Years later, when his grandchildren and great-grandchildren would ask him to tell them all about the ARK that still lay rotting on the nearby mountain, Noah would struggle to explain to minds so young how they had managed to fit all the pieces together. It all came down to the fixed trees, they were the key. Starting on one corner, the family began the painstaking work of moving the giant fallen tree trunks into place. The first huge trunk was wrestled into position with the help of the giant but compliant beasts, so that it straddled the front two still-standing trees, some 50 cubits apart. Using Shem and Miriam’s remarkable lever device, they pounded huge iron spikes into the standing tree at ground level and then into the base of the fallen tree, doing the same at the far end. After several weeks of back breaking work, they finally had that one base tree in place. Evenings at the firepit were subdued as they all missed Methuselah, and as they were literally too tired to talk. Surprisingly, it was Bennai who worked hardest at raising everyone’s spirits. ‘I know this first tree has taken so long’, she’d say, ‘but once this key piece is in place, all the others will be much easier. Besides, with the modifications that Shem and Miriam have made to the lever, the next key tree will be quicker to fix’. Noah knew she was right, the design of this ‘lever’ was ingenious, and would speed up the process no end. Its premise was based around a cart that that had been adapted to carry four mid-sized trees, these were braced into the four corners of the cart, and then came together at the top, tied tightly with ropes. A heavier rope hung from this apex, ending in a woven net which held a huge stone that Ham had dug out to widen the watering pool for the increasing number of animal arrivals. Using the oxen to move the cart into place, Japheth would urge the giant beasts to push the stone back and forth, like a pendulum, with their huge hard heads. Once a certain momentum had been achieved it was just a case of making sure that the swinging stone struck the first iron spike centre on, then it would drive the metal through thick resisting wood. Reversing the procedure at the other front corner had already been quicker than the first, as they knew better what they were doing.
Noah never regretted the amount of time it took to drive in each spike as he knew that every single thing they did determined how safe he and his family would be when the floods came. Several months later they had a fallen tree firmly in place at ground level in each section of the outer casing of the ARK. These would be the lynchpins for the rest of the vessel. Huge rolls of rope were attached at regular intervals along each attached fallen tree, these would be carefully woven among the tree trunks that would line the inside of the ARK walls. Noah had realised that the walls of the ARK would need to be several trees deep to reduce the risk of water seeping through. Shem had also pointed out that once the shell of the ARK was completed, an outer layer of upright trees would ensure the structure was stable enough to withstand turbulent waves.
In the meantime, animals of all shapes and sizes began showing up, so that at times it seemed as if all of nature was curious about what these strange humans were up to. Japheth was convinced that they had some secret sense of impending danger and had been ‘called’ to come by God. Deborah wondered why there was two of every kind of animal that arrived, but seven pairs of some. Naamah realised that Deborah, Miriam and Bennai had never been taught God’s instructions about only eating animals considered ‘clean’. ‘But how can some animals be ‘clean’? giggled Miriam one evening, ‘when they all stink!’ Naamah had to remind herself how young her new daughters were, and how ill-prepared they were for the life they had married into. ‘God has told us that we can eat of any animal that can re-chew its food after swallowing it, now obviously it’s hard for us to know what happens within the animal’s stomach, but Japheth thinks that cattle and oxen do this. He listens to their stomachs at night-time and swears that he can hear chewing sounds within them! The second sign that an animal is clean is much easier to recognise, their hooves are completely split, so we know that it is safe for us to eat cattle, sheep, goats, deer, gazelle, yahmur (roe deer), antelope, ibex, hartebeests, and those strange long-necked creatures that showed up recently, the ones with the long spindly legs. Japheth says these tall creatures will be very helpful to us as the walls of the ARK get higher’. ‘Yes but how will they ever fit inside the rooms of the ARK?’ giggled Deborah. They all went into peals of laughter at both the question and the image of these fourteen tall spotted creatures sticking their long necks out of the top of the ARK.
When they had settled down again, Bennai asked a question that had been bothering her for ages. ‘But why are some animals clean, and some unclean, and why do we have so many more clean animals?’ Naamah’s answer stilled the laughter, ‘Noah thinks that God knows that the meat of some animals would make us sick, or mightn’t keep in the salt pits we use to store the meat in. He says that God has always sought to protect us by giving us laws and instructions, just like your ancestors Adam and Eve were told not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and the Tree of Life. It was not to hurt us, but to protect us. And as for your last question, Bennai, what do you think we and the other animals will be eating for whatever length of time we are on the ARK. A shiver of shock went through each of her daughters as this new realisation sank in.