Thursday, February 22, 2024

Bearclaw Summons (A Serialized Story) blog post #642

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Hope you enjoyed the story of Pauly and Streak. Every short story writer needs to tell the story of a kid and his dog… at least once.


Today, we start on a different journey. Let’s get at it. This first installment is a little long, so please stick with it.




Dead tired from a day of branding and cutting new stock, Bart Shortlance entered the bunkhouse, pulled off his boots, and flopped onto his bunk. He didn’t know which side of him was more exhausted, his white father’s or his Apache mother’s. Put them together, and he was totally whipped. It was gonna be an effort just to hit the shower.

As he contemplated that chore, Tex Duncan, another YWZ cowboy, entered and handed Bart a scrap of paper.

“A Injun kid rode up, said to give it to you,.”

Bart examined the markings on the paper: a stylized bear claw.

“Whut’s it mean?” Tex wanted to know.

“A friend wants to see me.”

“Why didn’t the kid just say so?”

Bart grinned at the Texan. “You know us inscrutable Indians.”

“I’ll say!”

He hauled himself up and rushed through a shower to borrow the ranch’s Jeep for the half-dozen mile trip south. Darkness was falling, but he knew from the proliferation of kids that he’d arrived at Big Jack Bearclaw’s camp. One of the children ushered him into the house. No one except Big Jack was there, but the place seemed filled. For as long as he could remember, Bearclaw had been a large man, but Bart had never seen him this fat. The man wheezed his way to a standing position as Bart approached.


“Uncle,” Bart played along with the courtesy. “You’re looking good, Jack.”

“See you’ve learned to speak with the white man’s forked tongue,” the man growled sourly, rubbing his big stomach. Then he let go of a laugh that shook the walls. Jack wasn’t a bigot, but neither was he above a little humor at the white man’s expense. “Sit down. Sit down. Let me get you something to drink.” He let out a bellow, and one of the older daughters served them.

“Hits the spot,” Bart complemented his host on the whiskey the girl served.

“They may be worthless sons a bitches, but the white eyes sure know how to make good liquor. There ain’t no tulapai in the world as good as this.”

“I’ll have to agree with you there.”

“That was my daughter, Dora. She’s next to the oldest. Smart girl, like her momma. Knows how to sew and makes all her clothes. She can weave like a born Navajo and makes better bracelets than a Zuni.”

Bart felt like a young buck sitting before his prospective father‑in‑law. Instinctively, he tucked his chin and inspected the far corners of the room. “Real beauty.”  Surely, this was not why Big Jack had sent for him.

The fat man motioned with his lips to Bart’s battered face. “You been fighting them white men you work for?”

Bart fingered a bruised eye. “Naw. Party. Too much liquor about, and I had to straighten out somebody who got outa line.” Bart lied with a straight face, knowing that it made a better story than than getting tossed by a half-grown slick that didn’t want to get castrated. Just part of a cowboy’s working day.

“Damned Indian bars,” Jack groused. “Ain’t good for nothing but getting our young men in trouble.  In may day, wasn’t so easy. Got drunk out in the woods or in a gully somewhere. Had to chug it down ’fore some white man come along and took it away from you, claiming you didn’t have no right to do what he done ever day of the week. Nowadays, a fella just go up and plop down money and take a drink. Too easy. Don’t take no effort or no smarts.” Jack switched on him again. “Been a while since you been back on the rez.”

“Yeah. Keep thinking on it, then work or something gets in the way..”

“That mean you ain’t coming back?”

“One of these days. The‑One‑Who‑Was‑My‑Grandmother would want it that way.” He used the indirect form of address because Jack would have had a heart attack to hear the name of a dead woman uttered in his house.

“You still working up on that white man’s ranch, I hear. They treating you all right?”

Bart nodded. “I’m fine, Jack.”

“Look good. Got flesh on your bones, but you ain’t got no belly yet. Lean.” The man chuckled.  “When you was a kid, wasn’t nothing to you at all. Arms and legs like sticks and not much else. We both come a long trail from that pine grove at Rising Rock. That musta been a sight for tourists. A two‑room cabin, a tipi, and one brush wickiup.” Jack laughed and went on down the memory trail. “Then there was that old paint of yours. A real Indian pony ever there was one. And the old woman. Shit! We was better’n a western shoot-’em-up movie. Shoulda sold tickets. The Indah would have paid a nickel apiece just to walk through,” Jack used the word for whites.

Jack’s wife Nora entered and took a chair at the kitchen table. Apparently, the time for polite conversation was at an end. He would now learn why Big Jack had sent for him.

Jack started the real conversation. “That rancher’s boy still good friend of yours?”

Bart nodded affirmatively.

“He’s a lawyer, I hear. He a good one,” Jack probed.

“He’s smart, so I guess he’s a good one.”

The fat man grunted his appreciation of the candor. “You figure the white man’s law works for the red man?”

“Maybe I’m not the one to ask.”

“I know who I’m asking,” Jack said sharply. “It’s your thoughts I want.”

“Then honestly, sometimes yes. Sometimes no.”

“When is it yes?”

“When a white man with power is interested enough to see that it works.”

“Like your friend?”

Bart hesitated. “He has the knowledge, but I don’t know if he’s got the power.”

The answer stumped Big Jack for a minute. He reflected before continuing. “Does your friend want to see justice done for a Redman?”

“I call my friend brother,” Bart answered.

Big Jack wouldn’t accept such ambiguity. “There’s brothers and then there’s brothers.”

“This brother swears he can’t see a man’s color.”

Jack let out a wheeze. “Nora’s brother’s boy got hisself in some trouble.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Willy Saltbush. He works out at the airbase. Cleans up one of the big warehouses out there. Good job. Couple of men he works with asked him to carry something out for them. He’s got a pickup; and they was in a car. He didn’t think nothing about it. New man on the job, he wants to get along, so he done it. Took out a box in the bed of his truck where them two laid it and covered it up with a tarp. Delivered it to one of the other men’s house. Week or so later, they wanted him to do it again, so he done it. Yesterday, they asked him again. Didn’t look right to him because one of them was in his van. Could’ve taken it out easy in the van. So he said no. They told him he better because he already stole a dozen rifles, and they’d turn him in for it if he didn’t do what he was told and keep his mouth shut.

“Now Willy, he’d rather paint pictures than eat, but that don’t make him a complete fool. He knows one of these days, the base brass gonna find out about them missing guns and start checking up. Worried him enough so he come to Big Jack wanting to know what to do. Only thing I could think of was to ask you about the your lawyer friend.”

Bart went quiet for a few moments. Both Big Jack and his wife had better manners than to intrude on his thoughts. At length, he spoke: “Did he bring out the other case?”

“No. They didn’t press him on it right then. But they will.”

“I want to talk to him,” Bart said.


Interesting situation. Mixed cultures always intrigue me. Anglo, Apache, and mixed-blood. And now one culture’s clashing with another. Can Bart get justice for this young Apache who only wants feed his family and paint pictures?

 See you next week.

Stay safe and stay strong until we meet again.

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

Please check out my mystery novels published by Dreamspinner Press starting with The Zozobra Incident and ending with The Cutie-Pie Murders.

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See you next Thursday.


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