dontravis.com blog post #583
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.
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?”
“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.”
“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?”
“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.”
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.”
“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.