Doc Ch. 05bykingkey©
We were surrounded by eight young braves, all pointing weapons at us.
"Whatever you do, don't touch your guns." Grandpa whispered.
Right after Grandpa whispered that, I heard someone shout, "STOP!"
Thinking 'now we've had it', I had scenes of Indian torture from old movies replaying in my head.
The young braves backed up a step, but didn't lower their weapons, all the while glaring at us with eyes full of hate. When this older Indian walked up, you could tell he was some kind of leader by the way he gave the young braves hell in their own language.
"What do you want here, Hawk?" He asked.
"What's happening here, Red Cloud? Is this any way to welcome family? I've been your friend for over twenty seasons!"
"Why you bring stranger? This troubled time. Strangers not welcome!"
"He's not a stranger! He's family! This is Clay – you called him Dirty Hand when he was just a boy."
"I remember Dirty Hand. Always dirty when play with other boys. What he doing here now?"
"We heard Running Deer was hurt so we come to help."
"Dove is here. She is helping Running Deer."
"Clay is white man's doctor."
"Not see Dirty Hand since boy. How he doctor?"
"He has been in Army and was an Army doctor. He just got home today."
Hearing this caused the braves to get restless once again and they started toward me with malice. Once again Red Cloud started giving them hell in their own language.
"I take you to Dove. You know about trouble with Army?" He asked Grandpa.
"I've heard. We need to talk later."
As we followed him, I quietly asked, "He hasn't said a word to me yet, and why's he call you Hawk?"
"Around these parts, everyone but family calls me 'Hank', but to him it sounds like 'Hawk'. He won't talk to you. You've never given him a present in friendship or traded with him, so by custom you are a stranger. Since he is Chief of all Sioux, he doesn't talk to strangers – it's beneath his dignity."
"But he claimed he knew me as a boy."
"That was as a man to a boy, not as a Chief to a stranger."
"Is that why we brought the trading goods?"
"No, you always bring stuff for presents and to trade. That's just good manners. Also, if you're offered something to eat or as a gift, take it, even if you don't want it, otherwise it's an insult. We don't want the people mad at us, especially now after Custer."
"Anything else I need to know before I get to work?"
"Lots – but for now, just remember I warned ya that the girl that was hurt, Running Deer, and her sister Little Doe, have been chasing Clay since they were kids, claiming someday they would be his wives."
"We better watch out then. I ain't ready to get married anytime soon."
"You could do a lot worse. Marriage was the best thing that ever happened to me," he laughed.
As we followed Red Cloud into a large skin lodge, Grandpa announced, "Dove, do you know who this is?"
A woman in a buckskin dress looked up, puzzled for a few seconds then cried, "CLAY! Is that really you? They told us you were dead!"
"Well, as you can see, I'm not. As I read somewhere, Aunty Dove, 'reports of my demise are premature'."
As we greeted each other, I studied my great grandmother quite closely. She stood about five-foot-six, with a figure that most women in my time would have spent a fortune on cosmetic surgery and all their time in a gym to achieve. I knew she was quite a lot younger than my great grandfather Henry, but she still appeared to be somewhere around thirty-five to forty, probably closer to thirty five, much younger than the forty to forty-five I knew her to be. With long black hair flowing to the bottom of her back with just a bit of gray starting to streak here and there, an amazingly clear complexion and startling, compassionate dark eyes, she was a strikingly beautiful mature woman.
"I'm glad you're here! You remember Running Deer and Little Doe? Running Deer fell and broke her arm real bad and is running a fever. I don't know if she will live, and if she doesn't die, her arm will be crooked and useless."
"Let me see what can be done. Uncle Henry would you get my bag?"
"Sure! Be right back."
While waiting, I looked at the two sisters. 'I'll be damned! TWINS!' I thought.
They were both just tiny things, about an even five foot, probably not weighing even a hundred pounds soaking wet. Running Deer looked sick, her face flushed with fever and her eyes dull with pain. Her sister was obviously worried, her face drawn with care. Still, despite their obvious pain, they were exquisite. Their long black hair, framing angelic heart-shaped faces, hung in gleaming ebony braids more than six inches below their shoulders. From what little I could actually see of their bodies, shrouded in loose buckskin shifts, these exquisite little beauties were perfectly proportioned for their size. What little skin I could see was baby smooth and flawless. Not immune to the attractions of beautiful women, I felt parts of my body lurch at the delightful double vision they presented. Oddly enough, I also felt a tug on my heart.
Grandpa came hurrying back in with the big Corpsman's bag. "Here ya go, Clay!"
"Thanks, Uncle Henry." I start to exam Running Deer.
"This is going to hurt. Bite down on this," I told Running Deer as I gave her a piece of leather to bite down on.
Wishing I had an x-ray, I had to do this the hard way and hope my sense of touch would be enough. I palpated her swollen and extremely painful right forearm, and could feel that her right ulna, the biggest bone in the forearm, was broken. Luck was with me, at least as it felt like a clean break. For it to be such a clean break, she must have wacked her arm across a branch or rock as she fell and she was lucky she didn't break the radius as well. It might be cracked, but at least it was aligned. If not it would be a compound fracture, requiring more sophisticated treatment than I could offer.
The break itself should not be causing her fever. I checked closer and found where she had also scraped her hand as she fell. Red and hot, although not bleeding, it looked like it was infected. Thorough cleaning of the wound and treatment with antibiotics was the only effective treatment, even in my time, except she would be in a hospital getting massive doses of antibiotic by IV. I would have to make do with my limited supplies.
As I completed my examination of her injuries, I turned to Grandpa and said, "I need some wet rawhide thongs to tie on a splint – they will shrink as they dry, holding it in place. I also need four sticks about three-quarters of an inch across and about a foot long for the splint itself. Have someone bring me some clay mud. I'm going to set her arm and try to make a cast to keep it straight and to cover and protect it. I also need someone to boil some water so I can wash that scrape. That's where the fever is coming from."
While waiting for Grandpa to fetch the splint materials, I gave her an amoxicillin tablet and half an aspirin from my bag. I had cut it in half, not knowing if she would have a reaction to it or not. The whole amoxicillin should be OK for her, as it was actually a children's antibiotic and should work well for her, given her size and that she and her people had never been exposed to modern drugs. I knew I would have to keep a close watch on her for awhile, but I risked the dosages I gave her because I had to get the infection under control and her fever broken.
Soon, an older man entered, bringing me the items I had asked for.
"Here is the mud-that-dries-hard," he said.
Expecting him to leave, I noticed with surprise that he just stepped back to watch. I raised an eyebrow to Grandpa and he said. "This is Spotted Owl. He is the girls' father."
"Is he going to be trouble?"
"No, he's just worried. He loves his daughters very much."
Turning to Running Deer, I said "I'm sorry Little One, but this is going to hurt very badly, but I'll do it as fast as I can. Don't be ashamed to cry out if it hurts too much."
Recruiting the others in the lodge with us as my helpers, I said, "I need you all to help hold her down tightly so I can set her arm so it will be straight."
I instructed them on where I wanted them and how to hold the patient. Then, once they were in position, I slipped off my boots and braced myself by placing my foot in her armpit and pulled her arm straight at a steady pace till I felt the two bone ends slip back in place. You could almost hear them click together, and the obvious distortion disappeared, although her arm was still swollen.
I gently wrapped her arm tightly using gauze from my kit then tied the sticks for the splint in place with the rawhide to keep it straight. With the splint secured, I covered the whole thing with a thick layer of clay to protect it, making a crude cast. During all this she hadn't let out a sound. Looking down at her I saw why – she had passed out.
Taking advantage of her being passed out, to avoid causing her further conscious pain, I quickly thoroughly scrubbed the scrape on her hand using the hot water and some anti-bacterial surgical soap from my kit. I rinsed the injury thoroughly, dried it with sterile gauze and applied a generous daub of antibiotic cream (Polysporin). I loosely taped a gauze pad over it then checked the blood flow to her hand by squeezing her fingernails. I was concerned that the rawhide thongs securing her splint might cut off circulation.
Knowing that the pain would ease now that it was immobilized, I told her father, "Now we just need to let her rest and watch that she doesn't damage the cast while it dries."
"She will need to be watched, and she'll need more medicine." I showed Grandma, as Spotted Owl and another woman watched and listened carefully, how to check the circulation in the injured arm, and what to look for at the scrape if the infection started to spread. I left several amoxicillin tablets and some ibuprofens and explained how often to give them to Deer. "I don't care about the little brown pills. They're for pain and fever, like willow bark tea, but the big pink ones are for the fever, and she must take them until they're ALL gone. I'll check on her before I leave and probably be back a couple times to check on her."
Grandma Dove came over and gave me a big hug. "If she doesn't die from the fever, she should have a good arm in a couple of months. That sure was some good work you done!"
Grandpa turned to me. "Now we need to do some trading, so's ya can stop being a stranger."
"Ok, how do we do that?"
"First we'll go out and set with Red Cloud while I jaw with him. They will probably feed us, so whatever you do, eat what they give you. We don't want them to be insulted. Then after a bit, the trading will start, but remember these people won't be rushed."
We left the lodge and saw Red Cloud setting with some of the older braves, so we went over and he motioned us to sit. We did and he started asking Grandpa about the girl and if she would live, still ignoring me.
Soon an older woman I had seen earlier in the lodge with Spotted Owl brought me some food on a piece of birch bark. I smiled and said, "Thank You." She just smiled and left without saying a word.
Grandpa saw her and said, "That's Rain, the girls' mother."
"I recognized her from inside. Doesn't she speak English?"
"She speaks American probably better than I do."
"Then why didn't she say anything?"
"Here, it's not the woman's place to speak to a man that is not family; but once they are family, you can't get them to shut up!" he said with a twinkle in his eye.
"I heard that!" called Grandma from inside the lodge.
Soon it was time for the trading to start as Grandpa showed me how the trade items were usually laid out on a blanket. He said, "Now the way this works is, you put out what you have to trade in small piles and then they will inspect what you have. If they want to barter, they will put a pile of stuff that they want to trade next to yours. If it's not enough, you either pull part away or add to it. Sometimes, you just split it. Remember, we are here to make friends, not skin these people. Try to make a fair deal but don't let them get the best of you, because then they will lose respect for you."
"OK, sounds easy enough."
"It ain't too hard. Just watch what you are doing. First, why don't you take a box of those cigars over and give them to Red Cloud? Tobacco is hard for them to get, so it makes for good trade goods and is a valuable friendship gift."
I picked up a box and took it over to Red Cloud. As he accepted it, he just nodded and smiled at me.
I went back to my place and said to Grandpa, "He still didn't speak to me – he just smiled and nodded."
"Remember, he's still the Chief of the Sioux and he has to show pride to his people. The nod meant he was seeing you no longer as a stranger and the smile meant he was very pleased with your gift."
We had been trading for a while when Spotted Owl came up leading a fine chestnut mare and handed me the lead rope. Thinking he was trying to make a trade, I picked up the last box of cigars and handed it to him. He thought for a minute, then taking my arm, led me back into the lodge and pointed at his daughters. Believing he was asking if Running Deer was going to be OK, I just nodded to him.
Having followed us, Grandpa busted out laughing. I just looked at him like he'd lost his mind, then I demanded, "What's the hell's so funny?"
It took him a minute to stop laughing long enough to barely catch his breath and gasped, "Hee! Hee! Hell boy, you just bought yourself two wives!" then started cackling again hard enough to lay an egg.
I just stood there with my mouth hanging open, shocked out of my britches.
I would like to thank my great editors Eviltwin and Ice Wolf they make my scribbling worth reading.