Doc Ch. 09


I awoke the next morning to find myself being caressed and kissed by my two new wives. I could quickly become happily addicted to that kind of treatment as a morning wakeup call. Kissing them both back, I said, "We need to get up and get ready to go home."

As we left the wedding lodge, we heard quiet snickers and hushed comments about the noise coming from our lodge the previous night, accompanied by other remarks about lack of sleep. I blushed about three shades of red, while the twins acted as if they were actually proud of the racket they'd made. Thus, they just smiled as they went about getting breakfast ready and packing for an early start home. I swear if they'd have been cats, they would've had feathers sticking out of their mouths...

However, it wasn't long before I found out that other events and actions would intrude upon our lives so that an early departure for home just was not meant to be... While I waited for breakfast, I had gone over to join the men at Red Cloud's fire where I heard Grandpa as he announced, "Two Lives ......Red Cloud and Crazy Horse have a request for you – they have three braves that are badly wounded. They would like you to take a look at them and see if you can help them."

I was disappointed at not being able to get my sweeties home as soon as I wanted, but there were injured people who needed my help. I put on my 'doctor' face. "Sure. Where are they?"

Grandpa waved toward the lodge where I had worked on Deer. "Two of them are in the same lodge that Running Deer was in – they are her cousins. The third is in the next lodge, but he refuses to be seen by a white eyes. "

Little Doe had been heading my way, presumably to call me to breakfast. When she overheard Grandpa tell me that her cousins were injured, Little Doe followed me into the lodge, leaving Deer to tend to the food. As I entered, I quickly assessed my patients and noted that one had been shot in the thigh, while the other had a nasty head wound.

I went over to examine the one that had been shot more closely. I quickly determined that the bullet was still in the wound. It was also infected, causing him to run a high fever.

When I checked my other patient, I saw that he had a large gash in the temple. Upon examining his eyes, I discovered one pupil larger than the other, which indicated at the very least a serious concussion, and possibly worse – a true brain injury. He was conscious and responsive, but slow.

There was little I could do for a serious head injury other than clean and dress any open wounds, make the patient comfortable and then watch over them for at least 48 hours – the standard treatment for concussion.

I asked Little Doe if she had paid attention when I cleaned up Deer's scrapes yesterday. She showed me she had, as, without direction, she retrieved the bandages and anti-bacterial soap from my pack which I had left in the lodge. Confident she knew what to do, I had Doe clean and wrap the head wound and instructed her to keep a watch on him while I tended to the other injured brave. We could only hope that the injury wasn't as serious as it looked and that nature would take its course, allowing him a full recovery without any neurological impairments.

While Doe tended to the head injury, I had the bullet-wounded warrior carried outside where there was better light. As they moved my patient, I followed behind, bringing my large pack with all my surgical gear. Moving the injured man outside also meant I could use my ether mask and ether safely with little risk of gassing everyone in the closed space of the lodge.

Ether may be a primitive anesthetic, but it works, and I had included it in my medical kit because, in my time it was readily available almost anywhere in the world, which made it ideal for field conditions. Coincidentally and fortunately, it was also readily available in this time period and had seen growing use as an anesthetic since Dr. C.W. Long first demonstrated its use in 1842.

Once I had the patient situated for the best possible light, I set out my equipment and asked to have lots of water boiled and handy while I worked, explaining how to keep it covered as it cooled so it remained sterile. Next, using my ether rig, I anesthetized him. I don't care how tough even the strongest warrior thinks he is, having a gunshot wound cleaned, probed and cleaned again is extremely painful, and is far better done with the patient knocked out. It certainly makes the surgeon's job much easier if he doesn't have to deal with a patient thrashing about in agony...

As soon as my patient was under, I cleaned and irrigated the wound thoroughly with antibacterial soap and lots of clean water until it was bleeding freely and all evidence of puss had disappeared. Next, using a surgical probe, I carefully felt in the wound track for the bullet and any other foreign bodies that might be impacted into the wound.

I soon located the bullet, which appeared to be in one piece, not too surprising, as the large caliber low-velocity bullets in use at this time rarely fragmented unless they struck bone. Then, using a small hemostat, I extracted the bullet then thoroughly washed out the wound again. Gently probing the wound track again, I found and removed a small piece of cloth that roughly matched the hole in his pants where the bullet had struck him. After irrigating and flushing the wound one more time, I probed the wound once more, finding no other foreign objects.

Satisfied the wound was as clear of foreign objects and dirt as I could get it, I did a last thorough cleaning of the wound track with soap and water then flushed it with lots of clean water. I packed the wound track with antibiotic cream, applied a sterile dressing and secured it in place by wrapping his leg with a clean bandage. I gave him a shot of penicillin to help fight the infection and had him moved back into the lodge.

When he woke up from the ether, he threw up. He was embarrassed, but I explained it was normal because of the ether. When his nausea settled, I gave him a whole amoxicillin and left a few with Little Doe and the others who had been tending him and his mate. I instructed them on when to give the gunshot victim his meds, and to keep a close watch on both patients, knowing that with my sweetie as their nurse, they had the very best of care. Then, after packing my kit for moving, I slung it over my shoulder and went next door with Red Cloud and Crazy Horse to check the third injured brave.

As soon as we stepped into the lodge, I could tell that this brave hated the white man, as he just sat there glaring at me. He shouted at us in his own language till Red Cloud angrily barked something back, whereupon he quieted right down. He did sit still long enough for me to examine him. I discovered a large cut on his right thigh but he wouldn't let me touch it. I gave Red Cloud a look and after he again spoke harshly to the brave, told me to go ahead.

With Red Cloud's go-ahead, I checked the injury closer. Although it looked messy, it didn't appear to be infected yet, but would still need a thorough cleaning. There didn't appear to be any major muscle damage, although the cut was long and deep, probably from a knife or saber, and would require several stitches to close so it would heal properly. I figured it hadn't become septic because of the steady bleeding. It wasn't a gusher, but he would still weaken from loss of blood if it was left untreated.

I tried to give him a local for the pain but he refused it so I handed him a piece of leather to bite down, on telling him it was going to hurt like hell. Despite my obvious attempt to help him, he continued to glare at me. Deciding the best course of action was just to get on with it, I asked to have more sterile water brought in and when it arrived, began his treatment. Using more of the antibacterial soap, I cleaned the wound thoroughly then commenced to suture him up.

I put in 35 stitches and he never made a sound the whole time, just continuing to glare at me with hatred. After applying the antibacterial ointment and a sterile dressing, I wrapped his leg with clean bandages. I instructed him to keep it clean but could see that he wouldn't listen to me. I told Red Cloud that if he didn't do as I instructed, he would die or lose the leg. Red Cloud told me that someone would keep an eye on him and make sure he kept the wound clean. I knew that many Native poultices and ointments for wounds were very effective at preventing infection. Now that I had cleaned it and stitched it closed, they were ahead of the game and the Indian healers could take over with every hope of complete healing and recovery.

When I left the lodge, I found both my wives and let them know that we would be staying at least one more day while we kept our patients under observation and medical supervision.

After that, I went to talk with Grandpa. I found him with Red Cloud and some of the older men of the tribe, discussing what they would do next.

As I approached, I heard Grandpa saying, "Red Cloud, you are chief of the Sioux Nation. You need to speak to the government about the problems caused by the white men invading the Paha Sapa. You must convince them that the trouble really is caused by these trespassers, that it just isn't worth the bother, and they must leave.

"If you do it right, then the government will actually force the yellow iron hunters to leave – you must make it so the White Man's greed works for you and against them. But ... if you can't get them to understand, the gold hunters will keep coming and they will make all kinds of trouble. The White government won't let you punish the trouble makers and if you do, the government will take the Paha Sapa away.

"Meanwhile, the other chiefs, like Crazy Horse, should lead the army away till they grow tired of chasing them. Otherwise, if you continue to fight like this last time, it will just make them more determined to wipe out the Sioux completely. While the warriors are leading the army around by the nose, the women and children, and the sick and old can stay at my place – they're mostly family and friends anyway. But please ... make sure you send the trouble makers and hotheads with Crazy Horse and his warriors so they're not here to stir up more trouble. There's enough of that already after the Custer fight and the gold miners stirring the kettle."

Red Cloud seemed to be having difficulty with what Grandpa was saying. "OK, I see how we can make the yellow iron hunters leave if make government mad at them, but, what about white eyes that live here already? You and the other white eyes like you not cause any trouble, but how can we let you stay, and not others?"

Grandpa thought about it for a minute then suggested, "Why don't we make out leases for those that the Sioux say are OK to stay? That way, you show the government that the Sioux are fair to any white man that wants to live and work here honestly, but you want nothing to do with those that just want to take the gold and steal your land."

"What this lease mean?

"It means that you will let the ones with leases stay and use the land like they have been for as long as the lease says, which you and them agree on, but the land stays belonging to the Sioux – you are just letting them use it."

"But why we do that?"

"It is an agreement between the Sioux and the settlers on what land they use, how much they can use, what they can use it for, and how much, if anything, they pay the Sioux to use it. It will say that we give you so much to use the land for so long, but the land stays yours."

Red Cloud was still trying to wrap his head around this new White man's idea. "But you already use land."

"I know, but it's like we make a trade to use the land. The lease just says we got Sioux permission to use their land.

"What is real good about this is that it is a way of using land that the white man knows and uses all the time. The government people will understand right away that the Sioux own the land and where they will break a treaty in a heartbeat, they will not break a lease or allow trespassers – which helps get rid of the gold hunters, especially the real bad ones who are nothing but thieves and robbers."

From his next words, I could see Grandpa was on a role, and just getting warmed up to his idea and how to handle it. I figured if the Sioux let him do this for them, the white government would never know what hit them. I had a sudden vision of the Sioux of the future managing one of the largest corporations in the world, based mostly on land management principles laid down now.

Grandpa rolled on, oblivious to me, trying to make his point with Red Cloud, "To make it look even better, if you let me draw up the leases, by the clever use of their own words, I will make it look like we, the whites, are getting the better deal.

"The government people are mostly cheats, so they will think that's a good way to put one over on the Indians. But... by being smarter than them, and using their own greedy methods, we can make the words look like they say one thing and have them mean something else. The real meaning will mean that you, the Sioux, will know that we, the people taking the leases, give the Sioux whatever they need and so you know we are bound by law to help when needed. We would do all that anyway, but this would put it in a form that their government people and lawyers understand and will not break or let us break."

Red Cloud's head was almost visibly spinning, but he also seemed to be slowly grasping what for him was a totally, culturally foreign concept. He gave Grandpa his tacit approval. "Is confusing, but trust Hawk. Hawk always good friend."

I spoke up then and said "Uncle Henry, can we take a walk and talk?"

"Sure lets go check your patients while we talk."

I said, "Grandpa, I hate to take you away from Red Cloud right now. I know what you're talking about is important and could help save the People, but I got to thinking. We have another problem that needs sorting out fairly quickly – we need to do something with my truck. I'm worried someone will find it, and then the questions will start."

Grandpa nodded in agreement. "You're right, boy. We need to hide it." He sighed sadly. "I just wish there was some way to get it out of that gully."

I tried to reassure Grandpa that it was doable, "There might be. There's a heavy duty winch on the front. If I can get the truck started, then we can run a snatch block, hook onto a chain hooked to some trees and use the winch so that the truck pulls itself out."

"I don't know anything about that, but if you think it will work, we can give it a try. Once we get it out, after dark we can hide it in the old barn. Then we can be back here first thing in the morning. When we leave, we'll tell everyone we need to go check on the ranch but we'll be back early tomorrow."

While he was letting Red Cloud Know, I went to check to see how my wives were doing. I let them know Grandpa and I were leaving for a little while and probably wouldn't be back till morning. They didn't seem to like it much, but I said I needed to do something and I needed for them to watch the wounded braves for me. Then I gave them instructions on what to do. Once I explained I had to leave and they had important work here, they seemed to understand with no further discussion, unlike women of my time that would have just kept arguing. I think I prefer it in this time...

So, grandpa and I saddled up, kissed our wives goodbye, and set off back to the ranch to see about getting my Power Wagon out and hiding it. Riding straight across country, unlike the wandering trail we took to get to Red Cloud's camp, it only took a little over an hour to make it back to my truck.

Looking it over, we saw that most of the right side was caved in and the radiator was busted although it wasn't jammed back into the fan, which allowed the motor to turn over. The battery was OK, and despite the damage, it did start right up.

With that major worry resolved, I shut it back down to save fuel and prevent overheating while we got the truck ready to move. We were able to pry the fenders away from the wheels then we filled the radiator with water from the stream using a bucket from the camper.

Using the winch, a come-along, and a couple of logging chains, it still took several hours to get it out. With that and having to keep filling the radiator, it was almost midnight before we made it the three miles to the ranch.

After we stashed the truck in the barn, hidden behind some boxes and old equipment, it was time to get some sleep, as we had to up early to be back the next morning. Wondering where I was going to sleep tonight caused me to think of something else. "Grandpa, where am I supposed to live with the two girls? The house here looks pretty much full right now and I can't bring them to the camper on my truck."

He replied, "You can have my brother, John's cabin. It's the one on the end, down by the spring shed. It's a ways to the privy, but it has a pump inside for water. Clay's mother made John put it in – she liked things modern."

This was the first thing I'd actually heard Grandpa say about Clay's folks, so I was curious. "What ever happened to Clay's parents?"

Grandpa had tears in his eyes as he said, "They were killed down in Denver. They told me there was a runaway wagon headed for Martha. When John tried to pull her out of way, it hit and killed them both."

"It sounds like you were close."

"John wasn't just my big brother – he was also my best friend – and Martha was the most giving woman I ever met."

Grandpa's pain was real, and I regretted disturbing the past, "Sorry to bring up such sad memories."

"Clay, much as it hurts me to remember because I miss them so much, your family and you need to know these things. Being as they're supposed to be your parents, their cabin should be yours, but it's probably a mess. Ain't no one been in it since they were killed – I just couldn't bring myself to disturb it or let anyone else."

Still cautious of hurting this generous man who had essentially adopted me, I enquired, "Won't it bother you – me using it?"

Grandpa brightened and stood a little straighter. He declared, "Nope! For some reason it just seems right."

He directed me out of the barn and toward the main house as he admonished, "We better get some sleep. We need to be back early, and in the morning before we leave, you still need to meet the rest of the family." He pulled a pocket watch out and squinted at it in the poor light. "Seeing that it's almost 2:00 already, we are only going to get a couple hours sleep."

We entered the main house, being quiet so as not to wake everyone. Grandpa found some bedding. He made a pallet by the fireplace for me to sleep on then he went to his own room for the night. I fell asleep almost as soon as I lay down. It had been quite a long day.

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