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Pipe Maker
Scene 14 of The Acts of Awes West
“Who is like me? Let him proclaim it,
let him declare and set it forth before me.
Who has announced from of old the things to come?
Let them tell us what is yet to be.”
-Isaiah 44:7
Snow and a warm hearth.
Burning lungs, a chew of medicine and dream embraced.
Shoveling snow and hauling wood.
Snow and a warm hearth.
Returns the burning lung—and turns he to the medicine bag of Dogfoot Woman the easy escape into dream…
January, February and March passed suchlike.
April brought more snow and he cried.
Burning, chewing, dreaming—no, being lured into the Dreamer’s realm, that powerful Omniscience what will-o’-the-wisped along fantastical traces haunted by the light of some other sun and illuminated by the silvery songs of those sainted nuns—and bloody sneezing…
Mused he: ‘Spring perhaps, if She comes this year. Why did you not tell me of The Dreamer, Father; that She sang, and that dying on the verge of knowing would bring such a grief pang?’
Thought he: ‘What year?’
Answered he: ‘Surely Father would know. This ole low coon could never remember.’
Rain came.
Thaw came.
The birds returned.
The way to The Medicine Pole and the Cairn melted clear, Christ reminding him that he must visit Father and try and remember something worthwhile while he limped towards the summer of his last year…
The poles he had raised still stood, the east one bent a bit.
Prayed he, in his very best King’s English: “Jesus, o’ Cross, Christ who ‘ill come ‘gain, please take me where I be judged ta go. This ole coon so tired ebry breath do hurt. I’d be honored ta rejoin them o’ The Order what I failed in life en guard that Purg-a-tory Stair ‘gainst demon, voodoo brood, devil, en da Boss a Big-Wigged Wicked ‘is own dastard self!”
His lungs burned with those last words as if that fiend out of Hell had hurled up some missile to punish his pledge to serve Christ against the powers of darkness forever, if such be required, after death.
Prayed he, silently, through a sheet of nauseating pain: ‘I means it, Lord. I broke and left The Order—thirty eight years in the saddle wore me thin. Give me flesh anew, clothe me in rags or light and I will forever fight voodoo—en ebry devilkin I’ll smite!’
Pleaded he, with ragged blood-welling voice once again: “Fo a fightin’ man ta be weak and worn longa den ‘e ‘as s’posed ta lib when ‘e were born...it ain’t natural, Lord. I’m ready ta be judged hell-bound ‘r purged...’
A pony nickered down below, back at the tower.
Groused he: “Damn, probly da devil up from ‘is stinkin’ den!”
He stood from where he prayed at Father’s cairn for Merciful Christ to take him.
Down below was an Injun, from this remove a Nez Perce, some of the more contemplative sorts of wild Indian.
Mused he: ‘If he were the Devil, he’d come clothed in Comanche flesh, I bet.’
The fellow stood before his horse looking towards him, standing between the snowbanks, the both of them, he at the head of the little stream made by the melt and the Indian in a right proper creek before the tower door.
He waved the man towards him, so happy to see another soul.
The Indian left his horse before the tower door where some slim grazing of last year’s buried grass consumed his four-legged attention.
The man was tall, thin, darn near red of skin, wore a traditional bone knife, cradled a pipe in one arm and held a bison-tail and rattlesnake rattle in his other hand, and wore a dream catcher fashioned with seven seemingly fresh scalps at his hip. From his neck hung a medicine bag. The man had a hawkish face and deep penetrating eyes and seemed to be about 40 years old. His lance and bow and arrow were back with his pony.
“Greetings, Chief,” spoke he in a hoarse tone.
The man grimaced, “No chief—maybe, soon. Rattler, warrior.”
Rattler walked up to him and presented a beautiful pipe, made of amber and alder and hung with goose feathers, “Medicine Wheel Man, Sky Father, I be chief?”
He took the pipe with much respect, “Thank ye, Rattler.” He then motioned to the cairn, “My Father—Our Father—Medicine Wheel Man,” and indicated the crude spelling of Father on the gravestone. He then shrugged and hung his head, tears welling in his eyes, “I cain’t read da sky!”
As if objecting, the sky spun and the stony melt creek bottom trickling from the snow heaped all about the cairn what he had furiously scraped to form Father’s resting place, came rushing up to meet his sorrow-hung face…
“Father, Father, drink,” and the nursing of another stranger, so kindly and so marked of his life’s finality, dominated his life again.
Prayed he, “Father, Jesus, God...why send such folks what’ll keep dis worn-out coon from purgatory’s door. Ye fair knows I ain’ headed up ‘eaven’s starry stair.”
Medicine was put into his mouth and he was brought before The Dreamer to settle accounts…
Waking came not easy these days.
The Dreamer was jealous of their time together.
Fresh venison—no, not fresh, cooked from frozen—sizzled in the kettle.
Rattler was cooking and looking his way and he croaked, “Quite a hunter ta ged deer in dis snow—thank ye. Dis ole coon cain’t hunt naught but a mushroom.”
The Indian spoke gravely, “Herd froze first snow, below mountain—stand they still.”
“Is dere ought I can do fer ye, Rattler?”
The man reached within his owl bone vest, outside of his buckskin shirt, and pulled out a medallion on a rawhide string and handed it to him as he scooted close and whispered, “Mother Shoshone, father Ree, me raised Nez Perce. Chief give this to baby me at birth. I would be chief?”
He admired the etching in silver of a buffalo on one side of the coin and a symbol on the other side as he cautioned, “Dis ole coon cain’t read the sky and knows few writ things. But Father learnt me on dis sign. [1] Delaware calls it, ‘House o’ whirling logs.’ Crows call it ‘thunderbird tail.’ Dem Voodoo coons calls it ‘rainbow serpent.’ Mexies call it ‘feather four winds.’ Father called it ‘four faces o’ second life.’”
Rattler pierced him with his eyes as surely as that formidable Indian had his nose pierced with silver and asked, “What does it mean for me?”
Mused he: ‘Its obvious even to this dumbass coon. Place it nice like, like Father would.’
“Dis a sign o’ second life, of rebirth. I’d say, dat if I was give it, as a boy by a wise man, dat it woul’ mean, I’d ‘ave a second go ‘round as a Englishman, as a ranger, a new life wit dem folks a mine me been apart from.
“Fer you, since it were you who dis was give—en give by a wise ole chief—I woul’ venture dat he proph-o-ceed… dat Rattler woul’ be a chief, but not o’ no Ree o’ no Nez Perce, but o ‘is own Shoshone breed. Since I bet dem Ree be worry’n dem Shoshone en I see dem seven Ree scalps o’ ye hoop, I’d say ye Mamma’s folks woul’ see in Rattler, jus da fix dey need. Cain’t no good come o’ a war man forsakin’ ‘is Mamma’s kin.”
Mourned Her: ‘Then what exactly have you been doing hiding up this dream mountain for twenty-and-some years, back-sliding coon?’
Wondered he: ‘Mamma Rose? I’d never forsake ye!’
The Rattler thought long and deep, looking down at that medallion, then looked back into this eyes and said, “Rattler sees you Christ man. Christ man had how many spirit warriors?”
A question he could answer, as he had asked it often, “Twelve, twelve apostles.”
The Rattler thought again and then said, “Five more Ree scalps, then twelve warriors on my path, and I be chief?”
He grinned, loving the way this man thought, “That, My Friend, is a plan I will pray for at Father’s rock, each day dis ole coon is able ta drag dis sack o’ bones up da way!”
“Thank you, Father,” intoned the Rattler. “I must go with the next sun. I will return here when I have my tribe won.”
Old songs of creaking leather and pouring powder echoed in his mind as he grinned, “Wish I were yute ‘nough ta ‘elp ye, Rattler—a chief ye ‘ill be—dis ole coon can see it sure en clear.”
The man seemed transformed with a confidence he had not arrived with, despite his obvious high ability.
Prayed he: ‘Thank you, Father, for helping me, help this Rattler fellow, and I sure hope you ain’t partial to no Rees, least ways not the first five bucks this fellow meets.’
Notes
-1. Swastika
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