, pretty much as I have related it to you or maybe a little better.  McCoy chuckled when Spock told him about Kendra and her close call with the poison oak.  He nearly choked on his coffee as his dear friend related Dave’s adventures with the old buck.


“Park line, indeed!” Leonard huffed, “What does he think this is a museum planet preserved for interstellar tourist?”


“Yesterday he did, today he does not.” Spock said evenly, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.


When he had finished, Spock paused suddenly feeling awkward. “Uhm, sweetheart?”


‘Yes?” Len was intrigued Spock was hardly every  at a lost for words, boy was that an understatement, this kid could have easily followed in his father’s footsteps.


“Leonard, Kendra said that she could get tickets for us -- Her and her date, Chip and his young lady and you and I. That is if you want to go with us.” Spock stalled.  Leonard would not want to go. Maxwell was right, most humans found cricket to be deadly dull.


“Ticket to what?” Come on, sweetie, Len silently urged.


“There is a cricket match next Sunday, The West Indies versus Southern California. Would you like to go with me?” The last came out in a rush.


McCoy wanted to crow. “Yes, I’d be honored. What do I wear? What should I bring?” This was too good to be true. This shy young man was asking him out on a group date with his cadet friends.  Len didn’t even check his calendar. Heck, he’d cancel his own birthday for this!


The Vulcan smiled. “Bring your camera. As to your apparel, I shall arrive at your residence at 0830 to help you select appropriated attire.” He blushed slightly at his boldness and with fond memories.


“Say, that’s a great idea!”  The human’s face split into a broad grin. “I’ll tell Ma you’re coming. She’ll have breakfast ready. You are gonna love her grits.”


“Grits?” Spock was dubious.


“Don’t worry about it. Have I ever steered you wrong?”


“No, no indeed.”





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