From the novel, The Texas Bounty Hunters
A sudden movement to the far left of the woods caught the cowboy’s attention and he reined in his mule. A horse and rider were slowly moving between the dogwoods and ash trees.
He removed the glass from his waistband and put it to his eye. The rider was an Indian. He was wearing a black stovepipe hat with a turkey feather stuck in the band and a light cotton shirt and deerskin leggings. He had a quiver of arrows on his back and a bow attached to his horse pad. The horse he was riding was a large spotted Appaloosa. It was his friend Shoots Plenty, a Lakota Sioux.
The cowboy nudged the mule and moved in the direction the Indian was traveling. He stopped behind a copse of pine trees and heavy brush and waited. Soon he heard Shoots Plenty approach. He was drinking Moccasin flower tea and softly chanting and speaking to himself.
When Shoots Plenty passed the rider yelled out, “ Inaji, halt. Raise your hands and slowly turn around.”
“Is that you, le mita-kohla, my friend?”
“Yeah, I thought it was supposed to be hard to sneak up on an Indian?”
“It is,” Shoots Plenty replied as he turned his horse around, “But I am old and civilized now. Why are you riding a one-eyed mule?”
“Because he is easy to sneak up on and the Seditionistas stole my horse.”
“So, you are easy to sneak up on too? I see they stole your pants and your guns also?”
“That’s true, but I’m gettin’ them back.”
“Of course you are, Wasichus, on this one-eyed mule. And when will you be doing this?”
“Soon, where are you headed?”
“I waited ten sleeps for your return. I figured you traded your old Lakota friend for a squaw so I am returning to my people.”
“I need to find Tasacowadi, the Comanche Chief. His people are in danger. Basilio Ramos and his Seditionistas are planning to raid the Comanche camp while Tasacowadi and his warriors are on their hunt. They will make it look like the Texians are responsible for the massacre. I have to warn him. Will you ride with me?”
“Nothing my brother asks of me is too great.” He took a swallow of his tea then replied, “Let us go before your one-eyed mule dies of old age.”
“Or you, Shoots Plenty.”
Soon the two riders reined their animals in and sat looking over their left shoulders to the northwest as a blue norther approached.
They listened as the muffled whistle of an elk floated on the breeze that seemed to rise from the earth behind them.
The cowboy’s back ached. He had seen more than forty winters and was well into approaching another as was his companion, Shoots Plenty. Neither man was no longer a young man.
They glanced around and spotted many pony tracks.
“No metal moccasins. No pony-drags. Most likely a war party; forty to fifty, possibly more. Comanche,” Shoots Plenty said.
“A Comanche war party can easily travel forty miles a day. Judging by the freshness of the dung piles the trail is no more than two days old. The stalks of grass stomped down by the ponies hooves are beginning to rise back toward the sky.”
Esben nodded and they kicked their mounts and rode upstream for a quarter mile looking for more signs of the war party before returning to the trail. It took another three hours before they finally found what they were looking for. To the left of the trail was a gathering of white stones set in the shape of the quarter moon.
“They passed this spot at the time of the first quarter moon which was three nights before. See over there?” Shoots Plenty remarked, pointing to his left. “The two sticks jutting from the ground, one higher than the other? The Comanche have been on the trail two days from their last camp. They are at ease; not concerned about enemy movements around them.”
Both riders continued to scour the ground for more signs. It didn’t take long before the old Lakota Sioux located a straight line of small pebbles pointing east, indicating the direction the war party was heading.
Rain and sleet began to pepper them for the next mile before letting up, failing to soak them and, more importantly, the Comanche pony tracks remained visible.
That evening they could smell the smoke from the Comanche fires. They dismounted and staked their ponies in a stand of Dogwood and cautiously approached on foot. They watched a mounted procession of warriors circling the fire, leading up to the Comanche scalp dance. One warrior rode through camp on his horse, his buffalo headdress on his head and freshly taken scalps tied to his tomahawk. One after another, riders arrived and dismounted at a large dance area where drums began to beat and the warriors began to dance in their elaborate costumes; some dressed up as antelope or deer, some as bear or mountain lions. It was fascinating to watch as they screamed, growled and roared, imitating the sounds of the different animals. Then they all screamed blood-curdling war cries.
“This will last most of the night,” Shoots Plenty whispered. “Let us go.”
They turned and crawled back to the stand of Dogwoods where they spread out their robes.
“You know, Wasichus, the earth’s soil is soothing and gives us strength. It is also cleansing and healing.”
“I feel one of your stories coming on, Shoots Plenty. Why do you tell me all these stories? Go to sleep.”
“Stories have a spirit. They continue to live and grow. It is how my people teach our young.
I am old and have learned much and know there is much more to learn. This is why I still sit upon the earth. I do not prop myself up away from its life giving forces. For me, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think and feel deeply; I can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about me. Then I can tell you stories.”
He placed a hand on the ground and explained: “We sit in the lap of our Mother. From her, we, and all other living things come. We shall soon pass, but the place where we now rest will last forever.
My people come from the Mdewakanton, Water of the Great Spirit. Your people call it Rum River. My people call it Wakpa Wakan, Spirit River. It flows through Ogechie Lake in what your people call the Minnesota Territory.
Originally, my people came up from the center of the earth and found themselves near Mille Lacs Lake, from which the Spirit River comes. Many moons ago, after a flood, my people went into Mille Lacs Lake and lived as underwater people. Then a whirlpool pulled them up to the surface and threw them out onto the shore, where they lived as people who walked on land again. They hunted and fished near the Spirit River and at other places around the sacred lake
When there were many beaver and otter, the French people came and brought peace between my people and the Three Fires People, who called themselves Anishinabe, the first people. When our people were at peace the white man made more money on trading the fur of our beaver and otter because both tribes were bringing them furs for trade. But when the beaver and otter were no more, the French people armed the Three Fires People with bullet firing muskets and my people were forced from the Spirit River, our ancestral homeland.
I am now old. I am filled with peace and good will. I no longer wish to fight. No longer is anger and fury lodged in my mind.”
He looked in the direction of Esben and heard him softly snore. He was asleep. He heard nothing of what he said.
“Hmm, I try to teach you, Wasichus, but you fail to listen.” He rolled over and soon he too slept.
They were awake and saddled up before the sun rose and rode to the Comanche camp. They knew the Comanche sign to give when approaching their camp, to alert the Sentinel they were friends. They rode their mounts forward twenty steps and stopped. Then turned to the right and walked another twenty steps and stopped before returning to where they began. The Sentinel waved them forward.
Esben was told to sit to the right of the chief, Tasacowadi, wearing a cape made from a huge bear. Shoots Plenty sat to his left.
Tasacowadi looked at the white stranger for a moment and then at the Lakota and said, “Why do you travel with this white man riding a one-eyed mule?”
“I have known him for many moons. He was raised by my people. Also, I am old and he thinks I am a Lakota Chief. He rides that one-eyed mule because it is easy for him to sneak up on that mule.”
Tasacowadi grunted and turned to the white rider, and said, “Speak.”
“We followed you for three days since you crossed the Rio de los Brazos de Dios, The River of the Arms of God,” the white rider said. “You are brave. You weren’t concerned about enemies being in the area. We watched your scalp dance last night before spreading our robes and finding sleep.”
“And why should we be concerned? We are Comanche.”
“A hombre named, Basilio Ramos, and a group of his followers from Chihuahua Mexico, calling themselves Seditionistas, are planning to stir up trouble between the Comanche and the Texians. They are committing atrocious acts against women and children of the Texians and making it look like the Comanche committed the attacks and also on the Comanche making it look like the Texians were to blame.
I know the Comanche has no fear, but your women and children are left unattended and are in danger as the Seditionistas have been spotted east of the Brazos. We have come to let you know.”
“The Comanche will kill this Ramos if he comes near our women and children.”
“Now the Texas Rangers are coming and you must be careful so that you and your people do not get caught in the middle of this bloodletting.”
“ We do not fear the Texas Rangers nor do we fear the Mexicans. We drove off the Apaches and the Kiowas and will do the same to the Mexicans and Texians.
“Many are the warriors of the white man. If we take the war trail for revenge, we will need the help of Cochise and his warriors.
Where have these Mexicans been spotted?”
“We will show you. But we must leave before the sun moves a fist in the sky.”