Doc Ch. 15

bykingkey©

When I got up the next morning just as daylight was starting to lighten the eastern skyline, I was anxious to get started on the two gypsy caravans. However, my ladies quickly let me know that they had other plans for me.

As I was about to sit down to breakfast, Running Deer said, "We will need meat for the coming winter. You need to hunt so we can stock up. We also need skins and furs for winter. You should also take Standing Bear with you, to show him how to hunt."

"I was planning on working on the wagons today. There's lots to do to get them ready to use on the road, and I don't want to waste any time getting it done."

Even to me, it sounded like I was whining... I gave myself a mental shake and bucked up. There had to be an efficient way to handle both priorities. In almost the same thought, the obvious answer made me feel stupid.

"Still, hunting for winter is just as important. I think we can do both -- we'll hunt in the morning, which is the best time anyway. Then I can work on the wagons in the afternoon and evening while you ladies do your thing with the carcasses. What do you think?"

The women folk allowed as how that might just work when they realized it would also allow them to attend to their other chores and household duties without rushing them.

With a plan firmly in place, Bear and I quickly finished breakfast then went to find Grandpa to see if he would like to go hunting with us. He was at the main house with the others, just finishing his own breakfast. I considered myself an early riser, but these folks were usually up and doing well ahead of me.

I said, "Uncle Henry, the girls say we need to stock up on meat for winter. I guess they're not used to the way that the white men eat yet, plus they don't seem to care much for beef; they would rather have Buffalo, venison, or any other wild meat. So... looks like I need to go hunting. Do you want to come along?"

"Sure! Sounds better than hanging around here all day." Grandpa grinned.

"They want me to bring Standing Bear with us, too. They say he needs to learn the ways of the forest and how to hunt. I thought he might be too young, but they were really insistent. Do you think maybe we should take the other boys with us also?"

Grandpa shrugged, then smiled broadly. He explained his thoughts on the matter, which jived nicely with my own.

"Well, by our standards the boys are a mite young, but by Indian standards, they're well past the age where they would begin learning their hunting skills. All of them would already have been taught some of the basics by now -- especially the two older ones. By their age, Bear and Brad would already have taken small game, and maybe gone with the older hunters for the bigger animals. So, with that in mind it won't hurt a thing to take them along.

"They might be a bit young yet to try and shoot large game by themselves, but they can sure watch and learn. I think the two older boys might be able to try a couple of shots, as long as we supervise them."

I could see Grandpa's enthusiasm grow as he warmed to the subject. As I listened, I got into the spirit of it, too. This could be a fun experience, and of course, if we managed it properly, would just add to the bonding that Bear and I already seemed to be enjoying.

"Yeah! That should work! I think I might have just the rifle for them to start with. It's not big enough to be used on large game, but it's perfect for rabbits and prairie chickens. It's the Model 39 Marlin .22 Lever, a very good gun for somebody to learn to shoot with. Matter of fact, I have two of them."

Grandpa raised an eyebrow when I mentioned the name 'Marlin' and rattled off a bunch of questions: "Is that a gun by John Marlin? I heard about him. I thought he only made revolvers and hideout guns. If it's one of his, then it'll be good because John Marlin makes nothing but the best. I didn't know he made .22's. The only .22 I knew of until now was the Smith and Wesson .22 long. It's only been out for a few years."

"Yep, it's a John Marlin rifle, but it's actually based on his model 1893 from my time. Still it looks enough like a '73 Winchester, unless you look too close, that it should be fine for the boys. I'd forgotten about the Smith and Wesson round. That's good. My rifles are .22 Long Rifle, but will handle a .22 Long just fine, so if we ever run out of my ammunition, we'll still be able to get some. It should be a long time, though, if we're careful, because I have several thousand rounds. One of the stores from my time had a big sale and I bought several bricks."

The 'big store' was Walmart, but I wasn't going to explain that particular up-time concept to Grandpa. Maybe, I mused in a pipe dream, if we twisted this timeline just right, the depredation of small town shopping and small business by the chain box stores and Sam Walton's in particular, could be avoided. I did explain to Grandpa that a 'brick' was a box of 20 boxes of 50 rounds. He understood right away.

"Well, that sounds like just the ticket for Standing Bear and Brad as a starter. They sound like fun rifles. I'm gonna have to try one of them varmints out myself. We can take Davy and Jake along too -- they can hold the horses. This should really make for a fun hunt."

I didn't know if Grandpa's enthusiasm stemmed more from the idea of the hunt, the chance to try out an up-time weapon, being with the boys, or a combination of all. I suspected all, but heavily weighted on the being with the boys. After all, kids were his biggest single joy.

Now that we had that out of the way, and Grandpa fully on board, I began to plan the details. "So, how do you want to do this? Will we take the wagon or just a couple of pack horses?"

Grandpa replied, "I think it might be faster if we're all mounted and just take a couple pack horses with us. That way we won't have to stick to any roads like we would have to with a wagon because some places around here the trees are awful thick. We might not be able to carry as much but at least we won't need to worry about the wagon making it through the bush."

"You're probably right. We can always make travois like we did before if we get a lot of meat. We also need to let everyone know the general area where we're going. Bear, why don't you run off and gather up the other boys so we can get started?"

I returned my attention to Grandpa. "I'll ask the women to get us a lunch ready in case we're out past lunch. While they're doing that, we need to set the boys down and explain a bit of firearm safety before we take them into the woods. There is no way I want any of the boys to be hurt. A .22 might be a small round, but it can kill just as easy as a .44."

While we waited for the boys, I told Grandpa about Miller still renting out the cabins. I could see it was really starting to piss him off. Grandpa's face darkened with rage and his voice came out deadly cold.

"That dirty, rotten, greedy son of a bitch! Next time I see him, I'm going to kick his ass!"

I was glad I had managed to get Grandpa out of town last night before he found out. His anger today was bad enough -- I shuddered to imagine what might have happened if he'd been with me when I confronted Miller last night...

After I managed to get him calmed down a bit, I told him the whole story. "After I left you with the Judge, I dropped the horses off at the stable, then I went over to open one of the cabins so we could use it for the night. When I got there, they were all full, and one of the men told me that Miller had rented all of them out -- five miners per cabin, for three dollars a night each.

"I was mad and got Miller out of bed. Just like you now, I was ready to kick his butt, too. He admitted that he had rented them even after you and I had both clearly told him not to. He also admitted that he had charged $3 per man or $15 per cabin, and that he had rented out all three. That came to $45 a night that he was bringing in for the rental of the cabins.

"I told him that since we had been gone three days, and that he had probably rented them out each day we were gone that he owed us the rent. He didn't deny that he had rented them all three nights, so I charged him $185 -- $135 rent plus $50 fine for renting them without our permission."

I laughed, "You should have heard him bitch when I gave him the choice of either paying up or go to jail!"

The word picture I drew of Miller fussing over the money he lost really got Grandpa laughing. For once, that cackling laugh of his was directed at someone else's misadventures and not me.

"It serves that greedy bastard right! There ain't no better way to fix a greedy bastard like that than to take his money! I still think I'll kick his ass next time I see him, though." Grandpa gloated.

When Bear returned with the other boys in tow, we rounded them all up and took them to my cabin where we sat them down by the gun rack. These boys, including Standing Bear, had grown up with guns as part of their culture. Regardless, although they already knew they weren't toys and you didn't fool with them, weapon safety is a lesson that cannot be driven home too often.

The boys, knowing the importance of the message, listened attentively as I explained the proper way to handle firearms, always stressing safety first. I took each gun out of the rack and demonstrated the proper ways of handling each. Then I concentrated on the Model 39's and had each boy, including young Jake, handle each and show me what they had learned. Jake needed help to actually hold the relatively heavy weapon (for him, that is — he was only four!), but like the man he was to become, he soon proved competent, as did all the others.

As I walked them through their lesson, I realized I was uttering almost word for word the lessons that my Grandpa Jake had taught me. Then, when I watched the young Jake sit down with a huge grin after his turn showing what he had learned, the strangeness of what I was doing really hit me! Here I was, teaching the boy that became the man that had taught me when I was a boy! I thanked whatever Power it was that had brought me here for the opportunity in my original time to learn these lessons so I could share them with these boys in this time.

Given their background, all the boys learned quickly and soon we were ready to leave. As Grandpa and I had already discussed, we took two pack horses to carry any kills. We packed the lunch my ladies had done up for us, and the six of us mounted up.

As we settled into the routine of riding, I got to thinking. I don't know why I got onto that particular subject really, but I realized I had been spending money as fast as I could make it. I guess maybe the constant concern of making ends meet and being a good provider for my family was always at the back of my mind. With that in mind, I decided to head us over to where I knew there was a large pocket of gold.

I thought if we had a small amount of gold, it would supplement my income as a doctor and marshal, and we could use it to trade for some of supplies that we would need. However, first I needed to make sure that it was where I thought it was. So far in this time, I hadn't found any physical differences, but I still wanted to be sure I could find it.

There were problems concerning any gold we might take from the ranch. Not the least of which, I knew how Grandpa felt about gold miners. I thought that to him, for us to mine gold would seem like a betrayal of his principles. However, I knew of a possible solution that might help him see things from a different perspective, which would allow him to change his mind.

I just needed to make him understand that the gold actually belonged to the Indians. Any gold recovered from land leased from them -- meaning our ranch -- could and should be used for their benefit. The upheaval of moving their camp to the ranch meant less gathering and Crazy Horse's expedition to lead the army away meant less hunting.

Therefore, the people were going to need to actually trade for, i.e. buy, more supplies from the white man than they normally would, just to help get them through the winter. The People didn't have any money, and normally eschewed it, but they would need it or its equivalent, just to survive. Enter the gold that we could mine right here on the ranch...

But, the sudden appearance of quantities of gold in the local market was a problem all by itself. We did not need or want another gold stampede in the Black Hills area, and especially around our ranch. Thus, any gold I used for trade must just be in small quantities that I would explain as having been taken in as fees from my doctoring of the miners. We certainly did NOT want people to even begin to think I might have made a new strike locally.

Noticing that I was lost in my thoughts, Grandpa asked, "What are you thinking so hard about Clay? You're sure not acting like it's hunting. Your mind seems to be about 5 miles away."

I looked over to the boys to see if they were paying much attention to us. Seeing that they weren't, I explained, "I was just thinking about how expensive everything was around here because of the gold rush. And the People probably won't have enough supplies for the winter between moving and the hunters being away with Crazy Horse. Enough supplies to see them through the winter will cost a lot of money. They sure don't have it, so it's up to us; but that's going to be more than what we have right now.

"It's been bothering me in the back of my mind for awhile now, but as we've been riding, I really started to ponder on it. I was almost to the point where I thought it was hopeless when I remembered that pocket of gold I told you about when I first arrived."

Grandpa sat upright and gave me a sharp look. He was about to say something, but I waved him off before he could get started.

"Now, before you start in, I do know how you feel about gold miners. But... regardless of that, we need to do something, otherwise many of our people will starve well before winter is done. So, I thought if we used that pocket of gold, we would have enough money to buy the extra supplies we will need."

Grandpa was quick to voice his fear of what using that gold would produce. "Yes, we could buy some supplies, but as soon as them idiots heard we had gold, they would just start another damn fool gold rush. Only this time, they would be on our land, making another damn mess, just like they do everywhere else they look for gold!"

"Not if we just spend a small amount at a time. Then we could claim that the gold was just payment for my doctor services." I explained.

"That might work if we didn't try to spend too much at once, but what happens when we have to make large purchases for the whole tribe? As soon as we pay with that much gold, no one will believe it was for simple doctoring, and the rush will be on again!" He spat as he found the major weakness in my argument to use the gold for the good of the People.

"That, I'm not sure of." I admitted, but even as I did, another idea occurred to me.

If it worked, it would help solve several issues: It would draw the gold hunters away after a red herring. It would allow the Indians themselves to develop and appreciate a legitimate use for the white eyes' money within the 'all-for-one' structure of their culture. And with that, it would establish the Indians as people who understood the value of money in the greater society, thus legitimizing in the minds of their white adversaries their business dealings as 'landlords' of the Paha Sapa -- after all, money 'talks'.

"Here's an idea, Uncle Henry! If it worked, it would drive the miners nuts! Suppose we could get Red Cloud to waltz right into the assay office with a good sized poke of that gold... And ... just also suppose he claimed that some of his braves found the gold some place else other than around here... Wouldn't that let us have enough gold to do what we need, and also get the miners out of our hair by starting a gold rush someplace else -- preferably someplace that no one, white or Indian, has any other use for? Maybe he should claim that he found it in the Badlands?"

"Now that is an idea! Them poor dumb sons o' bitches could be wandering around there for months and if they ever did find their way back to these parts, they'd like as not be halfway starved to death. All the ones who haven't found anything here and that's most of 'em, would go running off there if they heard gold had been found in the Badlands." Grandpa's cackling laugh as he contemplated it was purely evil.

"Well, whatever might happen, at least they'd be out of our hair for a while and not causing any trouble around here. I don't normally wish ill upon anybody, but if they were to fall upon some very hard times out there, it might serve some of those idiots right. And... who knows? Maybe there really is gold out there, and some lucky S.O.B. will find it.

"If THAT happens, then I can almost guarantee the only miners left here will be the ones with working mines now. There never were that many. The only mine that survived into my time that I know of was the Homestake, over at Lead. We're just looking to hurry that along!" I laughed as I contemplated the sweet irony of the Indians deliberately starting a gold rush as the ultimate weapon in their war against white expansionism and greed.

Grandpa's grin threatened to wrap right around his head as he declared. "I love it! Let's do it! Show me where that pocket is Two Lives!"

Grandpa's use of my Sioux name was not lost on me. My plan to help the people and tame the local gold rush put me firmly in the Indian camp, and for the first time I could remember, I was truly proud of my Indian heritage and could put aside the memories of the teasing and bigotry I had experienced growing up.

"Yessir! Follow me!" I picked the pace up to a canter and led my party toward the pocket of gold. It wasn't really very far. In my time there were indications that it had been worked a bit, but never seriously. The physical evidence also suggested it had been long after the gold rush of this period.

When we got to the general area where I remembered the pocket of gold being, we had to look around for it because everything was different from when I found it. Like I had suspected when I first found it, there was no sign that it had been found and worked. At this time, it was just a pocket of gold waiting to be discovered.

I remembered it being in a dry wash. In my time, a flood had washed away a tree, exposing the pocket. Someone had found it and worked it a little, then abandoned it. I figured at this time, that tree was still standing and if I could remember accurately where it was, we would find the gold.

I explained what I was looking for, and then we all looked around at the trees that were close to the edge of the dry wash. Finally after about 15 minutes of searching, we found a tree that looked familiar to me. It was already leaning, and would succumb to the next flood. The trees on either side were smaller than I remembered, but I was sure I recognized their general shapes.

We confirmed we had found the pocket when we scratched at the dirt below the base of the tree and found some shiny nuggets embedded in the side of the wash. We had started out on a hunting trip, so we didn't have any shovels with us, but we soon found a couple strong branches that served as crude mattocks. It was hard digging, but after about an hour we had found enough high grade nuggets to fill our saddlebags.

"Damn that was a lot of work! However, it looks like we got enough to get everybody through the winter with extra for spare." Grandpa declared in satisfaction.

"Yep! There's enough there to back up Red Cloud's claim that they found it in the Bad Lands. And, we can always come back if we need more. I hope he goes along with it."

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