Chapter 6 Part 2 A Life in the West
Part 2 A life in the West
Gray Horse welcomed Lame Beaver to his lodge. He welcomed him as a friend for the sake of the young man's father, and as a hunter for the gifts of fresh meat and buffalo robes. He welcomed him as a warrior because of the three Pawnee scalps woven into the mane of his pony. And, he was welcome because Gray Horse had wisdom, the kind of wisdom peculiar to the fathers of daughters.
That night they ate from the deer Lame Beaver had brought. Gray Horse had his wife divide out portions of the meat for his neighbors to cook over their own fires, leaving the two men alone by the fire of Gray Horse.
"You have come far, Lame Beaver." Gray Horse began the conversation.
"I am a man now, a Dog Soldier of the Cheyenne." He held out a hand to show the missing finger of his initiation, and opened his shirt to show the flesh offering of the Sun Dance. "I have six Pawnee horses, and the one I ride. I have taken three scalps. I kill many buffalo and feed the widows among my people."
Gray horse was silent for a long time. "I can see these things and I am glad you help the old women, but I only meant you are a long way from the Platte River country."
Lame Beaver paused; he had been impatient, babbling like a child even as he asserted his manhood. "My heart was hungry for the elk," he said, looking into the fire.
After a time Gray Horse spoke again. "It is a good thing for a young man to feed upon the food of his heart. It is a good thing to be young and strong and a great hunter. I was a great hunter in the days of my youth. I was well respected then. I an old now and I have only my last daughter, Sparrow, to respect me.
Lame Beaver pondered the words, searching for the real meaning. He watched the fire for a long while before speaking. "Among the Cheyenne a man with many horses is respected."
Gray Horse watched the fire in silence.
Lame Beaver could not bear the wait any longer. "Among the Cheyenne a man with six horses is much respected."
"Six are not so many for a Lakota," Gray Horse replied.
It was Lame beaver's turn to watch the fire. He had failed. There was nothing more he could say to the older man. He silently cursed his lack of wisdom. "I hunt tomorrow. Will you keep my six horses for me?"
"Turn them in with the Lakota horses." Gray Horse said. "The boys will watch them for you. Your six horses will be safe."
The Cheyenne rode out of the village in the gray light of the false dawn. There were few Lakota about to see them go, but from a grove of cottonwood trees that bordered the village Sparrow watched. She saw that the Cheyenne did not follow the "Elk Trail" north to the mountains. She watched the Cheyenne turn their backs to the rising sun and follow the western trail, the one the Oglala Lakota call the "Pawnee Trail." She needed only to be sure he had not gone back south and that he had not taken his horses. He came back for her once, and he would do so again. Sparrow turned and ran to her father's lodge.
The days of the Moon of Strawberries wore on and the Cheyenne did not return. The boys played their game in more earnest now, and the men found reasons to ride more often in the west. But, the man who brought six horses did not return, and the women began to show concern for Sparrow. Even the hard warrior, Gray Horse, rode out. He went a day's ride, west to the great fold in the Yellowstone, but he found no sign of the Cheyenne.
The boys came running into camp on the fifteenth day. Their report was of many riders approaching, of more dust than five Cheyenne ponies could raise. Gray Horse was among the warriors that rode out to meet this threat.
The Oglala Lakota waited on favorable ground for the approaching riders, as the distance closed the Oglala began to whoop and laugh. The Cheyenne had returned, driving before them a herd of Pawnee horses.
The Cheyenne still in paint and dressed for the trail, stopped when they reached the Oglala party.
"Those elk have no horns," Gray Horse said, smiling.
Lame Beaver looked at the horses and waited silently. The horse he rode twitched his ears as flies buzzed up from a fresh scalp woven into his mane.
Finally, when a moment of understanding seemed to have passed between the two men, Lame Beaver spoke. "It is not the elk I want from the Lakota country, Gray Horse. Eight of these horses are mine, and the six horses in the Lakota herd are mine. In the Platte River country a Cheyenne worth this many horses is respected. I think it must be the same for a Lakota. Take these horses from me as a sign of respect, and give me Sparrow in return."
The wedding feast lasted for days, and when the Cheyenne departed for the Platte River it was the beginning of the Moon When the Red Lilies Bloom. The Oglala women already referred to the Strawberry Moon as the "Moon of the Cheyenne Suitor." The bride price had been exaggerated in the telling to a hundred ponies, and there were wedding songs about Sparrow and her Cheyenne husband still being sung in the village. They were good songs that would last a long time and be remembered at other weddings, other Strawberry Moons.
Red Cloud visited the lodge of Gray Horse. It seemed quiet there without Sparrow. "I hope she will be happy," Red Cloud said. "Some say that the Cheyenne women are not always kind to wives from outside their tribe."
"That is all settled," Gray Horse said. "What other woman among them cost her husband so many horses? No harm will come to a woman worth fourteen horses. Everyone in their village will guard her like a treasure."
"You have done well, Gray Horse. Fourteen horses! I have never heard of such a bride price, you are a wise man."
"I am no wiser than Lame Beaver. He found the food of his heart. Not every man finds this, but when he does the wise man pays whatever he is asked."
Red Cloud nodded at the truth of this, then chuckled and said. "Perhaps you should have held out for more horses then."
Gray Horse backed away from the fire a bit then smiled at his chief. "No, I did not think that was wise. A man who could steal so many Pawnee horses could surely steal one Lakota, if he had to."
Last edited by Delmar Cooper; 11-23-2013 at 07:30 AM..