Doc Ch. 10bykingkey©
When I woke up the next morning, I could hear a commotion coming from the kitchen. I got up and went to see what was going on. When I entered the kitchen, I found Grandpa and some other people talking. Grandpa noticed me and said, "There you are Clay, come on in and get some breakfast." As I pulled out a chair and sat down, Grandpa continued, "Do you remember your cousins Don and his wife Sue; Ed and his wife Sally; and Rose and her husband Larry?"
Before I could reply, Rose, seeing the bandage on my head and my shiner as she placed a plate full of food before me, exclaimed, "Clay, what happened to your head?"
"It's nothing," I demurred as I sipped my coffee. "I just had a minor accident but it's alright now – looks worse than it is." I looked around, trying to remember what names went with what faces from Grandpa's introduction. "It's great to see all of you again."
We all started to exchange 'Nice to see/meet you', except Rose who was quick to point out, "But you've never met Sally or Larry."
Realizing that I had screwed up, I covered as well as I could. "I was meaning you, Sue, Ed, and Don."
"Oh. Anyway, I do want you to meet my new husband, Larry, and this is Sally – Ed married her about 3 years ago."
I greeted them, "Pleased to meet you both."
Just then I heard a baby start crying. Sally left the room and when she returned, she brought in a baby boy about 6 months old. She said, "This is little Ed, named after his daddy." Then she excused herself to go feed her baby.
Rose asked, "What about you, Clay? When are you going to settle down and start a family?" Her question caused Grandpa to laugh so hard that he slipped off his chair and made me choke on my food and turn beet red.
"What's so funny?" she demanded, glaring at both of us.
Grandpa stopped laughing for a minute. "He got married at Red Cloud's camp yesterday – to the twins."
"Really? Which one?" Rose asked.
This got Grandpa laughing again. He gasped, "You weren't listening! Both of them – he thought he was trading for a horse!"
"It's not that damn funny! Anyone could have made that mistake!" I declared indignantly.
Rose and the others grinned while she continued her inquisition. "I see you still jump before looking – don't you? – Clay. I thought you would have grown out of that in that fancy doctor school and the army."
"I did learn to think first. It was just a misunderstanding, but everything will work out, I'm sure." My disclaimer even sounded lame to me.
Grandpa was still snickering over my peccadillo – he was having entirely too much fun with this. Changing the subject, I drawled, "Sorry to throw a wet blanket on your party, Uncle Henry, but don't you think we should be getting back? I need to check my patients, and then bring the girls back here."
Reminded of what we had laid out for the day, Grandpa stopped snickering and started barking orders to the others. "Rose, Clay will be moving into John's old cabin. Will you open it up to let it air out some before they move in?"
"Sure, Dad! I didn't think you were ever going to let anyone live in it."
Sally had just returned from feeding the baby and hearing that John's cabin was being opened again, looked wistful as she volunteered, " I wish I'd have known! I would have asked long ago, so the baby wouldn't bother everyone in the night."
Concerned that any of his children feared that their children might be causing a disruption in the household, Grandpa moved to dispel those fears. "Honey, Little Ed is no bother at all. Besides, your mom is crazy about him just like she is Don's two boys, Davy and Brad. Children are always welcome here, so your being here with yours is no bother at all, and we hope you all will grant us old folks even more grandchildren. "
As he concluded, he glanced rather pointedly in my direction, making me nervous. Feeling pressured, I declared, "Whoa there, Uncle Henry! Don't look at me for awhile yet; I've only been married one day!"
Grandpa grinned unrepentantly. "I know that! Just lettin' you know that I like a lot of kids around."
Despite his softer words that grin somehow didn't make me feel much better. "Your making me feel like I should have them both pregnant already."
Grandpa teased, "Well, those girls SHOULD be pregnant, from all the noise they made last night!"
He saw my face get red and as I opened my mouth for an unkind retort, he apologized, "Sorry! I didn't mean to embarrass you or make you feel guilty, but like I said – I like kids, and those girls sure did sound happy!"
Still adjusting to the thought of being married and not yet ready to even think about kids, let alone seriously consider them, I warned, "Well, let's just not go putting the wagon ahead of the horse!" which caused everyone else but me to laugh. Knowing I could never beat the teasing, I wisely bit back any other bitter replies.
But the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that the twins could very well actually be pregnant already. At that time, the women folk often scheduled weddings to coincide with the bride's most fertile period. Although our wedding was very spur-of-the-moment, so that level of planning wasn't a factor, I did have unprotected sex with both of them. There was still a pretty good chance, they had caught, especially when in my time it had been observed that a woman's orgasm is often the most intense at the time of impregnation – and those two had certainly had intense orgasms!
Grandpa shook his head and rolled his eyes at me as if I had just proven that I was a real tenderfoot, then he got back to the business at hand. "Don, you and Ed take Hector and Lou and start digging some privies out in the big east field. We'll need a bunch – Red Cloud will be moving his camp there shortly and I imagine they're going to be here for quite a spell."
My two great uncles replied together, "Sure thing, Dad – we'll get right on it."
By the time Grandpa had us all organized, I had finished my breakfast. The two of us got our things ready and prepared to leave to return to the Camp. As we saddled up, I saw two small boys come out of the barn carrying milk buckets, going toward the spring house to put the milk away. Watching them, my mind wandered as I remembered doing that very same thing when I was a boy.
I was jarred from daydreaming about my childhood when Grandpa called to them, "Brad! Davy! Come over here and say hello to your Cousin Clay!"
As they approached with obvious curiosity, Grandpa explained, "He's my brother's son. He will be staying here for awhile."
The one Grandpa had identified as Brad, and from his size the older of the two, sounded a little stand-offish as he greeted me and in the direct nature of children, challenged me. "Hi Clay. Why haven't you been here before? I didn't know I had any cousins except little Ed, and he's just a baby."
Using the background information Grandpa had been giving me since we first met, I was able to respond naturally. "Well Brad, last time I saw you, you were just a baby yourself, so I'm not surprised you don't remember me, and Davy hadn't been born yet. Give Little Ed time – he'll grow fast enough."
"So where have you been all this time?" demanded Davy, the smaller one.
"I went back east to go to school; then I joined the army." I explained.
"WOW! Was you a soldier and fight Indians?" Davy exclaimed, with all the naïve excitement of the very young. I didn't like his tone on the word 'Indians'.
Given our family's real roots, I thought it was time and past to let these young ones knew how wars were really fought, and about their heritage. "No, I was a doctor in the army. I didn't do the fighting, I just patched up young men who got hurt just doing what they were told was their duty by foolish and greedy leaders, against other young men who were also doing their duty, protecting their homes and families. Despite what you may have heard, the Indians are not bad people – they're just trying to protect themselves. If you don't believe me, just look right here at home and how nice your grandma is."
"But she's Grandma – not an Indian – she's just Grandma, ain't she?" Even as he uttered the words, Davy's closing on a question showed some uncertainty.
I wondered how it could be that these boys were not aware of their Indian heritage, especially when they lived in the same house as their grandmother who was intensely proud of her people. I didn't think Henry, Dove, or Henry's sons would allow that to happen, so could it had to be something else. Maybe it was something as simple as kids missing the connection as kids are wont to do, such that while they absorbed Dove's teaching and were proud of their heritage, they had come to think her people were Sioux, but not Indians? From Davy's overly romantic ideas of the Army and Indian fighting, his inability to distinguish Grandma from anything other than she was Grandma, and my own memories of childhood, I thought this was likely the case.
Following that thought, I drove my point home. "Yes, Davy, she is your grandma, but she's also an Indian – a Sioux Indian – and very proud of it."
I knew I'd hit the mark when both boys' eyes got big as saucers and I could almost see the light bulb come on over their heads as they both let out a long "Oh-h-h..."
That subject dealt with, Brad changed direction with that suddenness that only kids can, leaving us mere adults' heads spinning, as he looked confused and asked, "How can Clay be our cousin, and be so old and Jake be our uncle and be younger than us?"
Grandpa, looking relieved at the change of subject, fielded that one. "That's because Clay is my older brother's son. And although Jake was born a long time after your dad, and after you, he is still your dad's brother – his little brother to be sure – which makes him your uncle."
And seemingly right on cue, a four year old came running from the house and threw himself into Grandpa's arms shouting, "Daddy!"
Grandpa scooped the small boy up into a warm hug then indicating me with a nod of his head, said, "Jake, say hello to your cousin Clay."
From the way he shrunk back into Grandpa's arms, I could tell he was shy around strangers. Still, I held my hand out for him to shake as I greeted him. "Hello Jake, pleased to meet you. I'm Clay."
Obviously a little nervous, young Jake gave me a shy smile as he took my hand. As I shook hands with the dark haired young boy, I studied him, barely able to contain my excitement as the reality of my situation in time truly came crashing in upon me.
It was hard to believe that this was actually my own grandfather, who taught me to hunt and fish and later, after my parents died in a car accident, taught me how to be a man. This was the man that raised me most of my life, and here he was now – just a boy! My head was spinning!
Grandpa's voice penetrated the fog in my mind as he asked Jake, "Where have you been Jake? I haven't seen you all morning."
The small boy forgot about me as he addressed his father. His eyes sparkling with childish delight, he explained, "I was over by the creek. There's some big fish in there! Can we go fishing, Daddy? You said you'd teach me..."
To young Jake's disappointment, Grandpa apologized, "Sorry, son, we can't today. I need to go back to Red Cloud's camp and fetch your mother and Clay's wives home. You remember Running Deer and Little Doe don't you? They're married to Clay now, and they're all coming here to live with us, but we have to go and get them today."
Jake's disappointment disappeared as he saw another possibility. "Can I go too? I like to play with the other boys there. We are all going to be Hunters and Braves."
"Not this time, son. We'll just be going, and coming straight back, without any time for you to play. But ... your friends will all be moving over here in a few days, and you'll be able to play with them all the time then. For today, why don't you get Brad and Davy to go riding on your ponies? Then how 'bout we go fishing in a few days after we get all the new folks settled in?"
Jake brightened up at Grandpa's news that his friends would be living close by, and then he held Grandpa to his word about fishing. "You promise?"
Grandpa hugged the small boy as he set him back down declaring, "Sure! We'll all go – even Davy and Brad."
The boys then disappeared to do boy things and we went to the barn. After we saddled up my horse and hitched up a wagon to bring all the girls' things back with us, Grandpa and I set out for Red Cloud's camp.
As we rode back we chatted. I told him, "You know, it was quite a shock seeing Jake. He took me in when I was seven, after my folks were killed in a car accident. It was him that taught me how to shoot, hunt and fish. He was more of a father to me than a grandfather. I really miss him."
"What's a car? Is it like your Power Wagon? And what caused the accident?"
"Yeah, a car is sorta like my truck, only smaller. They're more for passengers than carrying stuff like my truck. Four people at a time can ride comfortably in them, but you can't carry as much. Their car was hit head-on by a drunk driver going 60 miles an hour, killing them both." As I said it, I was struck by the similarity in the way the Clay of this time and I lost our parents – mine had been killed by a runaway car driven by a drunk, and his had been killed by a runaway wagon. Hmmm...
"Them things go that fast?" I could see he was amazed by this, as in this time, only trains were anywhere close to being that fast.
I astounded Grandpa even more when I explained. "Most cars can go a lot faster than that even, but it's not safe. At those speeds, things just happen too quick."
"Your truck doesn't go that fast?"
"Right now it can't because of the accident coming here, when it got broken. But, if it was fixed and on a good road like we have in my time, I could go a lot faster than 60." The rest of the ride to Camp, Grandpa was quiet except for the odd muttering to himself or the occasional question to me for clarification as he ruminated on what I had told him about vehicles and speed in my time.
When we got back to Red Cloud's camp it was like an ant hill, what with all the bustling activity as people got the camp ready to move in the next couple of days. After a short search, we soon found Red Cloud. He was talking with a woman and a boy about ten years old.
"Two Lives, this Dawn. She come live with you and wives. She cook, clean, and help wives. Make up for honor lost by son, Two Knives. This her other son, Standing Bear. He come too."
I started to say, "But, she don't owe..." but before I could finish, Grandpa nudged me, not too gently, in the ribs, which told me to shut up.
I knew the people in my life were just trying to look out for me and keep me from making a fool of myself, or worse, but regardless, I was starting to get a little irritated that it seemed I had no control over my life anymore. I wasn't going to put up with it much longer, so instead of keeping my mouth shut, I shook my head at Grandpa and said, "Red Cloud, she doesn't owe me a debt of honor at all. Two Knife paid that with his life."
Red Cloud nodded. "That is true, but this is her idea. Feel ashamed of what Two Knife did. Besides she is a widow. Without Two Knife, she has no one to look after her and Standing Bear."
I think Grandpa understood my feelings, but I could see by the smile on his face he was also enjoying my discomfort as I realized I was going to get a readymade family, whether I wanted one or not. I understood completely what was going on – Dawn needed a family to support her and for her to care for, but did not want charity. However, she could have what she needed by paying what she considered to be her own debt of honor. Even cynical old me knew that this was no scam – she utterly believed what she was doing was right – I might not be happy about it, but it didn't take a rocket scientist to understand that type of dynamic.
Despite knowing my fate was pretty well sealed, I still had misgivings and went looking for my wives to see what they thought I should do. I found them getting things ready to move. After warm greetings and even warmer hugs and kisses, I had them show me our patients so they could report and I could check on how they were healing.
When I asked their opinion on having Dawn with us, they were all for it. Confused, I asked why, and they told me that in camp all the women work together to make the jobs easy, so having her with us would make their jobs easier. Besides, they liked Dawn and they claimed Standing Bear needed someone to teach him how to be a man. It was Two Knife that they never liked and he was gone now... They were very pragmatic about it and could not grasp why I might have doubts. I was learning that my twenty-first century urban social baggage was out of place in this more communal society.
When we went to examine our patients, I learned that they were all doing fine except for the one with the sabre wound. When I discovered that he had removed the bandages and the stitches I had put in so carefully, I sent Little Doe to get Red Cloud, who arrived fairly quickly.
When Red Cloud got there, I explained that if the leg became infected, the idiot could die or lose the leg. When Red Cloud lit into him in his own language, I could tell from his tone that he was mad. After tearing the brave a new one, Red Cloud asked me to fix the leg one more time, but if he did it again, to just let him die.
So I fixed the fool's leg again, again with no local for the pain, putting the stitches back in and applying a fresh bandage. Then I gave him some more ampicillin. I was becoming concerned at how quickly I was using up my meager supplies with no way to replace them.
When I finished up, I left some clean bandages and left instructions to have someone keep checking the wound. I also instructed the patient to stay off the leg and to keep it clean. If he behaved himself, the stitches could come out in about ten days, but it would still be sore for a while.
I turned to my young wives and asked, "Are you all packed and ready to go to our new home? It's dusty and needs a good cleaning, but it should be big enough for now."
Running Deer said, "Little Doe has us packed and all we need to do is to load it; but Dawn will need some help gathering all her things and taking down her lodge."
It sounded like they had everything well in hand except for Dawn's stuff. I told them, "Just have her gather up all her things and put them with your things in the wagon we brought. She won't need her lodge. She and Standing Bear can stay in the house with us. There's plenty of room for her. Have her give the lodge to someone that needs it."
Deer nodded in understanding then said, "I think she wants to keep it for Standing Bear."
"Ok. We can strip off just the coverings. If we leave the poles, it should fit in the wagon. If it doesn't, I'll make a travois using the poles and pull it with my horse. Let's go check with her now and see how many things she needs help with. But remember, Deer, you don't work with that arm. Let's do it and you can supervise."
Although they both answered, "Yes, Clay.", somehow I got the feeling that just like any married man, I was no longer the one I charge.
With that, the three of us went over to see Dawn and let her know that she would be living in the house with us. We also told her that we would put everything she wanted to keep in the wagon, and I would haul any extra on a travois if necessary, but we wanted to leave as soon as possible. Then right away the girls started to help her pack. I started to help, but they said it was woman's work and for me to go be with the men.