Topic #42: Phrase - "Sweat Lodge Visions"
|Listening To The Spirits by: Ty
||A Peek At What Lies Ahead by: Nina
|Visions Of A Man by: Jo
||Aftermath by: Cindy
|A Choice by: Lori
||What Cody Sees by: Dede
|What The Eye Sees by: Debbie
||Wave Goodbye by: Nina
Note: This story takes place after the episode The Sacrifice.
Buck sat alone on the corral fence, watching the unbroken horses mill about inside. They looked as restless as he felt. A restlessness that he had felt for several days now and it continued to grow.
Two days ago he had offered to do Cody’s chores, hoping that chopping wood might relieve him of the nagging sensation of need he felt, but need for what he couldn’t say.
Yesterday he had taken Jimmy’s run. Thinking that maybe he just needed to get away from the bunkhouse and ride hard, but that hadn’t helped either. In truth it seemed to make the feeling worse.
“Son, you look about as peaceful as a bear sitting on a campfire. You got somethin’ that needs said?” Buck nearly fell off the fence in surprise, he hadn’t even been aware of Teaspoon’s approach, another indication that things weren’t normal and he wasn’t his usual self.
“Teaspoon I don’t know what’s wrong. I’m restless and the feeling increases everyday.” Buck replied, his confusion evident on his face.
“Well son maybe The Spirits are tryin’ to tell you somethin’ and you ain’t payin’ attention.” Teaspoon counseled him. “Why don’t ya go spend the day in the sweatlodge. Maybe you’ll hear ‘em better in there.”
“I maybe you’re right, I guess I haven’t been spending as much time listening to them as I should.” Buck admitted with a sigh. “Thanks, Teaspoon.”
“You take care of yourself son, I’ll keep the boys away until after supper.” Teaspoon said as he patted Buck’s shoulder before he walked away.
Buck took one last look at the horses, before he headed to the sweatlodge.
The air was heavy with a slowly swirling vapor, it was thin but thickening as it spun. At first it seemed to fill the whole lodge but then it slowly coalesced into a single shapeless mass. As Buck watched the mass became less amorphous, taking on more of a human appearance, the human form slowly taking on the distinct features of a woman, an older woman in her late 70’s early 80’s.
The woman looked at him with eyes he felt he should recognize “Hello Buck, may I join you?”
Hastily attempting to get to his feet, Buck replied “Yes ma’am, please have a seat.”
She waved him back down, as she seated herself across the fire-pit from where he sat. “Oh Buck, I had forgotten just how proper you were around the ladies even at such a young age.” she said with a soft laugh.
He knew that laugh! It was Lou’s laugh, older but definitely Lou’s.
“Lou? Is that you?” he asked just to make sure he was right.
“Yes Buck it’s me. I’ve come to ask for your help. Please don’t turn your back on my husband.” She asked in a pleading voice. Before he could answer or even question her statement she continued.
“I know that his actions during and after the war will hurt you and your Kiowa brothers as well as the other Indian Nations, but I beg you to find it in your heart to, if not forgive him at least to try to understand why he did what he did. If you do not turn away from him in his time of need. I know he will bring some good into this world to make up for the evils he helped to create. He will use his Show to benefit the Indians and to make the world understand them and our home land more fully. You taught him to believe in The Spirits, and I think he always secretly believed that the early deaths of our only son and second youngest daughter were some form of payment for his deeds. The death of our son devastated him, had it not been for the Show; and your friendship and support, I think I would have lost him as well. When our oldest died I almost lost him a second time but again only you kept him sane. We loved each other dearly, but he knew he was not the first or greatest love in my life, and I knew I was not his. Because of this I could not have kept him at my side without your help. I thank the heavens that our youngest out lived her father if only by one year, he would not have survived the death of all four of our children. Buck, I beg you do not turn your back on William Cody in his time of need because of what he did.” She concluded, her hands held in supplication.
“Cody! You married Cody? What about Kid?” Buck howled in disbelief.
“Buck, I did marry Kid. He was killed during one of the closing battles of the war. William and I named our son Kit after him. William always called me Louisa because he knew how hard it was for me to be called Louise after Kid died, and Lou was no longer appropriate. Despite the tragedies of the deaths of our children, William and I had a good life together, and you were part of that life but only if you do not turn away from him in those critical years after the war. He needs you. I need you.” her voice and eyes begged for Buck’s assistance.
A second form appeared in much the same way as Lou had, however this time the figure was more easily identified, it was Kid. “Buck, for Lou’s sake I ask you to please give Cody the support, forgiveness and love he needs. Help him to give Louise the life I was not meant to give her. Take care of both of them for me.”
Both apparitions quickly faded, as Buck heard one final plea. “Buck, please help William.”
Heading back to the bunkhouse Buck noticed Kid and Cody sitting side by side on the fence rail, just where he had been sitting earlier when he talked with Teaspoon. “Another sign.” he thought as he watched them teasing Noah for getting thrown yet again by the sorrel mare he was trying to break.
His heart contracted a bit when he remembered Lou telling him that Kid would die in the coming war but as he watched a peacefulness that he hadn’t felt in a long time fell over him. He knew that it was meant to be, and he knew he would be there for both Lou and Cody when the time came that he was needed. He just hoped that the pain Lou had warned him was also coming would not overwhelm him. Well Lou had warned him and knowledge of a problem was the first step to overcoming that problem, so he would endure for her sake as Kid had asked.
He turned from the corral and headed for the bunkhouse. He mounted the steps to the porch as Lou came through the door. “Hi Buck, Teaspoon said you were using the sweatlodge. I hope you were successful in talkin’ with your Spirits?” she asked with a smile.
Buck wanted to soften the blow of Kid’s death before it had even happened but he knew it wasn’t his place to reveal the knowledge to her, or that of her future with Cody. So he simply smiled and said “Yes, I was. I just want you to know that I will always be there for you and your husband whenever you need a friend.”
“Thanks Buck, I’m sure Kid will appreciate that. My husband will need a good friend like you. See ya at supper.” She said as she ran down the steps and across the yard.
As Buck watched, she pushed her way between Cody and Kid to take her place on the rail, sandwiched between them. He couldn’t help but say softly to her back “I know they will Lou. I’ll always try to be a good friend to both of them, and you too.”
“Now that’s better.” That was the last thing Jimmy heard before he passed out. The heat, combined with the suffocating thick air in the sweatlodge had gotten the better of him.
Why Teaspoon had brought him here in the first place was beyond him. Longley had insulted his mother. And there’s an unwritten law about insulting another man’s mother. You just don’t do that. Nothing more, nothing less.
Jimmy awoke in a strange bed in a strange room. He had a pounding headache, from too much drinking the night before, Jimmy concluded. But wait, he haven’t been drinking since that one time he and Brad had snuck into the Judge’s liquor cabinet and gotten miserably drunk in the process of looking for a good time.
While doing his morning routine; stretching, groaning, rolling over and trying to catch some more sleep, he noticed that he wasn’t alone in the bed. There was a woman with him, but he didn’t know her. She was a whore, he knew that much about her. But nothing else. Why he was sharing a bed with a whore he didn’t even know the name of was beyond him. His mother HAD NOT raised him in the gutter, despite what Longley had said.
Jimmy sat up and pulled his long john on. He had found them discarded on the floor. Stretching his bones again, he got up and walked over to the washstand, looking at himself in the mirror.
“Man, what bet did you lose?” Jimmy questioned himself, referring to the goatee and mustache that covered his mouth.
Suddenly the floor caved in on him. He fell for what felt like forever until he finally ended up in a lively saloon. He had never seen the saloon either. Though it wasn’t much of one, it was still a saloon. There was a piano in one corner, but no one was playing.
He was fully dressed now, thank God. Jimmy walked over to the bar and tried to order a cheese sandwich and sarsaparilla, but the bartender treated him like he was air.
“He can’t see ya.” Jimmy heard a voice say.
“What?” Jimmy turned around to see Teaspoon. A much older Teaspoon than the one he was used to. “What’s going on here?!?” Jimmy demanded.
“Glad to see you fully dressed. You’re getting to see your future if you don’t turn your life around.” Teaspoon calmly explained. “That’s you right there.” Teaspoon pointed to a man sitting with his back against the door.
“How come I feel so old?” Jimmy asked, he felt like his knees was going to cave in on him and he had to hold onto the bar not to fall over.
“You’ve been living a harder life than your body can handle.” Teaspoon pointed out.
“So what am I doing in here? I mean, what’s he doing in there?”
“Wait and see.” Teaspoon leaned back, as if he was preparing to enjoy the show.
Jimmy observed for some time, but nothing really happened. The whores went about their business and the bartender poured drinks to the costumers that were visible.
With a gasp Jimmy woke up.
“Running Buck, it is time.” Red Bear called to his younger half brother.
Cautiously Running Buck looked up at his brother. This was the moment he had dreaded for the last few days. The summer solstice was only a few days away and the warriors were preparing themselves for the Sun Dance. This required all the men that would join in the hunt to participate in a cleansing Sweat Lodge before the dance could begin. The Man of Dreams had begun preparing himself first and had a disturbing vision. In his vision he’d seen the young half white brother of Red Bear on the hunt beside his brother and the young man had fallen. The Man of Dreams requested that Red Bear and Running Buck join him in the Sweat Lodge. This would be Running Buck’s first time in the lodge and he was nervous. He knew the ceremony, the jobs of the participants and the herbs used. He’d gathered the sage, tobacco, cedar and beaver grass they would need. Red Bead had assured him he would do well. Running Buck wasn’t sure. Little Bird had also been encouraging but the hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach remained. “Yes, Red Bear,” was the best he could manage.
His clothing was shed and he entered the sweat lodge with his brother two other tribal elders and the Man of Dreams. Running Buck knew the elders did not approve of him taking part in the hunt but he was twelve summers old and all the other boys his age had already been on at least one hunt. Red Bear had insisted and the Elders had relented. He sat there as the ceremony began, the cedar and beaver grass were added to the water and the tobacco was placed on the fire. The rocks were brought in and glowed red. The air became heavy, hot and humid, the water was poured over the rocks and the steam surrounded him. He drank from the ceremonial bowl and smoked the pipe with the men. His thoughts began to swim around in his head.
He saw a large building with many children; he was one of the children. He saw two pieces of wood a long one and a shorter one tried together near the top of the longer one but the shorter one was almost perfectly centered. He didn’t know what that was. He saw a boy with no hair or mouth riding a horse and waving at him. He waved back but had an over whelming feeling of sadness. He saw a man with two guns, a blond man with a fringed top, a boy that was a girl and a young man holding her. He saw the eagle flying over him taking him away from the village and a pit of snakes. He saw himself in white man’s clothing kissing a blond woman. He felt pain and sadness, joy and happiness, fear and courage. He saw himself on the hunt beside his brother he saw himself covered in the blood of the animals that gave themselves so the village could survive the winter. He saw his brother holding him and later holding a bear’s claw dripping with his blood from a gash on his bare chest. He heard his brother say you are dead to me.
He heard someone screaming and realized it was himself. He was curled on the floor of the lodge his brother was holding him and speaking softly to him. Slowly Running Buck became aware of his surroundings and the people near him. He’s made a fool of himself and was certain that he would be left in the village while the others went on the hunt. He’d felt there was going to be a problem during the hunt too, but he’d seen a man he assumed was himself a few years older. He was confused and looked to his brother and the Man of Dreams for help.
“Running Buck, we have seen you travel through this life time and you will grow older yet. You have many trials to face and they will lead you far from the Kiowa and this village.” The Man of Dreams began to interpret the visions Running Buck had just seen. Running Buck was frightened and intrigued by the visions but he was more confused by what he didn’t see. He suddenly realized the Man of Dreams had stopped talking and everyone was looking at him. He swallowed hard.
Red Bear patted him on the shoulder, “You will come with me on the hunt and together we will help feed our family and the village. You will be alright you have learned many skills and now you put them to use.” Red Bear was smiling. He’d been fearful of Running Buck’s death but it was not seen for this hunt or many that would follow. He’d seen his brother grow to be a man also. Yes, there would be hard times and he didn’t know why he was holding a bloody bear claw standing before his brother watching blood seep from a wound he’d just inflected. He had heard himself tell Running Buck he would mourn him but later saw him holding him and being filled with a sense of pride at whatever Running Buck had just done.
The Man of Dreams and the elders all had a feeling of foreboding surrounding the upcoming hunt but felt it was not associated directly with Running Buck and agreed he would be allowed to participate in the both the Hunt and the Sun Dance before the hunt took place. Red Bear brought Running Buck home that night and told his wife that she needed to prepare Running Buck’s things for the hunt also. Song Bird said she would teach Little Bird what need to be done so she would be able to perform these tasks for Running Buck once they were married.
The Sun Dance was successful and the warriors left on the hunt the next morning. It had been almost a half cycle of the moon since Running Buck had done the Sweat Lodge and he still had many questions. There just hadn’t been time to speak with the Man of Dreams. The warriors had all taken part in the cleansing sweat and then the Sun Dance took place over several days. The dawn found the warriors mounting their ponies and bidding good-bye’s to their families; they expected to be gone through the full moon.
Some of the woman would be going along to support the warriors Song Bird was among them, Little Bird was not. She had not yet learned to skin the buffalo and prepare the hides and meat for storage. She would learn soon. Running Buck felt there was something desperately wrong but couldn’t tell what. He spoke with Little Bird and she insisted he go on the hunt. He kissed her good-bye and she watched him ride away with the other men. They would not see each other again for years.
They knew something was wrong long before they reached the village. There was no smoke rising from cook fires, no children ran out to greet them as they rode closer. A few of the warriors rode on ahead, Running Buck and Red Bear among them. They found the village in ruins. The tipi’s were burned and there were dead bodies laying on the ground. Running Buck searched for Little Bird but didn’t find her. Slowly the survivors ventured out of their hiding places and told of white trappers attacking the village. They took anything of value and that included Little Bird. They killed many of the elders and a few of the children; all the male children had been killed.
The grief was overwhelming and the hatred turned on Running Buck, He was half white, HIS people had done this. He knew he couldn’t stay. He packed his few belongings including the knife Red Bear had given him for the hunt and left in the dead of night. He walked for days until hunger and sorrow threatened to drive him crazy. He found a place to sleep late one night when the sun had long since set, curled under the thin blanket he’d taken and cried himself to sleep. He prayed to die in his sleep, none of the visions were coming true; he’d never be a grown man.
The dawn didn’t wake him but the sound of children did. He followed the sounds to a small valley hidden by a low rise; when he crested it, he gasped. The building he had seen in his vision stood before him. He knew he was destined to go there and live out the rest of his vision. He sighed and began the short walk down to the place he’d seen in another life time. Childhood was over and the man was emerging with each step toward his future.
He sat in the shadows, waiting, watching the sweat lodge. He’d been there for hours, moving only to breathe, or occasionally to ease a cramp caused by his prolonged inactivity. His stomach was rumbling, asking for food, and his throat was desert dry. But he couldn’t leave his post now, not when he had waited secretly for so long already.
The men of the village were inside the sweat lodge, and had been since shortly after dawn, Now and then one or two of the men would step outside for a few minutes, but always they went back in.
It was almost dark now, and he knew they should be nearly done. The women of the village were cooking the evening meal.
The women . . .
It seemed like a lifetime ago as he thought about it now, but it was really only two days ago that the hunting party had been returning, triumphant in their quest to re-stock the tribe’s meat supply before the harsh winter set in.
Yes, just two days since he had felt, finally, as though he had earned some semblance of respect. Allowed to participate in his first full hunting party, he had acquitted himself well, bagging two large deer and a wild boar. The older men decried the absence of buffalo, but they also understood that they needed to feed the tribe, and they had been pleased. Red Bear had been undeniably proud of his little brother, but other men had noticed as well, even White Eagle.
He could still hear the great war chief’s words, praising young Running Buck as a fine hunter.
But that had been two days ago, and then everything changed.
As they neared the village, the advance scouts reported smelling smoke. Several of the younger warriors, including Red Bear, had hurried on ahead, while the older men and the boys were tasked with bringing in the spoils of the hunt. But even burdened as they were, the second group hurried as fast as they could go, fearing with every step what they might find.
They heard the voices well before they could see the village – voices wailing, crying, filled with sadness and anger. The sun had set, but they could smell the smoke – and a horrible odor of burned flesh carried on the breeze.
When they finally reached the village, the sight within the camp was almost too much to comprehend. Bodies were strewn everywhere – children, elders, women with babies still cradled in their arms. Tipis were knocked over and several had burned, the flames reaching out to touch some of the bodies that were burned almost beyond recognition.
Around the village, the few women and children who had been away from the camp were trying to tend to the wounded, and the dead. The warriors were crying out in rage, and yelling at White Eagle to immediately send out a war party after those who had committed this crime.
But the sheer extent of the atrocity before him convinced White Eagle to take care of his remaining people first, before deciding on revenge. Together with Spotted Wolf, the tribe’s medicine man, White Eagle gathered his people and set them to tasks. Most of the men were sent to dig graves – the dead would be buried with all appropriate ceremony the following day. The women were divided. Some would start to cure the meat the hunting party had procured – as hard as it was to think about just then, the remaining members of the tribe needed to survive the winter. The rest of the women, and the older children, were set the task of salvaging whatever buffalo skins they could, and whatever lodge poles were still whole and unburned. As well as food, the tribe needed shelter.
The youngest of the surviving children were placed in the middle of the camp, under a heavy warrior guard. The tribe could ill afford to lose any of them.
They worked most of the way through the night. Running Buck found himself helping to erect new tipis and then, just before dawn, he helped move the injured inside of the shelters. Through it all, everyone just worked automatically, barely even noticing who was around.
But as he worked, he looked always for a sign of her – and he found none.
The dead were buried the following day amid songs and prayers to Mother Earth and Father Sky.
And then the whispers started again.
The initial shock wore off, and the suspicion re-arose. He saw the looks directed at him, felt the eyes on his back, heard the whispers when no one knew he was there.
Somehow, even though he had been on the hunt, this was his fault.
Even White Eagle, who had so recently praised his hunting skill, refused to meet his eyes when they passed.
A small scouting band was sent out to try and track the men who had attacked the peaceful, unguarded village. And White Eagle had called the other men to the sweat lodge to form a new plan for the tribe.
Running Buck had taken up his position in the trees before dawn, and he watched the men enter. He kept track of who went in, who came out.
Because by now he knew she was gone.
All of the wounded had been tended. The dead had been buried – and Little Bird had not been among them.
Part of his heart was relieved. If he had found her among the dead, he was certain it would have broken his heart. After all, she was to have been his wife when they came of age. But he had checked each body, including those badly burned, and he knew she was not among them.
He’d mentioned this fact to Red Bear, but he wasn’t sure if his brother had really listened. After all, with so many true Kiowa dead, one missing white girl was unlikely to be considered very important . . .
Except by Running Buck.
And so he continued to watch.
The evening grew darker and he edged closer, following the shadows as they reached toward the sweat lodge.
He hadn’t been invited to join the men, of course. Given the renewed whispers and distrust, he might well never be invited to join them. But he could wait.
Finally, they began to emerge. He counted them, making sure that all of the men he had seen entering the lodge left again now.
Even after the last man left, he still waited. Full night darkness fell around him as he watched and listened. When he was finally satisfied that he was alone, he gently eased to his feet, suffering silently as his stiff muscles protested. And then he slipped through the blackness and into the lodge.
A few embers still glowed in the fire pit and he carefully stirred them with a stick, bringing them back to life. Slowly he added some sticks, just enough to keep the fire burning. The people of the tribe wouldn’t be concerned by a little smoke continuing to come from the lodge for a while, but too much smoke might give his presence away.
He waited a few minutes, letting the fire re-heat the rocks. Then, drawing on the one time Red Bear had brought him to the sweat lodge, he added the cedar chips and dipped some water onto the rocks. The cedar-scented steam filled his eyes and lungs and he breathed deeply, letting it cleanse him.
By the light of the fire he located the bowl that contained the brew the men used to see visions. Red Bear had been evasive about what was in it, and had not allowed his little brother to try it before, but Running Buck knew what it was for.
And he desperately needed to be shown the way.
He lifted the bowl to his lips, draining the contents. There wasn’t much left, but he hoped it would be enough.
He poured more water on the rocks, feeling the cedar smoke start to burn his eyes, even as the steam made him relax.
For a few minutes, nothing seemed to be happening. He was beginning to wonder if he hadn’t drunk the right potion, when all of a sudden he felt it.
His head lolled to one side, seemingly too heavy for him to hold it up. With difficulty he raised his hand – and his eyes seemed to tell him that there were three hands in front of him.
Running Buck closed his eyes, trying to clear his mind, as he’d been instructed by Red Bear.
The images began then, at first flashing by so quickly he couldn’t keep up. But then, as though a veil had been lifted from his eyes, he began to see.
He saw an eagle, circling majestically high up in the sky. The eagle flew toward a large, light-colored rock. Except then the rock turned, and he could see it was really a man’s head, or maybe a boy’s – but a head with no hair.
Before he could consider what that meant, the eagle circled again, and now he saw a lodge – a white man’s lodge, but larger than any he had seen. The vision turned, and the building became two pieces of wood, on crossed on top of each other. And it was surrounded by tall rocks, black and white rocks, but maybe they weren’t really rocks, they seemed to be reaching out hands to him, and rocks didn’t have hands . . .
The eagle called out and flew on as he struggled to follow its flight. Now it circled another white man’s lodge. This one had many horses around it, and then he saw someone riding one of those horses, flying almost as fast as the eagle across the land. And somehow he knew it was him on that horse, but he didn’t know what he was doing, or what it was that he was wearing . . .
The eagle flew higher and now he saw a star, a star surrounded by gray leaves. But maybe the leaves were hair, because there was almost a face, and another hand, holding a star out toward him. He reached for it, but the vision dissolved . . .
And then she was there.
He saw Little Bird in his vision. She was older than when he’d last seen her, though his mind wasn’t sure just when that had been. But there was no doubt that it was her, and she was reaching out toward him . . .
The eagle called out again, circling higher and higher. He followed the bird with his eyes, trying to understand.
He felt his body falling to one side, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He opened his eyes, noting the small fire still burning. Briefly, he had a clear thought that he should pour more water on the stones, but his body refused to do as bidden. His eyes closed again . . .
The eagle was back, but this time flying so low it seemed like he could almost touch the golden feathers. He reached out his hand, surprised to find that he had, indeed, caught the great bird, and was being pulled along. Beneath his feet, the ground rushed by. And ahead – ahead, he could see the sun rising, coloring the eastern sky with its morning colors.
He didn’t know where he was going, but the eagle flew on, directly into that rising sun . . .
When he opened his eyes again, the fire had gone out. The smoke and steam had cleared, and the inside of the sweat lodge was cold. But there was light coming in between the strips of hide over the opening.
Slowly, shakily, he got to his feet and stumbled out. He searched the sky for the eagle, but it was nowhere in sight. There, to the east, however, the sun was rising – rising with the same majesty and color as the vision in his head.
Running Buck sat down, leaning against a tree, and watched the sunrise. Beyond, in the camp, he could hear people rising and beginning to prepare for the new day. But his eyes were only on the horizon.
He didn’t know yet what the bald head, or the big lodge, or the black and white rock people, or the star, or the horses might mean. But there was one thing he was now sure of.
He was meant to leave this place, and go toward the rising sun.
The thought made him both excited and sad. He would miss Red Bear, but if this was really the path toward finding Little Bird again, he knew he must take it.
He stood up and walked over to the horses, quickly separating his animal from the rest. And it didn’t take long to pack what little he owned. Whatever he hadn’t had with him on the hunt was now gone.
In the main part of the village he could hear the men starting to chant. That must mean that White Eagle had decided to take the warriors and go after the men who had ransacked the camp and killed the people.
But even if he stayed, he wouldn’t be invited to be a part of that.
He looked over and saw Red Bear watching him. For a moment he was tempted to tell his brother good-bye, but then Red Bear raised his hand in greeting and turned away quickly to join the other men.
Running Buck watched for another few minutes, letting the sights and sounds of the village settle in his memory and in his soul. The vision hadn’t shown him if he would ever be back, so wanted to remember.
He led his horse silently away from the village. Finally, after rounding a rocky outcrop, he mounted and turned to follow his vision.
Just then, the sun came up fully over the horizon, lighting his way.
It all started with a simple statement. Jimmy couldn’t remember it, no matter how hard he thought about it later on. It was some off-handed remark someone had made as they were getting ready to bunk down for the night after Emma and Teaspoon had left. Buck had made a comment in reply to the banter that night about vision quests. And somehow, the discussion turned from lighthearted, the joking of young men on the verge of sleep, to a serious discussion full of earnest questions and opinions that had kept them up long into the night.
Jimmy seemed to recall that the tide shifted with Cody. He’d been half joking that he’d love to know his fate, but after once offending Buck and tempting the Kiowa’s Gods, he’d quickly settled down. It had been a bit of a surprise to everyone, especially to Buck who remained skeptical through most of the discussion as if he kept expecting Cody to make some joke and roll over to go to sleep. Yet Cody had been in earnest and asked, as respectfully as he could – which in truth hadn’t been very respectful but Buck hadn’t taken offense because he sensed the intent was true even if the words were a bit awkward – whether such a thing could be done for someone who wasn’t a Kiowa. Could the herbs that Buck had mentioned and the ceremony be done for someone else who truly wanted to know?
Buck hadn’t seemed to know what to answer right away, his faith was important to him even if he wasn’t as closely connected to his people anymore. But Cody didn’t cajole and beg, he earnestly asked. This led Ike to ponder the same question, and it was just Jimmy and Kid who remained mostly silent. But when Cody turned to them and asked if they weren’t curious about what the future held, Kid had admitted, if a bit reluctantly and almost embarrassedly, that he was curious about his future. Jimmy wasn’t especially curious, but as he had no real objections to the whole proposed suggestion he merely shrugged and said he supposed.
Nothing was decided upon that night, but Jimmy often spotted Cody and Buck together, the blond rider earnestly asking if the other had given any further thought to their conversation. Sometimes Jimmy believed that Buck finally agreed mostly just to silence Cody. But Cody’s demeanor remained serious and, in fact, eager for Buck to get things ready. Since Lou hadn’t been part of the original discussion, nobody really thought to include the small rider. And Kid, who was the boy’s biggest protector, didn’t seem eager for him to join in, so nobody else really spoke up.
At length, Buck declared that he had the necessary ingredients, now all that they needed was to find a time to perform the ceremony. None of them seemed eager to do it while Emma was there, and they would prefer not to do it while Teaspoon was there, but they were more anxious for the station mother to be gone. Then they received information that seemed to shine a light of good fortune on their plans. Emma was going to visit a friend in South Pass, and Lou was going to accompany her. They were all due back from their runs during the course of the day and they would all be there at night. Buck declared that the timing was as good as they would get.
It seemed to get even better when Teaspoon headed into town for dinner with Sam. Since they were all supposed to forgo eating before the ceremony, they passed on the invitation to go with their stationmaster saying they had plans that night and would get supper for themselves. He arched a quizzical eyebrow at them but, in the end, shrugged his shoulders and accepted their explanations.
Once they were sure he was gone, Buck gathered up the supplies and led them out to the sweat lodge Teaspoon built. Jimmy didn’t remember much of the ceremony; the herbs that were used were mostly foreign to him and the chanting Buck intoned lightly as they sat around the fire didn’t make any sense to him, he just passively watched the events. In truth, he was a bit skeptical. He didn’t really expect to see any vision about his future. It wasn’t that he thought Buck’s beliefs were wrong or even ridiculous, he just didn’t hold much stock in them. If the others thought they’d find something out about their lives that was fine. He didn’t have anything else to do; he was merely there with the others.
How he wished his detachment to the evening had remained in tact. He wished that he’d just sat there, watched everyone else, and then left the lodge and gone back to the bunkhouse to fall asleep. Instead, he’d been cursed with a vision. He glimpsed his life…and he dearly wished he hadn’t.
Cody had been full of excitement afterwards, talking about seeing himself as a man who people knew, a showman and adventurer who won fame, and, as his final scenes played out, hundreds had wept at his funeral. Most of the riders scoffed, thinking that it was just another Cody exaggeration, a tall tale, and that he only saw what he wanted to see. But he resolutely held to his claims and swore this was just what he needed to convince him that the ideas he’d been having about the theatre and taking the West back east for the people to see was the path he was destined to follow.
Kid had quietly spoke of his home being ravaged by war and fighting and that he’d followed his heart and had gone home to defend Virginia. It didn’t seem to matter to him that he was wounded in the effort, he felt it was the noblest thing he could do to defend the place that he grew up. But he was quiet afterwards, and the rest of them got the sense that whatever he’d seen had been sufficiently disturbing and they didn’t press him on it.
Ike was shaken by his vision, as was Buck when the mute rider described what he’d seen. Ike would supposedly leave them all too soon in his young life, a danger they knew they all faced, but he would find love before he left. Nobody liked the thought of what Ike described, and Cody asked if what their visions told them would happen, or just might happen. Buck said it was hard to say. Most of the time the Spirits wouldn’t show something unless it would come to pass, but sometimes they showed things as a warning to others, so that choices could be made to avoid the outcome. Sometimes though, in spite of trying to alter life’s course, the vision would come about, because it had been predestined.
Jimmy didn’t like that thought, and his anger bubbled forth. He claimed that man made his own way and life could always be altered and changed, things didn’t have to happen just because they’d had a vision or a dream. This had led the others to suspect that he’d seen something he didn’t want to happen, but he just shook his head…and lied. He said he didn’t see anything, but by listening to everyone else he was glad he didn’t. All they saw was death and doom, and only Cody’s bravado and bragging had led him to something that could be positive. But then Cody was always a happy man, so of course his fantasies were going to be cheerful.
He knew he’d upset the others, especially Buck, with his talk, but he quickly left the sweat lodge and wandered down towards the creek. He needed the cool, refreshing night air to clear his mind and to act as a balm to his troubled heart. He just wanted to forget what he saw, and until he could, he knew he wouldn’t be able to face the others.
The slight rustle of leaves and a twig snap revealed to him that he wasn’t alone anymore and he took a deep breath to fortify himself for the questions he knew would come. He expected it to be Kid come to chastise him for belittling Buck’s beliefs when the Kiowa had been kind enough to submit to their curiosities. Instead, it was the half-breed himself that sat down on the bank beside Jimmy. He didn’t say anything, just sat in companionable silence as the sound of the water slipping over the rocks and the wind carrying the notes of a lonesome whip-o-will surrounded them.
“Your vision was disturbing, wasn’t it?” Buck finally asked, low as if not to shatter the semblance of peace around them.
“I told you, I didn’t see nothing,” Jimmy said defensively.
“As I told the others, just because you see something, doesn’t mean that it will happen. You were right, Jimmy, we always have a choice about the way our lives will go. The Spirits sometimes show us what could be, sometimes they show us what will be, but it’s hard for us to know. My brother said we should always act as if we’ve been shown what could be and then act to either help bring it about, or prevent it from happening if it’s something we fear or dread.”
Jimmy said nothing, just sat in contemplation of the words his friend had said. After a long moment he sighed and ran his hand over his thigh. “I…I hope that this never happens to me, Buck.”
The other man nodded, and said, “Then you must do all that is in your power to make sure that it doesn’t.”
Turning to finally look at him, Buck seemed surprised by the soft-spoken question of intensity. “Not knowing what you saw, Jimmy, it’s hard to answer that. That’s something you’ll have to figure out for yourself, unless you want to-“
“No,” he cut in, quickly and decisively. “I don’t want to tell anyone. Somehow, the thought of just saying it out loud…”
“Ah,” Buck nodded. “You saw your death. Ike was reluctant to speak about his as well.”
He stood and then looked down at Jimmy. “Just remember, you always have a choice.”
Jimmy said nothing, just remained still and motionless as his friend sighed and then turned to head back to the station. A choice. Jimmy really hoped that was true. That he wasn’t destined to live his life by the gun, being challenged by men and then killed by someone who wanted the fame of killing Wild Bill. The only thing that frightened him was how he would know which choices to make – and most of all, if he’d be strong enough to make them – so that he didn’t end up shot in the back in a dusty saloon.
If his choices could change the way his life went…then maybe it was time he started paying a little more attention to the things Teaspoon was trying to teach him. Maybe he didn’t know everything, and could learn a few things from the others.
A/N: A twisted view of a sweat lodge visit! d;-)
"Sweat lodge - NOW!" Teaspoon bellowed, scaring the chickens from the yard.
The older man stormed off toward the destination without even a glance back to see that the boys were following. He knew they would. Abruptly, he stopped and quickly turned back, his demeanor changing as he smiled at Lou.
"Lou, son," he said, sweetly. His eyebrow arched as he pointedly looked at the other riders making sure they understood the implication. "You don't have to come if ya' don't want to."
"Oh, no," Lou growled, thrusting her bandaged, blistered hands forward. "I wouldn't miss this for the world." She glared at the boys, who, sensibly, hung their heads.
The boys had "volunteered" to do some odd jobs for a woman that had, unfortunately, just become a widow. Nothing really difficult, just basic jobs such as fixing the porch railing and steps, mucking out the stables, taking care of the animals and any other tasks that needed doing, anything to help the poor, elderly woman.
Lou was actually looking forward to the extra work. She figured it would get her mind off Kid and how their relationship was getting a bit more complicated, especially since everyone but Teaspoon knew about her secret. Now, he was embarrassed that everyone seemed to know about their outings. She really didn't care but, the way Kid went on about it, she thought it was good he had the run that day.
Since Emma had needed her, she told the others that she'd meet them there. She couldn't believe what she saw when she'd rode up to the Widow Murphy's just two hours later. No one. Not even Buck or Ike. Of course, she also couldn't tell Mrs. Murphy that the chores wouldn't get done. The homestead was in a sad state of disrepair.
So, Lou did what she always did, she pulled on her gloves and started working. Even her thick, leather gloves hadn't stopped the blisters from forming. It's not like she wasn't used to hard work but, normally, she had at least one other person, if not all the boys, helping. With every rub, she grew angrier and angrier, which made her work harder and harder, until she could barely move her hands.
She tried to continue but her hands wouldn't let her so she, feeling horrible, stopped and told the woman that she couldn't finish. Mrs. Murphy had brushed away Lou's apologies, saying, "You did a fine job," and "Boys will be boys," an adage Lou really hated the moment the woman said it. And not only did the elderly woman gush over the little bit Lou was able to do, she also demanded that Lou come in the house so she could take care of Lou's blistered hands. Lou was extremely embarrassed but the pain in her hands was so great that it won out so she agreed.
That was how Teaspoon found them, Mrs. Murphy bandaging Lou's raw hands. Needless to say, Teaspoon was furious, so much so that Lou thought he'd have a small buffalo right in Mrs. Murphy's parlor, though Mrs. Murphy didn't seem to notice. But, as always, he was a true gentleman; he sat, had tea and chatted about town news with the sweet lady and Lou.
Three cups of tea and over an hour's talk later, Teaspoon begged off, explaining that he and Lou had some Express business to take care of. Lou knew exactly what that business would be - expressly to get even with some layabouts. And that's where they were now.
"No, Teaspoon," Lou continued, as she walked with the older man towards the lodge. "I can offer you support." She grinned as she glanced back at the sheepish faces, none willing to look at her.
"Teeeeaspoooon," Cody moaned, "what about lunch? I'm..."
Rounding on the boy, Teaspoon wasn't going to let him finish his sentence. "I do NOT want to hear it. I do NOT care even if you're dyin' right now, in fact, you might be better off doin' so, b'fore I get a hold of you," Teaspoon paused, again looking at each boy, before continuing, "each and ev'ry last one of you."
"But I'm hungry and..."
"CODY!" Teaspoon rubbed his hand over his face. He couldn't believe the boy could be this thick. "I don't care!" He turned back and resumed his walk with Lou, which really was more of a gallop and Lou's short legs were having a time trying to keep up.
"I'm soooooo thirsty," Cody whined, though quietly, to Buck. "And it's way past lunch."
"Be quiet," Buck whispered. Buck quickened his pace to distance himself from Cody.
"Shut up!" Jimmy growled. "This is all your fault."
"What'd Buck do?" Cody asked, bewildered.
"Not Buck, you idiot," Jimmy said, wanting to kill Cody, "you. It's your fault, you fool."
"My fault?" Cody tried to whisper, but failed miserably. "What's that suppose ta mean? I didn't make you go inta' town to see that pretty new dressmaker, now did I?"
"Cody, jus' shut up!" Jimmy said, through clenched teeth. "You're the one that said 'Teaspoon won't mind if we go a bit later.'" Jimmy finished in Cody's whiney tone.
*That's a good impression,* Ike said, shoulders shaking with his silent laughter.
Buck laughed softly. He knew that it wouldn't take much to increase Teaspoon's ire, and if he caught them laughing, that would definitely finish them off.
"Ha, ha, Hickok," Cody scoffed, "aren't you funny. And he wouldn'ta minded if we'd jus' remembered ta go."
Jimmy, Buck and Ike exchanged glances. They hated to admit it but Cody was right. Since Lou was busy with Emma, Cody had convinced them that they could take time for themselves, meet at the station after a couple of hours and ride over to Mrs. Murphy's. No one would be the wiser.
Unfortunately, Jimmy had gotten caught up in his conversation with the beautiful new dressmaker, Betty Ann Birdseye. Ike had gone to the swimming hole to draw and Buck had followed to swim and relax. Time had just slipped away, each boy lost in his own world.
All three let out defeated sighs. Cody was right and there wasn't a thing they could do about it. And there certainly wasn't a thing they could do to stop Teaspoon. They stayed silent for the rest of the walk. That was until Cody started in again.
"Why'd he make us walk?"
Shaking his head, Buck raised his hand to silence Jimmy. He figured if they just ignored Cody, he'd shut-up on his own. This seemed to work because Cody didn't say another word and soon they arrived at the lodge.
"Stay here," Teaspoon ordered. He walked around the side of the sweat lodge as the boys waited uncomfortably.
Each one kept glancing at Lou, not knowing what to say to get her to forgive them. Though they were all upset over disappointing Teaspoon, it was Lou that had them really upset. It hadn't been that long since they'd found out that he was a she and, well, it was different disappointing a woman.
"Go in," Teaspoon yelled from the side.
"After you gentlemen," she chuckled, as she pulled back the flap.
"Thanks Lou," Jimmy said, sheepishly. "And, um," he stopped to stand in front of her, "I'm, well, I'm sorry."
"Yeah, we all are Lou," Buck said, coming up beside Jimmy, as Ike nodded his agreement.
"Aren't we Cody?" Jimmy glared at Cody, who was leaning against Ike like his legs couldn't hold his body weight.
Jimmy knew, in some way, this had to be Cody's fault. It just had to be. He watched as Ike shrugged Cody off. He'd talk to Ike and Buck about it later. Maybe Buck could figure it out.
"That's all fine and dandy," Teaspoon announced, walking up behind the boys with some kindling. "But he ain't the one to get ya' outta' this. I am." The boys turned toward Teaspoon as he finished, "and I ain't." With that announcement, he walked passed them and into the lodge.
"As I said," Lou smiled, this time with more sympathy, "after you."
The boys filed into the lodge and to their punishment - a Teaspoon-lecture.
"And you should embrace your duties to the townsfolk," Teaspoon intoned, droning on and on, "You represent the Pony Express. The best the Express has to offer, in my humble o-pin-e-yon. It should mean a lot to ya' and..."
"Oh shoot me now," Cody moaned where he sat behind Buck. He'd tried to get as far away from Teaspoon so he was sitting back where the stationmaster kept all the herbs, feathers, rocks and other necessities for his sweat lodge.
"Shhhh!" Buck whispered over his shoulder, though he did have to admit, they'd been in the lodge for a long time.
"Don't tempt me," Jimmy threatened.
"Buck," Cody said, leaning forward and placing his face against Buck's back. "I'm gonna die of thirst."
Buck jerked forward, trying to shake Cody off his back. "Just listen to Teaspoon."
"Are you kiddin'?" Cody said, incredulously, "I'm 'bout bored outta' my skull. If it tweren't for my hunger, I'd be asleep by now."
"I thought you were thirsty," Jimmy said, mimicking Cody on the last word.
"I am," Cody said.
The hungry rider grumbled to himself and, ignoring Jimmy's taunt, looked around at what he was sitting by. There was a whole assortment of bowls, cups and other pottery, as well as many types of herbs. Cody knew Buck would know what they were and whether they were edible but Buck would just tell Cody to be quiet so Cody looked around some more.
There it was. In his boredom, he found his salvation. A small, dark-brown bowl, more like a saucer with the edges slightly curved, containing water. Cody picked it up, staring at the contents. The water seemed shinier than normal but he figured it was his thirst making it look so.
"Well, at least my thirst'll be gone," Cody whispered to Buck, specifically not looking at Jimmy, who turned toward his talkative friend.
Buck glanced back, ready to tell Cody to shut-up, again, until he saw what Cody had in his hands. Buck twisted around so he was all but facing Cody.
"I wouldn't drink that if I were you," Buck warned.
"Well, you ain't me Buck and..."
"Thank God for that small favor," Jimmy baited, hoping Cody would drink the liquid, especially after seeing the look on Buck's face. Jimmy knew this was going to be good.
"And it's only water," Cody finished, raising the bowl to his lips.
"Cody, I'm serious," Buck said, though he really wasn't pushing the point and he wasn't sure why. That was, until he glanced over and saw that Jimmy seemed to be looking forward to whatever was going to happen to Cody. 'Well, who am I to stop someone from havin' a drink?' Buck shrugged his shoulders in acquiescence.
Grinning like a fool, Cody knocked back the liquid.
"See," Cody said, "I tol..."
Suddenly, his body was wracked by a coughing fit worse than anything Cody had ever experienced. His head felt all prickly and hot and he could barely catch his breath. He held his head in his hands, as the pain subsided. Thinking his troubles were over, he straightened up only to double over again when his stomach was seized by an attack of cramps. Grabbing his stomach, he fell to the ground.
Jimmy had jumped up as soon as Cody started coughing, thinking he'd just swallowed wrong. But one look at Buck told him that more was to come. And the "more" would be quick. He watched Cody fall so, taking a step forward, he bent over to try and help his friend.
"Buck? What should we do?"
Buck grimaced. He chastised himself for not knocking the bowl out of Cody's hands. He shook his head.
"There's not much to do. Just let it run its course."
"And what exactly is 'it?'"
Teaspoon was standing beside Buck with Ike and Lou peeking around him. Meanwhile, Cody's body was convulsing so violently that everyone took a step away from him.
"Well?" Teaspoon said, glancing from Buck to Jimmy and back.
"Um, Cody was, well, he kept complain' about bein' thirsty and, well," Buck tried to explain. He knew Teaspoon was going to be livid, mainly with him, because he should have known better and prevented Cody from drinking.
"He drank somethin' outta' this," Jimmy helped, handing Teaspoon the bowl.
"He did WHAT?" Teaspoon looked at the bowl immediately knowing what the boy had swallowed. "Lordy, Lord, Lord," Teaspoon muttered, mostly to himself.
"What is it?" Lou asked, taking a step toward Cody.
Cody was calming down, his body shivering slightly. He tried to pull himself onto all fours and was finally successful on the fourth try.
Before Lou's question was answered, Cody shook his head, slowly.
"Boy, that was not what I had in mind when I wanted a drink," Cody joked.
Breathing sighs of relief, Ike, Jimmy and Lou all chuckled. Only Buck and Teaspoon remained stone-faced. They knew it wasn't over.
Cody stood up and, as he stretched, a slow, seductive smile formed on his lips.
"Well now, I didn't know you were here," he said, walking, slowly, toward Buck.
Buck closed his eyes and shook his head. "Tsk, here we go."
He cast a sideways glance at Teaspoon who looked as grim as Buck felt. Buck was sure he knew what the mixture was, something to calm the senses but allow the mind to free itself of worldly thoughts and feelings. Something to open the mind and spirit to new thoughts. However, it was hard to know how one's mind would react to those new thoughts and what those new thoughts could be.
"What do ya'..." Lou started but the rest of her statement caught in her throat when she saw Cody's expression as he gazed at Buck. "He looks like he..." again, she was cut short. This time Cody's expression was directed towards her.
"Ah, Lulabelle," Cody crooned, "you do look radiant this evenin'."
Lou choked. What was Cody doing? And in front of Teaspoon no less. She didn't know what to do, so she looked over at Jimmy for help.
"Teaspoon," Jimmy said, not taking his eyes off Cody. "What is goin' on?" Seeing how Lou needed help, he called to his friend, "Cody, you're actin' crazy." It was the only thing he could think of.
Cody turned, his behavior changing immediately, as he faced Jimmy. Moving to stand in front of Buck, he quickly grabbed Lou and shoved her next to Buck.
"Don't worry ladies," Cody announced, pulling himself up to his full height. "I will protect and defend both your honors." He stared at Jimmy. "So, we meet again."
"What?" Lou looked at Buck, now seeing that he didn't look as surprised as everyone else was. "Buck," she whispered, "what is goin' on?"
Buck just silenced her with a shake of his head. Lou grunted, "Humph. I think I deserve ta know since it includes me." But Buck stayed silent.
"Um, Teaspoon what do I do?" Jimmy looked around trying to decide whether he should laugh or shoot.
Taking his gloves from his waistband, Cody walked up to Jimmy and slapped him twice across the face, once for each cheek.
Stunned, Jimmy didn't react at first, really not believing what had just happened. But that was only for a moment; soon Jimmy's eyes grew dark. He didn't know what was wrong with Cody and he really didn't care, what he did know was he wasn't going to stand for that.
"Teaspoon...you'd better do somethin'" Jimmy warned.
Ike came forward, thinking maybe he could help. He wasn't sure why Buck and Teaspoon just stood there but he agreed with Jimmy, this had to end. He made placating motions with his hands, trying, not only to calm Cody down, but also to get his attention away from Jimmy. Who, Ike was sure, just wanted to kill the crazy rider.
"And you," Cody murmured, as he turned to Ike and pointed at his bandana. "Silent Ike the Bald Pirate, the terror of the seas. Are you in cahoots with this..."
"Alright, that's it! I'm gonna' beat the sense right back inta' him!"
Before Jimmy could act on his threat, Cody's face changed to shear delight, an almost childlike expression.
"Is it really you?" he gasped, looking now at Teaspoon. "Davy Crockett?"
Teaspoon rolled his eyes. "Good grief, maybe I should let ya' knock him back to now," Teaspoon said to Jimmy. Unfortunately, Cody had other ideas.
"It is an honor Mr. Crockett," Cody said, walking up to Teaspoon and shaking his hand. Cody didn't let go. "I'm such a fan of your stories and, well, ah, what the heck," Cody said, blushing slightly. "I hope ya' don't mind but..." He looked around at everyone and did the last thing that anyone would have thought. Cody sang.
Stunned for just a moment, Jimmy, Lou and Ike exchanged glances before bursting into laughter. Cody stopped, an indignant expression on his face.
"Don't you laugh at this great man."
"We ain't laughin' at Davy, we's laughin' at you," Jimmy gasped out between bouts.
"I really wouldn't laugh at him," Buck said, trying to get them to understand that they really didn't know what Cody would do.
"Why thank you, Miss Amanda," Cody said, walking over to stand in front of Buck. Lifting his hand, he took a strand of Buck's hair and twirled it between his fingers. This sufficiently ended the laughter.
Clenching his jaw, Buck just stood there trying to keep from hitting Cody himself.
"He had best not be talkin' 'bout my daughter," Teaspoon growled. He looked over at Jimmy. "I believe you are right."
Grinning, Jimmy quietly walked up behind Cody and tapped him on the shoulder. Cody waved him away.
"I'm busy. I'm talkin' with Miss Amanda."
Confused, Jimmy looked at Teaspoon, unsure of his next move until he spotted Lou. Again, the grin appeared.
"Fine," Jimmy drawled, "I'll just take Lulabelle and have fun."
When Cody spun around to defend Lou's honor, Jimmy slammed his fist into the hero's jaw, putting Cody on the floor.
"There," Jimmy said, pleased with himself.
"Did ya' have ta hit him that hard?" Teaspoon said, arching his brow at Jimmy.
"Well, he's out ain't he?" Jimmy said in his defense, though he was shaking his already aching hand. He had to admit, it probably was a bit harder than he needed to but how often would he be allowed to belt Cody in that constantly moving mouth? He had to take advantage of the moment.
"Alright, just get him back to the bunkhouse so he can sleep this off," Teaspoon said, waving the boys toward Cody.
"What just happened?" Lou demanded. This had been just too weird for her and she wanted to know what had caused it.
"Well," Buck began, glancing at Teaspoon. "Cody drank something he shouldn't have." Buck looked down at the ground. "And I didn't stop him." He looked up, his expression so guilt-ridden.
"Naw, Buck," Jimmy said, "It wasn't your fault. You couldn'ta stopped Cody. Nobody can stop Cody from doin' somethin' stupid. It's in his nature." Jimmy grinned, trying to make Buck feel better.
"Jimmy's right," Teaspoon said, "Well, he's right about stoppin' Cody anyway. Cody does what Cody wants ta, and that'll make him or break him one day."
*So what was the stuff he drank?* Ike was as curious as Lou.
"It's," Teaspoon paused trying to think of how to explain it, "a mixture for openin' your mind." Seeing the expressions on the boys' faces, he knew they still didn't understand. "Buck, can ya' help me here?"
"It's sometimes used for visions but it, mostly, gives the person a different sense of what is real." He shrugged, not knowing how else to explain it.
"Yeah, well Cody definitely had a 'different sense of what is real,'" Jimmy chuckled, as he added, "Amanda."
Everyone laughed, including Buck. Shaking his head, he rolled his eyes and said, "Where he got that from, I have no idea."
"I been wonderin' that myself," Teaspoon mused, glancing, first at Buck and then at Lou, letting his eyes linger on Lou. "It's interestin' how he thought both you boys were, um, ladies, now wasn't it?"
Lou gulped, not sure what to say. "Um, yeah."
"Let's get Cody to the bunkhouse," Jimmy said, hoping to change Teaspoon's attention.
Teaspoon stood there looking at Lou for a few more seconds before finally shaking his head, snapping himself out of his thoughts. "Right you are, Hickok."
Jimmy and Buck tried to pick up Cody but the dead weight was too much so they motioned Ike over. Lou grabbed Cody's hat and gloves. She waved the offending items at Jimmy.
"Keep those things away from me," Jimmy snarled, good-naturedly. "Cody may wake up and find 'em missin'."
"Just get him back to the bunkhouse and then leave him alone," Teaspoon ordered. "I don't want him wakin' up b'fore this wears off. Lord only knows what he'd say ta Emma."
That thought put the fear in everyone so, as Lou held back the flap, they maneuvered Cody out the door.
"AND," Teaspoon yelled, halting them in mid-stride. "You WILL go over ta Widow Murphy's and finish what Lou started. Understand?"
"Uh," Jimmy said, looking around at the others. "Sure thing...Davy."
Teaspoon blessed Jimmy with his trademark squinty-eyed stare. "GET GOIN'!"
Laughing, the boys carried their load toward the bunkhouse and sang at the top of their lungs.
A/N: The Ballad of Davy Crockett, George Bruns & Tom Blackburn, 1954.
Take our clothes off?!
Lou watched dumbfounded as first Teaspoon then, one by one, the boys began to remove their clothing. As the boys were peeling their shirts off, Lou pulled her vest tighter against her chest.
She had just gotten fully dressed moments ago, after one of the most humiliating incidences of her young life. If she weren’t so mortified and nervous she might be showing anger right about now – her job; her future; her life as she now knew it; was all at stake.
It had been such a promising afternoon. Kid had convinced the other boys that being a girl, Lou should have the first opportunity to cool off from the heat the day offered. Usually she would have been mad at him for even hinting at treating her like a girl but it was so unbelievably hot out and the thought of pushing her body through that invigorating, cool water had been too tempting, so she played ‘female’ and she accepted the offer.
Lou had stripped down to nothing and slipped into the pond. She was blissfully lost in the moment until all hell had come crashing down on her. Why had Teaspoon chosen that day of all days to take a bath? He wasn’t due, was he? None of that mattered now as an innocent ally-oop on his part had led to her not being able to meet his eyes. He had seen parts of her that even Kid hadn’t seen. Now if it had been Kid, or any other cute man her own age, she would have been embarrassed, but gotten over it quicker than knowing that someone she thought of as a father figure had seen her for who she really was.
That thought made Lou look up to take a glance in Teaspoon’s direction, only to find him gone; all the boys were gone too. She stared at the door to the sweat lodge, knowing they were all inside waiting on her. Lou noticed the piles of clothing sprawled on the ground and knew she had to do as Teaspoon had instructed. He’d said, ‘All of you, in the sweat lodge now!’ and that included obeying his rule that to enter the lodge one needed to be unencumbered with outside articles, and that meant their clothes.
Lou shed her clothes, reluctantly, and quickly crossed her arms over her chest, trying to hide her gender. She grimaced knowing it didn’t help much; after all, she had just been in the cool water of the pond and it was very obvious that she had been, especially since her long johns were sticking to her from the heat and the wetness of swimming.
She walked through the doorway and stopped dead in her tracks. The sight before her took her breath away; with the exception of the man getting a bucket of water dumped over his head then putting his hat back on the sight caused her to forget why she was there. She wasn’t a nervous employee of the Pony Express wondering if she was about to be out of a job, she was a woman.
Lou had to admit that even though men in general had initially scared her to death, the five boys she had been working and living with were probably five of the most handsome men she would ever come across. Each had something about him that was uniquely theirs. Though she knew she would always be partial to Kid, and it was for more than his good looks, Lou couldn’t stop herself from being curious about the others.
No one had noticed her enter. They were either watching Teaspoon; looking at the person next to them; or concentrating on the very interesting dirt at their feet. This gave Lou the opportunity to study and learn. She had been dressing and acting as a boy for a few years before arriving at the way station, but she had long ago faced the fact that she didn’t fill out her long johns the way they did. Oh she knew the boys tried to notice her differences through the material but she was better at hiding things than they were. The thought never seemed to have crossed most of their minds to even try. Her mama had taught her the proper way to sit like a little lady, with her knees slammed tightly together and ankles crossed under her chair. Louise had always remembered that lesson and cursed silently each time Lou remembered it as well. Boys just didn’t sit that way and that was one of the things that always caught her attention.
She had been mortified when she had first noticed the boys in that certain revealing position as they lounged around in their undergarments. She used to hide on her bunk, her nose buried in a book, practically each evening, until curiosity got the better of her. She was human after all and it wasn’t like they were trying to hide anything. Now Lou looked around the lodge and caught Jimmy and Cody in just such a pose. They had a habit of sitting as if straddling a saddle and when they did, well the fabric would pull away from the buttons and … Lou wiped her wet brow as she forced herself not to stand on tiptoes for a better view.
Lou looked between the two of them and noticed Teaspoon sitting in the same manner. She gagged and had to look away or she would really be sick; that was one sight she could do without. So she turned her eyes toward the other three boys. They seemed to know how to sit much more properly or at least they seemed to know how to do it in a non-revealing manner. When Buck and Ike sat spread-eagle, they did it in such a way that nothing showed. Of course the one person she wouldn’t have minded catching in such a pose would never stoop so low, she thought with a frown. Kid sat up straighter than she did. Damn his mother for teaching him how a gentleman sat. She was ruining all Lou’s fun with the lessons she had probably taught him over fifteen years ago. Now Lou was forced to use her imagination and though it was a good one and worked remarkably well, nothing was like seeing it in the flesh, so to speak.
The flesh. That thought brought her back to the present and why she was here. It wasn’t to ogle five cute boys; it was to face the punishment awaiting her. The boys gave her reassuring smiles which only helped a little. Kid held out his hand and she sighed. Her hand was reaching for his before she realized it. Once seated at his side, she quickly released his gentle grasp and wrapped her arms around her chest once more out of embarrassment, knowing what Teaspoon had just seen. Now two people in the room, er, lodge, had seen parts of her that they weren’t supposed to and she had seen nothing in return. A glance down to the lap next to her proved she would once again see absolutely nothing she wanted to and the glance across the fire allowed her to see more than she wanted to. With those two facts added to what she could just imagine Teaspoon was going to say to her, it just didn’t seem fair.
“Buck,” Lou McCloud said.
Still no answer.
“BUCK CROSS! GET YOUR LAZY BUT OUTTA BED!” Lou bellowed.
Buck, now awake, tried to stand, but his feet twisted in the blanket and he fell to the floor.
“What the hell did you do that for?” Buck spat, looking up at Lou. For the first time in what felt like forever he had been able to sleep a dreamless sleep, and she just had to go wake him up.
“Teaspoon wants to see ya in the sweatlodge.”
“Can you tell him I’ll be out after I’ve finished sleeping.” Buck said while he untwisted his blanket and was about to lay back down. He knew that he was being rude, but right now he didn’t care if the barn was on fire, for once, all he wanted to do was sleep.
“No Buck. You are going out to see Teaspoon NOW!” Lou scolded and snagged the blanket a second after Buck had untwisted it. Buck muttered a ‘Yes ma’am’ under his breath and was out the door before you could say ‘Betty Baker bought some butter’. He knew better than to argue with Lou when she was in that particular mood.
Buck stuck his head inside the sweatlodge. The steaming heat hit him in the face all at once like a thousand summers all at once. “Teaspoon, you in here?” Buck asked as he tried to wave away some of the steam.
“Get in here, close the door behind you and sit down.” Was the reply he got.
“What is it that you wanted to see me about?” Buck replied as he sat down.
“Your health.” Teaspoon answered from somewhere inside all the steam. Buck concluded that Teaspoon might have gone overboard with the firewood.
“My health?” Buck wondered. “I’m perfectly healthy. Jimmy is the one walking around coughing and sneezing like crazy while saying that he ain’t never been sick a day in his life and ain’t about to start now.”
“You’re correct in that observation,” Teaspoon chuckled. “But it ain’t that kind of health I’m talking about. I’m talking about inner health.”
Buck decided not to say anything as he thought he knew what Teaspoon was talking about.
“How are you doing?” Teaspoon asked, concern evident in his voice.
“Fine, I guess.” Teaspoon snorted at that remark, making Buck even more uncomfortable than he already was.
“You still haven’t accepted his loss have you?”
“No. He was my brother.” Buck thought that the steam must have gotten to Teaspoon for asking such a stupid question. There wasn’t a second that went by that he didn’t think of Ike. In fact the steam must have gotten too him as he began to feel slightly lightheaded.
“You miss him so much you’re neglecting your self.” Teaspoon observed.
Buck felt rage rise in his body. Though he had come to think of Teaspoon as father of sorts, he had no intention of sitting here listening to him analyzing how he was feeling. Quickly Buck got up and was about to leave when he passed out.
“Now that’s a change for the better.” Teaspoon smiled crookedly and threw more water on the burning stones.
Buck awoke only to notice that he was in a place that he had never seen before, at least he thought so because the fog was so thick he could barely see a hand in front of him. Had Teaspoon decided that it was a perfectly good idea to turn the whole of Rock Creek into one big sweatlodge? He had known Teaspoon for a year and a half, and he knew not to be surprised by any of that man’s seemingly insane ideas, ideas so insane they usually turned out make a lot of sense.
The fog was clearing up a bit, allowing Buck to get a closer look at his surroundings and helping trying to figure out where exactly he was. As it turned out Teaspoon had turned the entire town of Rock Creek into one big sweatlodge. There was Tompkins’ store, the saloon, the hotel and livery, all in their respective places. But there was something different, there was no people in the streets. No people that looked at him with disgust painted on their faces. No merry tunes or laughter coming from the saloon. Not one horse was tied outside the livery. If it wasn’t so eerily quiet, Buck would have enjoyed it. Had Rock Creek turned into a ghost town in five minutes and no one had bothered to give him the message? Not likely.
Within a minute the fog had turned into a mist. Buck didn’t take much notice of it as it wasn’t the first strange thing that had happened after passing out. This was probably just a dream, he thought. Dreams don’t necessarily have to make sense right there and then. Later he would have time to figure everything out.
“Buck.” There was a strange voice calling him, but he couldn’t see anyone. He looked around every street corner twice. The only thing that appeared to be was alive in Rock Creek was himself. “Buck.” There was that voice again.
“Show yourself.” Buck called.
“Up here you schmuck.” Buck looked up and what he saw nearly knocked him off his feet.
“Whaaa...” Was all he was capable of uttering while stumbling backwards. The sight that met his eyes was... well, if he was an old man, he’d have dropped dead of a heart attack right there and then. No questions asked.
Night had suddenly fallen and the sky was filled with stars. Stars shining more brightly than he had even seen. The brightest stars formed the contours of a face.
“Ike. What the Hell are you doing up there?” Buck asked after he had regained his footing.
“I’m in Heaven, not Hell.” Ike joked, flashing the contagious grin that Buck had missed so intensely over the last month.
“You have a voice?” Buck’s jaw dropped to the floor.
“Didn’t you just hear me say that I’m in Heaven, not Hell?” Ike arched a brow.
“Yeah, I heard that. But for as long as I have known you, you have never spoken a word.” Buck was in awe.
“Things change when you die.” Was all Ike said.
Then there was a strange silence between them. Like two old friends that had talked their way through every possible subject there is to talk about, except that one.
Ike was the one that broke the silence first. “You really hurt Lou’s feelings today.”
“I know. I shoud apologize, but it was the first time that I was able to sleep without dreaming of you. I was mad at her for waking me. It was stupid, I shouldn’t have done it.” Buck looked down, a face filled with regret. “I promise, I’ll apologize to her when this dream is over.”
“It’s time that you let me go.”
“But I don’t want too,” Buck said in anguish.
“You have to. But I will always be with you, in your heart.” And with that the face in the stars disappeared.
“I care about you too much to just let go so easily.” Buck was pleading for understanding.
Ike appeared in human form, wearing the same clothes that he had died in. He walked over to were Buck was standing. **It’s time that you let me go.**
‘Maybe Teaspoon’s right,’ Buck thought, and with that, he woke up gasping for air.