“Wasichus, did I reveal to you the Lakota story of the sacred red stone?”
“Is this going to be another of your crazy stories, you old squaw?”
“You should listen, le mita cola, for my words are simple. You have not heard them because you have not taken the time to listen.”
“Oh, I listen. I can’t help but listen. You talk all the time.”
“You should open your ears and heart to the words of wisdom my people have to say. My people found a sacred red rock. It was shaped by the proud Sioux people upon the prairie of what the white eyes call the Black Hills in the Minnesota territory where the buffalo roamed known as Paha Sapa, to the Lakota.
We smoke it before battle and offer it in peace. There is power in this rust colored rock. When the winds blow ancient memories return to my people. The spirits of forefathers echo across the grassland. This red stone has powerful magic the Wasichus can not take it. The Great Spirit speaks to us through this rock; it speaks to our soul.”
“Why don’t you carry on your crazy conversations with your sacred red rock then and quit bothering me?”
Shoots Plenty continued, “When my people walk the windswept prairie of this Minnesota Territory we can feel the power of the haunting Red Stone. This is why when our people die we take them back to Paha Sapa, our holy land.”
“You better pray to the red rock that the white man doesn’t find gold or something in your Paha Sapa or you will have to find another place to plant your dead.”
“Sadly you are right, Wasichus. It is a shame what the white eyes do to the land of our ancestors. You know, we should shoot that one-eyed mule you are riding and eat it and get you a real horse. It would be nice to taste meat again.”
“I told you we are not killing this mule so just quit talking about it.”
“He smells too.”
“Hold up there, Shoots Plenty. Is that a body near that big rock?”
“I cannot see, I am old and my eyes are tired.”
“But your mouth doesn’t tire, does it? Let’s ride over there and take a look.”
Their animals snorted and pranced about nervously as the smell of rotting flesh entered their nostrils.
Esben and Shoots Plenty stared at the bloated and decomposing body of what appeared to be a young Charro, covered with rocks and lying among the dry sage next to a large boulder. He was wearing a serape, the garment worn by the farmers in the area.
“Some one shot him, Wasichus and it was not Apache. If Apache did this, they would have taken pecokan sunpi, a scalp lock. He was killed by the white eyes or possibly the Seditionistas that took your horse and guns.”
“There were twenty of them.”
“They would not be able to sneak up on a Lakota.”
“Maybe not a young Lakota.”
“That boy looks to be no more than twelve or thirteen years old. Shot through the left temple. Appears like he was executed. Someone tried to keep scavengers away from the body by covering him with rocks.”
“Why would someone kill a young boy? His family must be looking for him.”
“If he has a family. It appears like he has been here for a few days. I’m surprised the buzzards haven’t found him.”
“It is too hot here even for buzzards.”
“There are tracks over there. It looks like a shod horse and a small burro. The burro most likely belonged to this Charro. Perhaps he was robbed and then killed.”
“It is a shame to kill a small boy for his burro.”
“It’s a shame to kill a small boy. Let’s follow the tracks and see if we can find this person.”
They had almost reached the San Pedro River when the sun went down. The Cottonwoods lining the river banks were starting to shed their leaves. The ones remaining were yellow and faded. Their animals breached the water and they noticed what looked like another young Charro in the distance, leading a burro. They spread out about ten yards and each approached him from different sides.
“What is your name, amigo?” Esben asked.
“It is Juan.”
“Juan, we just found the body of a young Charro a ways back. Shot in the head. By any chance do you know him?”
“That is my brother, Pedro. He was trying to get his little burro back from a very bad man and he shot him.”
“Do you know this man’s name?”
“Si, señor, his name is Martin.”
“Si, señor, that gringo he take all thees belongings from me and my brother Pedro. We jeest getting it back when he come on us and he keeled my brother. I run off on my burro because I know he keel me too if I stay.”
“How did he get your things, Juan?”
“He ride into our camp and take everything we have off Pedro’s burro and beat us bad and leave us tied to a tree with no clothes. We find this hombre’s camp and sneak in at night and find our clothes and take what was ours and start to leave when the hombre he wake up and shoot and he keel Pedro.”
“Well, we have been following his trail. What kind of horse is he riding?”
“It is a beeg brown horse and he was leading Pedro’s little gray burro.”
Esben looked at Shoots Plenty and said, “You want to come with me or go back and play house with that Carmen lady?”
“I think I should go with you, Wasichus. She wants me to take up wah ti living and wants me to become her mihigna ki. I think I am too old.”
“You are old but not too old to become that woman’s husband.”
“No, I am too old. We should go. Who is this Brace Martin that we look for now?”
“He’s a stage robber out of the New Mexico Territory. He and a cow-boy by the name of Curly Bill Brocius tried to rob a U.S. Army conveyance near El Paso, Texas and wounded two soldiers. They were eventually captured but they broke jail and escaped to Mexico.
Martin came back and formed a gang of horse and cattle thieves. They have been riding out of the San Simon Valley of Arizona Territory. It’s time we ended that.”