Thursday, February 2, 2023

Nerds in the Wild – A Repost (Part 2 of 2 Parts)

 dontravis.com blog post #585

Photo courtesy of Phys.org.


 

 Cold and uncomfortable… and perhaps a little reptile-anxious, is the way we left our two nerd hikers last week. Do things get worse or improve in the second half of the story? Let’s see.

 *****

NERDS IN THE WILD

In what must have been the middle of the night, I woke. It had stopped raining, at least I couldn’t hear water hitting the tent. Of course, I couldn’t hear much of anything because of a dull roaring sound. It took a few minutes to understand it must be the creek. The shelf where I lay must have been ten feet above the water. But maybe not. It sounded closer – and angrier – than that peaceful little trickle of yesterday.

Then I realized my butt was wet. Wet and cold. That’s what had awakened me. I put my hand out and dipped my fingers in half an inch of frigid liquid.

“Ron!” I yelled. “Get up! There’s water in the tent.” I fought my way out of the sleeping bag and stood in the water. And my feet had been about the only part of me that wasn’t freezing. I heard Ron splashing and cursing in around in the darkness.

“Glasses! Can’t find my glasses.” That all came out in a moan.

Then I felt the tent move. Not much, but just a little. Hell, it shouldn’t be moving at all. The water was now up around my ankles.

“Get out!” I screamed. “The tent’s about go.”

“Glasses! Gotta find my glasses!”

I found the zipper and managed to get it halfway up. “Forget your glasses. Save your ass!”

I fought my way out of the tent into a freezing wind. I was pretty sure it had stopped raining, but water still pelted my face. Whipped up by the wind, probably. Ron blundered out of the tent and almost shoved me down into the creek. The clouds had cleared and a moon directly overhead provided a little light. I felt blood drain from my face as I looked across the canyon at a broad expanse of boiling water. Yesterday’s playful creek had become an angry river. And we were standing in it.

I turned and ran into Ron. “Run,” I said. “Climb the walls. We gotta get higher.”

“G-grab our packs,” he stammered.

Even as he said it, our tent swayed before the wind, and then it was gone. We watched with our jaws sagging as it floated for a minute, and then collapsed from the weight of the water inside. It was out of sight within ten seconds.

Just as I started for the wall of rock behind me, a deep booming sound halted me. “What’s that?”

“D-dunno,” Ron stammered. “Maybe thunder.”

It came again … and again. A booming, thudding grinding sound. Getting closer. And then I understood.

“That’s not thunder. Move. Climb for your life!”

“What is it?”

“Climb, man, climb. Don’t waste time talking.

I’m not sure how we did it given the combination of total darkness eased only by the moon’s glow and rocks still slippery from the rain, but we began to ascend the nearly vertical walls of Grolier Canyon. All the while the terrible booming came closer and closer.

I reached a ledge and paused to grab Ron’s collar and drag him up beside me. I had no idea if we were high enough, but I’d done all I could. I wasn’t going to be able to climb another inch. So I started praying while the wind tried to snatch us off our precarious perch.

The booming grew louder and louder until it was almost ear-splitting. My chilled blood ran even colder. Ron grabbed my arm and let out a moan as a wall of water rushed toward us, an occasional boulder the size of a truck occasionally visible inside it.

“Oh, shit! Climb,” Ron yelled.

I grabbed his arm. “Don’t move. If we’re not high enough, it’s too late now.”

“But—”

“We might fall if we try to climb. Stay still.”

The ten-foot wall of muddy water seemed to move agonizingly slowly. It was like watching death approach at a slow, deliberate pace. But I knew there was nothing slow about it. And the booms filling our ears weren’t death drums, they were boulders and tree trunks and who knew what else being swept along by the power of the water. Why wasn’t I terrified? Why was I calm?

And then it reached us. The angry wall passed right below our feet, but leaping waves reached up to snatch at us. We were drenched anew, but we remained glued to the wall of cork at our backs. And then I saw a tree, reduced to only a sodden log rushing for us. Someone moaned – I think it was me – as a long, cable-like root scraped the canyon wall not twenty feet ahead of us. We clutched one another and watched in awe as the log tumbled, and the whipping root rose and passed just over our heads.

And then the torrent was past. The booming receded, echoing up and down the steep canyon walls. And with the passing came the fear. The absolute terror that had refused to come as we stared Death in the face. I started shivering violently, but didn’t know if it was fright or cold. Probably both. We were without boots, without coats. Thank goodness we’d slept in our clothing. We were soaked to the skin and whipped by a brisk, cold wind.

The water level dropped rapidly after that, but it stubbornly refused to drop enough for us to clamber down to that rock shelf where we’d pitched our tent. There was no way to go anywhere. We were stranded. Would we freeze to death before cramping leg muscles pitched us off the ledge into the torrent below?

I was still calculating the odds on that when I heard the faint sound of a helicopter.

****

Ron and I considered skipping school the next Monday, but that would merely delay the inevitable. Dweebs and nerds and geeks – and we were all three – came in for more than their share of harassment at Belvedere High, and our recent adventure brought us more than usual. But it also brought a few “glad you made it” and “close shave, man” comments. We had handled things pretty well until Friday’s edition of the Belvedere Weekly Gazette came out.

The lead story opened with the words “Local Belvedere High students, Ezekiel Harmer (17) and Ronald Smylie (17) ignored a flood warning last Saturday and were caught in a flash flood in Golier Canyon. The two youths were rescued by…

****

Maybe I am a nerd--sans electronics--because that's exactly the way any invasion of the wilderness by me would likely turn out. Hope you enjoyed the little story. Hopefully, I'll be back on schedule so I can give you something new next week.

Until then.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

 My personal links:

 Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.

                                                                                                                                 

Don

 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Nerds in the Wild – A Repost (Part 1 of 2 Parts)

 dontravis.com blog post #584

 Photo courtesy of Phys.org.


 

Thanks, Mark, for your posts. Hope you received some encouragement from the number of hits. Still not much in the way of comments, though. My readers aren’t a demonstrative bunch.

 

Today’s post is a “repost” from February 2015. I’ve resorted to a repost for a good reason, at least it is a good reason for me. I spent two days in the VA Hospital in Albuquerque battling an intestinal infection, and that put me way behind my schedule. I’m finishing up the antibiotic they sent home with me and seem to be fine now. 

You know, one hears horror stories about the VA health care system, but I’ve been with them for years and have nothing but hurrahs for the way they’ve taken care of me. I’ve encountered a couple of imbecilic, arrogant people along the way, but you’ll find those in every organization of any size. Here's a shout out to the VA in my part of the world.

 At any rate, here’s today’s story, part 1 of a 2 parter.

 

*****

NERDS IN THE WILD

I cursed under my breath. The car was a mile behind us, the only vehicle in the canyon’s parking lot. That worried me a little. Where was everyone else? This was Saturday. There should be lots of nature lovers out. Like the local jocks we’d overheard talking about this great trip they took up Golier Canyon, making it all sound adventurous and manly.

Now, it just seemed like work. Loaded down with a spanking new backpack that rode heavy on my shoulders and rose half a foot over my head, I was tired and had aching feet. My brand new boots were rapidly raising a brand new blister on my right heel.

“Ron,” I wheezed, “we’re the only ones up here.”

“Yeah, isn’t it great?”

I glanced at him. His cheeks were unnaturally red and sweat fogged the thick lenses of his bottle glasses.

“Why isn’t anyone else up here?”

He stopped and leaned back to look at the tiny patch of sky visible above the canyon’s steep, soaring walls. Unbalanced by a pack with the price sticker still on it, he would have fallen over backwards if I hadn’t propped him up.

“Maybe the weather scared them off. It’s supposed to rain, you know.” He waved a hand in a vaguely westward direction. “But that’s over in Howard County.”

“Yeah, like the rainstorm knows where the county line is,” I said, heavy on sarcasm.

I quit bitching in order to concentrate on where to put my sore feet on a path composed of nothing but loose rocks. When we came to a flat shelf high above the creek rushing down the floor of the canyon, I rebelled.

“That’s it. I’m not going any farther.”

He turned eyes magnified by a factor of two by his bifocals on me. “Zeke, you’re such a wuss.”

I dropped my pack it to the ground, shucked the canteen, and loosened my father’s military web belt laden with a knife and compass and a GP locator. Why did I need a GPL in a canyon you could only go up or down? But Ron had insisted.

“I’m not a wuss,” I said. “I’m a geek, and so are you. I need to be surrounded by computers and iPhones and Wi-fi and things electronic.” I waved my hand around. “Not by rocks piled on stones and limestone stacked on …” I ran out of geologic terms and stopped.

“This is nature, man. Enjoy it.” He surveyed the area, which was no more than about a fifty-foot square of stone, containing a few strands of grass and two scraggly pines for shade. “Not too bad. We can set up our tent here, I guess.”

I bent over to pick up my pack and jumped backwards. “Whoa!”

“What? What is it?” Ron’s eyes went owlish.

“Snake. There. On a rock.”

He gawked at the tightly coiled serpent watching us from ten feet away. “Man, she’s big one? What kind is she?”

“Those button thingys on its end are probably a clue. It’s a rattlesnake, dodo. Tell it to go away.”

“How do I do that?”

“Wave your arms or something. This trip was your idea, man. Do something. And why did you call it a she?”

“Well, she could be. Snakes have males and females, too, you know.”

“What clued you? The long lashes on her eyes or the delicate curve of her fangs?”

“Zeke, stop being shitty. Throw a rock or something at her.”

Even after the snake got tired of our throwing stones at it and slithered down toward the creek bed, I was uneasy. What if this was a rattlesnake roundup place or something. Still, I was too tired to start walking again.

We put up the tent we’d purchased yesterday afternoon. Actually, we popped up the tent. It was one of those all-in-one things that actually pops up. Well, that’s the way the sporting goods salesman explained it, but since it didn’t have wires and resistors and sensors, we had a little trouble with it.

The tent was no sooner up than it began to shower. Mid-morning quickly began looking like twilight. I gazed straight up into boiling, seething clouds that seemed to scrape the top of the canyon walls before scrambling inside our temporary home. Despite myself, I began to enjoy the pitter patter of the drops gently assailing the canvas sheltering us. Except it wasn’t canvas. It was some kind of fancy new material. Before long, the drops got louder and came down harder. Our shower had turned into a rain. Soon, it became a deluge.

“Crap, Ron, this is never going to stop. I’ve half a mind to head back to the car.”

In the gloom of the closed tent, I saw him shiver. “That’s a cold rain, man. You’d drown or freeze before you got there. Besides, it’ll stop soon, and tomorrow morning we can go exploring.”

“Explore, my ass. I just wanna go home. I’m hungry, and all I’ve got is hot dogs and fixings. We can’t even build a campfire. How am I gonna cook the weenies?”

He brightened and rummaged around in a pack – my pack, as a matter of fact – to haul out a black, cast iron skillet.”

“No wonder my backpack was so heavy. What do we need that for?”

“To cook the fish we’re gonna catch tomorrow.

“You made me haul that up the mountain? Why didn’t you put it in your pack?”

“No room.” He opened a can of something that looked like Sterno but had a different name on it.

“It’ll take forever to roast a weenie on that.”

“Uh, uh.” Ron dumped the whole can of nauseating-looking gel out into the skillet and put some scraps of paper in the stuff. It didn’t seem to want to start, but eventually, he got it going. The flames were a little high, but reached nowhere near the top of the tent. The entire enclosure was instantly a bit cozier. He had a couple of wire hangers that worked just as well for cooking weenies as they did for roasting marshmallows. Before long, I was full of weenies and buns.

“What’s that smell?” I asked as I leaned back to relieve the pressure on my stuffed gut.

“What smell?”

“Oh, Geez! The tent’s on fire.”

“Where?”

“There! Underneath the pan.”

Well, it wasn’t actually burning, but it was going to be. Soon. Wisps of smoke oozed from beneath the iron skillet.

Ron lunged for the handle. “Unzip the tent!” he said.

I had my hand on the zipper when he let out a yelp and dropped the skillet. Burning goo flowed sinuously out of the tipped pan onto the floor.

Our fancy new tent might be waterproof, but it sure wasn’t fireproof. Flames danced merrily. When they penetrated the first layer of the floor, the soft cushion of air that kept us off the ground instantly escaped and settled us on jagged pieces of rock.

I grabbed my canteen and emptied it on the flames.

“Nooo!” Ron howled. “Water spreads it. Smother the fire.”

I shrugged out of my coat and threw it on the burning mess. In a few seconds, the flames were out, but my coat was ruined. Charred and smeared with a pink goop, I wouldn’t even put it on again.

The rest of the day dragged by like an inchworm. Or maybe a quarter-inch worm. We had no computers. Our phones wouldn’t work. Ron had forgotten to bring his checkers, and I’d left my chess set behind. There wasn’t anything to do but stare at one another, try to ignore the smell of charred material, keep out of the water oozing up through the burnt hole, and occasionally talk to one another. It was still raining when we gave up and crawled into our sleeping bags.

Just before I surrendered to exhaustion and fell asleep, I heard him ask if I thought that rattlesnake could get in through the hole in the floor.

****

I’ve never thought of myself as a nerd—mostly because things with wires and batteries and such aren’t my thing—but this pretty well describes how I handle things in the great wilderness. The last sentence in the post perfectly expresses how I would have been reacting.

Let’s see if things improve for our intrepid outdoorsmen next week.

Until then.

Stay safe and stay strong.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

My personal links:

Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.

                                                                                                                                 

Don

New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Ides, = Continued, A Guest Post

 dontravis.com blog post #583

 Photo courtesy of Pixabay

 


 

Thanks, Readers, for reading Mark Wildyr’s guest post of his novel in progress, Ides. Got hits… but few comments. He’d like your reaction. At any rate, he’s asked to continue the novel this week. He picks up in Chapter 1 where he’s just explained how he’s an outsider to both his white and tribal friends. When we pick up the story today, Ides and his little sister Stelle are heading for his Uncle John’s Turtle Crick Farm (actually a ranch). It’s another long read, but he wanted to finish Chapter 1.

 

*****

IDES

By Mark Wildyr

 

The next morning found me aboard the white gelding I called Whispering Arrow, or more often than not simply, Arrow. I’d named him after Arrow Wind, one of Uncle John’s mounts.

My sister rode alongside me on the paint she dubbed Mr. Spotty, which became Spot as a familiar. In truth, Estelle Weathers Haleworthy—Stelle to me—now eleven, was not my blood sister. She had come to us as an infant when her parents, both desperados on the run, had been killed when they drew down on Uncle John and Ethan while trying to hole up at Turtle Crick Farm. My parents had formally adopted the innocent infant, and she’d been a loving and beloved member of our household ever since. I could not have cared more for her had she been of my mother born.

Stelle was a chatterbox, and today proved no exception. The post was in the northwest quadrant of Yanube City, so we didn’t pass through the main part of town, but she commented on most of what we did pass, especially the Bowers Foundry, the blacksmith forge owned by Timo Bowers, a longtime friend of the Strobaw family, dating clear back to the time of our ancestors Cut Hand and Billy Strobaw. The old smith had died three years back, and a new man now plied his trade there.

“Was he really seventy-five?” Stelle asked.

“Actually, seventy-six when his heart gave out, at least according to Uncle John.”

Stelle shuddered. “That’s so old!”

“Smithing kept him healthy, I guess.”

“You were born here, weren’t you?” she asked.

“You know I was. You’ve been told that often enough.”

“And Gabe too?”

“Him too.”

“Wish I coulda known him before he got rubbed out.”

My voice caught in my throat for a minute. She never mentioned her own parents’ death, although I know she’d been told all about it. “You two woulda hit it off.”

She gave something between a sigh and a snort. “Wish he talked to me like he does you.”

Stelle was the only other person in the world who knew I conversed with my dead brother, a measure of how close we were, my sister and me. “Guess it’s a rule that you had to know him before he died for him to do that.”

“Not fair.”

“What is, little sister?”

“Don’t call me that.”

And it went like that for the entire seven-mile trek north to Turtle Crick.

When the farm came into view at the base of the little hillock that sat south and west of the farmhouse—actually it oughta be called a ranch house now because Uncle John and Ethan only tilled enough land to grow their own vegetables and alfalfa for the cattle—Stelle made a solemn pronouncement.

“This time, I’m gonna make Uncle John let me come to the sweat lodge with the rest of you.”

“You do that, and we’d have to wear clothes. That wouldn’t be very practical.”

“I’ll hide my eyes.”

“You’d peek and start giggling so we’d all know you cheated. Besides, we’d have to hide our eyes, and that wouldn’t work around a bunch of red-hot rocks.”

She was still arguing the point when we rode into the yard. Uncle John and his life companion, Pretty Face, or Ité Waste in his tongue, greeted us on the porch of the stone farmhouse. Years ago, Pretty Face had appropriated the American name of Ethan Alan, in a misspelling of the Green Mountain hero or villain, depending upon your viewpoint. Although Ethan had achieved the American age of thirty, he still retained the look and manner of the lithe teenager I had first known, marred only by a scar in his right side received in that very gunfight that had killed Stelle’s parents.

Uncle John and Ethan were expecting us, alerted by carrier pigeons. John had long ago set up a system connecting him with the Mead, the fort, the Liberty Ranch—his nearest neighbor—and friends on the Pine Ridge Reservation to the west. When I took Stelle back to the fort, we would doubtless tote a bird or two homed at the farm for future use.

“I see you, Istá To,” John said from the porch, his handsome face lighting in pleasure.

“And I see you, Medicine Hair,” I replied. Grinning, I acknowledged his mate. “Ité Waste.”

Ethan flashed me a smile. “Good to see you again, Ides. Who put a mark on your face?”

I knew from anxious minutes in front of ma’s dressing mirror my assailant’s mark on my cheek was nearly invisible, so Ethan’s warrior’s eyes were as sharp as ever.

Stelle couldn’t wait for a measured response. “Sgt. Dawson caught Ides making woo-woo eyes at his daughter and took a quirt to him.”

Ité Waste addressed me with a straight face, but his words were for Stelle. “I hope you took his scalp.”

“Ethan!” my sister squealed, breaking into a fit of laughter.

He vaulted the rail of the porch and scrambled over to ruffle her hair, looking like the teenager he been the first time he laid eyes on her. Even though shot in the side by her uncle, he’d wanted to take the infant for his own from the beginning. It was probably only John’s influence that kept him from fighting Pa over her. Now he was Stelle’s favorite uncle and seemed satisfied with that role.

When I walked up on the porch, John caught my chin in his fist and turned my face first this way and then that. “That sergeant carrying any of your marks?”

“He’s calling his squad to attention with a black eye.”

John nodded. “Anything to his claim?”

“One kiss.”

“Hope it was a good one.”

My split lip stung when I smiled. “Worth the afterclap, I reckon.”

He grunted and let the thing go. “You get your school diploma?”

I winced. John was bigger on education than Ma, and she was plenty set on it. The Strobaw family had a history of education, going back to Billy Strobaw, better known to some as the Red Win-tay, Cut Hand’s wife. He’d graduated from a college back in New York and made it his mission to pass on all the book-learning possible to the fry that came after him. Otter had continued the tradition, as had Medicine Hair.

“Yep,” I said. “Ceremony’s tonight, but Pa’ll pick it up for me.”

He nodded. “Ready to earn your keep?”

“Ready and able.”

“Good. We’re going into Yanube City Monday to buy stock. Need a drover.”

“You got one.”

“Two,” Stelle piped.

“Well, one and a half, anyway,” Ethan said.

John poked me with a finger. Sometimes he acted more like a white man than a tribesman. “You got two days to loaf around, then you go to work.”

Turtle Crick was the most comfortable place in the world for me, and the freedom it offered stirred the blood in my veins. My uncle was a disciplinarian when it came to book learning but was easy going about my behavior, so long as I remained respectful. I could wear leather or cotton—according to my mood of the moment—and had the run of the farm’s 420 acres and the broad stretch of public land to the north. Folks had settled along the perpetual creek the farm straddled, but no one had homesteaded very far from the water to the north, so the way to my favorite place was clear. I collected John’s two mongrels—Tiger and Beard—and pointed Arrow’s nose north until I hit Trickling Water Crick—a stream much smaller than Turtle Crick—some ten miles north of the farm and followed it west to the small stretch of badlands called Trickling Water Breaks. This five- mile stretch of small canyons and draws was a good place to rest and let the mind go where it would.

The breaks didn’t have a peaceful history. Men had died here—Indians and white men, alike. But it’s violent past was peaceable to me. I often wondered what that said about me. But it was a place I could be Indian or White, depending upon the mood. The dogs, they didn’t give a damn what you were, so long as you played with them. But they soon accommodated themselves to my lazy state and plopped down beside me on the crick bank, one on either side. Ground hitched, Arrow found a patch of grass and grazed peacefully. I called up Gabe inside my head and found him to be as lackadaisical as me. We just exchanged a few words before dozing.

A gunshot brought me awake and to a sitting position. The dogs went on alert. Arrow simply lifted his head a moment before returning to grazing. After hearing no more shots, I rose and pulled my rifle from Arrow’s scabbard. I carried a Henry because that’s what Otter and Uncle John had used, and the weapons never failed them. I wasn’t concerned over Indian troubles—those were behind us now—but there were desperados around from time to time, both red and white and all colors in between. I left the horse where he was, put the two dogs on prowl, and cautiously made my way deeper into the breaks.

In less than a quarter of a mile, the dogs went on alert., so I slipped over the edge of the embankment and followed the crick. Trickling Water was a thin stream, but in a couple of places inside the breaks, it pooled. And at one of these, I walked upon a youth splashing around in the water as if playing a game with himself. A noisy, splashy game. I walked to the edge of the pool and watched for a minute or two before he acknowledged me with a broad smile as he rose from the water. You didn’t live on an army post all your life without seeing your share of naked men. And you certainly got all of that in excess when you live with tribal relatives devoted to the okinare, the sweat lodge. But this youth with water rushing down his body as if caressing his flesh—whom I judged to be on a level with me—seemed different. For a brief instant, I grew disoriented.

“Welcome,” the stranger cried in a voice struggling to go baritone. “Join me in the water. There’s room enough for two.”

“Lots more than that, I’d judge,” I said simply to be responsive. Why did he affect me so? Sexual, I decided with a start. Why did that cross my mind with a naked youth standing in front of me? I wasn’t ignorant of carnal desires—inexperienced, but not ignorant. I’d often wondered what Uncle John and Ethan did together. I mean…I knew, but only intellectually. And while I’d fallen in lust with one or two of the girls on the post, I’d only pursued the matter to the extent of one kiss with Marybell Dawson. For some reason, I was loath to strip and join this comely youth in the water.

“No, thanks,” I said, pleased my tone was calm and exposed none of my unexplained unease.

The dogs appeared and sat at my side, signaling no stress on their part.

The youth brought two cupped hands to his face and spilled water over himself. I watched the liquid flow down his smooth skin and gather in creases before rushing away. What bothered me so? Perhaps there was something womanly about him. No, that wasn’t right. Not exactly. One moment I thought of a colt at play, the next of a seductive female. Of course, he wasn’t a woman. In fact, his member seemed somewhat elongated.

“I’m Winter Born,” he said in Lakota, the timbre of his voice deepening somewhat. “But most folks call me Hokey.”

“Hokey?” I asked, forgetting my manners. “What does that mean?”

He shrugged broad, bony shoulders. “Nothing. Sounds like a white man’s word, but I haven’t found anyone who knows it.”

“So how did you come by it.”

“My little sister came up with it. So Hokey, I am. Sounds mysterious, huh?”

“Sounds…I dunno…like it’s making fun of you, or something.”

The youth shrugged again. “I like it. It’s better’n Winter Born. At least, to the whites.” He twisted his head to one side like a bird inspecting a worm he might be interested in. “I can guess your name, Istá To…Blue Eyes. I have heard of you.”

“Didn’t know I was famous.”

Mischief lit Hokey’s dark eyes. “Wouldn’t call it famous. Not like Medicine Hair. He’s your kin, huh?”

“Uncle. I’m staying with him for a few days on Turtle Crick. You passing through?”

“Sorta. You didn’t get those eyes from his people.”

“My dad’s a soldier. He’s in command of the fort at Yanube City. My mom’s Medicine Hair’s sister.”

“Interesting, a warrior’s face and a soldier’s eyes. Guess that’s about the same thing, no?”

I shrugged. “Guess so.”

“All you gotta do now’s figure out what side of the line you’re on.”

“I heard a gunshot earlier. Was that you?”

He nodded and looked over his shoulder. “Rattler. Big one. I’ll take it back to camp to eat tonight.”

“Camp? Where’s that?”

“Come from Pine Ridge, like all of us. But my family’s pitched camp in a shallow canyon at the western end of the breaks.”

“Passing through?” I asked again.

“Might stay awhile,” Hokey said. He took a step or two through the water and drew closer. “I can see some of Medicine Hair in you. You’re handsome like he is. And that Ité Waste, he makes the heart beat stronger.”

“If you say so.”

“I do. I know your name, but what do they call you.”

I understood. Every blood I knew had a name commonly used. “Ides.”

“Is that any stranger than Hokey?” he asked with a smile.

I relaxed some. “Not when you think about it. So we’re just a couple of strange woodpeckers, huh?”

“Guess so.” He moved closer, his dark brown eyes studying me intently. “Have you ever lain with a man?”

I recoiled. “N-no. No!”

He gave half a smile. “Might be too soon for that, but I can pleasure you in other ways.”

“I don’t know about that.”

“He moved closer yet. “I do.” He placed a hand atop my fly. I have no idea why I didn’t punch him in the nose. That’s what Sergeant Dawson woulda done What any of the soldiers woulda. Maybe that’s why I didn’t.

He pressed harder, and it felt good. He pushed me back against the embankment and rubbed his hands all over me. I stood paralyzed, whether from horror or fear or…I don’t know what else. I didn’t even move when he unlaced my trousers. Not even when he exposed my member. Not even when he lowered his head to me. All I thought of was Marybell’s sweet lips. I closed my eyes, but Gabe was there, likely as puzzled by my reaction as I was. And I was reacting. Reacting to his touch, his ministrations. His…

I ceased to think, merely surrendered. My hands acted on their own to clasp his head and move him this way and that. My breathing came harder…faster…deeper. And then the most marvelous thing happened. I exploded. Not like the few times I’d done it for myself, but with incredible electrical discharges that rendered my legs rubbery, uncertain. The red-hot flow of lava from my innards brought a moan. By the time it was over, I lay against the embankment unable to move, not even to cover myself. I felt exhausted, depleted, sated. I stared listlessly at the handsome young man examining me with anxious eyes.

“What is it?” I managed to squeeze from my voice box.

He smiled. “Good. Sometimes they want to hurt me afterward.”

“Why?”

The bony shoulders rose and fell. “Ashamed of what they did, I guess. My grandfather told me that in the old days, nobody thought anything about it. But now, it’s something you’re not supposed to do, I guess. Dunno why? The white man, most likely. He says it’s wrong, so we think it’s wrong.”

He reached out and caressed my groin. “You’ve got a good one. I’m gonna like it when you lie with me.”

His words freed me from my spell. I scrambled to cover myself. “That’s not gonna happen. I’m not gonna do that.”

“Why?”

“Just…just doesn’t seem right.”

“Okay, we’ll go slow. I like doing what I did for you, so that’s what we’ll keep doing. At least for a while. I’ll be here tomorrow about the same time.”

“I dunno. We’re going into town to buy some calves. That might be tomorrow,” I fibbed.

Ité Waste going with you? When I nodded yes, he gave a broad grin. “Then I’ll come along and give you a hand.”

“Not sure what Uncle John’ll say about that.”

“He’ll say it’s fine. He can always use another hand.”

“You know how to handle cattle?”

“No, but I learn fast. Bet he’ll start early, so I’ll be there early.”

“Okay,” I said, “but that won’t be for two more sun-ups.”

“Good That gives us another one to do what we want. See you here tomorrow when the sun’s halfway overhead.”

 

 

****

Thanks, Mark. I wish you well with the novel. If you need a guest post in return, just let me know.

 Until next week.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

 My personal links:

 Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.

                                                                                                                                 

Don

 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Ides, A Guest Post

 dontravis.com blog post #582


 First off, will someone please tell me how the days seem to crawl by, but the weeks, months… years fly by so rapidly?

 

For this week’s post, my Okie buddy, Mark Wildyr, has agreed to do a guest post of the Prologue and part of Chapter 1 of the novel, Ides, the sixth and final book in his Cut Hand Series. Warning: it’s quite a long read.

 

*****

IDES

By Mark Wildyr

 

Prologue

 

Wednesday, June 7, 1905, Boston, Massachusetts

Mistake. This had been a mistake.

The dusky young man glanced around a dining room made gloomy by costly walnut paneling and somber wall paintings before picking up a soup spoon and applying it properly to his bowl, bringing an almost audible sigh of relief from five individuals seated around him. The only thing brightening the atmosphere was the glitter of crystal picking up sparkles from the massive chandelier over the large table…also walnut. He glanced briefly at each of his companions through startling blue eyes staring from an otherwise American Indian visage.

Grandmother Haleworthy, plump and soft and patrician, seemed most discomfited of all. She constantly fiddled with the silverware, a goblet of iced water, dangling ruby earrings, anything her stubby fingers could reach.

Grandfather was more stolid and circumspect, but his eyes and ears caught everything. Dressed formally—he had removed his frock coat but retained his silk vest—he presented an impressive figure rendered almost comic by a thick moustache resembling a graying caterpillar moving across his face with each chew.

Uncle Bertrand and Aunt Elizabeth—brother and sister, thank goodness…they’d make a horrible married couple—simply couldn’t keep their eyes off him. They were obviously fascinated and likely repulsed. He suspected a gorilla at their table plying flatware and speaking proper English would not have provoked more astonishment.

Cousin Dorian, seated opposite him, was the only one brave enough—or perhaps rude enough—to eye him frankly with his thoughts hanging right on his face…what fun it was going to be to deal with this savage from the western frontier.

Once the young man discerned his hosts were more discomfited than he, he mentally relaxed and internally conversed with his brother, even though Gabe had been dead for fourteen years, struck down by a rifle ball in the chest when he was but five years old. The blue-eyed young man smiled, also internally, as he contemplated relating that ugly truth.

After an awkward silence, Uncle Bertrand asked Grandfather his opinion of the flap over four Chinese students detained on the Ivernia upon the ship’s arrival from Liverpool seven days ago on June first, an event the newspapers were heralding as the King Incident.

Cousin Dorian rushed to deliver his opinion first. “Damn good work, I say. They’re likely coolies masquerading as students. The ‘King’ family. Don’t sound very Chinese to me.”

Mouths dropped when their dinner guest spoke up. “I believe it’s an Anglicized form of the Chinese word Jin. Or so I’ve read.” He smothered a smile as—one by one—it dawned upon his Boston Haleworthy family this alien relative from the hinterland could read.

Grandfather’s wooly mustache twitched a couple of times before he spoke. “Actually, Dorian, the King family’s quite prominent in Singapore. There’s talk they might organize a trade embargo in protest. That would pose a problem for cotton over here.”

The young man mentally nodded. The Haleworthys were heavily invested in the cotton textile trade, at least according to his father, and a boycott might shave a few thousand off the family’s estimated $200,000 net worth. Kinda amazing when he’d read somewhere that only 15,000 or so Americans were worth $300,000 or more.

A sound like a rusty gate swinging open startled him until he realized it was Aunt Elizabeth asking Grandmother where she would lodge him for the night, bringing a look of near terror to the older woman’s face.

He thought of telling them he would simply pitch a teepee in the back yard but chose to be more circumspect. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I won’t be able to overnight. I need to be somewhere downstate in the morning and will be on my way. I’m merely fulfilling a pledge to my father to pay a courtesy call to his…uh, our eastern family should I find myself in the Boston area.”

The mood at the dining table brightened. His grandmother placed a hand to her bosom. “And we’re so pleased you did, William. Please give Giddeon our love.”

Good Lord! How could his father, a good, bluff, army officer, come from this lot?

At that point, his cousin obviously decided on mischief. “Pray tell, are you William Haleworthy or Ides Haleworthy? I’ve heard whispers of both.”

He decided to play along. “I have three names, Dorian. Two formal and a nickname.”

His cousin perked up, perhaps sensing a verbal duel in the offing. “And what are they?”

He pushed away his plate and shifted in the chair, an uncomfortable, ladderback affair that looked expensive. “One I should never tell you, but as you are close kin, I suppose it’s all right to reveal it.”

“Oh, good. A family secret. Do go on.”

“The name on my birth certificate is William Strobaw Haleworthy.” He nodded to his grandfather, “The William is in honor of you, sir.” No need to tell him of the other William in his life. “And Strobaw was my mother’s maiden name.”

“Yes, yes. Go on,” Dorian urged.

“My Lakota name is Istá To. It means Blue Eyes, in English.” He heard the intake of his grandmother’s breath.

Frowning, his aunt spoke again. “Lakota. Isn’t that some kind of Sioux? I thought…I thought…”

“You thought I was Yanube. That’s true, but the tribe, before it was virtually wiped out by the American Army, was Siouan. The languages were closely related, and over time, most of us simply spoke Lakota.”

“And?” Dorian prompted, “what about the third name?”

“My uncle John dubbed me Ides the first time he laid eyes on me.”

“Ides?” his aunt asked. “Because of the date of your birth?”

“Yes, ma’am. March 15.” He dabbed his lips with a linen napkin. “Uncle John’s a student of the Bard, I guess you could say.”

“Is that right? And he’s an…a Native?” his uncle asked.

Ides was beginning to enjoy himself, he pushed on despite cautioning whispers from his dead brother. “A breed, actually. Of course, John Strobaw is also a successful rancher in South Dakota, as well. Now, he has several names.”

“Is that so?” his grandfather asked, a wary note in his voice.

“Yes, sir. Over the years, he was awarded different names by the tribe based on exploits or incidents in his life.”

Dorian’s eyes sparkled. “And are you free to reveal them.”

Mischief had now gained the upper hand. “I shouldn’t. But…well, as I say, you are family. His American name is John Jacobsen Strobaw. Jacobsen after his mother’s family name. His childhood Indian name was War Eagle. That was their…our way of saying Golden Eagle. Then he earned the name of Night Sky Hair because of the streaks of his mother’s Scandinavian blond in his black mop. As he gained a reputation as a shaman, he became Hin Phejuta, or Medicine Hair in your tongue.”

“Good heavens,” his grandmother exclaimed. “Is that all?”

Now mischief was runaway. “No, ma’am. Most recently, he was awarded the name of American Killer.”

Gratified by the rattle of silverware on bone china as his grandmother dropped her fork, Ides Haleworthy leaned back in his chair with a smile on his lips.

 

Chapter 1

 

Approximately one year earlier, Fort Yanube, South Dakota

Something bit into my back, slashing through my shirt and setting my flesh afire. Giving an anguished grunt, I whirled to face my tormentor and was surprised to see Sergeant Courtland Dawson drawing back for another lash of his quirt. Marybell’s father’s face was afire, his lips drawn into a snarl. I rushed him, but not before the quirt struck again, slashing sideways across my left cheek. He lost his grip on the leather when I bowled into him, but he recovered quickly and rocked me with a fist to the side of my neck.

I went down and rolled, coming back onto my feet in a boxer’s stance. My dad had taught me the basics, but the sergeant was the bigger man and simply overpowered me. I got in a few licks before some noncoms arrived and pulled us apart. My split lip stung as I smiled at his bruised eye. He’d have to face his troops with a shiner…given him by a teenager.

Dawson shook off his restrainers and stabbed a finger at me. “You stay away from my little girl, you hear me, you fucking breed!”

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard that word, nor its adjective, but it was the first time one of my dad’s subordinates had said it aloud in my presence. I saw red as the sergeant stalked away, muttering to himself. He was barely out of sight before someone called the men in the vicinity to attention, and I knew my father had arrived.

“What the hell’s going on?” Major Gideon Haleworthy demanded. His eyes registered shock when he saw me. “Ides, what happened?”

“Disagreement, sir,” I muttered as I picked up my scattered books, the last day of school marred by the unexpected attack.

My father put hands on my shoulders and spun me around. “Boy, someone’s taken a lash to you. Who was it?” Facing me once again, he put a hand to my cheek, and I knew the quirt had left its mark.

A bluff, weathered man with hashmarks all over the arms of his uniform arrived. Sergeant-Major MacLaughlen. Shortly thereafter, my dad abandoned the field to him and led me across the parade ground to our quarters.

Ma moaned aloud at the sight of me, her normally dark features going even duskier. “William!” she exclaimed but bit off her questions. No doubt she knew Pa would get explanations out of me soon enough.

He held his tongue until she had cleaned me up and applied what stung like horse liniment before beginning his interrogation.

“All right, son. An explanation.”

“I dunno, Dad. He caught me with his quirt while I had my back to him.”

“He?” Mom asked.

“Sargeant Dawson,” my pa said.

A little gasp escaped her. “Marybell’s father?”

“That’s right, Rachel Ann, Marybell’s father.” My dad fixed his stare on me. “And why would he do that?”

I shrugged and winced. “I dunno. I didn’t do anything.”

“Have you been sneaking around and seeing the girl on the sly?”

“No! Well, I shared some of ma’s venison jerky with her a couple of times. All we did was sit up against the back of the headquarters building and eat it.”

“And?” he prompted.

I avoided my mother’s eyes. “And I kissed her…once.”

“Is that all?” This time it was a demand.

“Yes, sir. I swear. And she kissed me back, so I guess she liked it.”

“Has Sargeant Dawson warned you away from his daughter?”

I winced at the recollection. “Just today…after the dustup.” I shot a glance ma’s way. “Called me a breed.”

“Meet my eyes, Ides, and swear what you’ve told me is true.”

I swung my blue orbs to meet his. “I swear it, Pa. I just kissed her…once.”

“And you didn’t force her?”

“No, sir.”

“I believe you, William. Now you leave everything to me. No payback, do you understand?”

When Major Gideon Haleworthy called me “William,” I knew he meant business. Normally, he used my nickname of Ides, like everyone else on post.

“Yes, sir, I understand. Not sure he does, though. If…”

“You leave Sergeant Dawson to me. This might be a good time for a visit to your grandfather at Teacher’s Mead,” he suggested. “You can catch tomorrow morning’s train to Mead’s Crossing.”

“Gideon!” my ma exclaimed. “He’ll miss his graduation ceremony tomorrow night.”

This had been the last day of school for me…maybe forever. I’d earned the credits I needed to graduate the post’s school. Hang the ceremony, just give me my diploma. But I kept my mouth shut and took in the haunted look of my father’s eyes.

“I’m, sorry, Rachel Ann, but I think it’s better to take the train.”

“I’d rather go to Turtle Crick,” I said.

“Easier to face your Uncle John than Grandfather Cuthan?”

“It’s not Grandpa Cuthan,” I said, “as much as it’s everyone else. There’s a host of people at Teacher’s Mead. Heck, it’s a whole town now. But it’s just Uncle John and Ethan at Turtle Crick. Besides, maybe they’ll give me a job.”

“For the summer,” Ma put in. “I want you in college this fall.”

“But I need to find something till then,” I said, not really agreeing. “And if they don’t have anything for me, there’s the Liberty Ranch right next door. Dexter and Libby might need help.

“All right,” my father agreed.

He started to leave, but I halted him with a question. “What are you going to do to him…the sergeant, I mean?”

“If he’s honest and forthright in answering for his actions, I’ll take his stripes and transfer him.”

“But you won’t cashier him?”

“Let’s get this straight, Ides. I’ll not take any action because of his assault of my son. What he’ll answer for is viciously attacking someone on an Army post. He’ll pay, but not with his career. That would not be fair to his wife and daughter. Am I understood?”

“Yes, sir. Uh, can I take Stelle with me to Turtle Crick? She’s out of school too. And I know she’d like to see Uncle John and Ethan.”

Gideon Haleworthy glanced at Mother. She nodded. “All right, if Estelle wants to go, she’s free to do so. But that puts a rein on how long you stay. Be back here in a week.”

“Two weeks. That’s not too long, is it?” I asked. “Especially, if I get a job.”

A look of sorrow claimed my father’s features as he nodded. “Two weeks for both of you unless you find work. But you bring Estelle home, regardless.”

I knew that look. I’d seen it all my life. He loved my mother, and he loved me…us, but life had taken dark twists and turns before we came to live in the commandant’s lodging at Fort Yanube. We’d lost my little brother, Gabe, to a sniper’s bullet when some land grabbers shot at Uncle John and struck my five-year-old brother instead. To the rest of them, Gabe was dead. But he was constantly with me. I experienced his presence, heard his thoughts, and took comfort in our bonding. He was often the voice of reason in my world.

And while my father liked and respected my mother’s brother, Gideon Haleworthy was never able to truly reconcile himself to John Strobaw’s deviant nature. While that was of no consequence to the tribal side of our family, it went against the grain of the wasicun…the white men. Although admittedly, the attitude of the conquerors had negatively affected the acceptance of Two Faces by many of the tribes.

But my pa’s big problem was me. My mother, half Yanube and half white, was born of Cuthan Strobaw—known to the People as Dog Fox—and Mary Jacobsen Strobaw at Teacher’s Mead some forty-three years ago. Pa was pure Boston Irish, so I should have been an eighth blood, yet my features were as Indian as Uncle John’s…or even Grandfather Cuthan’s, save for eyes as blue as my father’s. Growing up on an army post during the recent Indian Wars had proved a demanding task.

Yet, here I was, all of eighteen-years-old—or eighteen winters, as the tribal members of my family tolled time—an Army brat just graduated from the post’s school. To my father, with his yellow hair—now beginning to gray a bit—and fair features, it likely seemed I was a troublemaker. Yet, in truth, it was trouble that sought me.

As the son of an officer—and now the commandant—of the post, no one could actually shun me, the most severe punishment tribesmen can inflict on their brethren, but the slights were there. Always there. In time, most of the mothers and fathers of the troop grew accustomed to me to the point I was tolerated, but the army was a restless environment. A trooper here today was transferred tomorrow, so I constantly faced strangers unaccustomed to a dusky face in their social midst. I sometimes shuddered to think what my life on an Army fort would have been like had my father not been a commissioned officer.

Actually, I didn’t have to wonder. All I had to do was to look at the children of our two Indian scouts. They didn’t live on post, of course, but they were around often and treated with disdain by most of their white peers. They couldn’t go to our school or participate in post life in any way. No law against it, except the law of human nature—or more precisely, the law of the white human nature. I found the native children more pleasant and venturesome than my schoolmates. Yet, they, too, were withholding of their social intimacy. After all, I was different from them, as well. My blue eyes were as unnatural to them as my cheekbones were to the white children.

  

****

Please let Mark know how you like his sample of Ides. If I remember correctly, the first book in the series, Cut Hand, began in the 1830s. Five novels later, Ides opens in 1904. That spans a tumultuous period in American History, including the subjugation of the indigenous people in the Indian Wars. Mark once told me his intent with the series was to show how some—not all—of the Native tribes honored berdaches or Two-Faces or homosexuals, and how the attitude of the European conquerors gradually changed that perception. I will be interesting to see how he brings that theme to a close. Thanks, Mark.

 

Until next week.

 

Stay safe and stay strong.

 

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 

A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

 

My personal links:

 

Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

 

See you next Thursday.

                                                                                                                                 

Don

 

New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Blog Archive