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Cabin
Scene 7 of The Acts of Awes West
The ghost within the dream soared above the Medicine Wheel Way, gliding down from the snow-covered stone Wheel to see the stone tower smoking from its top and skirted with firewood, choked in snow about its base…
The snow melted away to bring a summer day. That tower melted away stone by stone, beam by beam. As each part was removed by a dreaming hand, the rock was scattered and the beams were notched and stacked to form a cabin, the cabin of Medicine Wheel Man, which had stood since 1961, until the floating dream witness had come, in the space between the tepee style wood shed and the tower…
Noose took the palfrey’s lead rope from the Rose Knight, holding the mare steady while Husband took wife from side saddle to cradle in his arms, looking down into her eyes with an empty question floating there.
A keen knife edge pricked his back, the toothpick of Sergeant Sacks reminding him to look away. Noose saw there, up on the ridge line to The Medicine Wheel, a tall, lean, cotton-robed, white-bearded man, blind of eye, tapping his way along the rocky path with a long willow switch and using an aspen branch as a walking stick.
Trumpeted his mind: ‘Sorcerer! The wise man, man of medicine for souls with a question.’
Sacks said nothing about him staring at the blind wise man, even though, it was obvious, that the blind man saw Noose somehow, looking down directly at him with empty eyes, looking away from the embracing Knight and Lady, as they all did, out of respect.
The wise man walked near, direct, his manner queer, and stopped, looking deeply down into Noose’s face, as if he knew how tall he was.
He held those empty eyes as Medicine Crow glared at him and Indian Ben and the old crow nearly fell into a scrap over Noose’s rudeness. He only knew this because he heard Indian Ben hiss, “A Dead risen-crazy-man lives in the boy body.”
Somehow those great white disks of burned and scarred eye, left both open and shut by the cruel Inquisitors of New Spain, looked down unseeing and with deep knowing, into the wide and normally narrow eyes of Noose, who gaffed, “Pardon ma manners, Padre.”
The man grinned openly and raised his empty hand even as Medicine Crow tightened so that his moccasins creaked. Noose understood the Indian’s angst, well-versed over the last quarter of his life in holding the care of and respect for his Master above all things among men.
Medicine Wheel Man, spoke in a sooth of tone such as “voice” would be a belittlement, “I here the breath of a Lady, the hooves of her palfrey and would ask Her Knight to accompany us to the Observatory. This old book rummager requires a second pair of eyes to sight along the axis of The Wheel and describe the sights cast from heaven by The Almighty.”
The Rose Knight knelt as his lady bowed, both now the same height, without a word.
The Medicine Wheel Man smiled with deep tolling tone, “Dear Joe, please see to the rangers, mend that tribal fence with your foeish kinsman...and dote on this becoming man.”
That final phrase was said with a big open hand motioning to Noose and the empty eyes looked into Infinity as the Lord and Lady of the pony boy looked on amazed and the baritone voice crooned, “Before the very Mirror of God’s Eye it is destined that this one will become a man on the morrow. Joe, bestow the dream catcher created these last three nights.”
With those stunning words, the man turned his back in his rough-cut sandals and began teetering up the rocky path with seeing-by-feeling-stick in one hand and white aspen staff in the other, His Lord Knight of Roses and His lady, walking behind, hand-in-hand.
The attitude of Joe Medicine Crow changed like storm into still. He looked over his shoulder to Indian Ben—half a white man—and said, “Sacred Ravens favor Medicine Wheel Man—you?”
Indian Ben shrugged after the departing trio, “That man took my Lippan mother from a brothel to a nunnery—become my Father.”
Mused he: ‘Ben is old enough to be my father! Hence the Knight is thrice as old as his bride, older than Sacks, as old as Medicine Crow! How is it that I cast him so young in my mind? Am I crazy like Ben says?’
The picture of The Knight’s face held in his heart seemed to age, with gray hair speckling the beard that was never allowed to grow, quite unlike the bearded rangers.
Ben was now pointing at the red scar about Noose’s throat from the rope burns, “Survived the rope death—crazy for scalps,” then pointing to the two Comanche scalps threaded to the left of his yellow and black checkered sash.
Joe responded, “Yes, Father has God’s eyes. He sees the disturbance in this one. The Spanish took his eyes for the book he wrote. So God gave him the heaven sight.”
Joe then got down to necessities: “Wood plenty in the crib for your fire,” he motioned from the grand stand of cut and split timber to a ring of four squared spruce logs to serve as benches and saddle rests, a ring of fire stones in their midst.
He continued, looking mildly down at Noose, “The cabin has a hearth where you can set the great pot. Above Father’s bed hangs a dream catcher. He fashioned it three days now. I will not touch it. You take, Kill-boy.”
Sacks clicked at him, which meant “I’d whoop your ass if outsiders weren’t looking on, so git!”
Ben helped Noose take the great iron kettle with its one steel rod handle, down off of Apple and unwrap it. Noose picked up the pot in one hand, hiding the strain of the effort, it weighing 30 pounds to his 90, and walked slowly into the cabin, through the buffalo hide door curtain and into the candle-lit interior. He set the pot on the hearth stones before the smoldering coals to the left.
To the right he looked to see a modest cot what sufficed for that storied old soul and saw there, a round disk of twisted yellow and black cord, hanging from a rosary chain of wooden beads. The hoop was a mere palm in width and within it was woven white, red, yellow and blue cords, four in number, knotted each five times and all passing through the brass hoop at the back of a Naval pee coat button that served as the central disc. That button had a house of whirling logs sign carved in it. [0]
Ben was in the doorway behind him and whispered, as Noose looked at the dangling symbol in reverent suspicion, “Wear it under your shirt, against your skin, between your breasts.”
Noose did not turn.
The sound of Ben returning outside of the small 12 by 12 foot cabin, where it could be seen that Joe slept on bison hides between the hearth and the bed, scraped off into silence and thence faded into the muffled speech of men outside.
Noose walked around Joe’s hides, reached out his left hand, and caught the dream catcher up by the beads, lifting it from its scrub oak branch hanger.
He lifted the rosary beads over his head and hung the hoop down under his threadbare cotton shirt, beneath his ragged jacket...and a tear rolled down each cheek.
Snarling in anger at himself for being a boy still, he dabbed away the woman rain from his traitor eyes and steeled himself, opening his eyes wide and willing them to dry as he stared into the flickering shadows cast by the coals and the candles upon that dream-riding bed.
Eyes dry, he returned outside and went to work with the horses, not meeting the gaze of any man and ignoring the taunt of Mike, “Aye, Rattle o’ Gun, shoot me a sage chicken fer super, good boy.”
As he set Apple out to graze in the open and reached back for the palfrey, he thought, “Such a great man should have a tower, like Duke Yorebarrow at Springfield Station...not a dang trapper’s cabin.”
Grog muttered, “The gallows brat is gettin’ the ranger look—ought ta breed ‘im wit an Apache squaw en git us a dawn monkey.” [1]
He sneered, knowing these men, despite their experience, to be at their upper limits, “The God-eyed man didn’t even see y’all—like ya weren’t there…”
Mused he: ‘Did he see me all, dead calm and red squall?’
Noose shivered with fear, afraid now of the cabin interior, afraid that he would fail some worldly test and be dragged from womb to gallows in the life that came next.
Dreams are not easily caught…
Many a man lacks such a net.
A wretched, venomous sneeze brought him awake as the yellow slime hurled out of his maw to cling between his moccasin clad feet. The taste was of death, slow rotten death.
The fire was down to coals.
The fire-keeping check list, since he was a pony boy rattled in his head: ‘A heavy log—knotty lodge pole. Piss pine kindling—split aspen stacked around, like burning a witch pushed face first in on the ladder of sin…’
Someone stacked that wood and covered him with the dry shirt from the hood. The room began to spin…
Notes
-0. In some bizarre alternate universe this symbol of eternal rejuvenation might be called a swastika.
-1. A dawn monkey is a junior scout, usually a pony boy hoping to earn a ranger jacket and war hat, who volunteers to infiltrate an enemy camp just before dawn to back-stab and back-shoot defenders at the instant after a ranger attack.
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