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
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.”
“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.