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About Kincade

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    western Colorado, and "yes" that's Josephine sitting with me
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    Most of all: Josephine. Beyond Josie: Stunt gunfighting, Great American Wild West Show Tour; National Western Stock Show performer. I am an Active Member of the Western Writers of America. My western adventure novels are published nationally and abroad by Wagonmaster Books. Most recent novels include Kincade's Blood, Kincade's Fear, Kincade's Early Years, Kincade's Death, Kincade's Mystery, Kincade's Curse, Kincade's Revenge and Kincade's Truth. Authored "The Littlest Cowboy's Christmas", a fully illustrated true story with John Denver. All may be seen at amazon.com.
  1. And howdy back, Thanks for trying and sharing. I have no idea how to post a video here in the saloon. If you were gunfighter... which you are... I'd be in the dirt, dippin' gumbo. At the time, I remember how cold the barn was that Christmas eve. We could all see each other's breath, especially Lefty the appaloosa. Joe Henry, one of John's most prolific song writers... the "Joe" in the story... still lives in Little Woody Creek outside of Aspen. Joe's name is on many of John's songs. Just check your albums. Joe has a wonderful cowboy book called "Lime Creek." Fantastic short tales, linked one by one. One of Joe's stories in Lime Creek has to do with that Christmas eve with John in the barn. But the names are different. Joe, however, has never changed. Only the color of his hair... just like the rest of us. If you'd like to take a peek at Joe's book, click on this link: https://www.amazon.com/Lime-Creek-Fiction-Joe-Henry/dp/1400069416/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482464413&sr=1-1&keywords=Lime+Creek%2C+Joe+Henry
  2. Boy, that's great that you shared this Widder. John briefly refers to that night in Little Woody Creek when he talks in the video. Not directly though. It was too special to him, and to us. Kincade
  3. Thanks Yul. I first shared this story with friends a long time ago. Others then heard it. The story became especially popular in Aspen folklore. Then, after telling the story to one of the stunt gunfighters I worked with at the National Western Stockshow in Denver, he offered to illustrate the story for a Christmas book. I had no idea he was an accomplished artist. All I knew was that he shot me a lot in the shows. So, over a period of two years, this man... Terry Jacobsen... painted amazing color pictures of that night. Once done, Pelican Publishing released "The Littlest Cowboy's Christmas". That book is a Christmas best-seller. And beautifully illustrated. Parents and grandparents love reading the story to their little ones Christmas eve. John Denver has a CD in the book that has him singing "Silent Night", just as he did in the barn that night so long ago. If you'd like to see the cover of the book and see part of Terry's work, click on this link: https://www.amazon.com/Littlest-Cowboys-Christmas-Music-CD/dp/1589803817/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 Kincade
  4. DEDICATION: You’re about to hear a very private and personal true story involving one of the greatest entertainers in the world: John Denver. It shows that above and beyond John’s incredible celebrity, he was first and foremost a caring and loving man. This story is dedicated to all those who care, who “believe”, and whose hearts are cradled within the spirit of Christmas. At the story's end, I'll share a secret that no one knows. The Littlest Cowboy’s Christmas -Michael Chandler aka Kincade You remember one Christmas most of all. Maybe it was a gift you once received. Maybe a surprise visit from an old friend. You’ve enjoyed many, but this one was different. This one is mine. Many years ago, my wife and I lived on a small horse ranch in Little Woody Creek, just outside Aspen Colorado. My son Preston, now 42 years old with a family and two beautiful little girls of his own, was only about 3 or 4. My daughter Melissa, now 38, wasn’t yet born. During the winters, we’d hook up a snowplow to the front of our farm tractor. I’d bundle up Preston, plop him on my lap, and the two of us would chug up and down Little Woody pushing snow this way and that. Not because we had to. But because the two of us would feel so good on those freezing winter days, snuggled together, giggling, singing, and shoving snow around. We felt quietly important, tackling all those drifts, making paths, blazing trails, passing livestock with their flared nostrils throwing shafts of steam like medieval dragons, coming home to Jackie hours later with rosy cheeks and tall tales. During one early December, Little Woody Creek received several feet of fresh snow. Preston and I brewed up our hot cocoa, climbed onto our tractor’s steel seat and chugged up some untracked, snow-choked road. We didn’t know where it went. Only that it was waiting for us, and our tractor. At the end stood a snowbound home and an old green jeep parked outside. As our tractor pushed this way and that, and our laughter cut the crystallized air, a rugged-looking cowboy came out of the house. He walked up to us and asked, “Did somebody hire you to do this?” “Nope.” “Then why are you doing it?” he asked. “Cause its fun!” A wide smile crept onto the stranger’s face. He walked up to us both, stretched out his hand to shake mine. And so I did. I shook hands with one of the five best friends I’ve ever had in my life. “The name’s Joe” he said. “Joe Henry.” He had jet black hair and mustache, a chiseled face and well worn jeans topped off with a faded work shirt. He looked like he’d just come off a six week cattle drive. Not tired. Far from it. He looked alive and vibrant. And very rugged. Joe was a quiet sort. Never bragged. Very different. I would find out over the years that Joe is singularly driven to fulfill his own personal destiny, regardless of what others think of his reasons or motivations. A solitary man, nearly always alone, but never lonely. Preston and I asked what he was doing in this snowbound house. “Writing songs,” Joe said. “And books. And cowboy poetry.” Joe had been a miner and a boxer and a hockey player and a steamship sailor and a ditch digger and a real live buckaroo. We found out that his appaloosa stud Lefty was stabled in an old barn just up the road from our own home. Christmas was coming. And as it approached, Joe walked up to our house one day. He asked if Preston and I would like to come up to the barn Christmas Eve, and help him celebrate the season with his horse Lefty. Joe said he was making Lefty a Christmas carrot and oats pie, and that another friend was bringing his boy too. About Preston’s age. Said the other fella was a country boy, could play a guitar some, and that we could all sing a carol or two. So Christmas Eve arrived, and Preston and I went. The barn wasn’t more than a quarter mile from our house, so with a kiss from my wife, the two of us donned our winter coats, and walked up there in the moonlight, the frozen snow crunching beneath of soles of our boots. Joe greeted us the moment we reached the barn, sliding a stall door open so we could enter. It was a working barn. No concrete, no offices, no steel, no insulation, no electricity. Just sweet hay covering the dirt floor, a loft filled with the summer’s harvest, wooden pens and high ceilings crisscrossed by rough-sawn rafters. In the center, Joe arranged a half dozen hay bales on which to sit. Next to them stood a small evergreen tree. It had wax candles perched on its boughs, popcorn strings and a tin-foil star that Joe had made. One present rested beneath: Lefty’s Christmas carrot and oats pie. The fella with the guitar was there. He rose to greet Preston and me. His son stood at his side, no bigger than my own boy. He warmly introduced himself, but didn’t have to. I recognized him immediately. We all picked a hay bale and sat down. The candles flickered on the tree, throwing warm and darting shadows throughout the barn. Joe poured us each a cup of hot cocoa, and offered a plain Christmas cookie. Lefty peered from his stall, his shaggy head hanging over the gate, huge dark eyes watching us. I felt like the stallion knew why we were there, and what Christmas meant. As we toasted Lefty, as we toasted each other, the fella with the guitar began to play. We all sang Jingle Bells and Deck the Halls and Frosty the Snowman. We all laughed, we all hooted, we all forgot most of the second verses. Counting the livestock, less than six of us experienced something I had never felt before. True peace. Boundless joy. Utter humility. Friendship. And the meaning of Christmas. Finally, Joe got up and walked over to the tree, bending down to carefully pick up Lefty’s pie. As he turned and walked to the stall, the fella with the guitar began to softly hum Silent Night. Joe offered the pie to Lefty, and the horse began to eat. The barn was filled with only two sounds: Lefty’s slow and muffled crunch of those crisp carrots, and the guitar fella’s soft humming of Silent Night. I felt like I was in heaven. We all did. Lefty finished about the same time as the song, and we all stood there with glistening eyes and deep personal thoughts. We looked at each other, and Joe spoke. “Merry Christmas” was all he said. We all shook hands and said goodbye. Preston and I reopened the barn door, waved, and began our return walk home under a sky full of a trillion shining stars, each one brighter than the next. We didn’t say anything as we walked hand in tiny hand. We both know that what had happened was very special. Very important. Maybe even more than pushing snow around with our little tractor. When we got to the front door of our home, Preston looked up at me, tugging at my sleeve. “Who was the man with the guitar, Daddy?” Though known throughout the world by millions of people who adored him, his music, the Country Roads and Rocky Mountain Highs of his voice, it wasn’t important I mentioned his last name. “It’s John, Preston. The guitar fella’s name is John.” But that night, he and his young son were just another couple of cowboys, sharing Christmas Eve with a few friends, and an appaloosa horse named Lefty. Now, the secret: At the height of John's career, he would host Christmas specials on TV. You may have seen them yourself. At the end of each show, he would have the set decorated as an old barn. Hay bales, straw on the floor, a Christmas tree with a small round object at its base that no one could quite make out. John would sing to the children, and they to him. He would end the show in that scene, singing Silent Night. Though John never told anyone, he was reenacting that night in Little Woody Creek... a magical evening experienced many years ago this coming Saturday night, by 3 men, 2 little boys, and an appaloosa horse named Lefty. Merry Christmas from Josephine and Kincade
  5. You're most welcome. If you'd like to see an original oil painting of Old Indian and a young Kincade, click on this link: https://www.amazon.com/Kincades-Early-Kincade-western-adventure-ebook/dp/B0046A9VJG/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
  6. KINCADE’S EARLY YEARS ACKNOWLEDGEMENT I wish to acknowledge my appreciation for the help with the Lakota Sioux language given me by Laura Redish, a linguist with Native Languages of the Americas. This is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the promoting indigenous American languages, located in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Also to Pinny Lavalier who is a bilingual Lakota speaker with this organization. TO MY FRIENDS AT SASS I realize that in today’s world, you have a profusion of information, of distractions, of options to fill your days. I understand that because of this enormous mass of overcommunication, that choosing how you spend the minutes of every day is an important decision, and to those to whom you give it, a precious gift. That dang Twitter can be a siren’s song. So, to you… those who chose to spend their time reading Kincade’s Early Years over the last month… to you I offer personal heartfelt thanks. Josephine and I wish you a peaceful and joyous Christmas. May gratefulness, serenity and lovingkindness fill your heart. Kincade
  7. KINCADE’S EARLY YEARS PART THREE EPILOGUE Swift Raven no longer thought of himself as Old Indian. It had been the boy’s name for him and that part of his life was over. He did not return to their last campsite to retrieve the tepee or his belongings. He might cry, and even though no one would be there to see him, it was not the Indian Way to show grief – to feel it, yes, but not show it - even to himself. Slowly he made his way back to the tribe he and Kincade had left over ten years before. When he arrived, riding his own horse and leading Lightning on a rope, he saw smoke rising from the largest tepee where the headmen and councilors gathered. He gave the jaw-thongs to a young boy and stood at the entrance until his presence was recognized. “I am Kangee Kohana, once a loyal scout for your people. May I enter?” “We know who you are, ancient one,” the Chief said, then paused for what seemed a time as he looked into Kangee Kohana’s eyes. Finally, the Chief spoke once more. “We welcome you back after a long absence. Come, be among us.” He entered and stood humbly before men he had once known as friends. “Sit and we will smoke a pipe in honor of your safe return.” A place was made for the old man and fresh leaves packed into the bowl of a long pipe. A spark was taken from the central fire and fragrance filled the tepee. “Will you recount your years, Kangee Kohana, so that we may know more of your life away from us?” Swift Raven spoke of many adventures, but never mentioned Kincade. The pipe had passed to every man and all had listened with rapt attention. “Have you returned to spend your final days with us?” the Chief asked. “No, I come to ask a question. I am looking for a man who was once a brave warrior and hunter in our tribe. His name is Mahpee Paytah. Do any of you know where I can find him?” On hearing Sky Fire’s name, the headmen and councilors looked to one another, but none spoke as if it was up to the Chief to answer this question. He placed the pipe at the edge of the center fire and was silent for a few moments with his head bowed as if thinking. “Why do you wish to find him?” “I wish to make peace with him. I bring him gifts.” The Chief rose. “Then I shall take you to him.” He led the way from the tepee and walked toward the edge of the village. Here, outside the main circle, lived those who were infirmed, either by age or health. They were tended by old crones and were dependent for all their needs on the charity of the tribe. Swift Raven looked at the unkempt area. “He lives here?” The Chief nodded. “What happened to make him fall into such conditions? When I was part of this tribe he was the greatest among us.” The Chief stopped and again looked into the old man’s eyes. “Many seasons ago he came back to us, being dragged by his faithful horse. In a moment you will see why he stays.” The Chief turned and they resumed their walk, approaching a small six-skin tepee with a neglected, black horse tied to a stake. Its once proud head was drooping and its tail swished flies that buzzed around its sweat. Sitting in the dirt was Sky Fire, a jug resting at his side. His bare arms, once so straight and strong, were bent like twigs broken for kindling. His crossed legs were too crippled to support his body. He stared at the two watching him. Recognizing neither, he lifted the jug and took a long drag which ran down his lips to his chin. Swift Raven turned to the Chief. “Has he no family, no friends to rescue him from this degradation?” The Chief shook his head. “The only one who shows any interest is a scout from our neighboring village. In fact you know him. He is Ozuye Najin, married to your two daughters. He frequently brings Mahpee Paytah a jug of the White man’s firewater which seems to give him relief from the pain in his limbs.” “I shall return to find my horse, for I too bring him relief from that which has pained him - not in his limbs but in his spirit.” The Chief nodded in understanding. “You will be welcome if you wish to stay with us.” The old man replied, “No, but your friendship will always be returned.” Swift Raven got the jug and the rifle from his horse but left both animals with the boy as he returned to the tepee of Sky Fire. He knelt before his old nemesis and looked into his bleary eyes. “I am Kangee Kohana,” he began. He saw no reaction. “You have ruined your life in order to kill me, but I am still here. I was never running because I was afraid you would find me. I was only using you as an excuse to play a game of hide-and-seek with the son I never fathered. I had him for many, many years and taught him the Indian Way. Now the game is over and I no longer need you.” He placed the new jug next to the old one. “Live on in your oblivion.” He put the rifle into the shaking hands. “Clutch your dreams of vengeance. They are as empty of harm as this gun is empty of bullets.” Not a word had been heard as Sky Fire drank again from the old jug of whiskey. Swift Raven retrieved both horses and rode away. His final days were spent living in the large tepee of his two daughters, Pretty Butterfly and Laughing Maiden. There was always good talk with their husband, scout Standing Warrior and the tribe’s chief, Brave Eagle. His greatest joy was watching the little children of the village who called him Tunkasila - Grandfather. One moonless and very quiet night, as the starlight bathed the village, Kangee Kohana left this world to join the Wakan Tanka. With his last breath, a kind smile appeared on his withered face. For as the old man crossed over, his heart filled with the memories of the young boy he loved more than life itself: His son, Kincade. THE END
  8. KINCADE’S EARLY YEARS PART THREE CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT Abruptly Swift Raven said, “We go, Kincade.” The boy was startled. It wasn’t that his companion never made sudden decisions, but they usually happened when the raven told him it was time to move. Now the raven was wrapped in the red cloth. Did the bird speak from the dead? No matter, such decisions were not to be questioned. “Do I strike the tepee?” “No.” “Do I hitch the drags to both horses and load our belongings?” Swift Raven walked up to Kincade, raised his rough hands to cradle the boy’s face, and looked deeply into Kincade’s eyes without speaking. Finally, in a soft voice, Old Indian said, “No my son. It is time… We just go.” Swift Raven went into the tepee. When he came out he was putting a leather thong over his head. Attached to it was small pouch. Once he secured the thin latigo strap around his neck, he dropped the pouch into his shirt. Kincade thought it odd. For as long as he could remember, he had never seen Swift Raven possess anything like the little pouch. It disappeared behind Old Indian’s shirt so quickly, that Kincade wondered if he had imagined it. “Bring my horse.” With some effort Swift Raven mounted, but once settled he sat proudly. “Prepare some food for our journey.” Kincade did as he was told, and although his curiosity was peaked his voice was silent. “You follow me.” Swift Raven was far down the trail before Kincade caught Lightning and jumped on his back, pressing the horse with his knees in order to catch up. Over a great many years, Kincade and Swift Raven had covered much ground together. The boy had become familiar with vast areas of land. But this day, Old Indian rode in a new direction, into country Kincade had never seen before. Morning ended and still they rode on without speaking. Kincade’s stomach was reminding him that it had been a long time since he ate a light meal after placing the raven on the platform. He wanted to reach for the pemmican in the pouch tied to Lightning’s neck. But why should he eat if Old Indian did not ask for food? He would practice The Wait. The sun transgressed the highest point in the sky. Swift Raven remained silent, sitting very straight, not looking to right or left, let alone behind where Kincade trotted after him. They moved through the forest, down the foothills and onto the plains. Kincade began to see something in the distance. It spread out like a herd of buffalo, but it didn’t move. As they got closer he remembered once when they looked down on a circle of tepees and Old Indian had called it a village. But there were no tepees and no circle. Old Indian moved out of the grasses and onto a trail. It suddenly struck Kincade he had seen this trail, or at least something like it, during the five days he had been tested by Old Indian. There were the same two hard-packed dirt paths running parallel. Each was bordered by tall grass, and in between was short grass with little rocks. Suddenly two horses were coming very fast down the trail right at Kincade and Old Indian. They were pulling a large flat thing with a man sitting high at one end. He yelled something as he got closer. “Hey, watch out, you dumb Indians!” “What did he say?” Kincade called to Old Indian, but evidently he wasn’t heard. Kincade jerked Lighting into the tall grass as he and Old Indian were forced to make way for the horses racing past. Kincade stared at four wheels on each corner of the flat thing. He had seen a wheel as big as these during his journey alone. These wheels were spinning very fast. Snapping the jaw-thongs of the two horses was a man whose chin was covered with hair! Kincade’s eyes went wide. Hair on a face! On top of a head, yes, but on a face? The man yelled again as he passed them. “Stay off the road, Redskins!” Again Kincade didn’t understand what he said but he seemed angry. Dust swirled up from the wheels and the horses’ hoofs, filling Kincade’s eyes. The boy cleared his vision with his hands and rode to catch up with Old Indian who had continued on the trail. They were now on the edge of what must be a village, but unlike anything Kincade had ever seen. The dwellings were not made of buffalo hide, but of sliced trees all stuck together to form walls, and the same wood lay flat on the tops. These big structures were not in a circle but lined up in straight rows with smaller paths between. Their horses walked into a place filled with people wearing strange clothes. More men had hair on their faces and sometimes it came down to their chests. Unconsciously Kincade stroked the fuzz on his own chin and upper lip. The women wore puffy coverings on their heads with bills like a duck sticking out over their eyes. The smells were unlike any he had ever experienced. Not of the forest or stream, but of things burning, of spoiled meat and of sweat. The odors made Kincade’s nose wrinkle, but the boy was so fascinated at what surrounded him, it didn’t matter. People stared at him as they rode by. Kincade’s eyes were as wide as theirs, for he had never seen human beings with skin this color. It was like dirty snow. Then, as though struck by a thunderbolt, Kincade realized that some of his own skin color matched that of the strange people around him. Though most of his body had been darkened by years of exposure to the sun, there were other pale places - his inner thighs, his arm pits, his belly under the loincloth. He was like them! Kincade nudged his horse close to Swift Raven’s, pulling alongside. “What is this place?” “It is called a town. White people live here.” Swift Raven stopped his horse in front of one of the structures and slid off his horse. “You wait here.” He walked up some wooden steps and through a door that swung shut behind him. Kincade did as he was told, looking around with fascination at the different things surrounding him. Swift Raven had entered a General Store where a half dozen customers drew back at the sight of a savage – however old he was. In sign language that he had long ago forgotten, Swift Raven tried to make the owner understand what he wanted. The man scratched his head and finally called to the back of the room, “Hey, White Paw Willie, come here and give me a hand understanding this Redskin.” A dirty old-timer aimed his chaw at a brass spittoon but missed as he shuffled towards the counter. “What you want, Savage?” he asked in Swift Raven’s language. “Are you the one who came with soldiers looking for two White boys in my village many seasons ago?” “Yeah, I remember doin’ that. But we only got one. So what?” “I have the other White boy. He is outside on the horse.” “What’s he sayin’, White Paw?” the owner asked. “He’s got a kid that me and the army went huntin’ years ago. Hell, I’d almost forgot about that.” He then turned back to ask, “So what? You want somethin’?” Swift Raven did not like the looks or the smell of this man but there was no one else. “The soldiers offered a reward for his return. I return him and I want a reward.” White Paw Willie burst out laughing. “Damn thieving bastard wants to swap the kid for gold!” he said to those in the store. “Ask him how much gold,” one old sourdough shot back. “Maybe the Army will pay us the reward instead of him.” White Paw Willie spit again making no attempt to come even close to the spittoon. “How much gold?” he asked. Swift Raven shook his head and whispered, “No gold. A good rifle and a jug of whiskey.” Willie’s guffaw was loud and raucous. “They’s all alike, these Redskins! He just wants a gun and a jug of rot-gut. What ya’ think, Slim?” he asked the store owner. “You wanna make a trade?” Both men went to the front window and looked at Kincade who sat waiting. “Guess I can find those two things, but he better not ask for nothin’ else or he can take the boy back to his tepee.” White Paw Willie explained to Old Indian that the trade was okay but he would have to wait while the store owner found a rifle and a jug. Swift Raven went to the window and stared at the boy on the horse... his boy. Old Indian’s legs began to buckle and his shoulders shook at the ache he felt deep inside. Nothing in his entire life had ever hurt so much. A chill crawled into his heart so he stepped away from the window. To show his feelings would not be the Indian Way. Kincade sat on Lightning and waited. It was a hot day and he pulled off his buckskin shirt, folding it in front of him. A boy about his own age had been walking around and around the horse staring at Kincade. “Hey you, up there,” the circling boy finally shouted. “What’s your name?” Kincade didn’t answer. “I said what’s your name…your name? Don’t you speak English?” Kincade vaguely remembered some words that had served him well a long time ago. “I Kincade.” He pointed to his chest. “Kincade.” “That’s a pretty dumb name. Kincade! Never heard such a dumb name before.” He began throwing small rocks at Lightning’s rump and the animal became skittish. Kincade tried to calm the horse with stroking and the gentle Indian words he always used. “You know that old Redskin is tryin’ to sell you? The highest bid so far is a rusty rifle and some firewater.” Kincade wondered to himself, “What’s this boy talking about?” But he said nothing and practiced The Wait until Swift Raven came out of the building with a gun and a jug. “What’s happening?” Kincade asked him. Swift Raven put the jug in a bag slung around the neck of his horse. “These are not for me. They are for a powerful brave of my tribe. He is the one who has been hunting us. I will not give you back to him. But I will bring him these presents – a good horse, a good gun, a good jug of whiskey. He will think it a good trade and he will let me stay in my village again.” He slung the rifle strap across his shoulder. “Put on your shirt. Get off your horse.” Kincade did what he was told, still not believing what was happening. Stepping close to the boy so no one could see his actions, Swift Raven took a medicine bag from around his neck and handed it to Kincade. The outside of the pouch had pretty beads of various colors, formed in a circle. “Put it around your neck,” he whispered. “Keep it inside your shirt. Show it to no one. It has my secret on the outside – your secret on the inside.” “My secret, Old Indian?” Kincade asked but there was no answer. Swift Raven took the jaw-thong of Kincade’s horse Lightening, and lightly sprang onto his own as if not wanting to appear decrepit in front of the Whites. “You will live here now. I go back to my tribe and you come back to yours. I will die soon but you will not watch me.” Kincade could see great pain in Old Indian’s eyes, but it wasn’t from his body hurting. This pain was racking the old man’s heart. No further words were shared. Old Indian – the only person Kincade had ever really known – left the boy standing in the dusty street with the bully laughing and pointing at him. (Continued in the novel “KINCADE’S BLOOD”)
  9. KINCADE’S EARLY YEARS PART THREE CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN Swift Raven knew he was in the autumn of his life. His aching bones had caught up with his aged face. When he taught Kincade to swim he didn’t challenge him to a water fight as he might once have done. When he showed the boy how to catch fish and frogs with his bare hands he stood on the bank and sang out instructions to Kincade who was knee deep in the stream. Kincade went alone to hunt for deer, coyote, antelope, small elk and moose calves. Then he alone would harvest the kill. Kincade assumed that he was being given tasks to learn from his mentor, not that Swift Raven was no longer capable. Kincade was fourteen when Swift Raven talked incessantly about hiding. Should Sky Fire find and kill him, the boy should know how to escape. “Old Indian, is someone chasing us that we must hide?” The answer did not come easily, for Swift Raven had never explained to Kincade the reason for their constant moving around. Perhaps the boy thought that all boys and their grandfathers did this. Old Indian would preface these lessons with “Let us hope that if we are being chased we can move faster or be smarted than the pursuer. “Now listen and remember. If there are big boulders to hide among, cover yourself with the brown robe, bunching it over you so that you will look like another rock from a distance. “If you choose a spot in the woods, do not move for a spooked animal or startled bird could give you away. Watch where your shadow falls and do not let it show where you hide.” Once Swift Raven sought out a beaver pond. Bringing Kincade to the water’s edge, he pointed to a large mound of mud and sticks. He said, “Swim underwater until you find the entrance to that mud dome in the center of the pool. It is the lodge of the beaver.” “What do I do when I find it?” “Dive down. Swim through the underwater entrance and into the lodge. Raise your head up into the air held within the dome. There will be a ledge where the beaver would sleep. Lie down on it and rest.” “You aren’t coming with me?” “No, it is a small ledge.” He knew his breath would fail him swimming under the surface. “But Old Indian, what if the beaver is sleeping on the ledge and bites me when he wakes up and finds me there?” “This is an old, deserted lodge. If the beaver lived there, fresh mud would have been packed over the outside. Now go swim and remember if someone is chasing you, this would be a good place to hide.” Kincade prepared to enter the water. Swift Raven said with a slight smile, “Oh, don’t rest on the ledge too long. I am getting hungry.” Hiding – why always hiding? Kincade wondered as he disappeared under the water, knowing that the answer would come when it was ready to appear. “Always The Wait,” he told himself. “Always….” During their gathering forays for the cold season, Swift Raven seemed more interested in finding medicinal herbs than berries. For the first time he taught Kincade to identify and collect roots and leaves, pods and seeds which he would boil into a bitter drink or pound into a powder which could be stored. Kincade had never been around ill people. He had never felt sick himself except once when he had overeaten green crabapples. He wondered about these new preparations which Old Indian ingested daily or kept in a dry place. How could he know unless Old Indian explained without being asked? His response would be the same as so many times before: “Wait and all questions will be answered. You must learn The Wait. That is the Indian Way.” Swift Raven lay on his robe during the cold months, seldom rising to even eat. He would say, “Tell me a story so I will not think of less pleasant things.” Kincade recounted as many of the old legends that he could remember. With greater frequency, Swift Raven seemed to drift into the mysterious world where his Recognizable Spirit dwelt. As time passed, Swift Raven listened to his own Familiar Voice. This Voice had always told him what to do – never what not to do – and it was now telling Swift Raven that soon, the Great Spirit would call for him. Swift Raven kept the message of the Familiar Voice from Kincade. For now, he would hide the fact that his cough rattled the bones in his chest. He would not tell Kincade that his spittle was laced with blood. But when the warm months came, there would be no hiding from the Great Spirit. Swift Raven knew his time on the earth was coming to its end. One morning, Swift Raven knew the time had come to talk with Kincade about death. It would be a new lesson, one that would prepare Kincade for the inevitable. He did not want to frighten the boy, as death was as natural and as glorious as birth. Still, he couched his words in gentle terms. “Come here,” said Old Indian one evening as the two sat across from one another before the fire. “It is time to tell you other legends of my people.” Kincade came closer, sitting next to Swift Raven on his buffalo robe. He hoped Old Indian was at last going to answer the unasked questions. Swift Raven looked directly into Kincade’s eyes as the firelight danced across his craggy face. “Death and the afterlife hold no special terror for Indians. I have courted death openly during countless battles. Most Indians believe that a warrior’s death is preferable to dying of old age or disease, but that is not to be my choice.” He coughed, coughed again, and coughed yet another time. “May I prepare you a warm drink with herbs, Old Indian?” He shook his head. “The cough will pass. Give me a moment.” Kincade waited in silence and then Swift Raven continued. “Indians believe that humans and nature are one. There is no clear distinction between the natural and the supernatural. We have come from the Wakan Tanka at birth, and we return to the Wakan Tanka at death.” Kincade looked puzzled. “What is the Wakan Tanka?” “Wakan Tanka created the universe – it is the universe. It is the seven directions, and the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth, the very rocks, every animal and bird, and creature of the waters.” He drew a deep breath as if he were seeing it all before him. “And Kincade, Wakan Tanka is the human soul. It has always been and always will be.” He closed his eyes as if he felt peace and comfort in saying the words. Kincade had listened carefully but did not feel the same comfort. He was afraid to discover what Old Indian was really trying to tell him. Swift Raven looked into the boy’s eyes as if answering this fear. “The spirits of dead loved ones are one with the Wakan Tanka and therefore are everywhere and in everything.” He took both of Kincade’s hands. “My throat is quite dry after so much talk. Make the warm drink with borage root for both of us and afterwards we will smoke a short pipe together.” Kincade felt a new warmth with the soothing drink and the fragrant smell of the pipe smoke. He would remember this night forever. Old Indian spoke to him and smoked with him as if he were a grown man – a real Indian man. Gradually the days lengthened and Swift Raven managed to go outside and sit on his robe in the sunshine. He ate more and smiled more and even laughed as Kincade performed tricks on the horse Lightning. One morning, Kincade awoke to find Old Indian gone. It startled him so that he bolted from his robe and raced outside. There, Old Indian knelt quietly before a clump of black feathers lying just outside the tepee flap. The messenger raven was dead. Swift Raven picked it up and stroked its midnight plumage. “You served me well,” was all he said. He went inside and found a square of red cloth and wrapped the bird in the ceremonial cover. “We must build a funeral platform, Kincade. Help me to give this loyal scout a final blessing.” With great care and respect, the two erected a small platform on the branches of a tree. There, they gently laid the raven in his red robe, a ceremony that had been repeated over countless centuries for spirits gone to Wakan Tanka.
  10. KINCADE’S EARLY YEARS PART THREE CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX Kincade made the fourth notch on the calendar stick. If he were to prove himself a man, he had this day and the next to work his way back to Old Indian. He began running twice as far as he jogged and walked. Had his easterly direction been too far to the south or north? There was no way to know except to continue and look diligently for any signs that he might have identified when Old Indian led him away blindfolded. He went up slopes and down ravines, in and out of various evergreen stands. He sniffed the air and listened to the chatter of ground animals and songs of birds perched in the trees or flying overhead. Everything seemed monotonously the same, but he kept going. Abruptly, he stopped. What was this? Not in all his years with Old Indian had Kincade seen anything like this. Then he realized that, although he hadn’t seen it before, he had heard it before – once – four days ago when he was blindfolded - the swishing of grasses, grating of sand and dirt, kicking up of small rocks. He looked and looked. So this is what those sounds were. It was a trail, in fact two trails, running parallel along a wide stretch of dirt. But what would be the point in that? Indians used trails through the wilderness, but they did not walk side by side on two trails but one behind the other on just one path. The dirt had been packed down, as if a hundred Indians had danced over it for weeks on end. Crushed stones were lying in the short grasses growing between the two trails. On each side, tall grasses stood untrammeled. Curiously these twin trails continued uninterrupted as far as Kincade could see – a never-ending line. Kincade knelt down and tried to figure out what this could be. He had seen dried up streambeds this wide but here there were not any washed river rocks to indicate that water had flowed along this path. He remembered that he had once seen a wide, rocky path going down a hillside. Old Indian had explained that an avalanche of boulders had long ago cut a wide swath, tearing trees from roots as the rocks careened downward. But here, Kincade saw only flatness. There were gouges on the two trails that looked like several snakes had slithered along on the ground without ever separating or getting closer together. Kincade ran his finger along the smooth ruts. They were wider and deeper than the lines the drag-poles made. Did a creature leave marks like this? He followed, hoping to see it. Ahead he came to strange objects at the sides of this double trail. There was a wheel much larger than Kincade had ever imagined. The Indians made small wheels to hold scalps and to use as targets for throwing spears. The Dream Catcher given him by Old Indian was a still smaller wheel. Kincade went close to measure its size. This wheel was as large as his outstretched arms. What could such a big wheel be used for? Scalps? Games? It appeared to be broken. He walked on. Further up the trail there was a large brown object which Kincade at first thought was a dead animal. As he got close he realized it was made of wood. He stopped to examine it closely. Similar but smaller shapes moved in an out of the larger one and things were inside. In a few were square, white leaves, only these leaves hadn’t come from trees and they had a funny feel to them. Marks were all over them in straight lines. There were other strange objects like small sticks with black points. What were they? He closed his eyes and tried to imagine their use. Sometimes Old Indian pulled a blackened stick out of the fire and drew an animal or symbol on a hide. But those were big sticks and these were so little. He rubbed the black point of one on a piece of the white leaf and it left a mark. He put them back in the little space and kept walking. The next strange object had strips of wood all fastened together, two sides matching. Perhaps it was turned over, and if he straightened it…. Kincade put two curved pieces of wood on the bottom and a solid square in the middle and a ladder-like piece at the top. He gasped. Somewhere in the back of his memory he remembered a woman holding him on such an object and rocking back and forth. She was humming. He almost caught the tune. Kincade shook his head to clear the confusion he felt. The twin trails with these strange objects and distant memories were pulling him away from Old Indian. He must not let that happen – at least not until after all the notches had been cut on the calendar stick. He ran back in the direction from which he had come. He didn’t recognize the spot where he had come across the strange trail, so he just followed it toward the north, hoping that sooner or later he would get his orientation back to travel eastward. He hadn’t gone far before he could hear a stream – gurgling water that he remembered his horse Lightning riding through. He must be on the right path at last! He ran until he could see bright splashes over big river-rocks, cascades falling into pools, pussy-willows along the shoreline! He knew where he was! Hastily stripping off all his clothes, he jumped into the refreshing water. He laughed and tossed great sprays over his head and entire body. Had water ever felt so cool – so refreshing – so rejuvenating? He cupped his hands and drank greedy gulps, spitting it out between his lips and letting it drip down his chin. For an hour he played and bathed himself. Then he crawled up the bank and lay on a grassy bank to dry himself in the sun. He soon fell asleep, relaxed, happy, and confident that this was the same stream where he and Old Indian had raised their tepee. Kincade awakened in the blue of night. He had slept longer than the sun had traversed the sky. He sat up and groped for his clothes, his knife, his water-sac, his soft robe. All were there close by and he put them on. But it was too dark to travel more. He would wait for sunrise. Then he would mark the last notch on the calendar stick and before the next nightfall he would be back with Old Indian and hopefully a good supper with lots of meat. He spread the soft robe by the stream whose gurgling lulled him back to sleep. Tomorrow would be a good day. And a good day it was. Kincade followed the downward course of the water. There were a few times when large boulders made him leave the stream’s bank but it was never difficult to come back to its rippling sound. He remembered clearly when Lightning had splashed through the streambed. How much had happened to him since then! He could hardly wait to tell Old Indian of his adventures and all he had learned. He stopped, suddenly presented with another problem - another choice to be made. The stream divided, pouring into two smaller channels, one fork flowing to his right, the other to his left. Which should he follow? He sat on his haunches and practiced The Wait. But instead of getting understanding, he became confused as to the direction Old Indian had first taken. Had they left their campsite to go in a northerly or southerly direction? Or had they traveled directly west? His head started to spin with this dilemma. Then he stood and straightened his shoulders. He would follow the stream on his right. If this proved to be the wrong choice after a reasonable time walking he could backtrack and go to the left. That would be the Indian Way. Kincade followed the right-hand stream bank and when it meandered through a large aspen grove he was sure he’d chosen correctly. Doggedly he went on, further and further until night overtook him and he could not see his way well enough to continue. Once again he lay down on the soft robe and counted the stars. He knew they were looking down on him as he looked up to them. He and the sky were one. Some might say he was alone - and he was - but he did not feel lonely. Tomorrow was the fifth day and he would greet the dawn with a hurrah for the end of an adventure well lived. He awakened. In the morning light he could see beyond the slowly moving stream. His eyes squinted to be sure he was not being deceived. The high butte with the three deep ravines, which would carry water in the spring like three great waterfalls, was to the north-west. He had gone beyond it! The left stream channel should have been the one for him to follow. “The day is young. I am young. I will find the right path.” Kincade began to backtrack, humming the forgotten tune he had remembered from once sitting with the rocking woman. Old Indian’s camp was still a ridgeline away, but the boy could smell meat turning on a spit, the juices sizzling onto hot coats. Kincade knew how the grizzly must have felt when she smelled the roasting turkey. Kincade felt jubilation. He had done it… proven to himself and to Old Indian that he had indeed become a man. The aroma of food grew stronger. The boy’s exhilaration made him want to run, but once Old Indian’s camp came into view, Kincade slowed to a dignified walk. He would play just a little with Old Indian, letting his mentor know that the past five days had been child’s play, even though it had taken every bit of skill he had ever learned. He strolled forward holding the calendar stick aloft. “Were you expecting company for dinner?” he shouted. “No, but I have made enough for two. Are you hungry?” “Not very. Berries and nuts are very filling.” He dropped the knife, water-sac, and soft robe. “Are you hungry, Old Indian?” “Not very. Would you like to tell me about your past five days before we eat?” Kincade laughed. “Don’t tease me any more, Old Indian. I am starved for exactly what you are roasting. I couldn’t possibly recount five long days if I don’t immediately get my first good meal in all that time.” Swift Raven smiled and pulled the meat from the skewer. “Eat away. But save a few bites for Old Indian. Your stories can wait.” Actually Swift Raven knew every one of them. Kincade’s experiences were also his own. After leaving the blindfolded Kincade he had tied the jaw-thongs of the horses together and given his horse a swat on the rump, knowing that the animals would race back to the campsite. He then brushed away any signs of their departure and signaled Kincade with a wolf call to remove the blindfold. He had clandestinely followed Kincade, never leaving the boy out of his sight just in case there was any life-threatening situation. He almost ruined Kincade’s life-lesson when the grizzly appeared. Swift Raven’s bow and several arrows had been ready should the animal have turned vicious. Swift Raven had followed until Kincade took the right fork of the river – the wrong fork. He was confident that the boy would soon find he’d made a mistake and backtrack. This delay would give Swift Raven time to return to the campsite and prepare a good meal that would be greatly appreciated. These five days had proved Kincade was resourceful, self-confident, brave, alone but never lonely - ready to continue on his own in case Sky Fire ever carried out his threat. Old Indian felt proud… enormously and completely proud of the boy who had become his son. Kincade wiped the juice from his lower lip and licked his fingers. “I am more than satisfied, Old Indian. Now I shall tell you about the most incredible days of my life. Are you ready for a long evening of story telling?” “I have awaited your return with anticipation. Start at the beginning and leave out nothing.” He crossed his legs and handed Kincade a small pipe. “But first let us smoke together for then only the truth can be told.” He lit the bowl and passed it to Kincade. “You first.”
  11. KINCADE’S EARLY YEARS PART THREE CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE The day of the second sunrise dawned gray and Kincade was glad he had marked the easterly direction with stones for the sun was not visible through the thick clouds. He notched Old Indian’s calendar stick and prepared to run and jog and walk on. He had not gone far when soft rain began to fall. A wind made it rapidly gain momentum and before he realized it hail was pounding his head and shoulders. It felt marvelous! Like strong fingers massaging his weary body. Kincade stood in the midst of the battering and threw a challenge to the icy pellets. With his arms outstretched he yelled, “You may pound me but you won’t drive me down. I shall…I shall…” and suddenly he knew what he would do. He whipped the soft robe from around his waist and spread it over the ground. “I shall catch your little icy balls and turn them into water!” The robe was quickly covered with hail and without waiting for the storm to cease, Kincade dumped out the buffalo water and dropped icy stones one by one into the water-sac until he could fill it no more. He put several in his mouth and gratefully sucked the cold moisture. “Thank you, Spirit of the Sky! Thank you, thank you!” he chanted as he danced around and around. Then before the pellets melted and soaked the robe, he shook off the remainder and draped the skin over his head and shoulders. It would give him some protection until the storm passed. He huddled under the low branches of a juniper tree and practiced The Wait. Hour after hour the wind howled and the rain dripped through the branches. Kincade shivered. He was miserably cold and uncomfortable. Darkness descended and fear crept over him. What if he couldn’t find his way back to the snug tepee and the warmth of a buffalo robe? Worst of all, what if Old Indian didn’t look for him should he not find his way back in three more days? Finally he fell into a troubled sleep. When Kincade awakened he could see sunlight pushing through the eastern clouds. The air was heavy with moisture. He crawled out from under the juniper and shook the robe hoping the rain hadn’t soaked through. It had. But the leather was soft enough that he could ring out the wetness, again and again, and finally he tied it around his waist. He marked the third notch in the calendar stick and started towards the sunrise. Kincade’s energy was draining for he and Old Indian ate meat every day. It could be fresh killed, then roasted on a spit, baked in a pit, or boiled in a bag. In the winter there was pemmican and jerky. He was growing very tired of eating only wild fruits and nuts. He grumbled as he trudged along through wet foliage and muddy footing. He wished he had chosen his bow and arrow to bring along. If he saw a deer, or even a rabbit, he couldn’t kill it. The adventure was ceasing to be fun, in fact it was even becoming alarming. His stomach growled, being deprived of rib-sticking sustenance. Suddenly a wild Tom turkey scurried from the undergrowth, frightened by his footsteps. Kincade’s spirits rose from the depths to the heights. Here was meat, if only he could catch it. Kincade reached and lunged. The turkey frantically flapped its wings to escape, but the feathers had become soaked in the hail storm and useless for flying. This didn’t stop the bird from running on long legs, gobbling in a terrified fit. Its bright red wattle was flapping as it dodged this way and that with Kincade right behind it. Several times the boy almost grabbed it, but the Tom knew his life was in peril and he dashed over and under rocks and bushes, his red head turning white and then bright blue as his panic increased. Kincade was out of breath before he finally grabbed the tail feathers and pinned the Tom between his legs. He panted his blessing: “Thank you for giving your life so that my hunger pangs can cease.” He drew his knife from the scabbard and lopped off its head. He let the body go and it raced around with wings flapping and blood spurting from the neck. Finally the Tom went limp in a soggy heap. Kincade had no intention of eating raw turkey, but as he looked around, he realized the ground was far too wet to build a cooking fire. “I shall carry the bird and perhaps soon I’ll come to a place that the storm did not drench.” He tried to lift the wet carcass but it proved to be incredibly heavy. Kincade rubbed his chin and considered his options. “I shall pluck the turkey here and now and cut out the edible meat. That should make it easy to carry.” He had watched Old Indian do this before. He would have to remember if he wanted meat for dinner. He turned the carcass onto its back and went to work pulling, jerking, tugging, yanking out the soft breast feathers. Those that weren’t too wet he stuck into the soles of his moccasins which were beginning to wear thin. Old Indian had cleaned the whole turkey, for both of them could eat it all. Kincade would only take what he alone could eat. Perhaps he would try to call the wolves to finish it off. The naked breast was soon exposed and carefully Kincade peeled back the skin with his knife. The fat white meat lay on each side of the breast bone, easy to cut away. Kincade looked at the mutilated body of the bird. Many of the long feathers were beautiful – iridescent green and russet and copper. “Too bad I won’t be keeping some of these,” he said to himself. He stroked his fingers along the most colorful. “Old Indian would tell me to make a war bonnet with them.” He laughed. “A remembrance of my running battle with this turkey.” Everything he did reminded him of the fun he shared with the companion he had left behind. Kincade wrapped the breast filets in leaves and put them in the center of the sleeping robe. He tied up the corners and fastened it to a long stick, resting the knapsack on his shoulder. The day was half gone. He ran, jogged, and walked…. ran, jogged, and walked while the turkey meat seemed to get heavier and heavier. Hours passed. Finally the dampness on the ground diminished, the bushes and trees looked totally dry as if not a drop of moisture had fallen for weeks. He breathed a sigh of relief as he entered a small clearing. It was time to start a fire and cook a good meal. He put the burden down. Old Indian made building a fire look easy. So he set out to find all the things he would need. He looked around for a slab of dry wood on which to build his fire and a nice round sagebrush stick for the twirler. He would need tiny wood shavings for tinder and he used his knife to cut and sliver dead bark from a fallen tree. He gathered small, dry twigs to gradually add once smoke began rising. Then he made a pile of larger pieces to add to small flames until they grew into big ones. An hour later he was still twirling a makeshift stick and blowing onto dry bark chips. So many things he had taken for granted when living with Old Indian now seemed impossible to do. But he would not give up. His technique was lacking but he would not let depression take hold of him again. Finally smoke curled and with a whoop of joy he added the kindling and larger pieces one at a time. He had a fire! He had meat! Now he could eat a good meal! Dozens – maybe hundreds – of times he and Old Indian had roasted meat on a spit. While the flames of the fire burned down, Kincade set about fashioning a rack. He cut two sturdy, forked sticks and planted them deep on each side of the fire. He stripped a third stick clean of bark and sharpened the end with his knife. The meat would be skewered on it and suspended between the other two. He was so engrossed in the project that time passed quickly and it was almost dark before he pierced both halves of the turkey breast and hung them over the glowing embers to cook. Kincade’s mouth watered as the meat sizzled and browned. He never remembered roasted meat smelling so good. He kept the fire going but never allowed flames to singe the bird. Every once in awhile he would break off a small piece that looked thoroughly cooked and almost burn his tongue tasting it. “No, just a little while longer,” he had to tell himself, and he would turn the skewer to roast the opposite side. Finally the white meat tasted perfect and he carefully lifted the skewer off the rack and slid the meat onto the soft robe. He sat cross legged and sunk his teeth into the first meat he had eaten in days. He called into the wind, “Old Indian, I am such a good cook! Would you care to come here and share this meal with me?” His mentor may have been unable to accept the boy’s invitation, but another guest planned to attend the feast when she first smelled the aroma of roasting meat. She lumbered through the forest following her sensitive nose for several miles. Kincade jumped up as a female grizzly moved into the clearing where the boy ate, ready to fill her belly - invited or not. Old Indian had once told Kincade a story about the bear. She was Guardian of The Place Of The Sunset - one of the seven directions. Although revered, the Indians called her Old Clumsy Foot. But Old Indian warned Kincade she was nothing of the sort. Deadly when provoked or confronted, she could outrun the fastest man, ripping him into shreds with claws longer than the boy’s longest finger. She was not only to be respected, but given wide berth. In the dim moonlight he could see the huge, silver-tipped animal rise up on hind legs and swing her head back and forth, locating the origin of the smell. Kincade tossed the piece he was eating towards her while slowly backing away from the light of the dying fire. The bear dropped to all four to scavenge the piece of meat. Kincade moved back as far as possible without alarming her. As Old Indian had instructed him in this situation, he lay prone on his stomach in a dark recess of the night, trying to look dead in spite if the trembling of every nerve in his body. He took one quick look at the advancing grizzly before covering his head with his arms. She appeared to be a young bear, but old enough to be smart in the ways of killing for food. He silently lifted his words to the Great Spirit. “Let me die bravely – in the Indian Way.” The grizzly quickly found the turkey meat and sat on her haunches to paw the pieces and slowly bite into them. She did not appear ravenous or in any particular hurry to leave once she’d eaten. Her grunts and growls were not menacing. She began prowling around, hunting for anything else to eat. Slowing his breathing to an absolute minimum, Kincade wondered how appetizing his unwashed body might smell. Would the dirt and sweat of the last few days be delicious or repugnant? The bear came upon his still body. It was very hard for him to not move a muscle as she poked and pushed him with her nose, sniffing loudly. “Never appear to be a threat to a bear,” Old Indian had told him. A threat! He was so weak with fear that he couldn’t have swatted a mosquito, let alone a four hundred pound bear. Her curiosity heightened. Perhaps she had never been this close to a human before. She brushed his body with her right claw, just a scratch, not deep enough to draw blood. Then she stepped on his back with her left foot and the mark of her five claws were left in his flesh. She growled through her bared teeth as if to bite. Kincade prepared to die. The boy’s Guardian Spirit must have spoken to the Guardian Of The Place Of The Sunset, for after a moment’s consideration she shook her massive head and returned to circle the fire for any turkey she might have missed. Finding nothing more of interest, she ambled back into the forest and Kincade heard her grunting her way into the darkness. The danger was over but he still lay motionless for a long time. He would not sleep tonight, even though the experiences of the day had left him exhausted. He did not wish to dream that he had been the grizzly’s most satisfying meal.
  12. KINCADE’S EARLY YEARS PART THREE CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR Kincade awakened at dawn and shook out the soft robe, once again tying it around his waist. Then he began searching in the half-light for any plants with leaves which might have caught the night’s dew. One by one he licked up any moisture, being careful not to cut his tongue on sharp edges. It was hardly a thirst quenching drink but at least his mouth was no longer dry. He sat cross-legged to eat the pinion nuts he had gathered and to plan his day. That reminded him to put the first notch on the stick Old Indian had given him to mark the passage of time. First he would find a stream and fill his water-sac. He tried to orient his present location to the stream they had crossed the day before. All he could remember was that it lay to the east, probably beyond a valley and up a steep ridge. He looked around as if expecting Old Indian or the raven to point the way. No, he reminded himself, and he set out running toward the beautiful red sunrise. Kincade counted his running steps. Then he jogged the same number. Finally he walked and counted twice as many, breathing deeply. He continued this routine as the eastern sky left its night colors behind to become a bright blue. He felt good for the air was scented with woody fragrances. The sky held fluffy, white clouds, and the loam beneath his feet was soft and didn’t push through his moccasins. Perhaps his third choice should have been to bring extra moccasins. These soles would become thin in five days. But he had chosen the soft robe instead and it was better than sleeping on bare ground last night. Pausing to swallow, he wished that his second choice had been a full water-sac, not an empty one. It bounced against his leg, taunting his growing thirst. He kept telling himself that there was no point dwelling on things he would have to go without. Yet every time Kincade slowed to walk he looked in all directions, hoping to see a place for getting water. Was there any cactus he could pierce with his knife? No. Was there sand which he could dig into until water seeped to the surface? No. Would there be rain before the day was over? He looked at the benevolent sky and knew that was not going to happen. He felt his tongue sticking to the top of his mouth, so he sucked on a round rock to create saliva. That didn’t help very much. With every disappointment, Kincade felt more thirst, but he refused to panic. What had Old Indian taught him that could serve him now? He would practice The Wait and find understanding. He stopped his running, jogging and walking and sat down to direct his full attention to the problem. Of course! Animals needed water. Where had he seen or heard animals? Then he remembered yesterday. Buffalo! He had smelled buffalo! The beasts always roamed where they could get water. All he had to do was locate the herd he had smelled the day before. How could he find them? The scent was gone. His nose was of no use. Neither did his eyes see buffalo. Then he remembered what Old Indian had done when he slew the buffalo years before – he had heard the beasts. Old Indian had put his ear to the ground and listened. Kincade built a small pile of stones to mark the spot where he sat and the easterly direction he had been headed. Then he walked north about a half mile before stopping and putting his ear to the ground. He heard nothing. He continued west in the direction he had just traversed and stooped to listen again. Nothing. He circled south, stopped, and pressed his ear to the earth. He sighed and stood up quite discouraged. He was almost ready to continue back to his starting place when he noticed that long clouds had filled the sky and a sudden breeze swept across his face. The wind had shifted directions. There it was! The distinctive odor he had noticed when he was blindfolded. Now he knew that a herd of buffalo was not far to the south. He began to run in that direction. Two hours of running, jogging, and walking and Kincade spotted several hundred of the shaggy animals peacefully grazing. His eyes frantically searched for their water hole. The herd spread out evenly across the plains with the exception of one place where a greater concentration gathered. That must be it. Kincade felt lucky that the water hole wasn’t near the center of the herd. Kincade would need to approach the hole from downwind so the buffalo would not sense his presence and panic. He threw the light robe over his head and shoulders and slumped to appear as buffalo-like as possible. Old Indian had told him, “They have poor eyes but excellent noses.” Perhaps he could fool the buffalo if they just didn’t smell him. Most of the herd was feeding in the grasses. Kincade cautiously crept toward what he hoped would be a large pool of water surrounded by sand and pebbles. His thirst leapt out ahead of him and he envisioned scooping up water and gulping handfull after handfull. When he came close his hopes were dashed. He stared at very brown water, stirred up by the buffalo from a muddy bottom. If he drank this he would never return to Old Indian in five days – maybe never. Why hadn’t he insisted on carrying a full water-sac! Like a daydream, Kincade imagined water coursing over his body, cooling the heat, soothing his thirst. Tears formed behind his eyes. Then Kincade shook free of the tormenting image. Old Indian said, “A real man only cries when an enemy kills his relative – that is the Indian Way.” Kincade was on this adventure to prove himself a real man - a man who knows the Indian Way. He would need to accept this challenge – not in an easy way – but in a different way. The buffalo grazing nearby still had not noticed the intruder, or if they had they weren’t paying him much attention. So he slipped the robe off his shoulders and looked around. How could he purify the water? He thought of all the streams where he and Old Indian had raised their tepee. The best tasting water had rushed over rocks and stones, sand bars, and even marshy, willow-filled eddies. Nature had scrubbed the water and made it sweet to drink. That was what he must do – wash the water - but how? Closing his eyes, Kincade thought of the lessons he had learned over the years. Then, an idea appeared. Just before he found the herd he had passed through a small grove of white trees which had strips of bark peeling off their trunks. The more he thought about it, the more he believed he could carefully wrap this bark into a large cone with a small hole left in the bottom. He visualized securing it with the strap of the water-sac, then filling the cone with layers of sand, small pebbles, and sweet grass - if he could find any that hadn’t been trampled. Yes, this might work. He would pass the brown water through this filter into the water-sac and hope it would come out clear enough to drink. It would take time for he only had his hand to scoop up the water, but if this worked Old Indian would be so proud of him. He could hardly wait to crawl back to the birch grove and cut off the right piece of bark with his knife. Painstakingly, Kincade filled his water-sac using the filtered cone. Once the sac was full and Kincade knew he could drink, his thirst left him, but he was curious. He tipped the sac to his lips. The water may have looked clear but it had a strange taste. The boy spit out the liquid without swallowing. He feared the foul water would make him sick. Fine for buffalo, but not for him. Securing the full water-sac to his side, Kincade walked back to the starting place where he had made the small pile of stones. He picked the red berries and squashed the juice slowly in his mouth. It wasn’t the long drink he had hoped for, but it was enough. Tonight he would sleep where leaves with morning dew would be plentiful. Hopefully tomorrow he would find the stream and get enough fresh, pure water to last the next four days. Kincade patted his full water-sac with pride. He wouldn’t swallow the liquid but he could probably rinse his mouth and spit it out without getting sick. “But only if I’m really desperate,” he told himself, and then he added, “I wonder if buffalos can spit?” This thought sent him laughing. Life was good. He had met his first problem in the Indian Way.
  13. KINCADE’S EARLY YEARS PART THREE CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE For the next two years Kincade was so busy growing up that he hardly realized that Swift Raven was growing old. They moved slowly when they traveled. They stayed longer in the camps. Even the mysterious messages from the raven to move on were not followed immediately, but perhaps several days later. Although Swift Raven knew he was no longer the spry octogenarian who chased after buffalo, his determination to train the boy in the Indian Way never lessened. The horse Lightning had been well cared for, but Swift Raven knew that every horse needed to bond with its owner. Swift Raven taught Kincade to curry its coat, mane and tail using only the boy’s touch rather than the harshness of tools. “If the horse feels your hands, it will know your heart,” said Swift Raven. Daily he was to check the hooves, mouth and nostrils. It was totally Kincade’s responsibility to take Lightning to the best grass and pure water. Swift Raven also taught Kincade to leap on Lightning’s back. “Become one with the horse,” he said. Swift Raven rode stride for stride alongside the boy, instructing with both actions and words. Kincade loved to ride bareback as the quivering horse flesh rippled beneath him like fast water running over smooth rock. In the days to follow, Kincade learned to guide his horse using only the pressure of his knees. Swift Raven knew that when the time came for Kincade to shoot from horseback, he would no longer need to hold the jaw-thong. His arms would be free for letting arrows fly from his bow. “Killing deer and antelope will be more fun when I am galloping,” Kincade shouted to his partner. As the boy became more proficient with twisting and turning, Swift Raven found himself getting dizzy when he rode alongside. Kincade’s skills as a horseman had begun to exceed his own. “I shall watch from here,” he said as he slid to the ground, feeling proud of the boy’s accomplishments. Kincade wheeled to halt in front of him. “I think I am ready to kill a buffalo!” “You think the wolves are hungry again?” Swift Raven laughed, wondering if Kincade actually could down such a large beast. But it was not yet time, so he shook his head. “No, our prey should be something we can completely consume ourselves. To waste is not the Indian Way.” “Then I shall kill a rabbit – you eat so little now it should satisfy your hunger.” That evening Swift Raven sat cross legged looking beyond the fire’s low flames at Kincade. What a change ten years had made. He was no longer a boy, yet not quite a man. Kincade stood head and shoulders above the little man who had known more than ninety winters. Swift Raven was not sure if the boy was growing faster than spring’s prairie grass, or if his aging body had shrunk considerably from his days of being a mighty scout. The most remarkable change was in Kincade’s face. The firelight showed the boy’s soft fuzz of mustache and beard. But that was not what struck Swift Raven. It was Kincade’s look of self-confidence and his excitement for living that glowed from within his deep blue eyes. Although Kincade’s tanned muscles were not yet manly, they were strong and handsome to behold when the boy went bare-chested. Swift Raven was proud, but not of himself for having fashioned and directed the person squatting before the fire. He was proud of Kincade for evolving into the unusual person he had become. Whether the Great Spirit or Kincade himself had molded the young man seated at the edge of the fire, Swift Raven’s eyes saw nothing but perfection. But the feeling soon disappeared as if swept up by the fire’s smoke. Suddenly, Swift Raven saw a reflection of himself, and with it, his own limitations. This was not enough. It would not do. Not for this boy for whom he cared so deeply. “This is not right,” Swift Raven said out loud. “What is not right, Old Indian?” How could he explain it? He looked at this young man who meant everything to him. “You are walking in my shadow.” “And I am honored to do so,” answered Kincade. “No,” said Swift Raven. “You are not me. The shadow you follow must be your own.” Swift Raven stood, looking directly into Kincade’s blue eyes. “Are you ready to make your own shadow without anyone to guide or protect you?” Kincade looked at his companion with pride. “I have had the best teacher. Why should I not have the necessary skills to face any adventure with only my own mind and body?” Kincade rose to face Swift Raven. “If you wish to test me, Old Indian, I am ready.” Swift Raven smiled for this was the answer he wanted. But was Kincade’s bravado only that – bravado - or could the boy actually walk in his own footsteps? “Tomorrow, Kincade. We shall see tomorrow.” And with that Swift Raven went to his sleeping robe. The sun had barely left its nightly hiding place when Kincade and Swift Raven stirred from their robes, walking side by side to the stream, splashing water over their bodies. Kincade wondered if Old Indian remembered their conversation of the previous evening. Then the boy laughed, thinking to himself, “Old Indian never forgets anything!” The two returned to their camp, fanned the nearly exhausted coals into flame, and then ate a meal of meat and vegetable roots in silence. The two finished. Kincade practiced The Wait, knowing that Old Indian would speak only when he was ready. Eventually, Swift Raven nodded, and spoke to the boy. “You may take three things with you. Think carefully before you choose.” Without hesitating Kincade said, “First I want you. Second I want Lightning. Third I want the raven who guides us.” The old man shook his head, chuckling. The boy had a quick sense of humor. “You must do without companionship – human, animal, or feathered friend.” Kincade smiled at Old Indian, feeling good at seeing his mentor’s happiness. The boy knew this test was important, so he thought carefully before replying in earnest. “I choose to take a knife, a water-sac…” “Empty water-sac,” Swift Raven interrupted. “Yes, empty,” wishing to himself that Old Indian had missed the distinction. “And a light summer robe.” “Why do you decide on these three?” “For food, for water, for shelter. All else will be provided by the land around me.” Swift Raven nodded. “Wise,” was all he said. Then he glanced at the sky. “We leave before the sun touches those tree tops. Get ready.” Kincade put his knife into a leg sheath, fastened a water-sac to his loincloth strap, and tied a light robe around his waist. Then he stood in the center of their campsite and looked in the four directions, memorizing all the features which could lead him back. The butte to the north was not far away. It was distinguished by several deep ravines which must have carried spring run-offs in three giant waterfalls. Extending to the east was the vast aspen grove in which they had set up camp. On the south was the stream whose current flowed from west to east. At the edge of the aspen on the west was a dense forest of conifers. Having memorized his bearings, Kincade led Lightning to where Swift Raven waited outside the tepee. “Do you make me walk or ride?” “Your feet would teach you too much if you walked. You will ride until the spot where I leave you.” “Won’t I see where you are leading me if I ride?” “No.” Swift Raven held up a piece of soft leather. “I will bind this over your eyes.” “And what if I can peek under it just a little?” Swift Raven smiled. “You will not cheat, for this adventure is to prove you are a man, not a little boy playing a game.” Now it was Kincade’s turn to smile. Old Indian had answers to everything. Kincade wondered if he would return to Swift Raven with new answers of his own. “I am ready.” “Take with you one more thing.” He handed Kincade a large, green stick with the bark peeled off. The Old Indian held a similar one in his other hand. “At each sunrise we both will cut a notch in the stick. I will expect to see you again after five notches.” Kincade accepted the stick. “Now, lean down so I can cover your eyes.” Kincade did not need to see to nimbly jump onto Lightning’s back. When he reached for the jaw-thong, he realized Old Indian held it, leading Lightning behind his own mount. The adventure had begun. Kincade felt confident. If he could not use his eyes he would start immediately to use his other senses. Perhaps they would serve him even better. The boy turned inward, knowing that smell, sound, touch and even taste were not easily disguised, whereas sometimes the eyes deceived. Another smile crossed Kincade’s young face. This was going to be fun. As the two rode, Kincade listened to the rustling of aspen leaves. Their quake grew softer and more distant as the horses moved forward, soon giving way to the sticky smell of pine resin carried on a slight breeze. He knew the direction Old Indian was taking: West. They progressed slowly. Kincade counted the number of times they went up a steep slope and down a deep gully. “Once up, once down, up again.” They must now be on a plateau. He heard the gurgle of running water. This was not the same gentle steam that flowed near their campsite for when the horses were lead across Kincade felt the splash of deeper water upon his legs. The hoof falls of the horses usually indicated forest undergrowth, but there was one stretch which puzzled Kincade. Old Indian must be following some sort of trail. The boy would hear the swish of tall grasses, and then the grating of sand and packed dirt paired with the kicking up of small stones, the swish of much shorter grass, a second grating of sand, packed dirt and small stone that matched the first, and the second swish of taller grasses. All the sounds occurred within a very short distance. Drawing upon everything he had ever heard over his years with Old Indian, Kincade could not picture what they had just crossed. These sounds were unlike any he had heard, so he memorized them. On his return to their camp, Kincade’s ears would recognize these strange sounds again. Only then would his eyes identify the source of whatever it was that he and Old Indian were crossing. Kincade’s nose twitched. The boy could smell a herd of buffalo. He knew that the smell did not reveal how close the beasts were, as the animals’ noxious excrement could carry for miles on a slight breeze. Old Indian and Kincade rode on in silence, the boy using every bit of training given him over the years, gaining a new appreciation for the lessons he had received from the wisdom of Old Indian. The sun had ceased to warm Kincade’s back. It now beat down on his chest and face. They had come a great distance following the sun as it arched over their heads and descended towards the western horizon. Swift Raven came to a halt. “I leave you here,” he said. “Slide off your horse.” “May I remove the mask now?” “Not until you hear the call of the wolf,” said Swift Raven. “This will be my own voice signaling you.” Kincade slid from his horse, feeling a mat of moss and fallen pine needles beneath his moccasins. “I will see you after five sunrises,” said Swift Raven. “Remember to marvel at the wonders all around you. Accept those that will be useful to you. Imitate nature as best a man can.” Then he was gone. Kincade remained perfectly still, immersed in the patience of The Wait. Finally he heard a distant howl. The boy tore off the soft blindfold and looked around. He was not surprised at a forest of stubby pinion and juniper trees around him. What did surprise him was not seeing the prints of hooves to indicate which way Old Indian had left. And even though he walked for some distance in every direction there were no horse droppings anywhere within sight. He laughed. Old Indian would not make this adventure easy. Kincade decided he would not go further this first night. He scratched an arrow in the direction of the sun closing its arc into the western sky. In the morning he would watch for the sun’s rise so he would know the direction of east. Already Kincade felt secure with the familiar things Old Indian had taught him. His excitement staved off hunger. Knowing he must remain strong and alert, Kincade decided to quench his thirst by picking the ripe berries he had seen when looking for Old Indian’s departure path. The bushes held many of the red berries, and he squashed them in his mouth savoring the juices running down his throat. Chewing them would only leave their million seeds stuck in his teeth. There were also clusters of white berries. To the unlearned, those berries might deceive the eyes and tempt the palate. But Old Indian had warned Kincade long ago that these could be poisonous. “You must use your eyes to find the truth, Kincade” he would teach. “Do not allow anything to deceive you. All the answers to all the questions may be found through the eyes.” Having his fill of red berries, Kincade gathered pinion nuts, collecting a small pile for his morning meal. It was a warm evening. No fire was necessary. Kincade found a patch of wild grass. Kneeling, the boy gathered up a fist full of small stones. He threw them in a wide arc across the grasses. Their fall would stir any rattlesnake resting there. Hearing nothing, smelling no scent of the creature, Kincade shook out his robe, spreading it over the soft grass. He stretched out, placed his hands behind his head and sighed deeply as the sky turned black. The boy felt at home in the wild. He had never known anything else. The sky had always been his roof, the land beneath Kincade’s feet a pallet and a comfort. The boy searched the twinkling canopy overhead for the star Old Indian taught was a constant companion and guide. This star was always fixed. Kincade smiled, finding it easily, a bright bold finger pointing north. The opposite direction would be south. Kincade rolled to his side and fumbled for the stick Old Indian had given him. He tucked one end under his robe. The opposite end Kincade pointed towards the star. Then he sighed again with total contentment. Kincade was alone, but he was not lonely. This trait was inside Kincade’s heart. He closed his eyes and slept soundly.
  14. KINCADE’S EARLY YEARS PART THREE CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO Sky Fire lay prone on the butte and gazed on the circle of tepees in the valley below. He mumbled to himself as he took long swallows from a jug of whiskey, a habit he had acquired in earnest. “I hate the one who has taken my wife into his tepee, but now I shall use his ability as a scout to end my search for Kangee Kohana.” Another swig as he scanned the scene below trying to identify Standing Warrior. “Why did I ever try to rely on scouts with no skill when the greatest of them all can lead me?” He swished the burning liquid around in the jug and again lifted it to his lips. “Surely he has kept a watchful eye on Kangee Kohana. Kimimela Weeko and Ehawee would want reports that their father is still alive.” He squinted his eyes to look again through the haze of liquor. Nowhere could he see Standing Warrior. But there! He recognized the two sisters among the many women going about their work. “Ah, now it begins,” he said, relishing his plans. “I will easily capture my divorced wife. When I threaten to torture her, Ozuye Najin will lead me to the old man in order to save her. Then I will return to being a leader in a tribe like the one in the valley below.” He scooted back and staggered to his horse. “Kimimela Weeko and Ehawee never change their morning routine. I shall be waiting.” Ever since the two sisters had lived in adjacent tepees, it had been their habit to go together to bathe in the early morning hours. Laughing Maiden would bring her little children. When Pretty Butterfly was Sky Fire’s wife she had no children to bathe, but now, as second wife to Standing Warrior, she had two sons to carry with her. On this morning Laughing Maiden had her second and third children, but her oldest son went to the boys’ pool to join his friends. The women chose a shallow pool so they could let the little ones play in the water without fear. Pretty Butterfly’s baby was taken from the cradle board and laid on a soft deer skin. He kicked his feet and chortled with glee as his mother splashed and rubbed him with the fresh water. The women trusted one another to watch over the four infants while they took turns going to the women’s bathing pool to freshen themselves and visit with their neighbors. Pretty Butterfly was trying to teach her older son to walk in the shallow water when a large shadow passed over her shoulder. Could Laughing Maiden be returning so soon? She looked up, into the enraged eyes of her former husband. “Mahpee Paytah!” was all she could say before a leather gag was thrust into her mouth. She struggled as her hands and feet were quickly tied. Sky Fire threw her across his shoulder and ran into the woods where he tossed her across the back of his waiting black stallion. He secured her twisting body like the carcass of a slain deer. Springing up behind her, they rode away like the wind. The four babies continued to splash the water without noticing they were alone. Once Sky Fire reached a safe distance, he dismounted, dragging Pretty Butterfly to the ground. He lashed her to a tree, left the gag in her mouth, and blindfolded her eyes. Then Sky Fire galloped back to the pool. Laughing Maiden returned to give Pretty Butterfly her time at the women’s bathing pool, but her sister was nowhere to be seen. She called but there was no answer. Something had happened. Pretty Butterfly would never have left the little ones alone. She looked at the ground and saw signs of a struggle and her heart beat faster. “Oh no!” With the stealth that he had used to capture Pretty Butterfly, Sky Fire crept up to the second mother from behind. As fast as a lightning strike, she felt a sharp blade at her throat. A deep, guttural voice whispered, “Ehawee, I should use this to pay you back for allowing your sister to leave my tepee and share yours.” She knew that voice! “Mahpee Paytah! What do you want of me?” “Take a message to your husband. I have Kimimela Weeko. She is hidden in a remote place. I shall not be merciful when I finally kill her. Unless….” And he swung the frightened woman around to face him. “Unless Ozuye Najin meets me on the bluff at sunrise tomorrow and leads me to Kangee Kohana. Do you understand?” She trembled. “Yes, you will kill my sister unless my husband helps you find my father. But he is not here. He has gone and I don’t know when he will return!” “Then I shall meet him when the sun rises twice. If he is not there, I shall find pleasure in torturing your sister who disgraced me.” He put the knife back in the sheath and snatched up her smallest baby. “If I hear you scream for help when I leave, the child dies. If you are silent you will find him along my trail.” Sky Fire disappeared into the trees and returned to his black stallion which he had tied nearby. He easily sprang to its back, holding the baby upside down by one foot. The child was screaming loudly when he tossed it to the ground a short distance away. Sky Fire galloped back to Pretty Butterfly. She knew it was hopeless to struggle as he released her from the tree without removing the gag, or blindfold, or ropes which bound her hands and feet. He threw her onto the horse and swung up in back of her. The village was soon left far behind. Laughing Maiden could not utter a sound for fear of Sky Fire’s threat. The terror of what had just happened to her and the child choked her throat. The thought of what lay in store for her sister made tears run down her cheek. The stories told about this renegade were so horrific as to strike her dumb. Her oldest son came from the boy’s bathing pool and saw his mother’s frightened face. “What is it?” he asked. Now that she was sure Sky Fire couldn’t hear her, she shouted to him, “Look after the babies!” Then she rushed in the direction Sky Fire had taken. In less than a half mile she found her third child lying in the grass screaming, but unhurt. She clutched him to her breast and wept. * * * After several hours of riding, Sky Fire came to an abandoned soddy that he had used as a hideout on many occasions. Here he kept a cache of food and whiskey. He grinned as he remembered his gang of renegades raiding this homestead. They had captured a pretty young girl and kept her for their pleasure for several months. She might have lived longer as their whore if she had not been killed by his own arrow when she tried to escape. He would make sure this woman, who now called herself second wife of Standing Warrior, would not try anything so foolish. Sky Fire pulled Pretty Butterfly off the horse and dropped her to the ground like a dead prairie chicken. He dragged her by her long, thick braids through the door hanging on its hinges and propped her against a wall. He took off the blindfold and she looked around with terror in her eyes. “You wonder what is happening?” he said to Pretty Butterfly as he pulled the cork from the whiskey jug. “You are ransom for a very valuable prize which the man you now call your husband will deliver to me.” He took a long swig of the brew and heaved a sigh of satisfaction. He then pulled a large knife from his leg sheath. “Since you divorced me in such a shameful manner, I will now shame you.” Pretty Butterfly whimpered as she imagined his revenge. Her eyes were beseeching which gave Sky Fire sadistic pleasure. “If ever you return to the village it will be without that lovely hair which you brush and wash so carefully.” With giant slashes he cut the tresses from her head until her scalp bled. Her gagged voice was a cry of pain. “This is only the beginning.” He grabbed her braids and whacked her with them like whips. Tears flowed down her bruised cheeks. “Now that I have robbed you of your beauty I will tell you why. The scout who shares your sleep robe will lead me to your father.” Pretty Butterfly’s eyes went wide. She vigorously shook her head, No! “Oh yes, he will do this gladly when he learns that you will be tortured if he refuses.” Sky Fire laughed with a deep, guttural outburst. “But while I wait two sunrises for this message to be given him by your sister, I shall exercise a husband’s right to enjoy his wife’s body – for you are still my squaw, Kimimela Weeko, no matter what you have done to divorce me. What a pleasure it will be to know you once again.” He ripped off her dress. As he untied her legs she twisted her body to and fro trying to avoid him and he laughed. “My little wild cat!” She thrashed her tied arms trying to hit him. “I shall not release your hands for they might claw me. I will not remove the gag from your mouth for your teeth could bite me. If you try to kick me…” The look of a killer came over his face. Pretty Butterfly immediately stopped her struggling. She did not want to die. Night fell. Sky Fire had exhausted his prowess. He downed the last of the whiskey. “I shall exercise a husband’s privilege with you again – very soon,” he slurred as he pushed Pretty Butterfly to the wall. She lay still, not even looking at him. The horror of what was happening must be held tight within herself. He tipped the jug to be sure it was empty, rolled over and collapsed on his back. The woman would still be there tomorrow. He needed to get some sleep and regain his vigor. * * * Standing Warrior felt renewed following his visit with his father-in-law and the boy. They were surviving very well alone in the wilderness. Their strength became his. As he returned to his village, Standing Warrior would need every bit of that strength. He emerged from the hills leading Laughing Maiden’s brown pack horse which he had exchanged for the handsome appaloosa. To his astonishment his first wife was outside the circle of tepees, frantically searching the skyline as if looking for him. When he was recognized she ran as fast as her legs could carry her. “Come quickly,” she shouted from a distance. Standing Warrior galloped his horse to met her. “Tell me why you run to greet me.” “Something terrible has happened at the bathing pool,” she gasped. “I came and found the four little ones alone. Kimimela Weeko has been abducted by Mahpee Paytah! He threatens to kill her if you do not lead him to my father.” Standing Warrior reeled. Not since he had witnessed the slaughter of Brave Eagle’s three children at the hands of the soldier had he felt such anger boil within him. Quickly, he handed her the jaw-thong of the pack animal. “Take care of your horse. I must go quickly before any trail fades that I might follow.” He sped off to the bathing pool at a full gallop. As Standing Warrior studied the area around the pool it was not difficult for him to surmise what had happened. The scout’s sharp eyes saw traces of a person being dragged. His sensitive nose could detect the fragrance of his second wife. He closed his eyes, reached deep into himself and drew upon every lesson, every skill he had ever learned over his lifetime. He would follow this trail, rescue Pretty Butterfly… he would find Sky Fire and… Dusk brought dark shadows that equaled Standing Warrior’s fury. There in the dim light, the scout saw an old soddy. A big, black stallion, which he recognized immediately, was cropping grass. Standing Warrior dismounted and looped the jaw-thong over a bush. With the stealth of a mountain lion he crept closer. His perfect hearing recognized whimpers, muttered words, but no cries of torture. The door to the soddy hung open. The light inside was dim, but his eyes were trained to see even in the dark. The woman pinned to the floor was definitely Pretty Butterfly. The naked man crushing her was unquestionably Sky Fire. With a war cry that made the dirt walls tremble, Standing Warrior leapt into the room, slammed into the prone body of Sky Fire, flipping him over and onto his back. His hand shot forward, the blade of his tomahawk pressed against Sky Fire’s throat while he wrapped his legs around his torso, pinning both arms to his sides. Sky Fire knew that any struggling would only cause the blade to slice off his head. With clenched teeth and wild eyes, Standing Warrior lowered his face to within a breath of Sky Fire. “I could end your miserable life this moment. But that would not be sufficient. Your punishment must equal the atrocities that you have done.” Standing Warrior used the rope that had bound Pretty Butterfly’s legs to truss Sky Fire. He held both hands out to his wife and gently raised her to sit beside him. He carefully removed the gag and cut her bonds. She pointed to her torn dress and he slipped it over her head. He looked into her eyes. Without speaking, Standing Warrior assured her that no further harm would come to her. Ever. Sky Fire looked at Standing Warrior with contemptuous resignation. “Untie me and let me die as a warrior with your spear in my heart.” “Never” said Standing Warrior. “You have disgraced the honor of every brave warrior who kills only for his tribe or his family.” He raised the tomahawk. “You will never again lift a tomahawk, or draw a bow, or let another spear fly.” He swung the blunt side of the weapon and instantly broke every bone in both Sky Fire’s arms. The renegade screamed. “Never again will you go looking for an honorable old man who has the courage of the wolf to love and protect a boy whom you rejected.” The tomahawk head crashed against the kneecaps, then calves and thighs. Sky Fire wailed in pain. Standing Warrior looked at Pretty Butterfly, feeling a love deeper than any he thought possible. “My wife has strength you cannot begin to imagine. She will gradually forget you and what you have done, for I will give her a beautiful life, day after day, and she will live in the present of each day, not the past. But you will never forget this day – from this day on you will no longer be able to torture any woman as you have my wife.” Standing Warrior’s tomahawk slashed the body of Sky Fire one more time blade side down, not to crush or shatter, but to slice and sever. “This is the day you lost your masculinity.” Sky Fire didn’t hear Standing Warrior for he had lost consciousness. Standing Warrior held Pretty Butterfly to his chest. “Are you all right?” he asked, stroking her cropped head. She nodded, but could not yet utter a word. “Come, we shall go back. If he dies, so be it. If he lives, he will wish he were dead. Either way, he is nothing to us.” After lifting Pretty Butterfly onto his own horse, Standing Warrior mounted Sky Fire’s fiery black stallion which he could control with his quirt. She slumped forward but forced herself to raise her head to ask, “Are your sons all right?” “Yes. Ehawee cares for them.” They rode silently back to their precious children. Upon their return to their village, the scout dismounted the stallion. The horse broke free from his grip and with a mighty whiney it reared up on its hind legs and galloped back into the forest from whence they had come.
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