THE SCREECH OWL – BAD MEDICINE – TEXAS BOUNTY HUNTERS

 

Spiritually Powerful Screech Owl

They reined in their animals and Shoots Plenty scanned the area looking for a comfortable and protected place to camp.
“Wasichus, I do not wish to sleep here.”
“Why not, you old squaw?”
“You see that bird with the horns?” Sleeps Plenty asked, pointing to a large pine tree to the west of where they stopped where a bird perched near the top.
“Yes, it looks like an owl.”
“It is a Screech Owl. They are the most dangerous of owls. My people believe that not all Screech Owls are real birds. Some are a transformed witch, an unquiet spirit of the dead that practices bad medicine. Only the Peju ‘ta, or holy people have the special knowledge to tell them apart. It is at the time of our sleep that we are vulnerable to spirit forces. We must not camp here. We go higher up the mountain beyond the bad medicine of this bad spirit.”
“Gray Wolf told me the Lakota Sioux view the owl as a symbol of hope and power and wisdom,” Esben responded.
“That is so, mi lita cola, but not all owls are such. Many Peju ‘ta wear owl feathers and get their power from dreams at night such as clear dreams like the owl’s sight. They promise never to harm the owl. I do not know a real owl from a transformed witch that has shape-shifted into an owl. That is why for our safety that we avoid all owls and go higher up this mountain.”
The next morning they rode slowly into town
It was as they were preparing to dismount that Sybil Cortez, who owned the crib where Carmen worked, came running into the street, grabbing the side of Shoots Plenty’s saddle.
“Something terrible has happened,” Sybil said. The older woman’s features were tear streaked and strained and her hands were shaking.
“Bad men came and they have kidnapped Carmen. They are angry because you killed their friend and because Carmen has an Indian man. They said they were going to teach her better.”
Shoots Plenty closed his eyes, wishing this had not happened when he felt someone shaking his shoulder. He opened his eyes and was staring into Sibyl’s pale blue eyes.
“They told me to give you this,” she said, handing him what was left of the dream catcher he had given to Carmen a short time before.
Shoots Plenty turned his horse, giving it a sharp kick and headed out of town at a gallop with Esben on his one-eyed mule desperately trying to keep up. A light rain began to fall as they disappeared over the horizon.
Shoots Plenty figured the best place to start looking for Carmen was to the north into the wasteland of the Texas panhandle. It was home to many of the outlaws and cattle rustlers who roamed the Arizona and New Mexico Territories as well as Texas, stealing cattle and killing innocent people, Mexicans, Americanos, and Indians alike. Why did they take Carmen? Was it to teach her a lesson for being with an Indian, or was it more? Were they after him because he shot their friend, that cowboy from Austin, and they knew Shoots Plenty would go after her, to find her and bring her back?
He was considering that question when they reached the rocks. They halted there, listening and thinking.
“One thing is certain, Shoots Plenty, we must find Carmen quickly. A pretty girl like Carmen in the hands of several outlaws like them would be in for a time of horror.”
Shoots Plenty nodded in acknowledgment and squeezed his horse into a trot.
They turned onto the flat and again halted to search the country for a sign of the outlaw camp.
Rain was beginning to fall again, this time in large and scattered drops. Ignoring it, the two men continued, scanning a dark band of trees that extended along the trail, hoping to see a fire glow somewhere in the thickening gloom. They saw nothing and by now Shoots Plenty was sure that taking the girl for their own pleasure wasn’t all they had in mind. They wanted him and Esben too. They knew that the two bounty hunters would follow.
They started their animals, walking slowly, along the edge of the grove. They drew their Colt’s and kept in the shadows as much as possible although the rain-filled darkness was more than enough to mask their presence. The moon was hidden behind a mix of clouds again and there were no intermittent surges of light as there had been earlier. The shower ceased for a brief time and then began again.
Far to the northwest lightening split the sky and thunder rolled ominously.
“It looks like a storm is raging in the mountains. Let’s hope that it stays to the west of us,” Esben said.
They moved on.
Abruptly, Shoots Plenty drew his big Appaloosa to a stop. Not far ahead, to the right of the grove, he caught sight of the glow of a fire. It was very faint, but it was there. He motioned for Esben to follow him as he cut back into the trees.
His mind was attempting to ingest what was happening and it was happening too fast. His heart began to pound and his whole body quivered with fatigue from riding all day but he continued to push on. He had to or Carmen would be hurt, or worse, killed.
He studied the situation. He knew they would have to make a move that in no way would endanger Carmen.
There were three men in the vicinity of the fire. Carmen was with the younger of the three outlaws. He appeared to be talking to her.
They picketed their mounts to an oak bush and circled the camp, coming to a halt when they reached a point almost directly opposite to where they had been. Carmen was now out of their line of fire as well as that of the outlaws, and they were in a position to cover the three men with no problem.
“Hello, my friends,” Esben yelled.
The two older outlaws came to their feet. The one engaged in talking to Carmen also rose and stood, facing the direction of the call.
Their hands reached down to the guns at their sides.
“Damn you, Nate, slice the girl.”
Nate lifted a large knife and swung it at Carmen’s neck.
Shoots Plenty opened up with his Henry Repeater. The rounds struck the young man closest to Carmen in the chest. An almost perfect shot pattern. While he was falling to his knees, Carmen started to scream and fell to her knees as well.
Esben unleashed a volley of shots fired directly at the other two outlaws. Shoots Plenty quickly followed. Both men fell to the ground. They looked more like raw shredded meat then the men they were only moments before.
Shoots Plenty ran over to Carmen. Her shirt was soaked in blood. Her blood. As he took her in his arms she looked up at him and smiled before she closed her eyes for the last time.
Shoots Plenty held Carmen’s body close to him.
“It is that Screech Owl. It was bad medicine for Carmen. The bad spirit was trying to tell Shoots Plenty.”
Esben saw the pain in Shoots Plenty’s face and noticed that his eyes began to tear up.
“Go ahead, you can cry, there is nobody around to hear you.”
“But I would hear,” he replied and he began singing a Lakota death chant.
They rode alone into town the next morning with Carmen’s body lying across Shoots Plenty’s saddle.
“Do you know what Carmen told me?”
“No, what did she tell you?”
“She said the white eyes now come to your cattle towns and they buy prairie dogs to take back to the East and keep with them in their boxes, that they call houses. They play with them and call them pets. Prairie dogs are the only animal left that your people have not been able to take from our lands. Perhaps we should stop this hunting of bad men and sell prairie dogs It would be safer. If they didn’t taste so bad, my people would eat them. Your one-eyed mule would taste better, Wasichus. We should eat him.”
Shoots Plenty pointed toward the sky about where a great eagle, with his headdress of white, flew. “Look at him, Wasichus. “Eagles are good medicine birds with magical powers. He is waiting for Carmen to fly away with him. Or, perhaps he is making sure the white eyes have not killed all the prairie dogs. Do you know why I wear this eagle feather in my hat?”
“To give you magical powers?”
“That and because in a talking circle the person holding the Eagle Feather is the only person who can speak.”

HOW THE CATFISH GOT A FLATHEAD AND SHERIFF TISWELL LOST HIS

 

Sheriff Clay Tiswell

The two bounty hunters lit a fire and prepared food. They sat apart, their backs against a fallen tree and watched as the sun sank deeper, turning the sky a deep blood orange. Shoots Plenty stood and threw more wood on the blaze, sparks flew up in firefly showers and flames roared, streaming in the wind like a torn red and yellow flag.
“Are you ready to hear the story told to me by my grandfather on how the catfish got flat heads?
“I don’t care how catfish got flat heads. I have more important things to worry about, like Liam McCloskey. He is another one with a $500.00 reward on his head, as there should be. He and his boys chopped off the head of the sheriff of Alamogordo, New Mexico. The sheriff’s name was Clay Tiswell. Captain Smith said they put his head on a post in front of the Sheriff’s Office to warn everyone that the McCloskey’s were not to be messed with. He will be the next one we get. His boys as well.”
“We will find this Liam, but first, you should listen to this Wasichus, how the catfish got flat heads is about the Lakota history. It is important history.
You remember the Lakota lived as underwater people before we became people who walk on land. Long ago, when the fish and the animals could talk the chief of the catfish said to all, “Listen, my brothers, I am very tired of eating things from the mud at the bottom of the lake. I think we should have meat as do the wolves. Let us watch for the moose when he wades into the lake to eat the lily pads and let us spear him and kill him for meat. He comes when the sun is at the edge of the sky, so we will hide among the lilies and grasses and that is when we can spear him.”
One day when the sun was at the edge of the sky the moose came to the lake. When he entered the lake the chief of the catfish called council and said, “Now, he is in! I will spear him as soon as he gets further from the shore where the water is deeper.”
They waited until the moose was in deep water and then the catfish chief speared him as hard as he could.
The big moose bellowed with pain and jumped around in the water. He was hurt and frightened at the same time.
“Ho,” he said, “What is this? Who has speared me in my leg? I will find out who has done this.”
He then stuck his head right down into the water until he could see beneath the surface. There in the grasses, he saw the catfish tribe getting ready to spear him again.
They were going to kill him for his meat. This made him very angry.
“I can understand why” Esben replied.
“His eyes turned red and his heart was bad toward the catfish tribe. He bellowed his war cry and said, “Ho. Listen to me. Catfish has speared me in my leg. I will make war on them. I will trample this tribe into the mud.  Hear me! I will go to war!”
He began to jump up and down all over the edge of the lake and trample all the catfish he could find. He crushed them with his big hooves and trampled them deep into the mud. He did not stop until all the catfish were trampled into the muddy bottom of the lake. Then he left satisfied he had avenged the wrong done to him.
After the moose left, some of the catfish managed to wriggle out of the mud and get away. Now there are catfish in all lakes and rivers but everyone has a flat head because of the war from the big moose that flattened the heads of their grandfathers.
In old times there were very large catfish but now they are small. They still carry spears. To this day, they are black and are flat headed and they are so afraid that they stay hidden in the daytime and only swim at night, which serves them right for trying to kill the big moose long ago, right?”
“So you say. You Lakota seem to have an answer to everything, don’t you? It may not be the right answer, but at least you have one.”
“People want answers, Wasichus. People need answers.”
Esben shook his head, “I’m turning in.”
The cold wind picked up, kicking out his poncho behind him as he reined in his one-eyed mule.
“That’s Alamogordo down there,” Esben said. “Are you ready to earn some money?”
“I am ready to kill some white eyes.”

“Sheriff Tiswell had a Navajo wife, you know. McCloskey killed her as well. They slit her throat.”
“I did not know. Let us go find this McCloskey,” Shoots Plenty said, spinning the chamber on one of his Colt .45’s forcefully slamming it back in its holster. “If we find his boys, it will be a bonus, is that not so, Wasichus?”
A creaking sign, waving in the persistent wind, told them they were in Alamogordo.
They rode side by side down the main street. Single-level wood framed weathered buildings lined both sides of the street, a Wells Fargo Office, a doctor’s office, and a general store. The sky was gray and moody. Even in the middle of the day, there was an eerie quiet, a lack of human activity in the town. The only consistent sound was their animals hooves striking the hard dirt packed street and the whine of the wind.
“I do not like this place, Alamogordo,” Shoots Plenty said.
“It’s not so bad,” Esben replied, pulling out a revolver. “You might want to keep a pistol in your hand, just in case.”
As they turned a corner, they noticed a crowd speaking in soft tones, hovering outside the sheriff’s office. The crowd parted as they passed. Sheriff Clay Tiswell’s head was still planted on the post in front of his office.
As they passed, they searched the crowd, trying to find a face, a face belonging to Liam McCloskey or one of his boys. They saw only fear and judgment in the eyes of those they passed. Fear has a metallic taste and the air in this town was filled with it.
They dismounted and stood in the street facing the crowd of fearful strangers. As they approached the crowd parted and a man stepped forward wearing a black suit and a white shirt. He had a prominent nose and flushed cheeks and light eyes. He identified himself as Wesley Bell, the Wells Fargo agent.
“Who are you?” he asked, glancing at Shoots Plenty and then at Esben.
“It doesn’t matter. Where is Liam McCloskey?”
Wesley Bell stared at Shoots Plenty for a moment before nodding his head in the other direction, further down the street. “Down there, at the blacksmith’s, getting their horses shod.”
Esben nodded and turned before feeling a hand grasp his arm. He jerked it away and turned around with his pistol belly high. It was Wesley Bell.
“You don’t want to go there, mister. There are four of them. Liam and his three boys and they are all armed.”
“They are why we are here. Do you have a telegraph in town?”
“Yes, in my office,” Bell replied.
“That’s good. We’ll be needing to use it,” Esben said as he mounted his mule and along with Shoots Plenty, they continued on their way.
“I think I should ride around to the back of the blacksmith’s shop, Wasichus. They will be surprised.”
Okay, stay out of sight until you hear me speak.”
Shoots Plenty peeled away.
As Esben approached the front of the shop he noticed a man bent over an anvil hammering a red-hot shoe. A horse stood next to him and the four men Esben was looking for were in the back leaning up against a railing. Three of them looked no better than ragged saddle tramps in greasy hats, shirts missing buttons and jeans with enough holes in them to embarrass a scarecrow. These clothes and their bandannas hung off pocked skin that was blackened from dust and dirt. The fourth wore a leather patch over his right eye. It matched the hole that was cut out of his vest. He was taking a drink from a bottle. All wore their pistols low on their hip.
“I’m looking for Liam McCloskey,” Esben said, sitting his mule. “Know where I can find him?”
The blacksmith dropped his hammer and stepped back while the three men holding their horses stepped forward on broken-down boots that wobbled on their ankles.
“Why are you looking for him, stranger?” The man with the leather eyepatch sneered, dropping his bottle, his hand dropping to the butt of his revolver.
“I’m going to kill him that’s why.”
All four men reached down for their guns. Before Esben could crack the hammer on his .45 he heard a blood-curdling Sioux war-cry from inside the barn.
McCloskey and the others turned only to be met by a barrage of lead from Shoots Plenty’s gun. One of his boys spun around as a bullet from Esben’s gun drilled into his body. Flame bloomed out of Shoots Plenty’s Colt as he triggered wildly, punching slugs into the other two bodies. By the time the smoke cleared all four men were dead in a pile and the blacksmith was cowering in the corner of the stables.
Esben turned and motioned toward the horses. “Do these belong to the McCloskey’s?”
“Yes, yes they do. Take ‘em, mister they’re yours.”
“I think you are right. Let’s go, Shoots Plenty. We’ll wire their pictures to the captain and then get something to eat.”
As they rode with the bodies back to the Wells Fargo office, Esben looked up as lightning glared across the sky.
“Think the good folks of Alamogordo will object to an Indian spending the night in their hotel?”
“Shoots Plenty is not comfortable sleeping in the white man’s boxes. I will sleep up there,” he said, nodding his head in the direction of the Sierra Blanca and the Capitan Mountains to the northwest of the town.
“Yeah, it does look mighty nice, doesn’t it,” Esben replied.

SHOOTS PLENTY, THE COWBOY, AND THE DREAM CATCHER

Carmen walked out of the general store carrying the merchandise she purchased that included a slab of bacon, cornmeal, and flour as well as some other dry goods when Shoots Plenty approached her and relieved her of her burden.
“You needn’t do that, Shoots Plenty. I am certainly capable of carrying these things.”
“Shoots Plenty wishes to,” he replied. “You work very hard. It gives me pleasure to help.”
“Hey whore, what are you doin’ with a filthy Injun,” a gaily dressed cowboy barked. “No one in they’s right mind is gonna wanna touch you after you with one of ‘em.”
Shoots Plenty stopped and turned to look at the cowboy sitting his horse in the middle of the street with his hand resting casually on the butt of his gun while looking at Carmen.
He was wearing leather leggins with a gun belt sporting a Colt .44 revolver on his right hip. His brown Stetson was adorned with a rattlesnake skin hat band that was sweated through and caked with mud from the dust gathered from riding the dry trails in western Texas. The hat was retained by a leather cord caught about the back of his neck and garnished with 3 perforated silver dollars. He was wearing a red handkerchief knotted loosely around his neck with the knot around the back of his neck so he could wipe the sweat from his face on those hot Texas days when the sun beat down unmercifully on both man and beast. He wore iron spurs and his chaps were made from the hair of a Newfoundland. The hair was thick and long and laid in the correct way that defied the rain. His saddle was made of fine Spanish leather, stamped with an intricate design with gold inlay on the saddle horn and cantle. His saddlebags, or war bags, were made of the same Newfoundland hair and most likely contained his wardrobe, a change of underwear and another shirt.
Shoots Plenty handed back the merchandise to Carmen and stepped into the street.
The cowboy got off his horse, slapping it in the rump as it walked slowly to a water trough located in front of the general store.
They made an odd couple, standing there in the street. Shoots Plenty with his cotton shirt and deerskin leggings, knee-high moccasins, and a black stovepipe hat, bearing an eagle’s feather, cocked precariously on his head. He was covered with crossing bandoliers slung sash-style over his shoulder and across his chest filled with .45 shells for the two Colts he had holstered on each hip, with the butts of the revolvers facing forward affording a faster draw. The bandoliers kept the ammunition off his hips, making it easier for him to retrieve ammunition when needed, something he learned from his old friend and fellow bounty hunter, Esben Hjerstedt
Shoots Plenty recognized the cowboy he was facing from a poster Esben had given to him before he came to town that morning. He was a hired gunman from Paris, Texas who was wanted by the law for killing a store clerk in Austin, Texas. He had been on the run for close to two years, hiding out in the New Mexico Territory and Matamoros, Mexico. At the top of the poster it said $500 Reward. That was all Shoots Plenty needed to know.
It was a game of two and Shoots Plenty got there first, slapping leather so fast the cowboy looked stunned as he gazed down at the hole left by the .45 round that pierced his chest before his hand was even able to twitch. He folded like a paper fan.
Shoots Plenty bent down and removed the gun belt containing the Colt .44 revolver and threw it over his shoulder.
“Are you all right, my brave chief?” Carmen asked.
“I am. You should go to your crib and I will meet you later. I have a gift for you but first I have to file for my reward money.”
“Reward money? What reward money?”
“This man is wanted by your Texas Rangers. We help your Rangers find bad men and bring them in dead or alive. I prefer dead.”
Shoots Plenty went over to the cowboy’s horse and picked up its reins and led him in the direction of the Marshall’s Office. Maybe now Wasichus will take this pretty horse and let me shoot his one-eyed mule.
Later, after finishing off a meal of cornbread, fried bacon, and bean soup, prepared by Carmen, Shoots Plenty reached into his bag and removed a dreamcatcher that he made for Carmen to keep in her crib.
“What is this, my big brave chief?” she asked.
“It is what we Lakota call a dreamcatcher. Dreamcatchers represent the web of life. You should hang it above your bed. It will sift your dreams and visions capture the good dreams in the web. They will be carried with you but the evil dreams will escape through the center’s hole and will no longer be part of you.
There are many forces and different directions that can help or interfere with you and the harmony of nature and also with the Great Spirit and all of his wonderful teachings.
The Lakota believe the Dreamcatcher holds the destiny of their future.

Yinnuwok – The Ghost Stallion

The Ghost Stallion

They set out in a northeasterly direction toward the Sierra Madre. All that afternoon and most of the following night they pushed rapidly on until they emerged upon the eastern slopes of the Sierra Madre and looked down upon the town of Canutillo. Not until then did they stop to rest and make camp.
“Tomorrow we will ride into Canutillo to find Dick Lloyd and Charley Snow, two more cattle rustlers who ride with John Kinney and what he calls his chain gang,” Esben said, as he unfolded the two wanted posters to show to Shoots Plenty. “This is what they look like” He threw two more logs on the fire. Sparks and flames shot into the air.
Shoots Plenty removed his pipe and looked at the posters.
“Hmm, all you white eyes look the same to the Lakota.”
“Just make sure you shoot the right ones when we find them or I might be finding your face on one of these wanted posters.”
“What is this thing the chain gang that they run?”
“A group of horse and cattle thieves that are operating between the Texas Panhandle and southern Arizona Territory. They alter the brands and sell the cattle to butchers and ranchers who ask no questions. Tomorrow we are gonna put an end to that.”
“And how do you know that this Lloyd and Snow are in Canutillo?”
“Captain Smith said that is where they visit their favorite whores. If they aren’t there, we wait. I’m tired and I’m going to turn in.”
“You should think about getting rid of that one-eyed mule, Wasichus. Have I told you the story of Yinnuwok?”
“No, you have not. Who is Yinnuwok?”
“Yinnuwok is the Ghost Stallion”
“I don’t want to listen to you tonight, speak to yourself. I’m turning in.”
“Do not close your ears to our talk. It is important that you should listen, Wasichus. The sun, the darkness, the winds are all listening to what the Lakota have to say and so should you, li meta cola.”
“Well, make it quick. I’m tired.”
“ This story has been passed down from generation to generation by my people. My grandfather spoke to me of when the wind blows the stars clean, and the coyotes jump, and, if you remain still, you can sometimes hear the sound of running horses. When you do you should move closer to one another and pile more wood on the fire, he said, and listen to the old ones tell this story from long ago. It is about a great warrior and chief of the Lakota but a foolish one as well. What the man’s name was, no one knows now, and so they call him the Traveler.
Long ago, the Traveler was a wealthy chief and he had taken many scalps and many horses. He increased his wealth by hard dealings with the less fortunate and younger men who were no match for his cunning.
The Lakota did not love him but they did admire his bravery for he drove hard bargains and prospered from the ills of others. His wives were taken away by their parents; his children hated him and he had no love for them.
There was only one thing he cared for, his horses. They were fine horses, beautiful horses, for he kept only the best. When young warriors returned from a raid with a particularly good horse, the Traveler never rested until he had it in his possession. At night, when the dance drum was brought out, and the other Lakota gathered around, Traveler went alone to the place where his horses were picketed, to gloat over his treasures. He loved them. But only the ones that were young, and handsome, and healthy. A horse that was old, or sick, or injured, received only minimal care and consideration.
One morning, when he went to the little valley in which his horses were kept, he found in the herd an ugly white old stallion, with crooked legs, and a matted coat, thin, and tired looking.
The Traveler flew into a rage. He took his rawhide rope, and caught the poor old horse. Then, with a club, he beat it unmercifully. When the animal fell to the ground, stunned, The Traveler broke his legs with the club, and left him and returned to his lodge, feeling not the slightest remorse for his cruelty.
Later, deciding he might as well have the hide of the old horse, he returned to the place where he had left him and to his surprise, the white stallion was gone. That night, as the Traveler slept, he had a dream. The white stallion appeared and slowly turned into a beautiful horse, shining white, with long mane and tail – a horse more lovely than any the Traveler had seen.
Then the Stallion spoke: “If you had treated me kindly, I would have brought more horses to you, but because of your cruelty to me I shall take away the horses you have!”
When the Traveler awoke, he found his horses were gone. All that day, he walked and searched, but he had found no trace of them. At night when he was asleep and exhausted, he dreamed and in his dreams, the White Stallion came again, and said, “Do you wish to find your horses? They are north, by a lake. You will sleep twice before you come to it.”
As soon as he awakened in the morning, the Traveler took a young warrior’s horse and hastened northward a two days’ journey, and when he arrived there were no horses.
That night, the Ghost Stallion came again. “Do you wish to find your horses?” he asked. “They are grazing in some hills. There will be two sleeps before you come to this place.”
When the sun had gone down on the third day, the Traveler had searched the hills but had found no horses. That night the Stallion came again to the Traveler, directing him to some distant spot, but he never found his horses but he continued to look.
His horse became thin, and footsore. Sometimes he got a horse from some friendly camp; sometimes he stole one.
In the night. before morning, there would come a loud drumming of hoofs, the Ghost Stallion and his band would gallop by, and the Traveler’s horse would break its picket, and go with them.
And never again did he have a horse; never again did he see his own lodge. And he wanders, even to this day, still searching for his lost horses.
Sometimes, the elders say, on a windy autumn night when the stars shine very clearly, over on the quiet plains, above the wind you may hear a rush of running horses and the stumbling footsteps of an old man. And, if you are patient, you may see the Stallion and his band, and the Traveler, still pursuing them, still trying to get back his beautiful horses.
Perhaps tomorrow I will catch a horse for you, Wasichus, and then we can eat that one-eyed mule you have been riding before he decides to kill you.”
“He won’t kill me, Shoots Plenty, and he is better and surer-footed then any horse.”
“You need a good Indian pony, Wasichus.”

Taking Down Bartolo Sepulveda and Juan Soto – From The Texas Bounty Hunters

Esben and Shoots Plenty spent the day riding along the Rio Grande River heading to Fabens, Texas, the town where Captain Smith of the Texas Rangers said Bartolo Sepulveda and Juan Soto were last seen. Fabens, located 25 miles southeast of El Paso on the Rio Grande River, was formerly known as Mezquital.
Esben was contemplating how they would take down Sepulveda and Soto when he realized Shoots Plenty was speaking again.
“Last night after you fell asleep Wanaghi Tachanku was visible in the sky. To the Lakota people, it is called the Trail of the Spirits. The white man calls it the Milky Way. I do not know why the white man calls it that.
The trail of the spirits is the road of the dead to the spirit world.
The Lakota people believe that after death, the deceased person’s soul will go to the happy hunting ground, a place that resembles the world of the living, but with better weather, and more plentiful animals that are easier to hunt than they are in the world of the living. I do not think any wasichus are found there. That is why the Lakota spirit goes there. ”
“So, your lady friend, Carmen, won’t be able to join you in your spirit world?”
“Carmen will join me if I wish her to. She is not a white eye.”
“You have that much influence, Shoots Plenty?”
“You must have forgotten, Wasichus, I am a member of the Bear Clan. The Bear Clan is highly regarded by all my people.”
Esben ignored him and said, “There’s San Felipe,”pointing to a small log building in the distance. Esben and Shoots Plenty rode up to the stagecoach station and Esben dismounted and walked inside. “Hiya, Rex, how have you been?”
Rex Simpson, a small man with a full white beard, wearing a beat-up hat and leather vest over a frayed flannel shirt replied, “I’ve been able to sit up and take nourishment. How ’bout you, Esben?”
“I’ve been fine. We are looking for a couple of Mexicans, Bartolo Sepulveda and Juan Soto,” Esben responded, placing the wanted posters on the counter.
“We were told we would be able to find these two in Fabens. Have you seen them?”
“For sure. They been coming and going here for the past year. I believe I saw those two in the presence of another Mexican by the name of Julio Cardenas go into the Darby Saloon down in Fabens. That Cardenas fella goes by the name of Two Ropes.”

“How far is Fabens from here?”
“Bout three miles.”
“Thanks, Rex, we’ll see you later.”
He walked outside and took the reins of his one-eyed mule from Shoots Plenty and said, “According to ol’ Rex we can find them in town. Most likely at the Darby Saloon.”
“The Mexican spends too much of his time drinking that corn whiskey. It will be easy for us to kill these men,” Shoots Plenty replied as Esben mounted his mule and rode in the direction of Fabens and the Darby Saloon.
There was a soiled dove sitting at a piano against the far wall playing and softly singing the song, The Yellow Rose Of Texas. Two young cowboys were standing at the bar with a bottle of whiskey and a couple of glasses in front of them and at a table in the far corner sat Bartolo Sepulveda and Juan Soto, along with a very large Mexican. They were in the middle of a card game.
Shoots Plenty and Esben spread out as they walked to the back, one on each side of the table.
“You fellas are coming with us,” Esben announced.
Bartolo Sepulveda turned around first and looked at Esben and Shoots Plenty with disdain before he declared, “Who are you? You ain’t the law.”
“Oh, but we are,” Esben responded.
“Hell, they’s bounty hunters,” Juan Soto replied.
“I knew you wasn’t no law. No redskin can arrest a Mexican,” Sepulveda answered as he faced the two men. “This the best you could rustle up, bounty hunter,” he spat on the floor while staring at Shoots Plenty?
Shoots Plenty could smell his breath six feet off.
“I did the best I could with what I have,” Esben replied. “I’ve got six slugs and so does he and there are only three of you. Seems to me we have more than enough.” He glanced over at Soto and the other man, Julio Two Ropes Cardenas. Two Ropes had six inches on Soto and more gristle than the other two combined.
“Wasichus, this hombre’s breath smells worse than your one-eyed mule,” Shoots Plenty said.
“That bad?”
“Yes, that bad.”
“Two Ropes,” Sepulveda barked the name without taking his eyes off Shoots Plenty.
Two Ropes got up and stepped away from the table, his wide mouth turned up into a malicious grin.
Shoots Plenty’s eyes followed him and his hand tightened on the grip of his pistol.
“You might as well make your move, Bartolo because none of you are walking out of here.”
Esben could see a slight tremor in Sepulveda’s hand.
Shoots Plenty had enough and drew his .45 and cracked the hammer and fired point blank at Sepulveda. Sepulveda’s gun had barely broken leather when Shoots Plenty’s shot struck him just above his mouth, shattering his teeth. Blood splattered over his face as he crumbled to the ground.
“You bloodsucker,” Soto screamed as he drew his gun but Esben had a bead on him and pulled his trigger striking him in his right arm, rendering it useless.
Shoots Plenty turned and fired at Two Ropes Cardenas striking him in the throat. The big Mexican stood gurgling in his own blood before oxygen was cut off from his brain, killing him before he hit the ground.
Soto reached across his body with his left hand, attempting to get his .45 when Esben shot him again, this time in the chest, spinning him around. He fell face first onto the floor.
Esben looked over at Shoots Plenty whose .45 was still smoking in his hand and said, “Well, that was easy.”
“Yes, it was easy,” he responded while holstering his Colt. “Now we collect our money.”
As they rode out of Fabens Shoots Plenty felt he had something important to say.
“Did I tell you the story about how the catfish got a flat head?”
“I’m sure you did, you old squaw, but you are going to tell me again aren’t you?”
“My grandfather told me this story…”

 

How The Black Wind Horse Saved The Lakota

BLACK WIND HORSE

Esben grabbed the horse bladder holding what was left of their water and took a drink before passing it over to Shoots Plenty.
They had been riding since before sunrise and the sun was now dropping fast. They were looking for a suitable place to stop and make camp for the evening.
“What is this place you call, Fabens, like?” Shoots Plenty asked. “Carmen said there are many bad men that come there from Ciudad Juarez.”
“It is a bad place, but not any worse than many of the others we have been to. Captain Smith said that a cattle rustler by the name of Bartolo Sepulveda and his partner, Juan Soto, have been spotted there many times. They cross over into Texas to steal cattle and sell them to ranchers in the New Mexico Territory and then flee back to Ciudad Juarez where they are safe from the Texas Rangers. We will put an end to that pretty soon.”
“And get more of the paper money.”
“Yes, more of the paper money,” Esben replied.
They rode in silence again for a few minutes when Shoots Plenty felt he had something important to say.
“Wasichus, did I tell you the story told to me by my grandfather, the one about Unhcegila, the serpent monster?”
“If I told you that you had, you old squaw, you would still tell it to me again, wouldn’t you?”
Shoots Plenty ignored him and did exactly what Esben said he would do; he told him the story again.
“My people originally came from the center of the earth and found themselves in Wakpa Wakan, the Spirit River, what the white man calls Rum River. It flows through Ogechie Lake which is downriver from Mille Lacs Lake, the source of this river. Soon there was the big flood, and my people went into Mille Lacs Lake and lived as underwater people. Before long a whirlpool pulled them up to the surface and threw them out onto the shore, where they now live as people who walk on land. My people are known as great explorers and it is at this time they explored the area and began living at the headwaters of the Spirit River. Here they met Unhcegila, the sea serpent.
Those of my people who know say the Unhcegila was a great snake, as large

UNHCEGILA

around as a tree trunk, with horns on its head, and a bright blazing crest like a diamond on its forehead, and scales glowing like sparks of fire. It had rings or spots of color along its whole length, and could not be wounded except by shooting or stabbing it in the seventh spot from the head where the red crystal was found because under this spot was its heart and its life. He who could kill it would become the greatest warrior of the tribe. Many of our brave warriors sought to kill Unhceglia to obtain the red crystal that was located in the seventh spot on her head which functioned as her heart. This red crystal granted its bearer great power. But was it worth a man’s life to attempt it, for whoever was seen by the Unhcegila was so dazed by the bright light that he would run toward the snake instead of trying to escape? As if this was not enough to keep the bravest of warriors away, the breath of the Unhcegila was so pestilential, it smelled much worse than your one-eyed mule, Wasichus, that no living creature could survive if they inhaled the tiniest bit of the foul air, expelled by the serpent monster. Even to see the Unhcegila asleep meant death, not to the hunter himself, but to his family.
One day Unhcegila ate the family of a warrior from the Bear Clan. The warrior was told by a Weasel spirit that if he were to be devoured by this serpent, he could use his knife to cut his way out and free the other victims.
So this warrior from the Bear Clan rode out on Black Wind Horse who, everyone knows, can fly.
This warrior rode for many days in search of this terrible serpent monster until he finally found it. Because of the great speed that Black Wind Horse possessed, the warrior was able to swoop down and catch the Unhcegila and a great battle ensued the outcome of which was not good because the serpent monster swallowed the warrior from Bear Clan as well as Black Wind horse. As the warrior from the Bear Clan was being swallowed he remembered the words of Weasel spirit who told him that if he were to be devoured by Unhcegila, he should use his knife to cut his way out, which he did, freeing all the other victims who had been devoured by the serpent monster.”

UNHCEGILA

“Aren’t you a member of the Bear Clan?”
“Yes, Wasichus, I am and my horse comes from Black Wind Horse”
“But he is an Appaloosa. He isn’t black.”
“He has black spots.”
“I should have known,” Esben replied, “I appreciate your sharing that story with me once again.”
“You are welcome, le mita cola.”
“Let’s make camp over there,” Esben said, pointing to a stand of cottonwood trees east of the Sante Fe Trail.
“That is fine,” Shoots Plenty responded. “Then I will tell you another of my grandfather’s stories.”
“I can hardly wait,” Esben replied, before squeezing his one-eyed mule into a trot toward the trees.

 

The Killing of Outlaws Grambling and Pilson – From The Texas Bounty Hunters

Shoots Plenty secured his horse to the hitching post in front of Madam Cortez’ House and proceded to walk around back to where Carmen had her crib. Two men came walking by, laughing and talking loudly. One of the men bumped into Shoots Plenty almost knocking him to the ground. They kept walking without looking up or acknowledging what they had done. When he arrived at the back of the house he rapped on the door, “It is Chief Shoots Plenty,” he said. The door cracked open and a slender arm reached out and pulled him into the room. Later, as he sat on the bed strapping on his Colt .45 and placing his black stovepipe hat securely on his head, he said, “Carmen, it is time that I go.”

“Where do you go to now, mi hermoso gran jefe?” Carmen asked while looking up at Shoots Plenty and placing the palm of her right hand gently on his cheek.
Shoots Plenty smiled as he slowly removed her hand and placed some crumpled up bills into it. He felt strong when she called him her beautiful big chief. He had never been called that before, not even by Gray Grass, because he was not a chief, and because he was not beautiful. Maybe it was his black stovepipe hat with his magical eagle feather, or maybe it was because he lied and told her he was a chief, or maybe because she liked that paper money he gave her. It did not matter. He was glad to be her big beautiful chief.
“There are two bad men in town that I must see and then I get more paper money. We travel to where the white men call Fabens. Do you know this Fabens?”
“Si, I know it. Hay hombres muy malos who come there from Ciudad Juarez to rob and kill so many people. You be careful mi hermoso gran jefe and return to your Carmen, si?”
“Shoots Plenty is careful.”
He stepped out into the morning sun, adjusted the gun belt on his hip, and walked around to where he spotted an old man across the street, sweeping down the steps of the saloon. He walked over and asked him if he knew where he could find Buster Grambling and Fred Pilson.
The old man stood up and removed a pipe from his mouth while looking Shoots Plenty up and down with a scornful eye and replied, “Yep, but I wouldn’t want to get crosswise with either of them two if I was an Injun, especially an old Injun like you. They got them Yankee rifles, the ones you load on Sunday and fire all week.”
“You mean the Henry Repeaters like that one?” Shoots Plenty asked pointing to the rifle hanging from the scabbard on his saddle.
“Yep, thems the ones. How’d an Injun get one of them? Ain’t that against the law?”
“I am the law.”
“Sure you are,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “Them twos in there in the saloon. Good luck cause you’ll need it.”
Shoots Plenty walked into the saloon. It was one of only a few times he entered one. Mainly because Indians were not allowed in most of them and also because he had no desire to be in one.
He saw the men standing at the bar with the Henrys propped on the floor, smoke curling over their heads from the cigars they were smoking. Grambling, the one who bumped into him, was the larger of the two, but still not a large man. His clothes were filthy like he had just ridden into town after spending a long time on the trail. Pilson didn’t look any better. Both of them wore what appeared to be Colt .45’s in their belts with most of the cartridges missing. He figured they stopped in the saloon first after riding into town then planned to go to the mercantile store to purchase or, more likely, steal more cartridges and gunpowder.
“You two you should come outside with me.”
His voice startled both men. They quickly swung around to see who was behind them, their hands instinctively going down to cover the butt of their gun.
“What did you say?” Grambling asked, not sure he heard correctly. “You an injun?”
“I am Lakota. Now, you and your friend, Pilson, come outside with me.”
“How do you know our names?” Pilson asked.
“I know. Now you should come.”
Grambling glanced over at Pilson and then they both started laughing.
“Don’t try to play rooster in my town, you filthy red skin,” Grambling said, while a grin spread across his pockmarked face.
Shoots Plenty took him in without moving his eyes. They were the coolest things in the hot smoky saloon but they set Grambling on fire. He was fumbling at his belt for fresh cartridges all the while smiling. Shoots Plenty had his fill of his charm so he shot him point blank between the eyes.
When he died he was still grinning.
Shoots Plenty turned to Grambling’s partner and said, “Your friend looks healthier than you do white eyes.”
“You best listen to good advice, you old red skin, Red don’t last around here.”
Shoots Plenty cracked the hammer of his Colt .45 again and shot Pilson between the eyes as well.
When he died he was not grinning.
Shoot Plenty stared with contempt at the dead body of Fred Pilson and said, “Red lasted longer than you white eyes.” He removed their gun belts and returned Grambling’s gun to his holster and threw them over his shoulder while he picked up the two Henry Repeaters and left, leaving both outlaws bleeding out on the filthy beer-stained floor.
Before he mounted his horse, he looked over at the old man who had his back pressed against the saloon wall and said, “You should take those two over to the man with the box that captures the soul of the whites. Tell him to send them to Captain Smith with the Texas Rangers in El Paso.”
“I ain’t takin’ no orders from no redskin,” he said.
Shoots Plenty just stared at the old man.
“Okay, don’t get all worked up you crazy old Injun, I’ll do that.”
“I will be back,” Shoots Plenty said before he turned and rode off into the west Texas hills.
Later when Esben returned he dismounted his mule and sat down next to Shoots Plenty who was drinking Moccasin flower tea and softly chanting and speaking to himself.
“I return and that whole town is talking about some crazy old redskin, wearing a black stovepipe hat with an Eagle’s feather, claiming he is a law dog, who just walked into a saloon he ain’t allowed in, and shot Buster Grambling and Fred Pilson without even blinking an eye and took their guns before riding off. By any chance was that you, Shoots Plenty.”
“That was Shoots Plenty.”
“Did you fry your brain in this heat?”
“I told the white eyes I was a law dog. Did you tell them Shoots Plenty is a law dog and collect my paper money?”
“Whoever heard of an Indian being a law dog?”
Shoots Plenty sat puffing on his pipe without replying.
“You are not the law.”
“I know that, but they do not.”
“They know you aren’t the law. Everybody knows you aren’t the law.
They are glad to see those two gone, but they ain’t too happy that an Indian would think it was alright to ride into town and gun down two white men, no matter how much they deserved it.”
“They should be happy the crazy old redskin stopped at shooting just two white eyes. He could have killed many of his enemies.”
Esben shook his head.
“I told them we are bounty hunters and I made sure the pictures of Grambling and Pilson got sent off to Captain Smith. I have the paper money in my saddle bags on my mule.”
“That is good, Wasichus. Your Captain Smith has hired an old Indian and an old mule packer to find these men because he cannot find other white eyes to do this. Plus we are pretty damn good at it, is that not so, Wasichus?”
Esben looked at the old Indian and smiled, “I guess we are.”
“Did I tell you the story when that trickster Coyote tricked the long knives into believing that their paper money grows on trees? You remember how that trickster Coyote tricked the long knives to release him from their jail by telling them he could train that big white horse?”
“I remember. I’m going to collect some wood and start a fire.”
“That is good. I will speak louder so you can hear this story as you do your chores.”
“My chores?”
“Is that not what the white man calls their work?”
Esben shook his head in exasperation and replied, “Just don’t scare my mule.”
“Your one-eyed mule will like this story because Coyote took the pack mules from the long knives. That is a good thing.
This is how it happened. Coyote was out of the cheese and crackers that the long knives gave him when he trained that big white horse and he had little money left so he came up with another trick to play on the long knives who were still pursuing him.
He knew they were greedy, like all white men, and he devised a plan to get all the pack mules the long knives had with them.
He found a big walnut tree and swept the ground clean under it and strung what money he had left on its branches. Pretty soon the long knives came along and Coyote said, “I am going to tell you about this tree. Money grows on it and I want to sell it. Do you want to buy it?
The long knives were interested so Coyote told them, “It takes a day for the money to grow and ripen. Today’s crop is mine, but tomorrow it is all yours. I will sell you this fine tree for all your pack mules.”
The long knives agreed to Coyotes terms, and Coyote got a big rock and threw it against the trunk. Most of the money fell to the ground. “See, it only ripens at noon,” he said. “You have to hit it just at noon.” He whacked the tree again, and the rest of the money dropped out. Now it was all on the ground and the long knives helped him pick it up and put it in sacks. They turned all their pack mules over to Coyote as agreed upon, and Coyote started off.
He traveled the rest of the day and all night until he was in another country. Meanwhile, the long knives camped under the tree waiting for noon. then the officer told the soldiers to hit the tree, and they pounded it hard. When no money fell out, the officer ordered it chopped down, cut into lengths and then split up, in case the money was inside. Of course, no matter what they did they couldn’t find even five cents just old worms and bugs.”
Esben shook his head. “Shoots Plenty,” he said, “I am finding so many of your stories so far-fetched they are laughable. You surely cannot expect anyone in their right mind to think that a company of Union Soldiers would be that gullible that they would give away all their pack mules to a mangy old coyote in exchange for a walnut tree that the coyote said had money growing on it?”
“It is so, le mita-cola, my grandfather told this story to me.”
“I’m turning in. We have a long ride ahead of us tomorrow.”