Mistakes mean a lot in Brian's new life, the narrator tells us. Back in the city, most mistakes were no big deal, but in the woods, even a small mistake can have serious, even fatal consequences. Spraining an ankle, missing what you're trying to hunt, getting sick—any of these things could lead to starvation and death for Brian. Talk about pressure.
One of the biggest lessons Brian has learned is that "food is all" (14.5). Food is the most important thing in surviving. (Shmoop thinks this needs to be changed to read "chocolate is all," but unfortunately Gary Paulsen didn't ask for our opinion.)
Soon after he'd learned to catch fish, Brian had been awakened in the night to find a skunk in the shelter with him, digging up the buried turtle eggs. Angry that the skunk was trying to steal his food, Brian had thrown sand at it and yelled at it to get out. The skunk responded by hitting Brian in the face with its spray. Great.
Brian screamed and ran to the lake, desperately splashing his face over and over with water. Even so, he was blinded for nearly two hours after the skunk attack, and his eyes hurt him for weeks afterward. And bonus, the skunk had dug up all the eggs and eaten them anyway.
Brian learns from this episode that food has to be protected. He decides to improve his shelter by tearing it down and rebuilding it. He spends three days weaving branches together, so tightly that nothing can get in unless it tears the whole thing down.
Next, Brian decides that he needs a way to store food. If something should happen to keep him from fishing or hunting, stored up food could make the difference between surviving or… not.
With the help of a dead pine tree that he converts into a kind of ladder, Brian fashions a little food storage compartment out of a hollow in the rock above his shelter. He weaves a little door to cover the hollow so that animals can't get at it. He's not sure, though, what kind of food he can store there.
It occurs to Brian that he can block off a portion of the lake, trapping fish in it to be speared and eaten later. Using rocks and a kind of gate woven together with sticks, he makes a little mini pond full of fish. He's learning not only to survive but to plan ahead for lean times.