Doc Ch. 07bykingkey©
As we rode toward the buffalo hunting ground, I asked, "What's going to happen at the marriage ceremony?"
"Well, usually the night before, you would go into a sweat lodge to try to have a vision. While you are in there, the vapors given off by many herbs and other plants will help you have your vision."
I grunted skeptically, "That's just great – they're going to get me stoned so I'll start seeing things."
Grandpa, picking up on my cynical attitude, demanded, "What is this 'stoned'?"
"It's a term from my time for being drunk or under the influence of other substances. Sometimes when people get really stoned, they have hallucinations and act crazy."
"I see," Grandpa said. "No it won't be like that for you; the vapors are more to help you relax so you can let go and let the vision happen, and there's always someone nearby in case the vision is too intense and you need help finding your way back. Usually, it seems like the person just has a real good sweat and comes out feeling a whole lot better, after sweating all the dirt out of their hide.
"Mind you, I have seen some mighty strange things happen to some of these Holy Ones – some of their visions seem to show what the future may bring. But, for most others, they just answer questions or provide a solution to a problem. Like I said, I've seen what can happen, so don't be making fun of what you don't understand."
Still somewhat skeptical, despite his reassurances, I said, "Ok. I'll try to keep an open mind, but I'm not convinced anything will happen. If it don't, what do I do then – make something up?"
"NO! Whatever you do, don't lie to them! They will know and never trust you again! If you don't have a vision, just tell them so, but chances are you will see something. Whether it makes sense to you or not, the Holy Ones will help you try to understand it."
"OK, I think I understand that part. Now, what happens on the wedding day itself?"
"First, after you talk to the Holy Woman, the girls' father will take you to the river to clean up. Then he will talk with you in private explaining his daughters to you, and he will answer any questions you may have about the facts of life."
I started to laugh. "I've pretty much known about the facts of life since I was about fourteen."
Grandpa looked at me like I was an idiot. "Not sex! I'm talking about how to treat his daughters and make a good husband to them! Any damn fool knows about sex by your age."
"Sorry." I said sheepishly.
"OK then – after you and him talk, you will be presented to both Red Cloud and White Calf Woman. You will formally ask them permission for the girls to become your true wives. At that time, Red Cloud will give you his permission and White Calf Woman will also give her blessing. And ... then – you are married."
"Is that all there is to it?" I asked, thinking I had missed something.
"Nope! Almost, but not quite! After the formalities with Red Cloud and the Holy Woman, the actual celebration starts. First, there is a big feast and much dancing. After a while, when it is polite to do so, you and the girls will slip off to a special lodge built just for the wedding night. When you come out in the morning, then the girls will be your True Wives in the eyes of the tribe."
As we rode along looking for sign of buffalo, we saw some buzzards circling in the distance. Curious, we rode over to investigate and found two dead prospectors.
At first glance, it looked like they had been killed by Indians but as lawmen, something just didn't seem right! On closer examination, we discovered that they had been shot and mutilated. Then, where the bullets had entered the bodies, arrows had been pushed into the holes.
Thanks to Grandpa's knowledge of the local tribes, when we examined the arrows, we found the black and blue markings of the Crow, not the red and yellow bands of the Lakota Sioux they should have been, as we were IN Lakota territory and a long way from Crow country.
We also discovered that the prospectors had been robbed of all gold, money and other things of value – very unusual, as the Indians had little or no use for money or gold.
Realizing the implications, I declared, "I think we had better report this to the law."
"Ain't no law except miners' court. The closest real law is at Fort Laramie and that's 200 miles from here. Besides, the miner's court would just start more trouble for the Indians. I say lets search them for anything that might identify who they are; then we can try to see if'n they have any family to contact."
Despite it getting late in the day, we took the time to properly bury them, leaving a small pile of stones to mark their graves, in case there was anyone who might want to find their bodies. Then, with nothing else we could do, we went on our way.
A short while later we came upon a small herd of buffalo consisting of an alpha Bull, two younger bulls, and six cows with young calves.
Grandpa pointed and said, "You're pretty handy with them pistols, now let's see how you are with that rifle – shoot the two young bulls."
I dismounted, got into a comfortable shooting position, got a good sight picture, squeezed the trigger, and dropped the first bull. Before he finished falling, I swung the rifle, acquired the second bull in my sights and hit him cleanly with a shot to his lower chest, dropping him in his tracks.
"That's mighty good shootin'." Grandpa said
"Wouldn't it have been better to take the old bull and one of cows?"
"Nope. Those young bulls were almost the age that they would soon have challenged the old bull for his place as the alpha male. He's still healthy and looks to throw good calves, so we let him be. 'Sides that, the meat from younger animals is better – more tender."
We dressed out the kills and loaded them on the travois and started back, although by now it was getting very late in the day, with not much daylight left. We didn't like traveling so late, but we knew we would have trouble with predators attracted by the smell of the meat if we tried camping on the open prairie, so we traveled straight through.
By pushing our horses as much as we dared with the heavily loaded travois, we managed to arrive back at Red Cloud's camp just shortly after dark. Despite the late hour, the whole camp turned out to help with the kills. The men unloaded the horses then the women attacked those two buffalo like a swarm of ants. In no time they had them both skinned, the meat cut up and the hides stretched on frames for scraping and tanning.
When that frantic activity had settled down, I told Grandpa "We need to find out where we are sleeping. You do that and I will check on Running Deer."
When I entered their lodge, I found Running Deer sleeping soundly with Little Doe watching her. Trying not to wake her unnecessarily, I carefully checked Running Deer's condition. She was showing definite signs of improvement with no sign of having a fever still. Her cast was almost dried hard and squeezing her fingertips indicated good circulation. Encouraged by these positive signs, I told Little Doe everything looked OK for now, and for her to get some rest – my little sweetie (where did that come from?) looked exhausted. I would check on her sister again in the morning.
We said good night then I went out to find Grandpa. He was sitting by the fire talking to Grandma Dove.
"Uncle Henry, did you find out where we are sleeping?"
Hesitating, hemming and hawing kinda like he was gonna beat around the bush, he finally allowed, "They gave use a small lodge over by Red Cloud's."
From the way he hesitated and from the look on his face, I could see that he really wanted to spend some private time with Dove. Letting him off the hook, I said, "It looks like it's going to be a nice night. Maybe I should just bed down out here by the fire in case they need me in the night."
Looking relieved, he said, "That might be a good idea. See ya in the morning." and suiting his actions to my words, they walked off.
After quickly checking Running Deer again and that Little Doe had indeed gone to bed, I spread my bedroll out away from any traffic. I didn't want to be in the way or to be stepped on in the middle of the night.
I awoke the next morning to something tickling my nose and ear, and the sound of laughter. Opening my eyes, I found Little Doe tickling my nose and ears with a long stemmed weed while about a dozen kids watched and laughed. Turn-about being fair play, I grabbed her and started tickling her back. She started screaming and laughing, "Stop! Stop! We not your wives yet! Need check on Deer. She wants to get up and work on wedding lodge. Mud hard on arm but I say wait until you check, say ok. She say Holy Woman be here soon – she need get up."
"OK, I'll be right there. You could have just shook me awake."
"No fun that. Children enjoy the teasing."
"I see that." Then I growled at them like a big bear. They scattered, laughing loudly.
After going into the trees to answer the call of nature, I went to check on Running Deer. Seeing her trying to get up, I helped her and asked, "How you feeling today, Little One?"
"Feel good. Hurt almost gone. Need to get up. Much to do before Holy Woman get here." She turned to go and stumbled, putting out her bad arm.
"Whoa there, Running Deer." I cautioned as I steadied her on her feet. "You must not use that arm yet – it is still broken. The cast is helping you heal, but you must be very careful of it and not do anything to stop it from healing right. I will let you go with Little Doe, but you must promise not to work. You can only advise for now. Promise me you will do as I say – I don't want my wife to be crippled or have a crooked arm."
"I promise." She said as she and Little Doe left the lodge.
As I followed them out of the lodge, there was a sense of excitement in the air. I found Grandpa sitting with Red Cloud and asked what was going on.
He said, "White Calf Woman is almost here already. She will be here in a few minutes."
Surprised, I wondered aloud, "I thought she wasn't supposed to be here for two or three days yet? How'd she get here so fast?"
In another surprise, addressing me directly, Red Cloud answered instead of Grandpa. "Not sure. Maybe camp was closer than we thought. Maybe she already on way here when meet scout. Sometimes Holy Woman know things. Maybe she know you get married and come fast before scout leave here."
Refreshed by a night's sleep and the fun with Little Doe earlier, I was in much better shape than yesterday to digest strange news. Still, I sat down to wait for the Holy Woman with the other two and pondered all that had happened since I woke up in my wrecked truck yesterday morning at sunrise.
As we were waiting, Spotted Owl approached in a hurry, carrying two buffalo robes. He pointed at the two buffalo skins that we got in the hunt yesterday stretched on the drying racks, then pointed at himself. Next, he pointed at the two robes that he was carrying and pointed to me. I could see that he was worried the skins would not be ready, and had brought two good robes to trade. I nodded, smiled and thanked him.
Satisfied we had avoided a social blunder, he asked Grandpa to watch over the two robes then took my arm and said, "Come, let us walk down by the river."
As we walked, he started to explain about his daughters. "They small, but very hard workers. They bring much happiness if remember that are still young and headstrong. You must listen and no get mad. Good advice – always remember to respect and they respect you. Never go to sleep mad. If mad – talk – then mad go away. You protect them, they protect you. They cook, clean, be good mothers and advisers. You be gentle, caring and show trust, they make good wifes long time."
As I listened to him, I realized this was some of the best advice I ever heard.
When we returned, I was introduced to White Calf Woman who had arrived while Spotted Owl and I were having our talk. She nodded to me, obviously a person of few words, then said, "Come. You must have your spirit cleansed."
With that, she led me to a hut I realized was the sweat lodge. There, she showed me how to pour a mixture of water and herbs from a bowl with a small ladle onto a pile of stones perched on a bed of red-hot coals, so as not to smother the coals. I asked how often I should add them.
She just said mysteriously, "You will know." Then she had me strip to my underwear and enter the small hut. As she left me alone, she said, "Relax. Try to let your mind go ... and ... try to remember what you see."
Damn, it was hot in there! I added a ladle of the water-herb mixture and sat back, trying to relax. In my own time, I had been in saunas, so I expected it to be similar. Every so often I'd add some more. About an hour or so after I entered, I started to get dizzy from the heat so I drank some of the water-herb mixture. Not long after that, I must have fallen asleep. I dreamed I saw a great Hawk. Somehow I knew it was the Great Spirit. He showed me that I was there to help keep the peace between the Indian and the white people. He said that I should help both the whites and Indians with my skills in medicine and also help to protect them using my skills with guns.
I asked about causing a rift in my own time by changing history. The Spirit Hawk told me that time was like a tree – the changes I made would just cause the tree to branch off into a whole new destiny, without harming the future that I came from, which was a huge relief to my mind. The Spirit Hawk went on to tell me that I should try my best to make sure that the people got a fair deal as that was now my destiny.
When I woke, the coals were black and the stones cool. I knew that it was time to leave, so I wearily crawled out to face my destiny. When I came out White Calf Woman was waiting and just smiled at me, nodding knowingly. Grandpa then came for me. He gave me a small drink of sweetened water then guided me to a small lodge to sleep.
I would like to thank my great editors Eviltwin and Ice Wolf they make my scribbling worth reading.