"The Jingle Bell Bum" (Read The Touching True Story...please!) Comment at patriciahanrion.com

"The Jingle Bell Bum" (Read The Touching True Story...please!) Comment at patriciahanrion.com
Still available on Amazon for Nook and Kindle, hard copy booklett to re-print November 2013

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Escalante Ebola"


Late Afternoon, spring, 1778
Bagootsoo Mesa
Nation of the Paiute
Territory of Spain

      NeZhoni sat atop the towering pillar of stone drinking in the view of the swaying spring grass.      
     She thought, “Finally, the treasure is hidden…the duty done.” 
     Her baby tied securely to her back began to wiggle and stretch. She would need to feed him soon. A lone hawk circled in the warm updraft and squawked in surprise at the intruders invading his realm.
      “The many years of hiding secrets from the man I love are behind me, and my heavy heart can lie still.
     The cavern had been cool for most of the work, but after the steep climb to the mouth of the shaft, she was hot and red dirt dusted her hair. She completed her task by dropping strings of red stones into the burial tube, and pushing the heavy capstone over the opening.  To conceal the last clue to the treasure NeZhoni planted small cactus and sifted fine sand into the cracks surrounding the capstone. Then she arranged rocks, and ashes to look like an old campfire to disguise the opening to below.
     She released the plump baby from his cradleboard and looked down into his dark green eyes flecked with gold. They were her eyes, the ones that had attracted the man who took her from her family. It seemed so long ago, but now she realized her sacrifice was for a good purpose. 
     As she fed her son she remembered times past and talked to him, “Mijo, all is in place for others to follow the guide I’ve prepared for them. Only you and I know of this legacy. It must come to pass so our blood can continue for many generations and your children’s children may find happiness mi pequeño amor.” 
     Her memory was clear about the strangely dressed traveling men who came to winter camp. She was a little girl then, and afraid as she peeked out from behind her father’s robes to see the tall men. She could not understand why the tribal council would not fight these men in their shining hats. But she knew they had many things to barter and trade. Later, she heard her father say, “Why lose many braves and end up with nothing when we can gain new tools and weapons for our people.” 
     On that day long ago she was noticed by one of the strangers. He admired her fair skin, and emerald eyes. A week later as the caravan of horses and wagons prepared to leave, the bargain was made.
     “NeZhoni, you will go with these men as payment for the mustangs we will gain for the hunt. One man has promised to care for you and if you serve him well; he may bring you back to us for a season.”     There was no choice. NeZhoni knew she had to go. She remembered walking slowly over to a man called Diego and how she stood behind him with her head down to hide her tears and her fear. But this man had treated her kindly. He was wise and taught her his language and ways of worship and to read and to write. They laughed together as she taught him the medicine in plants and after many seasons he made her his woman. 
    Always she went quietly about her duties. The men of the quest ignored her as if she was nothing. Then, as she learned their language she also learned the secrets of their treasure for they spoke freely in front of her. At first, she only took a few of the golden things within the heavy crates to cut into trinkets for hair adornments. Then, when no one noticed, she began to take larger amounts and hide it with her belongings. There was so much. NeZhoni deposited the growing treasure in a hidden place whenever she travelled to her tribal valley. She never knew why she felt so compelled to carry out this deception but remained firm in her resolution that it was right.
     Gladly today was to be the last of her trickery. She would no longer have to fear discovery.
      Gently she placed her son on the carrying board after feeding him. She wrapped the soft straps around the wriggling bundle to secure him. His eyes were closing as she put the sun cover above his head and lifted him upon her back. Shielding her eyes from the brightness, she took one last look at the mountains across the valley to ensure she had all the proper signs precisely written on the underside of her gown.
      She began her way down the treacherous rock face. Anxious to further wash the dirt and stench of death from her hands, she hurried to the basin floor. NeZhoni had used the cleaning sopa root after her labors, but she liked the sweet smelling bars Diego bought for her during their travels. The setting sun had turned the hills blood red and the sky was violet by the time she reached the encampment.
      Her Diego was patiently waiting with their sons at spring camp on the prairie meadow.
      “Hold your son and I will say a word of farewell to my father.”
      She gave him their sleeping small one, and gestured at the structure across the clearing. Her father, Chief Toohoo-Bagootsoo, was in the wiki-up sitting cross-legged on the dirt floor. He was much thinner than she remembered and no longer resembled his namesake; the broad chested black bison. His breath came with a difficult rattling sound. He was suffering from the slow death of the bloody tooth cough.
     In the corner of the enclosure, she changed back into a woven cloth dress, apron and bonnet. With her fair skin and bright green eyes she knew she looked like all the other women traveling in the wagon train. But a part of her would always remain in this valley, beating a drum, while watching the grass wave in the wind and the hawks fly.
     She laid out her ceremonial gown across the stone used to grind grain. As she took out a knife and cut around the part of the soft leather where she had written the guide she thought about the day of her vision:
     It did not seem like six years had passed since she had eaten the ‘Flesh of the Gods’ mushroom in the women’s sweat house. In her waking dream she had asked the spirits to help her suffering people. Her vision showed her a future where people traveled in metal boxes. Roads were made tall on stilts. Homes were shut from the sky and everyone sat before boxes of flickering lights. Skies were clouded with smoke and a spider web spun across the land.
      “Do this,” she heard the ghost voice say, “Or, your people will fade to nothing from illness and greed. You can save them from this suffering with your gift from the past—“ She was given the way to prepare a guide and asked faithful ones to assist in following the plan.
    None of them, could understand the reasons for the peculiar work, but trusted the spirits would ensure that which was hidden would be found. They were saving their hope for children unborn.
     Now the task was finished. And only she and her infant son knew the final secrets. She twisted the hide she had cut from her gown into a roll, positioned it within a Bagootsoo horn and gave it to her father.
      “Honored father, I have done as the spirits wish.”  She placed the carved type and a tattered book in his hands. 
     “These things will show the way to the gift for those who seek. But who-so-ever attempts the quest must do so with a pure heart. I also give the warning from my dream; to follow only when the time is right and the sign is true or tragedy will be at journeys’ end. Honored Father, have not sorrow in your heart, for my life of exile has become a blessing to our people, and to me.”
      She reached out to touch her father’s hand and stroke his sunken cheek. They both knew their next meeting would be in the spirit clouds. The parting was heavy and silent.
      Overhead was a slice of moon and so few stars she could barely see her five sons entwined in the rhythmic unity of sleep. Diego saw her coming, rose quickly from the ground where he sat, and with one motion was in the wagon seat with the reins in his hands. NeZhoni lithely climbed up the wheel and slid across the smooth board to be at his side. She felt the warmth of him and looked up at the wide shoulders and strong profile of the man she had learned to love. He slapped at the reins and urged on the horses. The wagon pulled free of the muddy ruts with a jolt.
     They had many miles of travel to join the others for their journey across the rolling waters. NeZhoni did not look back. There was no need—her world was with her in the wagon.


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