"The West"

Chapter 1
Starting Out

By Thomas Bowling

“How much longer are we going to wait here?"

Sarah Beauchamp was pacing around the wagon, anxious to begin her journey. A new life awaited her out west, and she wanted to get started. She was traveling with her father and setting off on the adventure of her life.

She had waited months for the arrangements to be made. Supplies had to be stocked. A wagon must be bought. Sarah's father purchased a Prairie Schooner. This had become the wagon of choice. The first settlers went in Conestogas because they were larger and families could ride in them. They soon found out that their size was their weakness.

A Conestoga’s weight was a detriment in the mud that was often encountered. They broke down more readily from the distance, and the mountains became impassable. Prairie Schooners were smaller, they didn't put the strain on the oxen or horses pulling them like the larger wagon. The Schooners weren't big enough to carry the families and all of the supplies needed for the journey. This meant that travelers had to walk the two thousand miles to Oregon, but at least they would get there.

After a committee formed by a group of the travelers conducted interviews, a wagon master was hired. This last item was the most important. Many stories were told of inexperienced wagon masters leading their group into disasters. The West was a dangerous place when it wanted to be. Jarrod Green, an imposing trail hardened man, was chosen to lead the wagons west. He was an experienced wagon master and had led several trains. He came highly recommended to the group and had proper letters of introduction.

Sarah paced around the wagon. “When are we leaving?”

“We need to leave soon,” Sarah's father said. “Or we'll lose our window of opportunity. We only have from mid-April to late May or the weather won't hold, but we have to wait for the stragglers to join the group.”

Sarah rearranged the supplies for the fourth time. She took inventory, again - 200 pounds of flour, 150 pounds of bacon, 10 pounds of coffee, 20 pounds of sugar, and 10 pounds of salt. A cooking kettle, frying pan, coffee pot, tin plates, cups, knives, and forks.

She had packed clothing and other necessities. In all, they were taking 1,200 pounds of supplies on their journey. If this wasn't enough there would be forts and settlements along the way where they could purchase more.

“I don't know why we have to wait,” Sarah complained. “The Petersons said if we don't leave soon, there won't be grass on the plains to feed the livestock.”

“We'll wait as long as we can,” her father, Maurice Beauchamp said.

“They would do the same for us. Don't be in such a hurry. The West will still be there when we get to it.”

“I know, Papa, but I want to travel. I wasn't meant to stay still.”

“Yes, you're just like your Mama. She was always on the move, too. That's how we wound up in America. France couldn't contain her. She heard about an exciting life in an untamed land and she had to go see it. Now, New York isn't big enough to satisfy you. You have to see what else is here.”

“There's so much to see, Papa. Out west, I'll be able to put my teaching to real use. I can civilize the Indians and teach them a better way of life.”

“I'm sure they like their way just fine,” Maurice said, chuckling. “How do you know they won't teach you something? Knowledge wasn't invented in Europe.”

“I know, Papa. It’s just they're so . . . savage for lack of a better word.”

“Poor girl. You've got a lot to learn.”

To be continued . . . 

Author Notes Thanks to Phyllis Stewart for the Indian Chef illustration.

Chapter 2
The West

By Thomas Bowling

Previously . . .

Sarah Beauchamp and her father Maurice, French immigrants have joined a wagon train to travel west to Oregon. 

Chapter 2

Independence, Missouri, was called the gateway to the American West. Virtually, all wagons trains started from there. The group would travel two thousand miles to Oregon City, using the tried and true Oregon trail. If a wagon train ventured off of this path, they were certain to encounter trouble.

Hostile Indians often attacked settlers who veered from the established route. Harsh weather conditions could make travel impossible. The wilderness was not a friendly place for novices. Stories of shortcuts were just that, stories. Two thousand miles is two thousand miles.

The travelers were in a jovial mood. Introductions were made, and friendships formed. Everyone agreed to make any sacrifices necessary for the good of the trip.

As the new settlers were preparing for the trip west, the wagon master called the group together.

“As we start out, there are a few things you need to know. This is not going to be an easy journey. You must be able to endure heat like a salamander, mud and water like a muskrat, dust like a toad, and labor like a jackass.

“You must learn to eat with unwashed fingers, drink out of the same vessel as your mules, sleep on the ground when it rains, share your blanket with vermin, and have patience with mosquitoes. You have to cease to think, except of where you may find grass and water and a good camping place. If you're ready for all of this, you will make it to Oregon."

“What about Indians?” Herb Jenkins asked.

“Indians are the least of our worries. We may never see one. I've made this journey without encountering Indians. Mostly, when we do, they pay no attention to us. There are a couple of places where they're hostile, but we try to avoid them. Everyone stay together in a group and we'll be fine.

“One more word of advice, the best way to prepare for this trip is to head out on your own for three or four days. Get familiar with your equipment and your animals. Find out what it's like to be on the trail. Then come back and we will leave as a group.”

Everyone agreed that this was good advice, but only a few actually did it. Those that did benefited from the experience.

After the wagon master spoke, the travelers had something to think about, and the mood became more serious. They realized that they would need some organization.

A vote was held, and Herb Jenkins was selected as a go-between, to represent the group in whatever situation may arise. His only qualification being that he was the most outspoken of the travelers.

Eventually, everyone was ready, and the wagons pulled away with much fanfare.

“I'm disappointed that we may not see any Indians,” Sarah said. “I was looking forward to seeing some real natives.”

“Be careful what you wish for, child,” her father said.

“Look, Papa, a band bidding us a good journey.”

“Yes, we're on our way. Oregon, here we come.”

The morning air was crisp as the wagons came to life. As they moved forward; the settlers spread out across the plain. Sarah was confused by the lack of formation.

“Papa, I thought we would travel in a line, one behind the other.”

“No, Sarah, If we did everyone would get covered with dust from the wagon ahead of them. This way everyone can breathe. The only time the wagons will gather together is in the evening, when we stop. We'll circle the wagons, and put the livestock in the center, so they won't wander off during the night.”

The group consisted of twenty-four wagons. That's ninety-six wheels, all of them squeaking in their own pitch. It created a symphony of pitchy violin-like music. It was rather pleasant for seven or eight miles. Then, it became irritating. It sounded like twenty-four giant crickets singing to each other.

All that cacophony of squeaky instruments. It was enough to drive you batty unless you could put it out of your head. It went on all day until the wagons stopped in the evening. Then the real crickets took over, rubbing their legs together like tiny violins, singing back to the wagons.

The little cricket songs went on all night. Then, they turned the serenade over to the giant crickets again, as the wagons creaked into life. Four months of out-of-tune love songs.

Most wagon trains traveled the Oregon Trail. It was considered the safest route to the west. It bypassed the fiercest Indian tribes, and the wagons could travel at a rate of ten miles a day. Sarah's great adventure had finally begun. She felt this is what she was born to do. She couldn't be happier.

To be continued . . . 

Author Notes Special Thanks to Phyllis Stewart for the illustration of the Indian Chef.

Chapter 3
Tom Gordon

By Thomas Bowling


Sarah Beauchamp and her father Maurice are part of a wagon train traveling to Oregon in the 1800s.

Chapter 3

On the fifth day out, Maurice's wagon broke a wheel. The travelers lined up in rows and helped unload the supplies. When the wagon was lightened, a group of men lifted the broken wheel off the ground and replaced it. Now, all that was left to do was reload the supplies. This was the first test that the group could work together to reach their destination.

One of the men who helped was Tom Gordon, a young man from Edinburgh, Scotland. Tom was a handsome young man. He had just turned eighteen. He was tall, well over six feet, and had long reddish hair. He was attempting to grow a beard but wasn't having much success.

His parents had died of typhoid two years earlier, and he was making the journey alone. Tom came from hard-working stock. He was a natural farmer, a trait that would serve him well as he set out to raise a family in the west.

The young man approached Sarah as they were loading the last of the supplies.

“Hello. My name is Tom.”

“I'm Sarah. It was nice of you to help.”

“On the trail, we have to all band together,” Tom said. "When we get to the next settlement your father's going to have to buy a new wheel.”

“We planned for emergencies. Papa has some money set aside for it.”

“That's good. It cost me all I had to outfit my wagon. I'd be in bad shape if I had trouble.”

“I'm sure everyone would help you. Like you say, on the trail, we have to work together.”

Sarah and Tom were the only ones of their age in the group. It was natural that they began to walk together. There was little else to do on the trip but walk.

Sarah loved to write poetry. This journey promised to provide enough material to fill several books. With her long brown hair and bright blue eyes, she looked like a poem.

She would read some of her poems to Tom as they traveled. Tom didn't understand all of them, but he pretended to be fascinated by Sarah's ability. He could listen to the sound of her voice forever.

Sarah had attended finishing school in France and carried herself with the grace of a fine lady. In France, she would have been courted by dozens of wealthy men, but rich men were few and far between in America.

That didn't matter to Sarah. She would be happy as the wife of a teamster. A life spent traveling would suit her fine. Even though the clothes of a frontier woman were coarse Sarah would wear them with grace. But not on this trip. On this trip, she would dress like a fine lady with billowy dresses and several petticoats and bonnets with ribbons.

She tied the skirts up as best she could to keep them out of the mud, but soon gave up and let them become tattered and soiled. No matter, when they got to Oregon, she would make new dresses.

Sarah's mother passed away from dysentery shortly after arriving in America. She never got the chance to see the new country that she wanted to be a part of. Sarah's father thought of returning to France, but he had become captivated by this new world and stayed. Some said it was to honor his wife, but Maurice knew it was for himself.

Things happened fast on a pilgrimage. Sarah and Tom grew fond of each other. As the weeks passed, they walked together and talked about their dreams for a new life.

“What do you want to do, when we reach Oregon?” Sarah asked.

“Open a general store and raise a family. My father was a storekeeper. There's a good living to be made in it.”

“That sounds like a good plan,” Sarah said. “It will be a good life. I want to be a school teacher. There is so much teaching that needs to be done.”

As the weeks passed, Tom lost his shyness. One day he looked Sarah in the eyes. “I realize we hardly know each other, but I've grown fond of you, and I think you feel the same. Maybe we could achieve our ambitions together. I could make you happy, Sarah.”

“You make me happy just thinking about it.”

Tom leaned in and kissed Sarah.

Sarah held him and whispered. “Let's make that our plan.”

To be continued . . .

Chapter 4
A Proposal

By Thomas Bowling


Sarah Beauchamp and Tom Gordon have met on a wagon train going west. They developed a bond and are ready to take things to the next step.

Chapter 4

They made a handsome couple as they walked along, and could often be seen sneaking away from the train. Never venturing far from the wagons, they walked hand in hand and talked for hours. Before long, rumors of marriage spread through the camp, but this couldn’t happen until they reached Oregon, and joined a proper church.

“Tom, have you considered children?” Sarah asked.

“Yes, I want lots of them. I hear they sell for a lot out west.”

“Stop it. You're terrible. Sometimes, I don't even know why I let you kiss me.”

“You mean like now.”

Tom leaned over and kissed Sarah in a way that always made her go weak. At this point, she would have sold their children herself.

“How do you do that to me?” Sarah asked.

“What, this?” Tom kissed her again, and they tumbled to the ground.

“This trip is going to be perfect,” Sarah said.

“I know. I thought I was going to travel west, and meet a girl out there. It turns out, I started for the west, and met a perfect girl from the east. What were the chances?”

“God has a plan for us, Tom Gordon. You wait and see. The two of us are going to bring civilization to the west, and start a new world. It's all part of His plan.”

“Sarah, Tom, you young people get back to the wagon. We're getting ready to head out. You don't want to be left behind.” Sarah's father knew what was going on and mostly approved of it.

Sarah hurried back to the wagon. “Sarah, if your mother knew the way you two were carrying on, she would put a stop to it.”

“Mama would have liked Tom. He's a fine young man. I could do a lot worse.”

As they traveled west the two lovers became closer and closer. Privacy was hard to come by on a wagon train, but Sarah and Tom managed to find some from time to time. On one such occasion, Tom took Sarah by the hand.

“Sarah, I intend to ask your father for your hand in marriage, but I want to hear your answer first.”

Sarah wrapped her arms around Tom and squealed with delight. She kissed him over and over.

“Oh, Tom, yes, a thousand times yes. I'll marry you a thousand times, and then I will marry you some more. You've made me the happiest girl on earth.”

“I'm the one who's happy,” Tom said. “Now comes the hard part. I have to talk to your father.”

“He's not as mean as he looks. Just tell him. I'm sure he'll be as glad as I am. Well, not as glad as I am, but he'll be happy. Hurry, go ask him.”

Tom was nervous as he went to talk to Maurice. He had to struggle to look him in the eyes. He fidgeted and worried the brim of his hat.

“What is it, young fella?” Maurice asked. “I can see you're all tangled up about something. I've been watching you pace around for an hour.”

“Sir, I've come to ask for Sarah's hand in marriage.”

It didn't help Tom's nervousness that Maurice hesitated before answering. Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime to Tom, Maurice spoke. “The two of you just met. What's the hurry?”

“If I waited a lifetime I couldn't love anyone more. Sarah feels the same. We're sure God has brought us together.”

“Young people always think they know what God wants. I think you should wait. If you still feel this way when we get to Oregon, I'll consider it.”

Tom found some backbone. “Sir, that's not good enough. I need an answer right now.”

“In that case,” Maurice said, "the answer is no.”

“How can you say that? Sarah will hate you.”

“Sarah doesn't know how to hate. You'll have to come up with a better answer than that.”

“Then we'll get married without your blessing. We would rather have it, but we love each other and we'll do what is necessary. You would have done the same when you met your wife.”

Maurice stopped and considered what he had just heard. “You're right. Sarah's mother and I would have run away. In fact, we did. Her father hated me for it. The two of us never spoke again. That's no way to start a marriage." Maurice stared into the distance and pondered Tom's words. Now, it was his turn to fidget with his hat. Finally, he gave in to the inevitable. "It took courage for you to say what you did. I've reconsidered. Your answer is yes. You’re a good man. I'm sure you'll be a good husband.”

“Thank you, sir.” Tom let out a sigh of relief. He hadn't realized he had been holding his breath. “I'll be good to Sarah. I'll treat her as well as you have. She won't want for anything.”

“Things don't make a marriage work. It takes love and hard work to keep a good woman happy, and never forget, Sarah's a good woman.”

“Yes, sir, I know. I think she's the finest woman God ever put on earth.”

“I wouldn't go that far, son. I've seen Sarah get downright cantankerous when she gets a bee in her bonnet.”

“I'll keep that in mind, sir.”

“You do that, and you'll be spending a lot fewer nights sleeping outside. Have you decided when the wedding will take place?"

"We want to wait until we reach Oregon, and find a church. We want God's blessing on our marriage.”

“That's a good choice. Now, go tell Sarah that I said yes.”

Tom ran to the river where Sarah was washing clothes. “Sarah! Sarah! He said yes.”

“I knew he would. Everything is wonderful. I knew I was going to like this trip. I just didn't know how much. How could I be so lucky? I’m starting a new life with the man I love.”

“He said all I had to do was come up with ten cows and a couple of sheep, and we could get married.”

“He did no such thing. Why do you tease me so?”

-------       -------       -------

Sarah was more anxious now than ever to get to Oregon. Complete happiness awaited her there. “Oh, hurry, Papa. Go faster.”

“We're making good time, Sarah. Sit back and take in the view. We might even see some of those Indians you've been looking for.”

“I don't care about any Indians. I just want to get to Oregon and marry Tom.”

“I don't know why you have to get married in Oregon. There are plenty of towns with churches along the way.”

“I want to be a member of the church we get married in. That way, it'll be our church. We can go there every Sunday and raise our kids there.”

“Speaking of church, have you two decided whether you're going to be Protestant or Catholic yet?”

“It's not important. There's only one God, and He takes care of all of us. Religion doesn't matter to God. Only people care about that.”

“You're wise beyond your years, Sarah. You're not a child anymore. You're seventeen. Soon, you'll have children of your own to look after. Have you thought about that?”

“Yes, Tom and I want to have lots of children. We'll need a big family.”

“And why is that?”

“Tom wants to start a farm and open a little store. Maybe a hardware shop.”

“That's a lot to take on.”

“Tom's a hard worker and has big plans.”

“I can see that.”

“And I and the kids will be there to help him. He might even be governor someday when the territory becomes a state. Wouldn't that be something? Tom Gordon, Governor of Oregon.”

“Are these Tom's plans or yours?”

“He'll go along with what I say.”

“I thought as much. He doesn't know what he's getting into. Poor boy.”

“Why do you call him a boy? Tom's a full-grown man.”

“I know. I call him that because I'm tired of being an old man. When I think of all the things that could be done in the west, I wish I were a boy.”

“Oh Papa, you're not old. At least not to me. Do you ever think about getting another wife?”

“No. No one could ever take your Mama's place. I wish she had lived to see all this land.”

Maurice looked out at the endless, grass-covered plain. “She would have loved it.” As they traveled along a single tear formed in Maurice's eye.

“Please, Papa, go faster. Just a little bit wouldn't hurt.”

“It wouldn't help either.”

“I just don't know why we have to go slow just because some people weren't smart enough to spend some more money and buy stronger oxen so they could keep up.”

“What if Tom had slow oxen?”

“He's too smart for that. Besides, if that were the case, he could ride with us.”

“You and Tom may not want to get married after spending four months together in a covered wagon.”

“Don't be silly. I'd marry Tom after spending a year with him in an outhouse.”

Maurice made a face and Sarah laughed.

“That sounds terrible, doesn't it? Please, Papa, go faster.” Sarah rocked back and forth.

Maurice scrunched his face up. “What in tarnation are you doing, girl?”

“I'm trying to make this wagon go faster. I've got to do something.”

“Hahahaha. I swear you're the reincarnation of your mother.” Maurice kept a steady pace. He knew what was best for the oxen. Slowly, the wagons ground on, pushing into a vast, new world.

The first obstacle they came to was the Missouri River. It wasn't as bad as the Platt River and some others. Actually, the smaller rivers presented more of a problem.

The Missouri had ferries to take the settlers across. The shallow rivers would have to be forded. Scouts went ahead to find the best places to cross. The settlers would wax the sides of their wagons to make them waterproof, then they would unload as much as they could and make the crossing.

They would carry as much as they were able, including children, and walk behind their wagons. Sometimes they would need to make several trips to transport all of their belongings across the river.

The trip west was not an easy one. It was full of excitement and danger. It promised adventure and a new beginning, for those brave enough to make the journey, into the great unknown.

To be continued . . .

Chapter 5
Comanche Territory

By Thomas Bowling

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.


Tom and Sarah have made plans to get married in Oregon. Sarah has big plans for Tom.

Chapter 5

“You need to stay close to the wagon for the next few weeks,” Maurice told Sarah. “We need to keep a watch out for Indians.”

“Indians? Do you really think so? This will be exciting. I'll be able to tell my children that I saw a real Indian.”

Maurice had good reason to be concerned about his daughter's safety. They were approaching South Pass and Humboldt Rivers. Most Indians were tolerant of immigrants, but the ones along here sometimes attacked without provocation.

Only three men among the group had any experience with Indians. The wagon master, and Travis and Joab, the scouts. The three of them had several past dealings with Indians. They had brought four other wagon trains west and had never lost a soul, not even to sickness.

The scouts kept a sharp lookout until the group passed danger. After passing through Missouri, and into Nebraska, they relaxed. The wagon train traveled without incident for hundreds of miles.

Things changed in Wyoming. Wyoming was known as the land of the Comanche. The Comanche were savage fighters, the most aggressive of the Indian tribes.

The trail boss paced nervously, this being the largest group he had ever led. He knew the Indians wouldn't like the intrusion. Hell, he wouldn’t either if he was them. He called the travelers together.

“We're entering Comanche territory. Those of you who know how to use a gun, keep it handy. Usually, the Indians let us pass, but you never know. It doesn't hurt to be prepared.

“For the next few days, we won't spread out. We'll keep the wagons bunched together in case we need to circle them in a hurry. In the evening, when we stop, we'll form a circle for protection.

“These precautions probably aren't necessary, but I would rather play it safe. I don't mean to alarm anyone. Indians usually let us pass without any trouble.”

“This is so exciting,” Sarah said. “Real Comanches. I read about them. They're called the Vikings of the West. They're supposed to be the fiercest fighters. I hope we see some. It would be something to tell my children. 'We traveled west and saw real Indians before they were civilized.'”

“How can you be excited about Indians?” her father demanded.

“Oh, Papa. Let me enjoy it. It's part of why we came, to see what life for them is like. Besides, I've got you and Tom to protect me. No girl could be safer. If an Indian rode up, Tom would shoot him. Besides, they may be friendly.”

“I hope it's as easy as that.”

At night, the immigrant Americans listened to the drums of the original Americans.

Jarrod Green, the wagon master drank coffee and stared into the darkness. He spoke to his scouts. “I don't like the sound of those drums. You boys keep your eyes open tomorrow. I don't want to have to fight Comanches. I'll turn these wagons around and take the southern route if I have to. Even the Apache is better than a Comanche attack.”

In the morning, Travis and Joab stood watch, and by early in the afternoon, the attack came.

Redskins!” Travis called out.

The travelers didn't have time to circle the wagons. They were caught in the plain with no cover. The Indians attacked from all sides, screaming and shooting arrows at the pilgrims. The battle seemed like it went on forever. The painted Indians, riding on their painted ponies, attacked over and over again. They relished in the carnage.

The few rifles of the settlers were no match for the Indians. Soon, there were more dead travelers than living ones. Indians leaped from their horses. They scalped the dead and captured the women. The last sound the dying men heard were the screams of their wives and daughters, as they were carried away. The doomed people came seeking a new life. In a few moments, they found death instead.

Maurice Beauchamp was one of the first to be killed. He was pierced by a dozen or more arrows. The dime store novels would have you believe that men died from a single, well-placed arrow. Actually, it usually took several arrows to kill a man.

Death was a slow process for a man attacked by Indians. Maurice suffered terribly, the blood oozed from his body. As he died, he looked at his beautiful, young daughter. So full of life, but now filled with tears and terror. What was to become of his dear, sweet daughter? His heart ached, but not from the arrows.

Sarah held her father. “Oh, Papa, I should have listened to you. We should never have come. Why did I ever want to leave New York? I hate the west. I hate myself.”

Sarah was consumed by grief. She thought she had reached her limit until she saw Tom surrounded by screaming, wild Indians. They were raining down heavy blows on him with their blunt stone tomahawks.

“Tom!” she screamed. Their eyes briefly met, and then he was gone. Sarah's hope of having children, and raising a family had been murdered by the Comanche devils. That's what they were in Sarah's eyes.

They weren't the downtrodden people that she had heard about. They were savages that needed to be killed. There should never be a place for them on earth.

After the men were slaughtered. The women and children were taken captive. The Comanche tribe was being depleted, and captives were a way of replenishing their numbers.

This was the west for Maurice Beauchamp, a French immigrant who was taking his daughter west to start a new life.

To be continued . . . 


Chapter 6
The Comanche Village

By Thomas Bowling


The wagon train has been wiped out by Comanche Indians. Sarah and the other women and children have been taken captive.

Chapter 6

The captives were marched all day and night. Some of the Comanche walked behind the group, beating any who didn't keep up. When the children cried for water, they were given urine. The Indians didn't care if they drank it or not.

Water was a precious commodity and the Indians didn't want to waste it on these devils. In the coming weeks, most of the children would be adopted, and take the place of Indian children who had died, and their treatment would improve.

The small group of survivors was taken to a Comanche village. It was a cluster of tepees, home to about four hundred Indians.

In the morning, the Indians gathered around a fire to prepare the scalps they had taken in the massacre. The Indians made the survivors watch. Sarah looked on in horror, as one by one, the scalps were scraped and scorched. She fainted when she saw Tom's red hair.

At first, the captives were closely guarded. Those who tried to escape were beaten. The children had been given to Indian parents to raise, and soon took on the appearance and mannerisms of their captors.

In time, the captives would become tribe members with a standing in the community. Sarah spoke several languages and served as interpreter between the Comanche and the pilgrims. Sarah cried until she couldn't cry anymore, but in time, she accepted her fate, terrible as it was. She tried to make do with the misfortune that had come her way. She didn't know why God wanted her to suffer so, but she knew He must have a reason for it. She never tried to escape. She had no family and no place to go. She knew she could never survive on her own. She busied herself in an effort to overcome her new reality. Sarah set up a makeshift school and taught the children. The children would need a lot of education if they were ever going to overcome hundreds of years of Indian culture.

Sarah ignored the fact that in many areas, the Indians were wiser than her. To her, real knowledge was only found in books. She wished she had some to teach from, instead of relying on oral lessons. The Indians thought she was soft in the head. Indians excelled at oral history.

The Indians allowed Sarah to conduct her experiment with the little savages. She was determined to make them into something they weren’t meant to be. She was convinced that the white man was the future. She intended to make these red children as white as possible.

The children were fascinated by Sarah. They marveled at her blue eyes and snow-white skin. She was soft as a baby, yet somehow full-grown. Indians had rough skin from years of facing windblown sand.

To be continued . . . 

Chapter 7
Dark Waters

By Thomas Bowling


Sarah has been taken captive by a band of Comanche. She started teaching the children and is trying to teach them the ways of the whites.

Chapter 7

One young student was taken by Sarah more than the rest. Dark Waters had a schoolboy crush on her.

“The Great Father sent her to us to show us what spirits look like,” he told his friends. “One day, she and I will fill the earth with spirit children. I have seen it in a vision.”

The boy started following Sarah everywhere. “Sarah, where are you going?” he called out to her one day.

“To the river to wash clothes.”

“I'll go with you. To make certain you are doing it the right way.”

“I know how to wash clothes.”

“But do you know the Indian way?”

“Everyone washes clothes the same way.”

“Still, I will watch.”

“Would you like to help?”

“No, that is women's work. A brave does not do women's work.”

The other children would follow the two, and recite Indian love poems.

Sarah couldn't help but notice Dark Waters' infatuation with her. The idea of a Comanche being attracted to her repulsed her, but she tried not to let it show.

Dark Waters would follow Sarah as she did her chores. He was happy to watch her, but he would never help. It wasn't the Indian way to mix the work of a man and woman.

One day, Sarah said, “I'm curious, you're older than the other children yet . . .”

Dark Waters interrupted, “I'm not a child.”

“Of course, you're not. You're a young man. What I meant was, you're older than the others who I teach. I was wondering why you come to be taught by a woman at your age. The other young men refuse to let me help them.”

“They are fools. I am smarter than all of them. Already the other chil . . . braves look to me for leadership. One day, I will be Chief. A Chief must learn from anyone he can, even a white woman.

“If I am going to know how to kill whites, and drive them from our land, I must know how they think. You are helping me to understand the whites. It is not your fault that you're one of them. The Great Father has sent you to me, so I will learn how to fight the white devils.”

A chill ran up Sarah's spine.

Dark Waters noticed. “So, maybe you no longer want to teach me, now that you know my purpose.”

“Of course, I want to teach you, because I want you to understand that our way is better.”

“If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man, he would have made me so in the first place. It is not necessary for eagles to be crows. Tell me, Sarah, what can be better than the Comanche way?”

“Civilization is better. Not killing people is better.”

“You talk of civilization, yet here you are among us, living the Comanche way, and one day, you will be a Comanche's wife.”

“No! Never!” Sarah couldn't hide her emotions.

“The thought fills you with dread, doesn't it? Now I see you for what you are. You live with us, but you hate us. You teach us because you feel it is some punishment you have been given to pay for a past evil. I was a fool to want you for my wife.”

It was all Sarah could do to keep from crying out. She hung her head. She couldn't deny the words of Dark Waters. Dark Waters never followed Sarah again. He still came to her teaching circle, but both he and Sarah knew why he was there. At every opportunity, he disrupted the class and tried to upset Sarah with lewd comments.

“Why does she live among us, but dress like a white woman? Take those silly clothes off and be one of us.”

“Yes,” the other children would join in. “Take your clothes off.”

The children would strip naked and dance. “Join us, white woman. Be Comanche.”

“Children, put your clothes back on. We're not done yet.” The children would run away, laughing. “We are Comanche. Sarah is white. We are Comanche. Sarah is white.”

The adult Indians laughed at Sarah's frustration, in her attempts to make their children white, and the children's attempts to make her Indian.

Running Horse, an older brave, watched with amusement. “Who is winning the battle today?”

“The children are winning today, but the war isn't over yet. I will win in the end.”

“And when will that be?”

“Soon, you'll see. Before long, these children will have proper manners.”

“And then will they be permitted to sit at your table?”

Sarah didn't have an answer for Running Horse. She knew no Indian would ever be welcome in her home.

When Running Horse decided to take Sarah as his wife, her first thought was to kill herself. The beautiful children she and Tom had hoped for would be half-breed Comanche. It was more than she could bear, but then she thought, God must have a plan. She prayed that at the least, she would be barren. Every night she prayed, “God, let me die first. I know it would be a sin to take my own life, but please, God, let me die.”

To be continued . . .

Chapter 8
Sarah's Ordeal

By Thomas Bowling

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.


Sarah has been captured by the Comanche and has tried to fit in.

Chapter 8 

Running Horse, a middle-aged warrior, announced that Sarah was to be his wife. Among the Indians, the woman had no say in the matter. According to custom, first, she must pass through the gauntlet. Sarah was made to walk between two rows of Indians. They beat her with sticks and hurled insults at her in an effort to frighten her.

Running Horse was a brave warrior. It would not do for him to have a coward for a wife.

Among the tormentors, Sarah saw Dark Waters. He pushed several Indians out of his way to get close to Sarah. He screamed obscenities at her while hitting her with a rough stick, causing her to bleed. Dark Waters spat on her.
“Let's be done with this and kill the white devil. Her presence brings a curse on our tribe. Our crops refuse to grow. Our corn wilts. How much longer must we endure this evil living among us?

Sarah was bloodied. She could barely walk. Running Horse wanted to help her, but this was forbidden. She must endure the test on her own. She could barely crawl for the last few feet. She was bleeding and dragged herself to the end.

After surviving the gauntlet, Sarah was branded. Running Horse's brand was burned onto her forehead. Tattoos were carved into her face.

The last ordeal was the test of the serpent. Sarah was tied spread eagle on the ground. A snake was placed between her legs. She was told to lay motionless. Sarah didn't scream as the reptile slithered inside her. She simply went insane.

She never spoke again. The refined lady from a good family found out what it meant to travel west.

After her ordeal. After she had gone insane, the children who had been her students would push her down and throw stones at her, but Dark Waters chased them away. “Leave her alone. She is a good woman. We did this to her.

From time to time, Sarah would pound on her stomach with her fists. “She still feels the demon inside her,” the Indians would say. They became afraid of her, and she was banished from the tribe. Running Horse was shamed for choosing such a wife.

When I found Sarah, she was wandering in the desert. She was as red as the Indians who had banished her. The desert sun had scorched her once delicate skin. She was as leathery and stretched as taut as my saddle. She had abandoned her clothes in the desert heat. When people lose their minds, they don't understand that clothing provides a layer of protection and cooling.

I got off my horse and slowly walked toward her with my canteen in my hand, holding it out to her. She crouched down low and bared her teeth, making biting motions. As I drew near, she made animal noises and threatening gestures. I did the only thing for her that I knew to do. I put a bullet in her head.

“Welcome to the West,” I said as I buried her. "I hope you find the peace you came seeking. May God rest your soul.”

This was the West for Sarah Beauchamp, a fine lady who went to finishing school in France and traveled west in America.

To be continued . . .

Chapter 9
The Traveler

By Thomas Bowling


A cowboy finds Sarah in the desert and puts her out of her misery.

Chapter 9

I put the woman out of my mind and continued west. Traveling across the plain is a lonely trek, but it suited me. I never minded the solitude. A man who doesn't like to be alone doesn't like himself. That's all there is in the west.

The west was where I was meant to be. I never felt the need to be around people. To me it seemed that the more people there were, the more trouble there was. I was convinced that people were never meant to live around each other. It's hard to kill another man if you never see one.

The west was a perfect place to put my philosophy to the test. A man could live forever here without having to be around anybody. That meant never having any problems as far as I was concerned.

I rode for two days and came to the tribe that had banished Sarah. That's where I learned her name. I was safe riding into the Indians' camp alone. They gave passage to a man who posed no threat.

Funny thing about Comanche. If they had ridden up on me a mile outside of camp, they would have stripped me, staked me out on the desert floor, and skinned me with their flint knives, but a man riding directly into their camp received no more than a passing glance.

The Indians asked if I had seen a crazy woman. I denied seeing her. There was no telling what their reaction would be if I told them I had killed a demon possessed woman. Indians believed that a devil woman was protected by the spirits.

The Comanche believed that everything had a spirit. The trees had spirits. Wolves had spirits, even dirt had a spirit. They always offered part of their food to the spirits. They would cut off a piece of meat, hold it up to the sky and then bury it. They probably wouldn't take kindly to my killing Sarah's spirit.

At night, I would join the Indians in smoking a pipe. It was their way of communicating with the spirits. After the pipe, the Indians would usually dance around the fire. Sometimes, I would join them. Even I could do an Indian dance. I thought I could but my movements were uncoordinated and jerky. The Indians laughed at my attempts.

“You don't have the spirit of dance in you. You must have great happiness or great sadness. You have neither. You're white. You're stuck between spirits.”

________       _______       _______

Ten Bears told me where Comanches came from. "One day, the Great Spirit collected swirls of dust from the four directions in order to create the Comanche people. These people formed from the earth had the strength of mighty storms.

A shape-shifting demon was also created and began to torment the people. The Great Spirit cast the demon into a bottomless pit. To seek revenge, the demon took refuge in the fangs and stingers of poisonous creatures, and continues to harm people every chance it gets."

I guess that's as good an explanation as any. It was better than my theory that they came from dogs. When Ten Bears saw that I accepted this story, he went on and told me about where buffalo came from.

To be continued . . .

Chapter 10
Ten Bears

By Thomas Bowling


The traveler comes to a Comanche tribe and meets Ten Bears, the tribe storyteller.

Chapter 10

Ten Bears said, “In the first days, a powerful being named Humpback owned all the buffalo. He kept them in a corral in the mountains north of San Juan, where he lived with his young son. Not one buffalo would Humpback release for the people on earth, nor would he share any meat with those who lived near him.

“Coyote decided that something should be done to release the buffalo from Humpback's corral. He called the people to a council. 'Humpback will not give us any buffalo," Coyote said. 'Let us all go over to his corral and make a plan to release them.'

“They camped in the mountains near Humpback's place, and after dark, they made a careful inspection of his buffalo enclosure. The stone walls were too high to climb, and the only entrance was through the back door of Humpback's house.

“After four days, Coyote summoned the people to another council and asked them to offer suggestions for releasing the buffalo. 'There is no way,' said one man. 'To release the buffalo, we must go into Humpback's house, and he is too powerful a being for us to do that.

"'I have a plan,' Coyote said. 'For four days, we have secretly watched Humpback and his young son go about their daily activities. Have you not observed that the boy does not own a pet of any kind?'

“The people did not understand what this had to do with releasing the buffalo, but they knew that Coyote was a great schemer and they waited for him to explain. 'I shall change myself into a killdeer,' Coyote said. 'In the morning, when Humpback's son goes down to the spring to get water, he will find a killdeer with a broken wing. He will want this bird for a pet and will take it back into the house. Once I am in the house, I can fly into the corral, and the cries of a killdeer will frighten the buffalo into a stampede. They will come charging out through Humpback's house and be released upon the earth.'

“The people thought this was a good plan, and the next morning, when Humpback's son came down the path to the spring, he found a killdeer with a crippled wing.

“As Coyote had foreseen, the boy picked up the bird and carried it into the house. 'Look here,' the boy cried. 'This is a very good bird!'

"'It is good for nothing!' Humpback shouted. 'All the birds and animals and people are rascals and schemers.' Above his fierce nose, Humpback wore a blue mask, and through its slits, his eyes glittered. His basket headdress was shaped like a cloud and was painted black with a zigzag streak of yellow to represent lightning. Buffalo horns protruded from the sides.

"'It is a very good bird,' the boy repeated.

"'Take it back where you found it!' roared Humpback, and his frightened son did as he was told.

“As soon as the killdeer was released, it returned to where the people were camped and changed back to Coyote. 'I have failed,' he said, 'but that makes no difference. I will try again in the morning. Perhaps a small animal will be better than a bird.'

“The next morning, when Humpback's son went to the spring, he found a small dog there, lapping at the water. The boy picked up the dog at once and hurried back into the house. 'Look here!' he cried. 'What a nice pet I have.'

"'How foolish you are, boy!' Humpback growled. 'A dog is good for nothing. I'll kill it with my club.'

“The boy held tight to the dog and started to run away crying.

"'Oh, very well,' Humpback said. 'But first, let me test that animal to make certain it is a dog. All animals in the world are schemers.' He took a coal of fire from the hearth and brought it closer and closer to the dog's eyes until it gave three rapid barks. 'It is a real dog,' Humpback declared. 'You may keep it in the buffalo corral, but not in the house.'

“This, of course, was exactly what Coyote wanted. As soon as darkness fell, and Humpback and his son went to sleep, Coyote opened the back door of the house. Then he ran among the buffalo, barking as loud as he could. The buffalo were badly frightened because they had never before heard a dog bark. When Coyote ran nipping at their heels, they stampeded toward Humpback's house and entered the rear door. The pounding of their hooves awakened Humpback, and although he jumped out of bed and tried to stop them, they smashed down his front door and escaped.

“After the last of the shaggy animals had galloped away, Humpback's son could not find his small dog. 'Where is my pet?' he cried. 'Where is my little dog?’

"'That was no dog,' Humpback said sadly. 'That was Coyote the Trickster. He has turned loose all our buffalo.'

“Thus, it was that the buffalo were released to scatter over all the earth.”

I never knew anyone who had as many stories as Ten Bears or anyone who could tell them as well. The Indians had a real gift for storytellin'. He had lots more stories, but I've forgotten most of them. One of them concerned a skunk and a coyote, but it never made much sense to me.

_______       _______       _______

As I walked around the camp, I created quite a stir. Most of the Indians had never seen a white man. A live white man anyway. Some children ran to see the strange, tall creature with brown hair.

“Look. He has blue eyes, like Sarah.”

I gathered that some of the children had grown fond of Sarah. The adults had different feelings about her. She had failed the tests. She could not live among human beings.

I saw Running Horse. He was made to sit with the squaws and do women's work. He was no longer considered a brave warrior. He kept his head down, and his eyes on the ground. The men would have nothing to do with him. He had the misfortune of choosing the wrong wife.

Dark Waters watched me. “Do you come from the same tribe as Sarah? Have you seen her?”

Dark Waters told me about Sarah's time among them. “I am ashamed of what we did to her. She tried to help us, but she had a demon, and we couldn't drive it out. We tried, but it was no use. The demon forced her into the wilderness.”

I spent several days with the Comanche. They were anxious to hear about my exploits in the war. They didn't know who won, and they weren’t interested. They didn't have a dog in the fight. They figured that when white men killed each other, they would leave Indians alone.

Indians feared the day that white people would get tired of killing each other, and start killing Indians in earnest. With their guns and experience on the battlefield, they would make short work of Indians armed with bows and arrows.

Some said that white people fought the war just for practice. When they decided to make war with the Indians, this would be the real war. I found the Comanche to be friendly and accommodating. They were willing to share their food, and their women, and I took advantage of both.

The Indians even had a sense of humor, not like you and I have, but their own brand. Indians thought it was funny to see how much pain a man could endure. I found no humor in this and didn't take part in their games of hurting each other.

They would hold hot, burning sticks and laugh until one dropped his. They could entertain each other for hours this way. I suppose this is what made them fearless in battle. It was the ultimate game to them.

Buffalo were still plentiful then. At night, the Indians would sit around the fire, and tell about the great hunts they had been on. To hear them talk, they had killed so many buffalo that it made you wonder how there were so many left. They always thanked The Great Spirit for the unending supply of buffalo He gave them.

They said life had continued this way for hundreds of years. The white man was considered an inconvenience that The Great Spirit would remove when He was done punishing the Indians for some past transgression. They never forgot to ask The Great Spirit to kill the white man. I never took it personally.

One day, Running Horse got it in his head that he could regain his warrior status by killing me. As I was sitting around the fire with a group of Indians, he ran at me screaming as if he were in battle. He had painted himself for war. He lunged at me and plunged his flint knife into my chest. The knife struck my breastbone and the tip broke off.

To this day, I still have a piece of flint in me. It reminds me of that day. Sometimes, I rub my chest and think of Running Horse and Sarah.

Running Horse's attempt on my life brought even more disgrace on him. Now, even the women shunned him. They would turn their backs to him as he approached.

Running Horse took to walking around pounding on his chest, and weeping loudly. One thing you have to say, Indians knew how to express sorrow. Running Horse may not have been a man anymore, but he sure could show sorrow like one.

Eventually, Running Horse walked into the desert and was never seen again.

This was the west for Running Horse, a brave Comanche who chose the wrong wife.

To be continued . . .

Chapter 11
Riding Shotgun

By Thomas Bowling


The traveler stays for a while with the Comanche. Running Horse is shamed for choosing Sarah to be his wife and leaves the tribe. 

Chapter 11

I took my leave of the Comanche tribe and rode west. As I left, I remembered the way Comanches treated travelers caught outside the tribe and rode fast until I put a safe distance between me and the Indians. If they had come across me out here, the same Indians that I broke bread with the day before would kill me.

_______       _______       _______

I was hired to ride for the Pony Express. The man who hired me said I was too big, but he needed riders so he gave me a job. They gave me an outfit to wear with patches on it saying that I was a rider for them, but before I delivered my first piece of mail, the company was shut down. The express only lasted eighteen months.

It was said that the railroad and stagecoaches were responsible. A boxcar or a coach carried a lot more mail than an express rider’s pouch. I think the telegraph had more to do with shutting it down. No rider could travel as fast as a telegraph message.

_______       _______       _______

Since that job was gone, I decided to ride shotgun for the stage line. I did that for seven months. That's where I learned to sleep sitting up.

The line I rode for used Abbot coaches. The coaches built by the Abbott company were suspended on leather straps. They swung back and forth as you moved along and tended to rock you to sleep.

Coaches built by other companies had stiff metal springs and jostled you around. You could feel every rock and rut in the trail. Drivers didn't last long with these contraptions.

_______      _______       _______

Wells Fargo discouraged drinking, but if you did drink, you were expected to share it with the passengers. I guess they wanted everybody sober or drunk. They didn't care which.

Mostly, we carried city folks back and forth. Once a month, we carried a box of gold coins for the railroad payroll. That made coaches a tempting target for highwaymen. Why would anyone in their right mind rob a bank when the sheriff's office was usually next door?

Stagecoaches traveled on isolated trails and were easy pickings compared to a bank. That's why Jesse James and his gang were famous. They robbed banks when nobody else was crazy enough to do it.

Jesse James tried to rob the Northfield Minnesota bank. The cashier refused to open the vault and a gunfight ensued. As the gang walked out of the bank, the whole town began shooting at them. They didn't take kindly to having their life savings stolen.

Almost the entire gang was either killed or wounded. A picture was taken of the dead outlaws and thousands of copies were sold. It served as a reminder to others that robbing banks wasn't a good idea, but Jesse put together a new gang and went right back to it. Some people never learn. I heard that later on, Jesse was killed by one of his own men. Some said he was a hero. To me, he was just a not very smart bank robber.

_______      _______       _______

Some coaches were robbed, but I never saw a bandit. If I had seen a robber, I would have handed over the payroll and probably asked if I could join up with him. That's as close to getting rich as I was ever going to be.

Riding shotgun was boring. We just traveled along at a steady pace, eating a lot of dirt, and getting burned up by the desert sun. The sun scorched me so red that some of the passengers took me for an Indian.

If the sun had fried my brain anymore, I probably would have started thinking like an Indian. I could feel the civilization melting right out of me. I realized that if I rode shotgun for the rest of my life, I still wouldn't have enough money to fill up a box with gold so I moved on.

To be continued:

Chapter 12
Jeremiah Springs

By Thomas Bowling

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.


The Traveler has tried his hand at The Pony Express and riding shotgun.

Chapter 12

I always marveled at how vast the country is. The west is a big empty place. A man has lots of time to think. Sometimes, I wished I was better at thinking. My daddy said to me, “Boy, no one will ever accuse you of being a thinker.”

But I did think about some things. Even an idiot does once in a while. I thought about the six years I rode in the cavalry with Captain Jeremiah Springs. Captain Springs had fought in the war. When that ended, it was all he knew how to do, so he went west and started fighting Indians. Indians were easier to fight, and he was good at it.

The Indians were in a fighting mood, now that the war was over. The Indians' opinion of the war was that white people went crazy and started killing each other. When they got tired, they stopped and rested. After they rested for a while, they would start up again. In the meantime, they would be too tired to fight, and they could be killed easily. That's why the Indians became more hostile.

I asked Captain Springs about the war one time, but he didn't want to talk about it. All he said was it was the worst time of his life. He never could figure out what it was about. I guessed the Indians were probably right.

One evening, after he had too much to drink, he told me that he rode with Grant and Sherman during the war. He said, “General Grant was a drunk, but it suited him. It kept him sane, so he was always easy to get along with.

“Sherman, on the other hand, was a teetotaler, but he had the disposition of a wild-eyed, mean drunk. When Sherman went through a town, it was like an Indian raid. He destroyed everything in his path.

“He had it in his head that Southern people should be made to suffer after the war was over, so he burned everything, and took the livestock.

“General Sherman was the meanest man who ever lived, and I expect to meet him in Hell someday. I imagine we will have a lot to talk about. Maybe Sherman can explain why he was so mean.”

-------       -------       -------

If ever a man was born to the army, it was Jeremiah Springs. He was a soldier through and through. He had the mindset that took to the endless, repetitive monotony that the army has an abundance of. I thought he was the finest man God ever put on earth.

“I won't have cowards in my division,” Captain Springs used to say. By cowards, he meant a man who would stop fighting just because he had one or two arrows in him. Captain Springs was tough but fair. That phrase gets thrown around a lot, but it fit Jeremiah. The soldiers that served under him loved him. The Indians feared him. They knew who he was and when they passed by, they gave wide berth.

In all the time, I rode with Captain Springs, we only fought in two battles and a few minor skirmishes. He had just the right mix of aggressiveness and caution. He kept the Indians at bay and his men safe. No easy task in the plains.

In my fourth year with the Captain, we were set upon by a band of Apache. I never took to the Apache. All Indians were bad, but I considered the Apache to be the worst. The Apache would pow-wow with you while the rest of their party was raiding a nearby farmhouse.

The Apache were fierce fighters. They could scream loud enough to turn your blood cold. I never knew a person could make such a racket. They would start screaming long before they attacked. It was a way to work themselves into a frenzy.

When they attacked, it was like the demons of Hell had been let loose. If it wasn't for Captain Springs urging us on, I believe half the division would have run away. They came at us like wild men, foaming at the mouth and biting when they got close enough.

If we hadn't fought back, I'm convinced they would have fought each other. You might say they fought like their lives depended on it. The only thing that made them stop was nightfall. Indians believed that if a man was killed at night, he couldn't find his way to The Great Spirit.

-------       -------       -------

The attack we faced happened before the Indians had rifles. Even so, they managed to kill thirteen of our men, and several more were wounded.

After the fight, Elijah Benson was walking around with an arrow in his eye. He seemed not to know it was there. We wrestled him to the ground and held him while the surgeon pulled the arrow out. The eye came with it. The doctor stepped on it with his booted foot, grinding it into the ground, and pulled the arrow out. He threw the arrow in the fire and buried the eye. He said it didn't seem right to throw it in the same fire as the arrow.

The doctor packed the eye socket with salt, but it was too late. Infection set in. Elijah developed a fever and chills. At night, he would sweat and say he was burning up. During the day, he would ask for a blanket and shiver from the chills.

Near the end, he hallucinated. He fought the battle over and over again. The battle would always end when he was hit by the arrow, and then it would start over again. I don't know why, but I counted the number of times he fought the Indians. Seventeen times he relived the battle before he died.

This was the west for Elijah Benson, a soldier with the Twelfth Calvary under the command of Captain Jeremiah Springs.

To be continued . . .

Chapter 13

By Thomas Bowling


The Traveler reminisces about his time in the cavalry.

Chapter 12

During my final year in the cavalry, I was a runner for Captain Springs. He and I had grown close. Perhaps that was the reason I saw a side of him that other men didn't.

He always treated the Indians fair and respected their traditions. Unlike some commanding officers, he didn't take part in routing Indians just to harass them.

When an Indian was caught committing a crime, Captain Springs would give him a fair hearing, then execute him.

Soldiers wrote to their wives and told them not to worry. They were riding with the best captain in the army. Still, their wives worried. It's one thing to be told not to worry, and another thing to put it into practice.

------- ------- -------

Soldiers in the west did everything they could to entertain themselves. Wherever there were soldiers, there were prostitutes. Soldiers and their wives had an understanding about the needs of a man away from home. Whatever happened while a soldier was away from home was never talked about when he got back.

Gambling was another way that soldiers passed their time. Some men were so bad at it that they served four years in the cavalry, and never had a dime when they went back east.

There were a hundred ways a man could occupy himself in the west. The men had dances, even when there wasn't anyone to dance with, and some of those boys could sing as fine as any bird you ever heard.

Robin Harrison was about the finest singer I ever heard, and that soldier could dance like there was no tomorrow. He was the only clean-shaven man in the outfit, and he always danced the part of the woman. Said he didn't mind. Truth be known, I think he liked it. He always laughed when someone twirled him.

------- ------- -------

Under Captain Springs, there was a lot of free time. He avoided unnecessary fighting. He wouldn't tolerate fighting among the men, and with the Indians, when a dispute arose, he always looked for a solution that everyone could live with.

Once there was a threat of war between an Apache tribe and a Comanche tribe over land. The Comanche claimed that a piece of land belonged to them, and the Apache said no man owned land. The Great Spirit owned everything and men only lived on it.

When Captain Springs got wind of it, he stepped in. He told the Indians that each tribe was to choose five braves. The braves would fight for their whole tribe and the winner's claim would prevail.

His rules were that they were to fight barehanded, and no one was to die. When an Indian was exhausted, he must leave the fight. On the day of the contest, soldiers, Apaches, and Comanches gathered to watch and cheer on their favorites. The competition went on for three hours. The fighting went back and forth as the onlookers shouted instructions and approval. In the end, the Apaches were victorious, and the matter was settled. After the fight, the Indians slapped each other on the back and congratulated the winners. An Indian war was averted and everyone had a rousing good time.

Captain Springs gained respect as a wise judge among the Indians. He was often called on to settle disputes. The Indians trusted Jeremiah because he respected them.

Captain Springs was the best negotiator I ever saw. I always felt that he could make peace with everyone if he had the chance to get them together. He was what the Bible meant when it said the lamb would lay down with the lion. Jeremiah Springs could make it happen.

To be continued . . .

Author Notes This is a short chapter. The next one is a long one and there was no way to break it up.

Chapter 14

By Thomas Bowling

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.
Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of sexual content.


The Traveler has been reminiscing about his time in the cavalry.

Chapter 14

The only time I ever saw the captain go beyond what was necessary was at McPherson, Kansas. We rode up to a pile of cold ashes while scouting for Indians. A boy of about eight was hiding under some hay.

The boy told us what had happened. The ashes were all that was left of the family home. About a week before, it was just like every other day, except a small party of Indians came to the homestead. At first, they were friendly enough.

The Indians entered the house and sat and talked. They wanted to know if the Pilgrims knew how many white men would be coming west.

“I don't know,” the boy's father said. “I assume plenty. There's lots of room here. Enough for both the white man and the Indians.”

“That's true,” the Indian said. “But white men always take more than they can eat.”

The other Indians nodded.

The Indian continued, “Some say the white men will number as the buffalo. What do you think?”

“I don't think there are that many white men in the world.”

“I have seen too many already, and yet they keep coming. The white man is so stingy that he carries a linen rag in his pocket into which he blows his nose for fear he might blow away something of value.”

Suddenly, the mood changed. One of the Indians took offense to the way one of the girls looked at him. The Indian stood and pointed at her. Her father said no, and touched the Indian on the arm. That was all it took to turn the visit from amiable to hostile. To the Indians, touching a man in anger was tantamount to an act of aggression. As the situation grew tense, the boy ran and hid, but he saw what the Indians did.

There were four sisters, ranging in age from sixteen to ten. The Indians lined them up in front of their parents and stripped them. The girls cried out as the savages tore their dresses off.

The Indians threw them to the ground and raped them repeatedly. Their parents were forced to watch. When the Indians were through, they bound the parents and their daughters together and set them on fire.

As the boy told his story, he wept and threw his hands over his ears. Their screams were still in his head, and always would be. That day, when we returned to the camp, Captain Springs assembled the men.

“Today, I heard about an atrocity, unlike anything I have ever seen.”

As the captain relayed to the men what had happened, tears filled his eyes. His rage was uncontrolled, and the men were crying out for vengeance.

“It's up to us to make the savages pay,” the captain shouted. “Tonight, we will attack at sundown. Damn their traditions. They can wander in darkness for eternity. The scouts have located them. Remember, no prisoners.”

“No prisoners,” the men shouted.

We rode hard to the Indian camp. The Indians were assembled in a valley. We took our positions at the top of a hill. Captain Springs raised his saber in the air and shouted, “If ever there was a time to use your rebel yell, this is it. Sing out boys.”

We charged headlong toward the camp, making a racket that would have awakened the demons of hell. Some of the Indians took flight at the sight of us coming. Our bullets ripped into their flesh, and many Indians dropped at the first volley. Our repeaters allowed for rapid firing, and soon the ground was littered with bodies, some dead, some soon to be dead.

We charged back and forth through the camp until no one was moving, even then we continued firing. Nothing could satisfy our hunger for blood, on this night.

The Indians refused to fight at night, but it wouldn't have mattered. They were doomed from the first bullet. I've never seen men in such a frenzy.

Even the Apache and Comanche warriors couldn't match our ferocity that night. Soldiers were screaming as they had never screamed before. No one was spared. Men, women, and children were all slaughtered alike. It made no difference.

As I rode through the camp I saw a lone Indian who was willing to fight. He pulled back his bow and took aim at me. I fired my rifle and saw his head disappear in a cloud of blood and bone fragments. He was the only Indian that joined in the battle.

The slaughter took less than an hour. When the last bullet was fired every Indian was dead. The smell of gunpowder and the coppery odor of blood filled the air. A quietness came upon us like none I had ever experienced before. Even the crickets stopped their singing, out of respect for the dead.

When I had time to look, I found myself covered in Indian blood. The blood even flowed into my boots. I looked around and all the soldiers were the same. We wore the stains of victory.

I hate to admit it, but I took part in the massacre. I killed my share of all. I killed with a fierceness I never knew was in me. All of my frustrations and anger found a release in blood. Afterward, I felt clean, but the feeling soon passed. It was replaced by self-loathing. I prayed that I would never be put in that position again.

I think all of the men who took part felt the same. After the raid, the camp grew quiet. There was no more dancing or singing after McPherson. The normal jovial mood disappeared. Part of the men died with the Indians. If we had it to do over again, I don't think we would. I hope not anyway.

Captain Springs spent most of his time in his tent now. He would come out at night and watch the stars. It was like he was looking for the Indians he had sent there.

He wasn't sad that the Indians were dead. He just hated the fact that he was the one who killed them. It was almost more than he could bear. He would stare into the black sky and hope that eventually, they would find The Great Spirit.

I hated to see him this way. I knew he would carry the burden of McPherson to his grave. No man should be made to suffer so. You can say he brought it on himself, but most men would have done the same.

------- ------- -------

One evening, I delivered a message from one of the scouts. As I entered the captain's tent, I found him crying. When I asked what was troubling him, he looked up at me with tears in his eyes and handed me a letter.

His wife had grown tired of being married to a man she never saw. She had met a farmer, had taken the children, and had gone to live with him. She was through with soldiers. She said they could go off and play their soldier games, but she would never love one again.

He was heartbroken. He looked at me as if I might have an answer. I didn't. I started to say that eventually, half the men that serve in the west get the same letter, but there would be no help in it. All I could say was, “Will that be all?”

As I walked toward my bedroll, I heard the shot. I mounted my horse that night and rode away from the cavalry, and the life I had once loved.

This was the west for Captain Jeremiah Springs, commanding officer of the Twelfth Cavalry.

To be continued . . .

Author Notes This chapter contains scenes of rape, murder, and massacre. If this is too much for you, please skip this chapter.

Chapter 15
Cliff Dwellers

By Thomas Bowling


The Traveler has taken part in a horrific Indian Massacre.

Chapter 15

The Hopi Indians lived in New Mexico, where they stayed in caves high up in cliffs. They must have been afraid of something. Why else would they live up there? They said the caves were built by ancient people that once ruled the earth, but they were all killed when they offended The Great Spirit.

They had rope ladders they used to climb to get up to their homes. Every evening, they would pull the ladders up behind them so no one could climb up and get into their cave at night. Every home had a pile of rocks by the entrance that the Indians could drop down on anyone trying to climb the cliff. I didn't see the need for this. No one could climb straight up those walls.

 I guess the Hopi had to climb them the first time, but Indians were pretty good at shape-shifting. They could have turned themselves into spiders and scampered up to their cave, turned themselves back into Indians, and then let ropes down for the others. It seemed like a lot of trouble. I thought it would be easier to just live on the ground. If they needed shade, they could just move around a big rock to stay out of the sun. 

In the evening, I made a fire. I never understood how it could be so hot during the day, and then turn cold at night. Someday I plan to ask God about it. I laid out my bedroll and lay down. I always enjoyed sleeping outside. I never saw the point of living in a cave or a house for that matter. Why sleep in the dark, when God has given us a perfectly good sky, full of wondrous sights.

There's nothing better than watching a shooting star blaze across the sky or a comet with its long fiery tail. I wondered what they would look like close up but then decided they probably looked better from a distance. I imagine they're hundreds of miles away, farther than I would want to go.

I was taking in all God's beauty when it started to rain. Big drops of water coming down hard. I pulled my hat down. It's all good, I said to myself. It's all good. In the morning, everything was fresh and new. The cloud of dust that usually hovered over everything was gone. It would be back in a couple of hours, but for now, there was a brief respite. It didn't rain very often in New Mexico, so it was a welcome change.

-------      -------       -------

The Indians had chants that they repeated all the time. They called them sings. I never could make sense of them. They just said the same words over and over. They didn't make any sense to me, but they seemed to understand them. Straw Man told me the chants were spells that would bring blessings or protection from evil men, but unless you were an Indian, the spells wouldn't work for you, so I never bothered to learn any.

Straw Man was the tribe historian. They called him Straw Man on account of his yellow complexion. The Indians thought because of his strange appearance he would make a fine medicine man, but he wasn't very good at it. What he was good at was remembering things. So, they filled him up with stories of the Hopis’ past. He could sit for hours and recite tales of the Indians' exploits. He was proud of the Hopi and was always eager to tell his stories to someone new, and since I was new, he always sought me out for a history lesson.

Straw Man said, “Corn was the Mother of the Hopi. Without corn, there was no food.”

I guess that was true. They didn't get much rain in New Mexico. The Indians would perform the Social Dance to make it rain more. Sometimes it worked, but mostly not.

Most of Straw Man's stories were interesting. Like his story about creation. Hopi accounts of creation center around Tawa, the Sun Spirit. Tawa was the creator, and it was he who formed the "First World" out of Tokpella, or endless space, as well as its original inhabitants.

It was traditional for Hopi mothers to seek a blessing from the sun for their newborn children. Other accounts have it that Taiowa, first created Sotuknang, whom he called his nephew. Taiowa then sent Sotuknang to create the nine universes according to his plan, and it was Sotuknang who created Spider Woman. Spider Woman served as a messenger for the creator and was an intercessor between the deity and the people. It was she who created all life.

Masauwu, Skeleton Man, was the Spirit of Death, Earth God, doorkeeper to the Fifth World, and the Keeper of Fire. He was also the Master of the Upper World, or the Fourth World, and was there when the good people escaped the wickedness of the Third World for the promise of the Fourth.

At this point, I started to lose count of all the worlds, but Straw Man knew them all. I dozed off while he was still counting worlds. The stories were interesting, but after awhile a man can get his fill even of steak.

I began avoiding Straw Man. Whenever I saw him coming, I went the other way. Sometimes, he would run after me, and then I was in for another story.

One day, Straw Man was in the middle of one of his stories when he just keeled over dead. That was the first time I ever saw it happen that way. I suppose The Great Spirit heard the story one too many times.

This was the west for Straw Man, an Indian historian.

To be continued . . .

Chapter 16

By Thomas Bowling


The traveler has Visited the Hopi Indians and heard the stories of Straw Man.

Chapter 16 

I rode through Utah next. Utah was as close to heaven as you could find on earth. A man could fall in love with Utah. I guess that's why so many settlers stopped there.

I had never seen such colors in my life. The reds, blues, yellows, even the black and browns stood out in Utah. The rock formations were awe inspiring.

I've heard stories about how centuries of wind and erosion had carved the rocks, and worn holes right through them. I prefer to think God had a hand in it. He didn't need hundreds of years to put a hole in a rock. He could just touch it and it was there.

If ever a person doubted that God existed, all he had to do was ride through Utah. Someday, I might go back and settle down there. Maybe send for a mail-order wife and raise a family. That would be nice. A man could do a lot worse than raise a family in Utah.

The Navahos lived in Utah. Some said there were more Navaho Indians than all other tribes combined. They didn't live in tepees. They stacked cedar logs upright against each other with a smoke hole in the top. They believed that the physical and spiritual worlds blend together, and everything on earth is alive and their relative. They worshiped the winds, sun, and waterways. The Navaho were superstitious about death and rarely talked about it.

The Navaho Indians had two big kinds of ceremonies: One was the Blessing Way which kept them on the path of wisdom and happiness. The second kind of ceremony was the Enemy Way. The Enemy Way was to discourage evil spirits and eliminate ghosts. It must have worked for them. In the middle of the desert, they managed to forage out a food supply of rabbits, prairie dogs, and antelope. They grew corn and beans and seemed to have plenty. If supplies got low, they would butcher a horse.

-------       -------       -------

The Navaho had their own personal Devil, in the form of Kit Carson. When the government decided it wanted to really punish the Indians, it sent them Kit Carson. He was put in charge of rounding up the Indians and moving them to a reservation. When the Indians refused to go, General Carson instituted a scorched earth policy. His orders were to shoot all males on sight and take the women and children captives. No peace treaties were to be made until all the Navajo were on the reservation.

Carson was only five and a half feet tall and as skinny as a fence post, but what he lacked in size he made up for in meanness. He hated Indians. Often after routing a band of Indians, he would stay behind to hunt down and kill the survivors. He called it cleaning up.

He enlisted the neighboring tribes in aiding his campaign to capture as many Navahos as he could. One tribe that proved to be most useful were the Utes. The Utes were very knowledgeable of the lands of the Navahos and were very familiar with Navaho strongholds as well.

Carson launched a full-scale assault on the Navaho population. He destroyed everything in his path, eradicating the way of life of the Navaho people. Hogans were burned to the ground, livestock was killed off, and irrigated fields were destroyed. Navahos who surrendered were taken to Fort Canby, and those who resisted were killed. Some Indians were able to escape Carson's campaign but were soon forced to surrender due to starvation and the freezing temperature of the winter months.

Someone said of Kit Carson, “If anything like pity filled Carson's breast, he did not bother to remember it." Carson wrote in his Memoirs that a particular battle was the prettiest fight I ever saw.

To be continued . . .

Chapter 17
Kit Carson

By Thomas Bowling

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.


We learn of the Traveler's infatuation with Utah and meet the Navaho Indians.

Chapter 17

Kit Carson started the Indians on The Long Walk in the beginning of spring in 1864. Bands of Navaho led by the Army were relocated from their traditional lands to Fort Sumner in the Pecos River valley.

The march was difficult and pushed many Navahos to their breaking point. The distance itself was cruel, but the fact that they did not receive any aid from the soldiers was devastating. Not every person was in condition to trek 300 miles. Many began the walk exhausted and malnourished. Others were not properly clothed and were not prepared for such a long journey.

Neither sympathy nor remorse was given to the Navahos. They were never informed as to where they were going, why they were being relocated, or how long it would take to get there. One account passed through generations within the Navahos shows the attitude of the U.S. Army as follows:

It was said some Indians were on the Long Walk with their daughter who was pregnant and about to give birth. The girl got tired and weak and couldn't keep up with the others or go further because of her condition. So, her parents asked the Army to hold up for a while to let the woman give birth, but the soldiers wouldn't do it.

They forced the family to move on, saying that they were lagging behind the others. The soldiers told the parents that they had to leave their daughter behind. "Your daughter is not going to survive, anyway. Sooner or later, she is going to die," they said.

 "Go ahead," the daughter said to her parents, "Things might work out all right with me." But the poor girl was mistaken. Not long after they had moved on, the Indians heard a gunshot from where they had been a short time ago. When the Indians got to the reservation, several of them took their own lives. I figure they didn't have any options.

The Dimestore novels would have you believe that Kit Carson was a great man. Few people ever knew the real Kit Carson. In time, he mellowed and even took an Arapaho wife. He never wrote about her because he didn't want to be known as a squaw-man, but he treated Indians differently in his later years.

Carson lived to the age of fifty-eight and then went to meet his maker. I assume the meeting took place in the pits of hell.

As bad as Carson was, he was not as bad as Steven Meeks. Meeks was a fur trader turned Indian hunter. He was paid one-hundred dollars for the scalp of a male Indian, fifty dollars for a female, and twenty-five dollars for each child.

The Navaho said white men only kept one promise. They promised to take our land and they did.

This was the west for the Navaho Indians, a great tribe that was forced off their land.

To be continued . . .

Chapter 18

By Thomas Bowling


Kit Carson's true nature is revealed as he ruthlessly forces the Navaho onto a reservation.

Chapter 18


Next, I came to Texas. If ever a person doubted that Hell existed, he should ride through Texas. I rode for three weeks without seeing a single tree. The closest I saw to a bush was tumbleweed. As far as I could tell, it was some kind of dead bush that blew across the ground and served no purpose. For whatever reason, Texas had a neverending supply of them.

One day, I came across a strange looking plant with a large red flower sprouting from the top. I called a man over. “What kind of plant is that?”

“That's what we call a Bird of Paradise.”

“It sure is a long way from home,” I said. It was the only pretty thing I saw in Texas, and I was there a long time.

I hired on with a group of cowboys who were herding cattle to the train station in Houston. Josie had been with me a long time. I figured it was time to put him out to pasture and start the drive off with a fresh horse.

Jebediah Smith made a living selling horses to cowboys in need of a mount. I went to look at his stock. He had some nice animals, but one, in particular, caught my eye. He stood at least four inches at the shoulder taller than Josie. He was black as coal with a white streak running down his face.

“How much for this one?”

“Save your money,” Jebediah said. “That's Lightning. Nobody can ride that horse.”

“I never saw a horse that can't be ridden.”

“You're lookin' at one now. A lot of cowboys have tried, but he's still here.”

“Lightning's callin' my name. How much?”

“Tell you what. If you're determined to throw your money away, stay on him for twenty seconds and he's yours. If not you owe me eighty dollars.”

I walked over to Josie and took my saddle off him. “Josie, we've covered a lot of miles together. Today, I'm setting you free.”

I carried my saddle over to Lightning and set it on the ground. I slapped him on the belly. He shivered and shook his head. I slapped him again and he ignored me. I took a handful of corn out of my pocket and held it out to him.

“Hi, big fella. We're gonna be friends you and me.” I stroked his head and talked to him real low, wanting him to get used to the sound of my voice. I patted his back a few times and lifted my saddle on him real easy like. I expected him to throw it off a few times, but he didn't seem to notice it.

As I tightened the straps, I kept talking to him. I held the bridle up where he could see it. “It's all right, fella. Nothing to be afraid of. You won't like it at first, but you'll get used to it.”

I slid the bridle on. He took it easy. So far, things were looking good. I looked at Jebediah. He didn't like what he was seeing. “Are you gonna ride him, or make love to him?”

I climbed on Lightning and started waving my hat in the air and raking him with my spurs. To my surprise, he started walking slow and easy. I stopped waving my hat around and leaned back in the saddle.

“Are you sure this is the horse you were talking about?”

“That's the one. You've only been on him for a few seconds. You've got a ways to go.”

Lightning never bucked. He continued to walk at a leisurely pace. Then it happened. As if on cue, just before the twenty seconds were up, Lightning laid down and rolled over. I got out of the way before he crushed me. I stood up and brushed off the dust. I didn't know whether to shoot Lightning or Jebediah but I was plenty mad.

Jebediah laughed and slapped his thigh. “He does that every time. You owe me eighty dollars.”

“Why do you keep a horse that can't be ridden?”

“Lightning earns his keep. About once a month, some fool comes along and thinks he can break him. If you know anyone that wants to give it a try, send him my way.”

Red-faced, I carried my saddle back to Josie. “Sorry, old friend. Looks like we're going on a cattle drive. That was all my money. I can't afford another horse.” I think he knew what I had planned to do. As I slipped the bridle on, he bit me on the hand. The next time somebody tells me he has a horse that can't be ridden, I'll take him at his word.

To be continued . . .

Author Notes The story of Lightning is based on an actual event. When I was a young man, I bet someone one-hundred dollars that I could ride a horse that he said couldn't be ridden. It was a very expensive fifteen seconds.

Chapter 19

By Thomas Bowling


The Traveler tried to break a horse. When the horse wanted to get rid of him, he simply laid down and rolled over.

Chapter 19

Whoever said that sitting around a campfire at night with a bunch of cowboys was romantic had never been on a cattle drive. Herding cattle was nothing but a long, dusty ride across a boring plain with a bunch of dirty, smelly men.

If waking up every morning smelling like cow dung, and riding a horse that was the only thing that had more fleas than you, is your idea of romance, then marry yourself a cowboy. Between him and the fleas you'll never be lonely.

Cattle moved at a slow walk until they were spooked. Then all hell would break loose. When you're caught up in the middle of eight thousand steers, all you can do is try to save yourself.

The noise is like being in the center of a thunderclap. It's no use to fire your gun in the air to try and turn the herd. You had to take aim and shoot the animals. Every time you fired a shot, you killed fifteen dollars worth of beef.

Every cowboy knows that each shot cost his employer money that will be taken out of his pay at the end of the drive.
Cowboys weren't paid for how many cows they started with. They were paid for how many they delivered to Houston.
Keeping the herd together was a never-ending chore. Once the cattle boss tried to send some of us into a thicket of brier bramble to look for a stray calf. I told him I wouldn't look for my daughter in there, I've been told I have a few. That was the end of that.

The second most important man on a cattle drive, next to the trail boss, was the cook. He was the one who kept the cowboys fed and the food was mighty good. There's something about steaks on an open fire that brings out the best in them.

I never ate in any restaurant that could compare to the food on a cattle drive. Our cook was one of the best. I know. He kept telling us he was. He could make a chili that would make your eyes water, then you'd beg for more.

One day, he caught a rattlesnake and made a fine meal out of it. I think the man could make stew out of rocks and it'd be good. I heard about a cook with another outfit that acted like he had never seen fire before. But those cooks were rare, and soon found themselves walking across the desert. Cowboys didn't tolerate a bad cook.

Day after day on the drive was spent riding behind those cattle, eating dust. My mother once told me you eat a peck of dirt before you die. I ate a lot more than a peck on cattle drives. My mother would be proud that I survived.

The most dangerous place on earth was a cattle drive when the critters were spooked, and almost anything could spook them. Once on a drive, Jake Wilson got caught up in a stampede. He rode for his life. His horse stepped in a gopher hole and went down. Jake crouched behind his horse, and I'll be damned if the whole herd didn't go around him. From that day on, we called him Lucky.

When we brought the herd to Houston, we had to load the livestock onto railway cars, and then we went to the saloon and celebrated Lucky's narrow escape.

“We'll all get drunk afterward, and go down to the cattle lots. We can throw Lucky in and see if he can do it again.”

“Hell,” Lucky said, “Now that I know how, I'll go join Wild Bill's Wild West Show. I'll get rich lettin' steers run around me. You boys will have to pay twenty-five cents to see me pretty soon.”

As we loaded the cattle onto the cattle cars, a big steer stepped sideways, crushing Lucky against the railing.

This was the west for Lucky Wilson, a seventeen-year-old cowboy on his first time away from Ashland, Kentucky.

To be continued . . .

Chapter 20

By Thomas Bowling


The Traveler joined a cattle drive and witnessed the death of a friend.

Chapter 20

I pushed cattle across 
Texas until I saved enough money to buy some land. I paid $350.00 for 3,000 acres of dust. I built a house, bought 12 cents worth of seed, and planted vegetables.

Josie didn't take kindly to being hitched to a plow, but it was his new job. In time, he would be standing beside it in the morning, waiting for me.

As I waited for my crop to come in, I started building a house. It cost me another $35.00 for the lumber, some of the finest oak and cedar in this barren land. As soon as the house was finished, I sent for a mail-order bride. When she came, I would have everything a man needed.

I had to pay a bride-price to her family to compensate them for the loss of her labor. I considered it for awhile. I could have bought two horses for what she cost. In the end, I figured a wife would be more useful, so I signed the agreement that I wouldn't beat her unless she did something bad, and I sent for her.

Inga was a Swedish immigrant. She didn't speak English, and that didn't bother me. I never did care for what people had to say. Some folks just have to talk. It didn't interest me.

When Inga and I were first married, I thought she was dumb because she didn't speak English. In short time, she spoke both Swedish and English. I guess I was the dumb one. The only Swedish word I knew was samlag.

I sent for a foreigner because I heard they were easy to get along with. Clyde Steward sent for an American woman. The marriage lasted less than a week. The first time he yelled at her, she was gone.

------- ------- -------

Inga was tall and sturdy. She could plow a field as well as me. A wife had to work as hard as her husband in the west. The wilderness was just right for a man, but it was Hell for a woman. She was a handsome woman. She wasn't pretty, but she wasn't ugly either. She made a good wife.

We tried to have children, Inga was a Christian. I watched her pray every night for a baby. I felt so bad sometimes that I prayed with her, but Inga was barren. I had a trail of young 'uns from here to Arkansas. I wished I had a few of them here to help with the chores. Farming was hard work. You worked from sunup until sundown. In the morning, you started all over again.

I liked being a farmer. You saw the reward of your toils. You learned to trust God. No one has more faith than a farmer. He plants seeds and trusts God to send enough rain and sun to make a crop out of them. God never let me down.

Inga knew about farming and taught me a lot. My first crop didn't do too well. I had never needed to know how to grow things, but now I had to learn. Inga showed me that you have to let some of the crop go to seed so you'll have something to plant the next year. Without Inga, I would have starved. We lived alone and made do. With her help, we had more food than we could eat.

We had a few cows for milk and raised some pigs. There were no eggs. In the west, a laying hen cost more than a cow. I didn't care for eggs anyway. I never saw an egg I'd swap for a piece of meat.

When I bought the land, I knew the railroad would be coming someday. I hoped it would be close enough to bring some benefit, but the closest track was over two-hundred and fifty miles south.

We knew the railroad was somewhere though when we saw the buffalo herds starting to dwindle. Soon, they would be gone. That would be sad. You can't eat a train.

To be continued . . .

Author Notes Samlag is the Swedish word for sex.

Chapter 21
Camels and Cigar Store Indians

By Thomas Bowling


The Traveler has bought some land, built a house, and taken a mail-order bride.

Chapter 21

In Texas, I saw the strangest animal God ever created. It looked like something C
ongress would put together. The army sent for seventy-five camels. They figured that Texas was enough like the Arabian desert that the beasts would be useful. The problem was the animals spit, regurgitated, bit, kicked, and resisted training. They were a lot harder to ride than a horse. They were like being on the worst stagecoach made. And they looked silly.

The army gave up on the experiment and sold the animals to the circus. Some escaped and bred and multiplied. The Indians would have nothing to do with them. They called them crazy buffalo and thought they were demon possessed. They wouldn't kill them because The Great Spirit punished anyone who harmed a demon.

Wild camels never gained a foothold in America. As they had done to the buffalo, white men slaughtered them for sport until they were all gone.

-------       -------       -------

Occasionally, we would get a stray Indian visitor, mostly Arapaho. I liked the Arapaho. They were always fair in their dealings and could be trusted, not like the Apache.

The Arapaho had a funny way of fighting. They would race up to you, jump off their horse, run up and tap you with their hand. Then, they would get back on the horse and ride away. This was the Arapaho's idea of battle. They called it counting coup. They figured it was braver to touch an enemy than to kill him. Anyone can stand back and shoot an arrow. Only a brave man will run up to his enemy, empty-handed, stand face to face with him, and touch the man.

I liked doing battle with the Arapaho. I came to believe that this was the way all wars should be fought. It didn't make sense to me to kill each other over a piece of land when there was more than enough to go around. I had often traveled for weeks without seeing another living soul. If I had seen someone, knowing human nature, we would have squabbled over who was crowding who. The Arapaho knew something we didn't.

-------       -------       -------

One morning, I stepped outside and saw six Apaches. They were sitting on their horses, painted for war. Even the horses were painted. They sat there and gave me threatening looks. I gave them threatening looks back. It was probably a good thing that I hadn't worn a gun for several years.

They didn't speak. They just sat there, watching me go about my business. Indians have a way of shutting down. They didn't even move, as much as I could tell. They just watched. They reminded me of the wooden Indians I had seen standing in front of tobacco stores. I always suspected that some of those carved Indians were real. We just thought they were made of wood because they didn't move.

They were sentinels, watching white men come and go. Getting familiar with our strange ways, and plotting against us. These Apache were no different. Occasionally, they would move their heads to see what I was doing. Other than that, they may as well have been standing in front of a tobacco shop. I decided to put them to the test. I grabbed Josie by his rope halter and led him toward the Indians. When I got to them, I made like they were in my path and told them to move aside. The Indians separated like the Red Sea and let me through. As soon as I passed, they closed ranks and went back to watching. They would move, but only when it was necessary.

They stayed most of the day, then they turned their horses and rode away. I never saw them again, and that was fine with me. Most Indians I got along with, but I didn't like Apaches.

To be continued . . .

Chapter 22
Life and Death with Inga

By Thomas Bowling


The Traveler sees a camel and is visited by Apaches.

Chapter 22

In our sixth year together, we started seeing wagon trains. Just a few at first, but eventually, they were a regular sight. Mostly, they would pass in the distance. Sometimes, they would stop.

We welcomed their visits. They brought news from the east and traded cloth and string and odds and ends. They were willing to trade almost anything. Some even offered to trade for water from our well, but it didn't seem Christian to trade for water, so we gave it away.

One traveler let me use his razor, and for the first time in eleven years, I shaved. When Inga saw me, she told me to never do it again. She said I was too ugly to let people see my naked face. When she smiled, I knew she was teasing.

“I should have never taught you to speak English.”

“Zen who supposed to teached me, yourz mule?”

“It's not a mule. It's a horse and he speaks better English than you do.”

“You schood be niz vit me. Bevore me, you tink the way to growing zikens vas to burying zem. Iz a goot zing ve got no zikens. You vood be burying zem all. Und you vood be talking vit yourz mule, zilly man.”

“I don't have a mule. I keep telling you it's a horz – horse.”

“Itz a shtupid looking horz if you azk Inga.”

Inga was a pleasant woman, but sometimes she could nag like an American wife. Once she asked me why I woke up ready for love every morning. I said because you haven't said anything for eight hours.

------- ------- -------

One day, a group of wagons arrived with some sick folks. Inga did what she could for them. For three days, she carried water to the sick and wrapped them in wet sheets. They were burning up with fever and complained about blisters.

When they left, Inga finally got some rest. At that time, we didn't know what the grippe was. Inga never did find out. I buried her behind the house. I didn't mark the grave. What use would it be? No one would ever see it. I didn't mourn her passing. I had seen too much to mourn. Besides, love was for eastern folk. It had no place in the
west. One time Inga told me I was a good man. I guess that's as close to love as we needed.

This was the west for Inga Svenson, a Swedish immigrant who was my wife for eight years.

To be continued . . . 

Author Notes The grippe - influenza

Chapter 23

By Thomas Bowling


The Traveler and Inga spend nine years together before Inga dies.

Chapter 23

After Inga's death, there was nothing holding me in Texas, so I decided to move on. I traveled to Arizona. Arizona was the land of scorpions, Apache, and Wyatt Earp.

I never met Wyatt Earp. All I knew of him was that he was arrested and fined three times for keeping and being found in a house of ill-fame. The Daily Transcript referred to him as an old offender and nicknamed him the Peoria Bummer, another name for tramp.

Wyatt Earp was another cowboy whose reputation was embellished. If it hadn't of been for the incident at the OK Corral, I doubt that anyone would have heard of him.

-------       -------       -------

By now, my feeling toward the Apache had mellowed. I even got over thinking they were thieves. Indians had no concept of ownership. It stood to reason that if you had something, it was there for everyone. If they needed a blanket or a horse, they took it. If you needed something, they expected you to do the same.

In some ways, they were like the early Christians. They had all things common. I guess the Indians understood the scriptures better than me. I began to see their reasoning. Ownership led to greed and greed led to war.

I even understood their need to kill. The white man was an intruder. It was an Indian's duty to do whatever he could to slow his progress. If the situation was reversed, I would be meaner than an Apache.

Native Americans were being forced off their land and onto reservations. The east had zoos for animals. The west had reservations for Indians. Neither did well in captivity. It wasn't their natural habitat.

I decided that if I were an Indian, I would be an Apache. In fact, I never met an Indian that didn't want to be an Apache. A lot of tribes used the Apache language and had adopted Apache customs.

One thing about the Apache, they loved their children. I never saw anybody, Indian or white that doted over their children like the Apache. Children were their future and were treated as such. They said, “The ones that matter most are the children. They are the true human beings.”

-------       -------       -------

Believe it or not, the Apache were for the most part peaceful. Some Indians would fight over anything. The Apache needed a good reason to fight. Those that said the Apache fought with all the other tribes didn't know them.

They certainly went to war with others who had hurt them, and they fought with rare ferocity and skill, but by and large, the Apache avoided conflict. Often, they would come to the aid of other tribes who needed it.

The Apache had a saying, “Always assume your guest is tired, cold, and hungry, and act accordingly.”

I came to think that the Apache had things figured out better than anyone. They didn't bother you unless you bothered them. If you bothered them, they made sure you wouldn't do it again. This is about all we can hope for. It made good sense to me. I can live with a man like that.

-------       -------       -------

In Arizona, I met Bear Who Cries, a Shawnee, who had been forced to leave Kansas. Rather than go to the reservation in Oklahoma, he went to Arizona.

I never knew why they called him Bear Who Cries, but it seemed to fit him. He probably got his name the way most Indians did, during some ritual, it was revealed to him, and it carried a message that was his alone.

I couldn't tell you how old Bear Who Cries was. He was older than me and younger than death. Some Indians look old when they’re young. Some look young when they’re old. Bear Who Cries was an old Indian that looked as old as the mountains in the distance, and he had the wisdom that comes from living a long time. He said, “Always teach someone who seeks truth, but never trust someone who says he has found it.”

Bear Who Cries had long, gray hair that framed his face and came almost to his waist. He had wrinkles as deep as the canyons, and like all Indians, he had coal black eyes. His eyes could burn a hole in you like embers. He wore tan trousers and a shirt with fringe. I used to think the fringe on Bear Who Cries' clothes was just a decoration, but he told me that it wicked the water away when it rained. Indians were smart that way.

He carried the staff of an elder and was not above swatting children with it when they got in his way. He was spry and often danced for no apparent reason, other than to entertain himself. He would beat on a small drum as he danced. He played a heartbeat rhythm. It was the sound of the earth, the sound of nature, the sound of your mother when you were in the womb. It was sound that put you in touch with all things.

After I met him, I sometimes danced. Even though I wasn't very good at it, I understood why he did it. It put you at peace with nature. More people should dance. Bear Who Cries would watch me and shake his head. For the second time in my life, an Indian told me I didn't have the spirit of dance, but I still tried.

-------       -------       -------

He always had a buffalo hide wrapped around him. Naturally, he had a story to go with it. Indians didn't just have anything. Bear Who Cries got his hide when he was a young brave.

“One day, The Great Spirit led me to a vast herd of buffalo,” he said. “They stretched across the land, and one day, they decided to cross the sea to the white man's land. When they arrived in this new world, they saw nothing but evil. They decided this was not a fit place to live, so they returned. When they got back to their homeland, they were upset by what they had seen. Fat Calf, their leader, said that never again would a buffalo leave the land of the Indians. But Dog Wolf, a young buffalo, had seen many things on the other side of the sea and wanted to return. Fat Calf told him it was forbidden, but Dog Wolf rebelled. He crossed the plains alone, determined to go back to the world they had discovered.

“Fat Calf asked me to go after him and stop him. When I caught up with Dog Wolf, he refused to go back to the herd with me. I jumped on his back and stabbed him with my knife. I rode Dog Wolf until we came to the edge of the earth. Finally, he fell.” Bear Who Cries tugged at his buffalo robe. “This is his hide.”

When Bear Who Cries finished his story, he smiled. I never let him know that I didn't believe him. I knew that trying to kill a buffalo with a knife was like trying to wrestle a bobcat into a flour sack.

To be continued . . .

Chapter 24
Bear Who Cries

By Thomas Bowling


The Traveler has come to Arizona.

Chapter 24

Bear Who Cries said, ”The Great Spirit lives in the mountains and throws lightning bolts down to kill people He doesn't like.”

He was too old to cry anymore. He had seen so many disappointments that he had run out of tears a long time ago. “My heart is nothing but dust now. The spirit has left me. Humankind is The Great Spirit's biggest mistake. I am certain all of the good people are dead. If there is a good person left on earth, it is an Indian who has had no contact with white people. Wherever white people go, death follows.

“Once, the buffalo herds were so vast you could walk across them. A man could travel from one end of the prairie to the other without his feet touching the ground. Indians kill buffalo for food and hides, and they only take what is needed. White men slaughter buffalo for sport, and to starve the Indians into submission. A white man will kill a thousand buffalo to make life hard for one Indian. Now, the buffalo herds are growing small in number. When the last buffalo is dead, the earth will end.

Bear Who Cries had more wisdom than anyone I ever met. For my money, he was smarter than Chief Joseph, though it would have been a close race. He tried to teach me, but he said my head was filled with white man's foolishness, and I could never see things like an Indian.

Bear Who Cries showed me his talking stick. A talking stick was used in council meetings. Only the Indian holding the stick could speak. Each Indian made his own stick and the various things he used gave different powers to the one possessing it.

He explained his stick to me. “My stick is made of elm and gives me the wisdom of an old tree who has lived a long time. See this turkey feather? It is to give me the ability to settle disputes. The rabbit fur wrapped around it will help me to listen with big ears.”

Bear Who Cries had put time and thought into his walking stick. These were the qualities he thought were needed in an elder. I thought they should pass talking sticks out at every town hall in the country.

Bear Who Cries told me about creation and dreams. He said, “The Great Spirit, in a time not known to us, looked about and saw nothing. No colors, no beauty. Time was silent in darkness. There was no sound. Nothing could be seen or felt. The Great Spirit decided to fill this space with light and life.

“From His great power, He commanded the sparks of creation. He ordered Tolba, the Great Turtle, to come from the waters and become the land. The Great Spirit molded the mountains and the valleys on Tolba's back. He put white clouds into the blue skies. He was very happy. He said, 'Everything is ready now. I will fill this place with the happy movement of life.' He thought and thought about what kind of creatures he would make.

“Where would they live? What would they do? What would their purpose be? He wanted a perfect plan. He thought so hard that he became very tired and fell asleep.

“His sleep was filled with dreams of his creation. He saw animals crawling on four legs, some on two. Some creatures flew with wings, some swam with fins. There were plants of all colors, covering the ground everywhere. Insects buzzed around, dogs barked, birds sang, and human beings called to each other.

“When The Great Spirit awakened, he saw a beaver nibbling on a branch. He realized the world of his dream became his creation. Everything he dreamed about came true. When he saw the beaver make his home, and a dam to provide a pond for his family to swim in, he then knew everything has its place and purpose in the time to come.

“The story has been told among our people from generation to generation,” Bear Who Cries said. “We must not question our dreams. They are our creation.”

I have to admit, I didn't understand everything about the story, but it was as good account of creation as any.

The Indian way of life was dying out, and the white man's way of life was taking over. We call it progress. Bear Who Cries decided he had seen enough progress. He sat alone one day and died.

I cried when he died. I loved him like a father. I beat on my drum and rocked back and forth. I started dancing. This time I had the spirit of dance. My movements were fluid. I had suffered great loss and danced like an Indian.

This was the west for Bear Who Cries, a proud Shawnee Indian, a victim of progress.

To be continued . . .






Chapter 25
The Crow

By Thomas Bowling


The Traveler spends time with Bear Who Cries, a wise Indian.

Chapter 25

I went to Montana for a while. Montana was Texas with grass. One more thing Montana had was mountains. In Montana, I got my first look at the Rockies. So much ground standing on edge. It was a sight.

Some people tried to reach the west coast by crossing them and were never seen again. I always wondered how far you'd have to travel to go around them.

Where I was, it was hot as blazes, but you could see snow on the tops of the mountains. I never understood that. It seemed to me that if you got closer to the sun it'd get hotter, but they say that's not the way it works. It's too much for me to grasp.

I spent a year in Montana and didn't see another white man. The Indians didn't know what I was. I tried to explain, but they didn't have a word for fool.

There were lots of Indians in Montana. Mostly, Blackfoot, Chippewa, and Crow. It seemed like any Indian that didn't want to live someplace else came to Montana.

The Blackfoot got their name from the fact that they rubbed ashes on their moccasins to turn them black. I don't know why they did this. I guess they just liked the color. It was a contrast to their tan britches and shirts.

Blackfoot Indians had a peculiar way to make a youngster want to become a warrior. A boy on his first war party was given a silly or derogatory name. But after he had stolen his first horse or killed an enemy, he was given a name to honor him.

The Blackfoot were a mean tribe. They believed that if you could make a man cry, you captured his soul and added it to your own. They would torture children in front of their father, and try to make him cry.

I heard about a Blackfoot Indian making a man watch as he slit his son's throat. The man didn't bat an eye. After a Blackfoot captured a man's soul, he killed him and ate his heart. By doing this, the man became part of the Indian. The man was willing to watch in silence as his own son was killed if it meant he wouldn't become part of the Indian who killed him.

The Crow weren't much better, but they didn't eat people. I guess that made them less savage. At least you could eat with a Crow Indian and not wonder what was on your plate.

The word crow came from an Indian word that means children of the big beaked bird. I heard the word once, but it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Crow is easier to say.

To be continued . . .

Chapter 26

By Thomas Bowling


The Blackfoot and Crow tribes are introduced.

Chapter 26

I lived with a Crow woman named Watchacowacaga or something like that. She was always trying to tell me what it was, but each time she said it, I heard it different. Finally, she gave up and I called her Woman.

It didn't really matter. She never listened to me, but she kept me warm at night and satisfied my needs. I grew to like her. If I had stayed in Montana, I suppose I would still be with her. She was a good woman.

I don't have to tell you Woman had black hair and dark haunting eyes. You've seen Indian women before. She seemed to know things that other people didn't. Some Indians have this ability. She would stare into the distance, and say, “Soon, it will come. Things will be different.” As time went on, I understood what she saw in those hills. The Indian way would fade and the white man would rule over the plain. I was the only white man she had ever seen, but somehow she knew more were coming.

Woman was a good lover. Sometimes after making love, I scratched her butt.

“Why does it feel so good to get your butt scratched?” she asked.

“Because only a lover will do it,” I answered.

She poked me in the chest and said, “Lover.”

I slapped her rump and said, “Butt.” This is how she learned English.

Woman was as fine a lady as any man could want. Like most Indians, she didn't talk too much. I never could tolerate a woman, or a man for that matter, who talked too much. Pat Sullivan could talk the wings off a mosquito. Some people ought to learn to be quiet, especially, when fellas are trying to sleep.

Grady Smith shot Pat because he wouldn't shut up. When they hung Grady, they asked if he had any last words. He said, “I'd do it again.” Some cowboys thought they should have given him a medal.

-------       -------       -------

One time, the Indians invited me to go on a raid with them, but I turned the offer down. The Chippewa was a fierce tribe in the east, but the ones who migrated west were not so troublesome. There were fewer of them and they mostly stayed to themselves. They were an easy target for the Crow looking for wives. I didn't have a bone to pick with the Chippewa, and I didn't see any need to start one.

Indians don't hide their feelings. If they have a problem with you, they will tell you straight out, sometimes, during a pow-wow. My refusal to fight the Chippewa didn't sit right with the tribe. They held a pow-wow and told me I had insulted them. To make amends, I told them that the Chippewa had befriended me and I didn't want to go to war with them, but if they wanted to fight the Apache I would ride with them. This changed their mood. They didn't want to tangle with Apache.

The Montana Indians weren't like the Arapaho. They were always interested in fighting someone, as long as it wasn't the Apache they didn't care who. They just wanted to fight. They always had a beef with somebody. That's why I left Montana. I figured that sooner or later, they would want to fight me, and there were a whole lot more of them than there was of me.

It's funny how different one tribe of Indians is from another tribe. I never thought of it before, but I guess white folks are the same way. Don't ever make the mistake of comparing a Texan with somebody from Oklahoma. Men have been shot for less.

I stayed in Montana for a year. One day, an Indian looked at me funny. I took the hint and left. Years later, I heard that Montana was full of white people. Finally, the Indians had somebody who liked to fight as much as they did.

To be continued . . .

Chapter 27
Nez Pierce

By Thomas Bowling


The Traveler left behind an Indian woman whom he had been living with.

Chapter 26

The next place my travels took me to was Idaho. In Idaho, I stayed with the Nez Perce. The Nez Perce were the smartest Indians I ever met. Those Indians were scholars. Most people I met in my travels were dumb, but I never met a dumb Nez Perce.

The Nez Perce lands stretched as far as you could see in every direction. They say all the people in the world could fit in the Nez Perce nation, and there would still be room for more.

They gathered more food than the whole world could eat. They gave me something they called a strawberry. It was the sweetest thing I ever ate in my life. I believe it must have been the manna that Moses and his gang ate in the desert.

Of course, the Nez Perce had a story about how strawberries came to be. Indians had a story about everything. According to the Nez Perce, when the first man was created and a mate was given to him, they lived together very happily for a time, but then began to quarrel, until at last the woman left her husband and started off toward the Sun land in the east.

The man followed alone and grieving, but the woman kept on steadily ahead and never looked behind, until the Creator took pity on him and asked him if he was still angry with his wife. He said he was not, and Creator then asked him if he would like to have her back again, to which he eagerly answered yes.

So Creator caused a patch of the finest ripe huckleberries to spring up along the path in front of the woman, but she passed by without paying any attention to them. Farther on he put a clump of blackberries, but these also she refused to notice. Other fruits, one, two, and three, and then some trees covered with beautiful red berries, were placed beside the path to tempt her, but she went on until suddenly she saw in front of her a patch of large ripe strawberries, the first ever known. She stooped to gather a few to eat, and as she picked them she chanced to turn her face to the west, and at once the memory of her husband came back to her and she found herself unable to go on. She sat down, but the longer she 
waited the stronger became her desire for her husband, and at last, she gathered a bunch of the finest berries and started back along the path to give them to him. He met her and spoke to her kindly and they went home together.

I liked this story. It made sense, and once I tasted a strawberry, I knew it came from the hand of God.

-------      -------      -------

An Indian named Wrapped in the Wind showed me the ways of the Nez Perce. He was a patient teacher and taught me things I didn't know about growing a garden. I wished Inga had met him. He knew things even she didn't know.

He told me that different plants grew better together than others. He knew about the seasons and told me the best time to plant right down to the day. He would watch the animals and knew when the time was right. We could have put him to good use on the farm.

Wrapped in the Wind was a poet. I couldn't understand any of his poems, but he had a way of saying them that sounded like they came from an angel.

To be continued . . .

Chapter 28
Chief Joseph

By Thomas Bowling


The Nez Perce show why they are admired.

Chapter 28

The Nez Perce womenfolk were some of the finest seamstresses that ever lived. They could skin an antelope, and make clothes that a first-class lady would be proud to wear. I felt out of place among the Nez Perce with my gray trousers and shirt. The Indians felt sorry for me and made me a new pair of buckskin pants and a fringed shirt. One of the women embroidered an eagle on the back of my shirt. She used beads for the eyes. The bird's wings spread from shoulder to shoulder.

I put on my new clothes and felt downright dapper. I was right at home among the Nez Perce now. I couldn't stop grinning as I walked around the camp. I wished there was somebody to take one of them tin-types. I wished Inga had been there to see it.

The woman who did the embroidery would walk in circles around me, admiring her handy work. She would touch me all over and run her hands on my shirt, smoothing out the wrinkles. I tried turning around real fast to see the eagle on my back, but it didn't work. Sometimes I took the shirt off, just to look at it. Now I knew what little children feel like when they get new clothes. I wore the clothes until they fell apart. I hated it when I had to put my gray trousers back on.

On account of the cold weather, the Indians were covered from head to foot. The men had fringe on their shirts and pants. The women wore long dresses that went all the way down to their moccasins. They had beads and dyes on their dresses like they were in a parade every day. They gave me a pair of moccasins, and I still have them.

Idaho had the blackest dirt I ever saw. The Indians said it was because of the volcanoes. I never saw a volcano, but if the Nez Perce said it, it had to be true. The Nez Perce knew how to farm. They could grow anything. They grew squash as big as my head, but I imagine, with that black dirt, anyone could be a farmer. But those Indians had a real knack for it. Corn as high as trees was nothing for them, and they could dance and make it rain when there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

Another thing about the Nez Perce, I never saw an angry one the whole time I was in Idaho. I had come to believe that the reason Indians were red was they were so mad all the time. The Nez Perce were the first even-tempered Indians I ever met. I believe you could steal a man's horse, and he would give you the blanket. They were too smart to fight. They would rather reason things out. The Nez Pierce were always laughing. Show me a man who laughs all the time and I'll show you a smart man. Either that or an idiot.

They had a Chief with a white man's name, Joseph. He had an Indian name, too, but you had to be drunk to say it. His Indian name meant Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain. The name Joseph was given to him by Rev. Spalding, a Presbyterian missionary when he became a Christian and was baptized.

Spalding's daughter, Eliza, in describing Joseph said, “He was an ideal type of an American Indian, six feet in height, graceful of movement, magnificently proportioned, with a deep
chest and splendid muscles. His expression was mild and impassive, except when aroused, then a light would come into his bright eyes, which denoted the iron will and defiant, war-like spirit that lay beneath."

Yet, Chief Joseph did not have a reputation within his band as a warrior or even as a hunter. He was valued more for his counsel and his strength of purpose, and his commitment to the old ways on the band's ancestral lands. During a series of parlays with government officials, he continued to insist that he 'would not sell the land' nor 'give up the land'.

After many betrayals by the government, Chief Joseph tore up the Bible that had been given to him by Rev. Spalding.

Soon his steadfast commitment would be stretched to the breaking point. Pressure was building to move all of the Nez Perce onto the small Idaho reservation. General O. O. Howard called another treaty council, but this time, there would be no negotiation. Howard told Joseph and the other chiefs that their people would need to move, and would have 30 days to do it. If they refused, the army would move them by force. 

When Joseph returned from the council, he discovered that soldiers had already moved into the Wallowa Valley, ready to force them off the land.

"I said in my heart that, rather than have war, I would give up my country," Joseph later said. "I would rather give up my father's grave. I would rather give up everything than have the blood of the white men upon the hands of my people" Still, Chief Joseph was considered a savage by the government.

Chief Joseph had to make the hardest decision a man ever made. When government troops tried to move the Nez Perce to a reservation, he refused to go. He said. “I was born upon the prairie where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures and where everything drew a free breath. I want to die there, and not within walls.”

He decided to lead his people to Canada. The Nez Perce walked 1,600 miles north. The last battle, the Battle of Bear Paw Mountains, was the last great fight between a nation of Native Americans and the United States government. It was there that Chief Joseph said, “I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohoolhoolzote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say, 'Yes' or 'No.' He who led the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are -- perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”

Many people say Chief Joseph died of a broken heart after living on a reservation for two decades. Why the government didn't let him go is beyond me. They attacked and harassed the Indians every step of the way. For four months, the tribe walked through the snow. By the time the border was in sight, they were too weak and starving to continue. Chief Joseph started out with over two thousand braves. By the end of his march, he had eighty-seven fighting men left. It was one of many great American tragedies.

President Andrew Jackson had made a promise that no land would ever be taken from the Indians without their permission. I guess, in a way, the government kept his word. They didn't take the land away from the Indians. They took the Indians away from the land.

Chief Joseph said, “I have carried a heavy load on my back ever since I was a boy. I realized then that we could not hold our own with the white men. We were like deer. They were like grizzly bears. We had a small country. Their country was large. We were content to let things remain as the Great Spirit Chief made them. They were not, and would change the rivers and mountains if they did not suit them. How smooth must be the language of the whites, when they can make right look like wrong, and wrong like right.”

This was the west for Chief Joseph, the smartest Indian who ever lived.

To be continued . . . 

Chapter 29
The Chilwitz

By Thomas Bowling


The Nez Perce produced the wisest Indian who ever lived.

Chapter 29

I went to Oregon, but I didn't stay long. Oregon had the ugliest people I ever saw, bar none. The men didn't wear any clothes at all. They said it chafed their skin. They smeared themselves with so much bear grease that their skin looked like it could benefit from some chafing. I guess it kept them warm. I don't see what they had against putting on a pair of pants. The women didn't wear much more. Just a skirt made out of tree bark. There were plenty of bears in Oregon, but not enough to make clothes out of, I reckon. The Indians smeared themselves with black grease and dirt until you couldn't tell their skin was red.

The Chilwitz were short and squat. With their dirty, little bodies, it looked like God had squished them into the mud, so He wouldn't have to look at them. Another thing that bothered me was they had the smallest teeth I ever saw. I don't know how they managed to eat with them. They pierced themselves and hung all manner of things in the holes. They hung things from their nose, their ears, their lips, and God knows where else.

The things they did to their young 'uns was barbaric. They somehow got the notion that a flat head was a thing of beauty, so they would tie boards to their babies' foreheads. They may have been beautiful to them, but they looked downright strange to me. Their children all looked like they had been running into trees. How those Indians ever made babies was a mystery. I tried to put it out of my head, but I kept getting these terrible images. All that flattening must have squeezed their brains. That tribe was the laziest Indians I met on my journey. If a bear ever came after one of them, he would rather get eaten than go to the trouble to run away.

The Indians told me about a couple of white men named Lewis and Clark that came through these parts a long time ago. They wrote everything down and drew pictures of everything they saw like they wouldn't be able to remember it when they got back to where they came from. They told me that old Lewis and Clark were nearly starving when they passed through. They wouldn't eat salmon because it tasted funny to them. They wouldn't eat bear because it was too greasy. They stayed away from berries because they might be poison. They had to be pickiest eaters God ever put on earth. They would rather go hungry than eat something they didn't like. One of the Chilowitz that I called Ugly Dog said, “The explorers went without food in a land full of things, they wouldn't eat. None of these things harmed the Indians, but Lewis and Clark weren't sure. Everywhere they had traveled they left behind sickness. Something had to have caused it.” The Chilwitz were fat and lazy, while Lewis and Clark were skinny and starved.

I asked a Chilwitz once why he was so lazy. He said, “A lazy man is not likely to be envious. He doesn't want to work for what his neighbor has.”

I didn't know how much of what they told me about Lewis and Clark was true. It was always hard to separate facts from Indian legends. They liked to stretch things to make them more interesting. When they told me that the white men were guided by an Indian woman, I knew they were drifting off into Indian tales. They always wanted to have an Indian outsmarting a white man.

Oregon had the biggest trees that I ever saw. The trees grew so tall that you could sit in their branches and grab pieces of clouds as they drifted by. The Indians told me the trees I was looking at were just saplings compared to the trees of their ancestors. In those days, the trees were so big that it would take a man two days to walk around one. They said sometimes the trees caught fire when they were hit by a star. I didn't believe them until one night I saw a shooting star crash into one with my own eyes.

The Indians invited me to eat with them while I was there. The Nez Perce had strawberries. The Chilwitz gave me a bowl of something that tasted like the stuff you scrape out of horses' hooves. I couldn't get past the smell. I went to bed hungry, and woke up in the morning, and scrounged for berries. I sure would have liked to find some strawberries. I decided that if I found any I wouldn't share them with the Chilwitz. I remembered what Jesus said about casting your pearls before swine. With the food those Indians were used to they probably wouldn't appreciate strawberries.

I had a dream one night that I woke up with a flat head. I got up the following morning and left. I decided it was time to put some distance between me and the ugliest Indians I had ever seen.

To be continued . . .

Chapter 30
The Gambler

By Thomas Bowling


The Chilwitz leave a bad taste in the Travelers mouth.

Chapter 30

Traveling through Nevada, I stopped in Osceola. A lot of people think that the biggest gold nugget was found in California, but it was discovered in Osceola. They had a sign saying as much when you entered the town. That made the town a destination for everyone wanting to get rich by mining or wanting to cheat people out of their money.

Main Street was a dirt path, barely wider than the path I had been riding on. There was a two-story whitewashed building that served as saloon, restaurant, hotel, and brothel. A lot of saloons were no more than tents, but a tent wouldn't do for the place where such a huge gold nugget was found. Whenever cowboys came to town, which wasn't often, they headed for Duggar's. I saw an old man standing in front of the saloon. He had long, stringy, white hair, and a beard that covered his chest. He was so frail and skinny that I swear, the only thing holding him upright was the sand in his boots. I tipped my hat to him, but he didn't respond. He was the white equivalent of a cigar store Indian.

The ride had been so dusty that even my bay horse looked like a gray. Sand had worked its way into every crevasse of my body. I felt old and tired. I figured it wouldn't be long before I would be standing in front of a saloon. When I walked into the room, the bartender didn't speak. He just stopped wiping down the bar to let me know he was aware of me. He poured a glass of whiskey and put it in front of me. The first drink tasted like a shot of fire. So much sand fell off my lips that the drink was gritty, but it tasted fine. By the fifth one, it was downright good.

“Give me a room for the night and a prostitute,” I said to the bartender.

“Do you want a bath too?”

“Am I dirtier than the woman?”

“That depends on which parts you're washin'.”

“Do you have a pretty one?”

The bartender looked me over. “She's pretty enough for you, and she won't cut your throat and take your money when you fall asleep."

“That's all a man can ask for.”

The next day, I brushed the sand off a table and sat down. The same bartender was there.

“Bring me a steak,” I said.

“Sure, cowboy. How do you want her cooked?”

“Throw it in the fire. That should do it.”

“We never had any entertainment here before. Maybe you should stay awhile.”

“Give me a whiskey,” I said. “Leave the bottle.”

While I was eating, the prostitute sat down and asked me if I wanted to go back to the room. In the daylight, she wasn't as pretty as in the dark, and she wasn't that pretty in the dark. I told her I had gotten my fill the night before. “I've never been turned down by a man before,” she said and left in a huff. My guess is she had never approached a man in the light of day before.

After I ate, I picked up my bottle and wandered over to a table where four men were playing poker. Without saying anything, I pulled up a chair and threw some money on the table.

“You got a name?” The man with the deck in his hands asked.

“Everybody's got a name,” I said.

The gambler snickered his disdain for my answer. I immediately didn't like him. For one thing, he asked too many questions.

He felt the need to introduce himself. “My name's Jake Silver.”

He was a big man with black hair and mustache. He wore a vest with sparkly stones on it and a black Stetson hat. A Stetson hat set you back six dollars, so I knew he was a professional.

“Do you plan on talkin' or playing poker, Mister Silver?”

Jake had fingers that were well trained. You couldn't tell what side of the deck he was dealing from. The cards seemed to just fly out at you. Jake's deck was broken in. I never saw a deck of cards so worn. Every card had folds and notches, and he knew what each card was without turning it over. I wanted to be sure, so I let him play a few hands to prove he was a cheat.

He had a gold watch chain that he fiddled with when he was deciding how to bet. If he played with it for less than ten seconds, he had a good hand. If he twirled it for more than ten, he was bluffing. He may have been a professional cheat, but he had a lot to learn about poker. You never play the cards, you play the man.

In the first hand, I was holding two pair, a sucker's hand. Good enough to raise with, but not good enough to beat his three of a kind. As the game went on, he let me win a couple of small pots, just enough to keep me in the game. Whenever the stakes were high, he always had the best hand. This wasn't Jake's lucky day. He was winning, but his luck ran out.

“I've traveled all across the country,” I said. “But I never saw a cheat like you.”

“You better watch your mouth mister. I've killed men for callin' me a cheat.”

“Well, I'm sayin' you're more crooked than my elbow, and I'm still alive. You make an Apache look honest. I'm glad you told me your name. It's a shame to kill a man and not know his name.”

The other cowboys backed away from the table. For a few seconds, nothing happened. Then, Jake made the biggest mistake of his life. He went for his gun. Before he cleared leather, I put three balls of lead in his chest.

I wasn't a fast draw, but I never played poker without a gun on my lap. I figured if Mr. Silver could cheat at poker, I could cheat at shooting.

I stood up with my gun ready, in case Jake had any friends that wanted to avenge him, but there are no friends at a poker table. I gave Jake a glance. “You shoulda just walked away.”

When I was in the cavalry, I had killed enough Yankees and Indians that one two-bit card shark didn't matter. I scooped up the money and stood to go. As I was leaving, I said to the cowboys, “When the sheriff gets here, tell him he didn't leave me any selection.”

I had gotten into the habit of making sure I could leave in a hurry. Every morning before I ate, I would saddle my horse, roll up my gear, and tie it to my saddle. More than one time it served me well.

I got on my horse and rode. I let the horse walk easy on my way out of town. As I passed the sheriff's office, I saw the sheriff running out the door and toward the saloon. He must have heard the gunplay.

“Come on, girl. Better pick up the pace.” I galloped away, and never looked back.

This was the west for Jake Silver, a cheating gambler from Boston.

To be continued . . .

Chapter 31

By Thomas Bowling


In Nevada, The Traveler kills a cheating gambler and hurriedly leaves town.

Chapter 31

It was fall by the time I reached California, as far west as you could go without getting your feet wet.

The gold rush was in full swing. I had traveled across a thousand miles of barren land. I slept alone under the stars. I felt the earth tremble beneath my feet as vast herds of buffalo swept by. I faced Indians and rode with the Calvary.

I reminisced about my life. I remembered Running Horse left a piece of his flint knife in my chest. I remembered that Elijah Benson fought the same battle seventeen times. I remembered McPherson, and what we did there. I thought about Captain Jeremiah Springs. He couldn't be killed by Indians, so he killed himself. I remembered a young cowboy, who was lucky enough to survive a stampede, only to be crushed while loading a steer into a railway car.

I thought about Inga and the eight years we spent together. In my old age, I was sorry that I hadn't marked her grave. Someday, I might want to visit her. Someday, I wouldn't mind laying down beside her.

I remembered Bear Who Cries, the only man who had seen more than me. I wish I had been Indian and been able to learn the things he tried to teach me. Being white isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Sometimes, I remembered things I didn't want to. Everyone does. It's what keeps a man humble. If he only remembered the good things, he would begin to think too highly of himself.

-------       -------       -------

Finally, I came to a bustling gold-rush town. People dreamed of striking it rich in California and went to bed hungry. They had risked everything, and traveled thousands of miles, only to find fool’s gold. At the end of the day, all they had was a pan full of pebbles and sand.

Men lost their lives fighting over a glittering rock that turned out to be worthless. Mothers and daughters went to work in brothels to pay for their men's foolishness. Utah seemed far away.

But there was more to California than the madness of greed. There was a land here, valuable in its own right. Fertile fields as far as the eye could see. Someday, men might learn to farm it, instead of digging it up in a search for easy money. In the west, nothing came easy. I had learned that.

In California, I looked out at the ocean and saw more water than I knew existed. I turned around, and looked back east, and thought about all the things I had seen. A lifetime wrapped up in dusty images. I think what I remembered most about the west was the dust. The never-ending dust, - and Sarah.

This was the west for me, Wade Thompson, a drifter who lived long enough to see the old west disappear.

The End

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