Every summer the Helman clan gathers up at the lake for a week at what they call the Spirit Dance. There is a cabin there, but it is mainly used as a kitchen, bathhouse and restroom whenever they all get together. For cleansing and vision questing, a new sweat lodge is built. They all sleep outside under the stars or in tents, and the communal fire becomes the sacred source of life and communication. As is the natural course of such matters, the family and the gathering grow larger every year.
The younger kids romp in the lake all day, their squeals of delight and howls of outrage skipping across the water like flat rocks to echo off the sheer, basaltic cliffs of the opposite shore. Everyone sunbathes, swims, cavorts on skidoos, fishes, wind surfs, hikes and explores. There’s quite a few tokes exchanged between the adults and a few respectfully ingested shrooms.
As has been the case for eons, the teens find ways to escape, disappear into the private realms of passionate adventure, the terrifying ecstasy of becoming oneself.
Because of overlapping values and interests, similar forms of expression and much more interaction between adults and children there is not much of a generation gap. The demarcations, the lines in the sand are blurred. Everybody gets a lot of respect, and its not chronologically based - one’s dignity is rarely assailed, so the young people don’t feel the need to rebel. The typical attitude of rebellious insolence among teenagers is practically non-existent in this family. They had all been weaned on the word yes. Since experimentation, originality and individualism are encouraged and everyone is allotted an equal share of dignity and respect, self-esteem runs high. There are lots of problems, ce la vie, but repressed anger is usually not one of them.
By and large, the Helmans like to learn, create, eat, fish, get high and talk about it. They also share a passion for reading, writing, sharing stories, dancing and making music. During the daytime there is an ongoing Scrabble competition within the family that spans four generations. A river of Welsh blood bearing metaphorical flotsam courses through their veins en route to the mind (the sandbars come and go as if by magic). Yes, they take their words, and Scrabble, seriously.
There is a lot of Indian blood in the family as well, infusing it with an intimate relationship with the forces of nature and a disdain for materialism yet a fascination for finely crafted objects (perhaps it was the dash of calculating Dutch privateer that engendered the love of profit). Add to that a tributary of wandering, hotheaded Scots-Irish and you have the basic recipe for the blood soup of a Helman. Of course I am referring to the DNA (dead nuclear ancestors). Generally, the members of the Helman clan can be characterized as intelligent, creative, ingenious, headstrong, enterprising, fun loving, spiritual and sometimes pious, fiercely independent, opinionated, slightly pugnacious, prone to cockiness and a bit wild - true Americans.
Abel Helman founded America Town 150 years ago. Had it not been for his foresight, courage, vision and greed, America Town might not even exist. The deep and earthy roots of their pioneer heritage is a robust source of pride and helps keep them grounded, keep them connected to the earth in a society that leans toward the inorganic.
The Helmans are not snobbish. Modesty is held in high regard. But the fact is, they are superior and there is always at least one brilliant mind or creative genius in each family. They have come to take this fact for granted and understand how it can be as much a stigma as advantage.
One night following a family feast, after the blood and butter sunset melted into the fading shaggy horizon, a blue mountain chill lay down atop the temporal luster of dusty-rose water. The bats fluttered like leaves suffused with spirit and fish made one last glorious gasping leap before the cold evening shadow spilled like liquid darkness from the forest, down the banks and across the lustrous lake. The receptive earth moaned softly, the breathing water sighed and the vigilant creatures and hidden insects let forth a hiss of satisfaction, which was expelled with warm air into the atmosphere. Then hearts grew momentarily still in the chill of darkness, hunkering against the pressure of the encroaching cold of mountain night.
To the Helmans, night, like death, though inevitable, always seemed to come as somewhat of a surprise.
This profound transformation drew everyone to the surging flames of the big bonfire where sparks capered about in the air like fiery moths. Soon, voices diminished to an expectant chunter and the air was charged with expectation for it was story-telling time - what they commonly referred to as “tale spinning”.
Paw Paw Helman, the current patriarch of the clan, was a favorite tale spinner. He was also the Pipe Keeper, a lifetime responsibility and honor handed down from generation to generation - rather like the family poet laureate, and more. His tales chilled you, warmed you, snared and scared you, made you think and not think, laugh and cry. Paw Paw’s stories were unforgettable and enduring.
Everyone huddled together as closely as possible for warmth and security as Paw Paw stood before them, his thick silhouette swollen against the backdrop of firelight; full, shoulder length snow-white hair fluffed out like goose down. He always stood to tell his stories, for the essence of Spirit Dance - body language, freedom of gesture and expression, movement and space - was embodied in every narrative.
He stood before them now straight and tall at seventy–something years - experience and wisdom emanating from his being imparting stamina, setting his jaw with strength and his eye with calm, fearless confidence. The power of his intelligence manifested in his robust voice and gesture, gentleness in his whisper, compassion in his eyes. The depth of his awareness, the subtlety of his perceptions and a deep understanding of human nature rendered him immune to lies and subterfuge. He could see right through you…if he wanted to. Whatever he was or was not, to disrespect him was almost impossible. The children (which, to him, included just about all of them) held him in awe. His stories, his outlook molded their thinking and subsequently their futures.
When the squirming subsided and the last throat had been cleared, after the hush of expectation gave way to the primal drumming of the sonorous frog chant, he began, ” As you all know, for a century and a half, every year our family has this gathering and we call it the Spirit Dance. ”
Following a long pause during which he made eye contact with each and every listener, he continued. ” But do you really know why we call it the Spirit Dance? Do you know the true story behind it all? ” He did not give them time to respond. ” Well, I’m going to tell you that story tonight. There’s been some confusion lately about what the straight scoop is and I’m going to clear this up once and for all.
I was told the story by my grandfather Oliver Helman, who was told it by his grandfather Travis Helman, who not only heard the story from his grandfather Grant Helman, but read the original manuscript of the experience called Spirit Dance, written by Abel’s son Grant as told him by his father, Abel. All of them were pipe keepers. In fact, the pipe featured in this story is the very one we use today. Now that’s what I call heritage. “
He paused again to allow his audience a chance to absorb that complex and essential prologue and kicked up the fire a little, releasing a flurry of sparks upward in a mad rush to become stars.
" Unfortunately,” he continued, ” that manuscript was destroyed in the fire of eighteen eighty-eight. But I guarantee you, the story I am fixing to tell you comes straight from the horse’s mouth. It’s been memorized and passed from generation to generation, pipe keeper to pipe keeper. Not all that many people could read back then you’ll have to remember, and communications were crude to say the least. This is the way true history travels - from person to person, fire to fire. It’s important never to forget that we are living history right now. ”
Paw Paw closed his eyes for a moment and when he opened them they caught the firelight with a twinkle. He began his story as usual - with the traditional family introduction accompanied by Indian sign that had been handed down through the generations. “ The sky (he held his hands horizontally above his head with the index fingers touching and swung downward in a curve to each side) is the Father (he thumped his right breast twice with his right fist and extended his index finger in front of his face). The Earth (he pointed to the ground and rubbed his thumb and fingers together) is the Mother (he thumped his left breast twice with a curved half open fist). And the fire (he held his hand in front of him below his waist and flicked all five fingers upward) is the Law (he held his hand up to his neck and moved two fingers straight forward).
Then he took a deep breath and began in earnest.
Abel Helman looked out on the rich, gold and green valley enclosed by snowcapped foothills as far as could be seen, and wept. From the summit on which he stood, beneath the shadow of Pilot Rock, he could also view the shimmering, white-crested peak that the Indians referred to as Toohigh or Tawiligetah, meaning Spirit Home. To the northeast another massive, snow capped peak rose to penetrate the clouds and then another and another.
To the north, at the far, narrow end of the bottle-shaped valley at least thirty miles away, lay a cluster of dark, basaltic mesas that contrasted sharply with the rest of the lush, green landscape. Abel registered mentally that these were the Indian strongholds of which he had heard. The golden hills bordering the east side of the valley appeared parched, dry and windswept, with but a dusting of snow that would vanish by midday.
The promised land; what he and his family had endured so much suffering and hardship to reach, lay before him undulating dreamlike in the morning sun. He knelt in the snow and thanked God as the tears rolled down his cheeks. Abel was a strong man, one of the strongest both physically and in spirit, but he was not ashamed to weep, especially those rare tears of joy. His big, strong, callused hands belied what his large, soulful, brown eyes made no attempt to conceal - the compassion, sensitivity and intelligence of a poet.
" Abel! Abel! ” his wife Jessica called from the wagon, ” it’s time to get going, honey. ”
" All right, Mama, I’ll be right along, ” he said as he wiped at his tears with his neck scarf.
When he removed his hat and wiped the bandana across his head, a chilled breeze fluttered his thinning hair. He plopped his battered, old hat back on his head and looked up at the heavens. ” I promise, God, ” he prayed, ” as sure as I stand here before you. I’ll live up to this life you blessed me with. I’ll raise my boys right and I’ll always do my damn…uh…I’ll do my best to be the kind of man you want me to be. That’s the least I can do. Thank you, Lord.
On his way back to the wagon train his friend MacDougal intercepted him. ” It’s a bloody, long way to the bottom of this one, Abel,” MacDougal said, ” If we go down this side straight down we’ll have to
slide ‘em most of the way. “ MacDougal spat his contempt along with a stream of tobacco juice into the snow. ” Seems to me we’d best be takin’ the ridge and come down from the other end where it’s lower and not s’ many trees. ”
Abel surveyed the side of the mountain down which they were going to descend. ” Looks like a good place for a slide. Lot’s of big trees to anchor to. Jeffries is the boss. If he says it’s best to go down head first, I guess I will. He’s gotten us this far. ”
" By the skin of our teeth, ” MacDougal grumbled. ” The real reason is lack of patience. Why rush it when we can ease it down? Just another needless risk, I say. But I’m just a little breeze compared to the cyclone everybody else is stirrin’ up. Tell me your feelin’s in the matter, Abel. ”
" Mack, we’re standing here because Jeffries has been right more often than wrong. Personally, I’m just like everybody else. I say the quickest way down is best. One of the things I’m weary of is the squabbling over every little decision. I vote let’s go on down and get it over with. I’ve been yearning to stand on my very own piece of God’s green earth and listen to the babble of a fishing stream. I want to lay back and not do anything for a while except play with the kids and eat and…sleep. ”
" Well then, so be it, Abel. I won’t change my mind, but I’ll go along with the will of everybody else and pull my weight as usual. It’s just not my nature to risk anything for want of patience. It’s not myself or my possessions I’m worried about. It’s what sits in that wagon over there, my family, that matters to me. They’re all I have and all I really want. And we’d best not let down our guard - there’s Injuns around here too, don’t forget.
" I understand, Mack. Relax, everything’s going to work out fine. By tomorrow we’ll be down there and none the worse for the experience. Come here, I want to show you something. ”
Abel led Mack back up to the spot where he had been standing and they both squatted and gazed out at the magnificent view. ” By tomorrow afternoon, we’ll be down there, Mack. We’ll be home. There were times there when I actually considered setting up house along the way and calling it quits. Hardest thing in the world to watch your children suffer. But we went on because God wanted us to, and with His help we made it. He gave us a dream for inspiration and faith for strength. And you know Mack, this is even better than I could have imagined it. Our own land, man, think of it, as much as we want to take on. It boggles the mind. No more wagons to push and pull or dust to eat, no more hunger and harassment. I can’t hardly remember what safety feels like. Home, Mack. What a sweet word. I never fully knew the meaning of the word before. Home is a place you choose to plant your spirit, not someplace you’re stuck like a stick in the mud. Damn! That valley down there looks good enough to eat, doesn’t it? Ain’t life grand, Mack! ”
MacDougal took a deep breath of fresh, mountain air and smiled. Abel’s enthusiasm always helped cheer him up. ” Ah, yes. That it is. All in all I have t’agree with you. It’s hard to believe we made it. Caution and vigilance has become a habit we’d best hang onto, but you’re right, it will feel good to dig my bare toes into that rich, valley soil. And it’s not a second too soon. Our supplies are down to the bone. Jeffries has been drivin’ so hard we haven’t even had time to hunt proper. ”
Abel accepted the reference to Jeffries in silence. He did not like to talk behind people’s backs. What he had to say he said to their faces.” I hear tell the Indians around here have all kinds of stuff - flour, beans, rice, coffee, even sugar and as you can see there’s no shortage of meat. There’s salmon in those creeks, too, you know. I tell you what, old friend,” he lowered his voice to a whisper,” when we get down there I’ll break out that little surprise I been saving. I have a bottle of the best Kentucky shine that ever exploded in the mind of a mortal. ”
MacDougal tilted his head back and laughed, fogging the air about his hairy face. He whispered back, “Aye! Aye! So that’s your little surprise is It? If I’d known you were hiding a jug I would have been harder to put up with than I was. ” He punched Abel playfully in the arm. ” You rascal! You must have a will of iron, man. ”
Abel smiled. ” No, but Jessica does. ”
They stood and Abel put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. ” What do you say we go claim our birthright,
" Right, Abel. And that whiskey is just the inspiration I needed. Guess I’m not as faithful as you. But you’d best be figurin’ on three days if you ask me. We’re higher and that’s steeper than you seem to think. ”
Abel chuckled. ” It’s all down hill from now on, ” he said, ” all down hill. ”
As Abel approached his wagon, a beat-up, weathered Conestoga with numerous, big patches in its filthy cover, his twelve year old son came running up to meet him. ” Daddy, it’s time to get in line, we’re going to get to go first today, ” he said excitedly.
Grant had his father’s intelligent, big, brown eyes. Abel removed his son’s weather beaten hat and pushed the corn silk hair back off his forehead. They had truly come to respect one another over the last few months, whereas, back in St Louis they hardly ever spoke. He plopped the hat back on his son’s head and an arm around his shoulder and the two of them walked up to see how Abel’s brother John was doing with the last minute inspection of the rigs.
John shook his head in disgust. ” We got a loose wheel on the second wagon Abel. Looks good enough to me to make it down, but you better have a look at it. I don’t want the whole decision on my shoulders. I’d hate to have to fix it now. It’d set us back a whole day. There’s no spares in the whole train. I checked. I didn’t notice it until late last night. ”
Abel inspected the wheel and put it through a couple of quick tests. ” Let’s take a chance. I think she’ll make it, ” he decided.
Abel’s wife, Jessica, parted the canvas and stuck her head out of the rear of the wagon. She had high cheekbones and smooth round features suggesting Indian blood. Though a little thick, she was still a sensuously attractive woman. Moral and physical strength combined with humility and tenderness to give her features a regal aspect. Despite enduring a terribly difficult journey, she still managed somehow to remain relatively neat and clean. Jessica’s black eyes shone with love and respect as she handed Abel the last cup of coffee from their supplies. She was truly an unselfish woman and believed that to love her man and her family was to love God.
" Abel, ” Jessica said, ” Mister James was asking if he could pull behind us on the slide. One of his mules is favoring his foreleg and he’s worried it might give out. That could be dangerous. ”
" Well, if you see him, tell him to go ahead and hook up Shyleigh. That’s what he’s getting at anyway. I guess we can spare him now that we’re so close. ”
There was always a lot of confusion and unexpected hassles as they formed up each morning, especially when they were in a tight, forest clearing like this. If it was not carefully executed, some god-awful traffic jams could ensue.
Into the din of shouts, orders, curses, popping whips, bawling animals and the rattle, creak and screech of wagons, a woman’s scream penetrated.
Abel grabbed his rifle and ran to see what was wrong. He rounded the Thompson wagon and slid to a halt not ten feet from a band of seven Indians clustered in the snow-dusted clearing, as tense as startled deer and just as ready to bound in seven different directions.
Jeffries, the wagon master, came striding up. ” Don’t nobody do anything rash. Lower that rifle Mister Thompson. Trading’s what they’re after. This is a sort of welcoming committee, see. They probably want to check us out and see if we intend to stick around. We might oughta let ’em think we’re just passing through. Say we’re headed north. ”
" Why lie to them? ” Abel asked. ” They’ll find out different soon enough. ”
" We can stall’ em until late spring, ” Jeffries said.
" But these people are going to be our neighbors, ” Jessica said.
" Ma’am, to Injuns a neighbor’s somebody you steal stuff from. ”
" And what is a white man, Mister Jeffries, a liar with no honor? We are making a first impression here and it could be lasting. ”
Jeffries voice was clipped with curtness. ” I’m not concerned with lasting impressions, Mizz Helman. My concern is making sure you folks live to see your first crops. But, out of respect to your feelings, ma’am, I’ll try to avoid the
Jeffries stepped forward and clasped his hands in front of him with the back of the left hand down – the symbol for peace. One of the Indians advanced a tentative step and returned the sign and then held up both hands and struck them past each other in a semi-circle – the sign for trade.
Jeffries gesticulated in sign as he spoke aloud in English so everyone would know what was transpiring. ” Good. We want trade too. ” The Indian spoke in a mixture of French and broken English as well as sign. ” Need sugar, glass, blankets. ”
" Have glass, ” Jeffries said. He assumed they meant mirrors. ” No sugar, no blankets. Long trip. We are very poor (he held up his left index finger and scratched downward on it with his other index finger – the sign for poor). Trade bag almost empty. ” He turned to Abel and John and muttered, ” Damn! We don’t have much to trade’em. ”
The rest of the wagon train members were edging closer to the proceedings. Children crowded forward and peered through the legs of the adults.
" You folks back up, please. ” Jeffries said. ” Mitchell, you and Vincent take a few men and stake out a watch. There’s prob’ly more of ’em out there. ”
Jeffries faced the Indian spokesman again. The Indian pointed to Jeffries’ sidearm and asked, ” Have guns? Boo-lets? ”
Jeffries’ eye twitched noticeably. He had hoped they would not ask this. Personally, he trusted Indians as far as he could kick them. He wasn’t about to sell the devil firewood.
" No guns or bullets. ” Jeffries said. ” Need for long journey. ”
The Indians conferred for a moment and the spokesman again stepped forward, ” Need guns…hunt, ” the brave repeated stubbornly.
Jeffries features hardened. ” No guns, chief. ”
The Indians huddled again. The spokesman returned. He made the sign for fire and cupped his hand and brought it to his mouth meaning water.
Abel grimaced. He was the only one on the train with any whiskey and he really hated like hell the thought of giving it up after a year and a half of hoarding it.
Jeffries hesitated a few seconds and scanned the faces of the men in the crowd, then he turned to the Indian and said, ” Have firewater. We trade. Come. “ He held his left fist out in front of him and tapped it twice with his right palm. “ We smoke. “ He gestured toward the cook fire and the crowd parted for them.
The Indians held a quick conference and the spokesman said in sign, ” I smoke. Trade. They stay. ”
Jeffries led the young buck to the smoldering ashes of the morning cook fire where they squatted. He removed a huge pipe from his inner coat pocket the bowl of which was intricately carved into the face of a mariner, tapped it on his boot heel and stuffed it with the dregs of his tobacco. After stoking the pipe, he handed it to the Indian, who inhaled it deeply, coughed a little and handed the pipe to John Helman.
Mitchell returned and whispered something in Jeffries’ ear. John handed the pipe to Abel, As Abel took a drag, Jeffries said just above a whisper, ” Now Abel, I know you got some corn liquor hidden away somewhere. I’ve known you too long to think you’d go anywhere without it. I’m sorry. I really am, but we ’re going to have to have at least a jug or we just might not make it to the bottom down there. ”
" Dammit, Jim, ” Abel said, ” there’s only five of them and they got no guns. We don’t have to give them anything. It sets a bad example. ”
" Abel, don’t be foolish. There’s a lot more where these come from. These are just kids looking to have some fun. Besides, Mitchell just told me there’s a bunch more skulking around out in the woods. This could get real sticky here any minute. If we were to kill one of these young bucks, you’d never have a moment’s peace in this valley. I’ve seen things like this get outta hand quicker n’ who flung the chunk. We still got a chance at diplomacy here. You know I hate to order a friend around, but we got to have that whiskey. ”
" Well, hell, ” Abel protested, ” it seems to me you might as well give’em guns as liquor. I’ve been guarding that jug with my life. It’s like a kid to me. I haven’t allowed myself to so much as smell it since we left St. Louis. You don’t know what you’re asking. Offer them horses. I would just as soon give them Shyleigh if I have to, but not my shine. ”
" We can’t spare any horses, you know that Abel. Now don’t be difficult. Go get that whiskey unless you want a lot of innocent blood on your hands. You willing to risk your future here over a bottle of moonshine? ”
Abel was at a loss. How could he ever make them understand what this meant to him? It was deep and went back generations. This was Kentucky corn brewed by his Uncle Buck. Buck is long gone now and so is the recipe. It was ten years old when he headed west. This is about family and sacred tradition. It’s like the Bible itself to him - thick with the blood of his ancestors. Besides, he had a prearranged deal with the Lord. They were going to sit down and get soused together, just he and Jesus. Now how could he explain that to all these people. The thought of being bamboozled by these punks out of his last jug of Kentucky Shine made his blood boil. Abel remained sullen and silent as everyone awaited his next move.
" At least ask them if they’ll take a horse or a cow, ” Abel said.
Jeffries and Abel continued to argue in forceful whispers as the pipe completed its first round. Jeffries reloaded the pipe, lit it and sent it on its way again, and then asked the Indian reluctantly, ” Only one jug of firewater. How about good horse? ”
The Indian frowned and fidgeted impatiently and shook his head. ” No good…Many horses. ”
" Well then… how about…” Jeffries turned and spoke out of the corner of his mouth to Abel, ” We don’t have anything else to offer them, Abel. This here’s turning into a big scene. You’re making me look like a fool. Get the damn
Abel was silent for a moment and then said, ” The organ. ”
Jessica gasped, along with some of the other women. ” Abel James, you wouldn’t! ”
" Jessica, it doesn’t even work. ”
" It can be fixed. That organ is for the church. Have you lost your mind? God would be disappointed in you. ”
Abel flinched. This statement hit him too close to home. He certainly did not want to let God down. ” Oh well, hell, forget about the organ, ” he muttered.
The Indian was clearly offended and a bit amazed that a woman had insinuated herself into the trading and scowled at her like she was a talking horse.
" No organ, ” Jeffries said. He tried to convey in sign that the man and his wife could not agree. The Indian nodded as if he understood, but he did not.
Abel thought of a stalling tactic. ” Let’s see what they have to trade. We haven’t seen what they have to trade yet. ”
Jeffries shot Abel an impatient glare and said, ” Uhhh…What you trade? “
The spokesman gestured to his cohorts and said something in his own language. Two of them went into the woods and returned carrying a large game bag. They set the bag down in the trampled snow around the fire pit. At the request of the spokesman, the two Indians cut the rawhide straps securing it shut and emptied the contents out on the ground.
A cry of surprise arose from the wagon train members who had fudged forward again. There writhing on the ground like a wounded snake was a beautiful, young Indian woman, bound and gagged. She was fully clothed and appeared to be unharmed except for the chafing discomfort of her leather bindings.
Several of the white men instinctively went for their guns. None of them were going to stand by and see a woman mistreated, regardless of her color. The Indians took a threatening step forward and reached for their own weapon
Jeffries, who was accustomed to this kind of trade, saw there was a bit of a communication problem and spoke up quickly. ” Hold steady! “ his voice rang out. “You men put those guns away. This here’s a fair and tradable item to these guys. She’s not one of their own. Everybody just stay calm. Abel, get that liquor. Now! ”
Abel did not need any more convincing. He hustled off to the wagon and from beneath some boards in the back removed a wooden crate. He grabbed a claw hammer and ran back to the trading circle, pried open the crate and took out a cane wrapped jug and blew it clean of sawdust packing. He held it up and kissed it and whispered, ” Sorry, Jesus, ” and handed it over to Jeffries.
" Untie woman, “Jeffries signed. “ Firewater yours. ”
As soon as the Indians cut her bindings and sheathed their knives, she turned on them with the fury of a wildcat, drawing blood from the faces of two of them before they could restrain her.
" You take! You Take! The Indian shouted as he struggled to hold onto the woman and sign at the same time. “
Jeffries smiled and his tobacco stained teeth flashed yellow in the sunlight. ” Well take her Abel. She’s all yours. ”
Abel was flabbergasted. ” What are you saying Jeffries? Don’t fool around now. Take the woman and let’s get this over with. You made the deal. ”
" But it was your possession that sealed the deal. These Injuns know that as well as you and me. They take these things seriously. Take the woman so they don’t feel insulted. The rules of the game say you have to take responsibility for what you trade for. ” Jeffries chuckled. ” Looks like you bought yourself a wild Injun
One of the women spoke up. ” Well, somebody get the poor woman away from the heathens. ” A number of people chimed their agreement.
" Ohhhhh, all right, ” Abel said. ” Give me a hand here John, will you? ”
After an embarrassing struggle, Abel and John were able to forcibly take the woman into their possession and the Indians grabbed the whiskey and made a hasty retreat into the forest.
Jeffries tried to explain to the Indian woman that they meant her no harm, but she either could not understand or would not believe them. She fought them tooth and nail and resisted the white women even more violently. Finally, they had no recourse but to tie her up again until they could decide what to do with her.
" Well, you got us into a good one this time, Jeffries, ” Abel said.
Jeffries snorted. ” The way I figure it, I got us out of one. ”
" What do we do with her? ”
Jeffries shrugged. ” Got me. All I know is we need to get rolling. Put her in a wagon and we’ll deal with her later. She’ll probably come round when she realizes we aren’t going to hurt her or make her a slave. ”
" Aye, ” Mack said, ” that seems like the only thing we can
" Right, uh-huh. And whose wagon do we put her in? Mine, I suppose. ”
" Well, all the other wagons are filled to the brim with kids. You’re the only one in the train with a second wagon. I guess you are the most likely ones to carry her. ” This said, Jeffries shrugged and walked away to tend to his duties, leaving Abel and Mack to deal with the Indian woman.