Thursday, March 7, 2024

Bearclaw Summons (A Serialized Story) blog post #644

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Our story continues. Hope it’s holding your interest. Let me know.




Bart elected to tow a horse trailer to Rising Rock and then enter the mountains horseback. 

Years past, Bart had often used Lead Scout Canyon as a refuge, believing himself sheltered from everyone except He‑Who‑Created-All‑Things. Now, he recognized his childhood haven had served him poorly. Narrow and slab‑sided, the ravine was neither remote enough nor high enough in the mountains to discourage traffic from the reservation or trespass by outsiders. To make matters worse, the soaring walls at the upper end formed a trap. He had no trouble finding Willy Spurs in the box canyon.

The young man, clad in denims, hair held out of his eyes by a bandana serving as a headband, gave his total concentration to the canvas he worked. The artist did not appear to hear Bart until he was close enough to see the subject of the work was a spectacular rock formation known as the Stone Medicine Pipe. Willy turned sullen when Bart greeted him.

“Ain’t got time to talk right now. Light’s changing fast,” he mumbled.

Bart decided to put him in his place right away. “You sound like a white man, Your grandfather taught you better than that.”

Willy’s wide mouth formed a straight line. He dabbed furiously at the canvas.

Bart dismounted and studied the situation. The box containing Willy’s paints and the easel holding the stretched canvas looked new and expensive. Two blank canvases lay propped against a nearby rock.

“You ever been up on it?” Bart asked, pointing at the formation with his chin.

Willy shook his head, refusing to interrupt his work.

“You ought to,” Bart went on. “From up there, it doesn’t look anything like a pipe. That’s what happens when you get too close to things. You can’t really see what they look like.” Bart waited to see if he got through. He didn’t want to beat the other man over the head with his meaning.

“That’s what’s happened to you on this other thing, Willy. You’re too close to it to see what it can do to you. Not your uncle. Big Jack sees it all right. And so do I.”

The artist continued to paint with a stubborn intensity.

“These fellas, this Burke and Avila, they’re going to see you get the blame. You’ll lose your job and get arrested and go to prison.”

“Not gonna have nothing to do with them no more,” the young man finally answered. “Ain’t going to have nothing to do with no white man at all.”

“That’d be good, if it could be.”

“It will. You wait and see.”

“‘What are you going to do, stay up here all your life?”

“Why not? It ain’t a bad place.

“Willy, don’t be a fool. You’re going to be accused of stealing guns. If there’s anything worse than stealing a white man’s money, it’s stealing his guns. It’s a bad rap. They won’t stand still for that.”

“Have to find me first.”

“That’s not going to be hard. They’ll put a hundred men in here if they have to, but shit! They won’t even have to do that. A dozen men with a few dogs, and you’ll be treed within a day. They’ll haul you down in irons in front of your family and your friends. Don’t you understand, man! Your kids are going to see you chained up like a fucking criminal! Do you want that?”

“Only have one kid. A boy. And he’s too young to know anything. Besides, Amadeo says to stay away from them. The whites. All the whites.”

And there was the problem. He had to be careful. Old Amadeo had been a medicine man since before Bart was born. He was good with bear sickness and the snake sickness and colds and warts, and he was smart enough to know what was likely to happen, but for his own reasons, the old shaman had counseled Willy’s mother to avoid contact with white men however unlikely that eventuality appeared. It would be hard to get around the old bastard. Bart could not tell if Willy believed in the medicine man or if he simply took the advice because it was what he wanted to hear.

“Amadeo is a wise man,” Bart conceded carefully. “He knows all there is to know about the Tinneh. But he doesn’t know much about the Indah. I do. And Big Jack does. We both know they’re going to come and get you. Were you old enough to remember when Jimmie Littledog raped that girl down in White Pine a few years back? Well, I was. They came right on the reservation and hunted him down like a wild pig. They ran him to ground and dragged him out and shamed him in front of everyone. It was bad for Jimmie, but he was guilty and deserved it. But his family didn’t deserve it. And neither did the Tinneh. Caused hard feelings for a long time.”

“I didn’t do nothing,” Willy said placidly. “If they come drag me off, it oughta cause hard feelings. Besides, you don’t know what them two snakes are gonna do. Why’d they try and lay it all on me? Why’d they say anything at all? I go away and keep my mouth shut, they’ll do the same thing and be glad I’m gone.”

“Think about it, Willy. What would you do if you were them? Stand over in their moccasins and think like they would. You’re a piece of good luck for them. One of these days somebody is going to find out those rifles are gone. Willy, they had you bring out two cases of guns. How many others have they stolen you don’t know about? If you were doing the stealing, you’d know that someday somebody’s going to start counting and raise hell when there aren’t enough rifles where they’re supposed to be. If you had a poor sap you could lay it on, wouldn’t you? Especially if you thought that sap was an Indian too dumb or too scared to let out a squawk.”

“I’ll raise a squawk. I’ll yell like hell if they come for me.”

“Yell like hell right now! You let the Army know the rifles are gone. You be the one to point a finger. The white man’s law is funny. If you don’t yell, you might be in cahoots with Avila and Burke, guilty of doing it with them since you hauled out a couple of cases in your truck.”

“Crazy white man’s law!”

“I won’t argue that, but it is the law. And we gotta live with it.”

“A man ought to mind his own business,” Willy spoke the words with a double meaning.

“Ordinarily, he ought to. But when his family’s going to pay if he doesn’t, then he better speak up. I’ll be blunt, Willy. I don’t really know you, but Big Jack is my friend, and the Tinneh sure as hell mean something to me. And since you’re Tinneh, I guess that means you do too. I don’t want white men swarming all over this place causing everybody’s eyes to go flat and chins to go firm. I don’t want our own police having to help hunt you down and turning everybody against them for just doing their job. I don’t want Big Jack’s people’s guts twisting while they watch you hauled off in handcuffs. And it doesn’t have to be. It’s so fucking simple. Just go with me to see Mr. Charles and let him help.”

“Go see Mr. Charles and it’s all over, huh?”

“No. Go see Mr. Charles with me today, and even if you do exactly what he says, there’s a good chance you’ll be in the county jail by tonight. You’re going there anyway, but this way, somebody’ll be looking after you to see they don’t do something to you they shouldn’t. And he’ll do everything he can to see that you don’t stay there a minute longer than necessary. And he’s going to see that they don’t lay the blame on you for good. You’ll only have to stay until he can show that you’re not the one they want. Might not even have to go, but I can’t lie to you. You might have to.”

Willy put down his brush and palette and turned to face him. “Can’t get locked up like that. Go crazy. They oughta kill me and be done with it.”

“That’s fool talk. A man can do whatever he has to. When you don’t have a choice, you do what has to be done and make the best of it. Being locked up for a little while isn’t the end of the world. Hell, Mr. Charles can get you paper and charcoal. You’d have new pictures to draw. An experience you’ve never had before, and”—Bart added hopefully—“and won’t have again.”

“I’d die from the shame of it.”

“Where’s the shame if you’re not guilty and your people know it?” Bart watched the indecision in the other’s face settle into determination. He experienced a sinking feeling in his stomach. Old Amadeo had won… or lost, as the case may be.

Willy shook his head. “Uh-uh. Not going.”

For a moment, Bart seriously considered slugging the younger man and dragging him down the canyon. He might have done so, if Big Jack’s words had not come back to him at that moment. Instead, he strode past Willy and began collecting his things.

“Hey! What are you doing?” Willy yelled in alarm. “Leave my stuff alone!”

Bart laid the wet canvas on a rock and turned his attention to collapsing the aluminum easel. That done, he wrested the paint box from Willy’s hands. The artist put up a half‑hearted scuffle before backing off and sullenly watching while Bart destroyed the blank canvases and loaded the rest of the gear aboard his Princess.

This will be at Big Jack Bearclaw’s anytime you want to come for it.” Bart turned his back on the man and rode down the canyon about half a mile where he waited in some bushes until he heard the sound of hooves on the path. He urged Princess forward and took his place beside the dejected young man.

They rode to Jack’s camp in absolute silence, a quiet that was bearing a load of strain by the time they finished a meal Jack’s wife served them. The rest of the family, from oldest to youngest stood or sat around owl‑eyed, offering voiceless support. When they had drawn sufficient sustenance from the table and the communion, Bart retrieved his jeep from Rising Rock and loaded Willy into the vehicle. He stopped in White Pine to phone Mark at his law office and drove into town.


As they say… the plot thickens. Will Willy behave himself or not?


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 to say… so say it!

Please check out my BJ Vinson murder mystery series starting with The Zozobra Incident and ending with The Cutie-Pie Murders.

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See you next Thursday.



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


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