Henry Long Feather leaned against a tree and studied the white woman. She taught the children from the Bar FB three days a week and often brought them out of the little shack Fairbanks had built for a school. This was a rare thing for a white teacher to do, but she—Laurie Wilcox—was different from most whites Long Feather knew.
She was older, like him. Perhaps fifty summers or so, but youth still lived in her smooth skin and ready smile. Everything about her was light and delicate and fascinating to him. From her long, golden braid that gleamed even when there was no sun, to her slight nose, to her haunting eyes—the icy blue of a stream in winter. But they warmed him, like now.
She raised her gaze over the heads of her students and beamed at him. “Mr. Long Feather. Come to join us for a lesson?”
A dozen little cowboy hats and twin braids all swung round to him, showing young faces bright with curiosity. Shoving his hands into his pants pockets, he pushed off the tree and strode over to them more than happy to forget the event with the bull. “Not today, Mrs. Wilcox. I have come for Joseph.” He tapped the top of a brown hat and the freckled-face boy of eight beneath it grimaced up at him. “Yes, you. Your father has need of you in the blacksmith barn. He asked me to send you over.”
“Aw,” the boy moaned, kicking at a dirt clod.
“That’s perfect timing. We just finished our lesson.” Mrs. Wilcox snapped her Bible shut. “You go on, Joseph. Don’t keep your father waiting. The rest of you,” she surveyed the ring of a dozen or so students, “Spelling test tomorrow. Make sure you study.”
The children gave her their own collective groan and drifted away, a few darting for trouble at various places on the ranch. When they were gone, their teacher rocked on her heels and smiled up at Long Feather, an awkward kind of sign that he couldn’t read. But there was much he did not understand about Mrs. Wilcox.
“What kept you busy today, Mr. Long Feather?”
He shrugged, not quite prepared to share all the details of his day. “The boys brought in a couple of Indian ponies Fairbanks wants me to train to the saddle. They are willing. It will not be much work.” Unlike this new task of training Joel Chapman. “And you, Mrs. Wilcox? What does a teacher do with herself when the students have gone?”
“Please, call me Miss Laurie. Everyone does.” He nodded, acquiescing to her request and she continued. “I have my own homework—some papers to grade.” She bit her bottom lip and tilted her head in a way that made him want to brush his hand down her cheek. “Could I see them? The Indian ponies.”
“Surely.” The answer slipped out before he’d had a chance to think about it. A missionary, Miss Laurie was liked on the ranch, but the hands kept their distance, as if her religion might be catching. Long Feather harbored no such fear. Instead, he wondered what they would say about her strolling with an Indian if she wasn’t preaching at him.
She scrunched her forehead at him. “You don’t want to show me?”
Her perceptiveness caught him off guard. “No, it is not that. You are a white woman.”
“Yes, I was born with the affliction.”
Her joke took a moment to light on his brain, but when it did, he offered her a reserved chuckle. “You don’t understand—”
“I understand perfectly, Mr. Long Feather. And as a child of God, I love all people. I can’t help what others think about that. I don’t let their prejudices dictate with whom I stroll.”
He pushed a hand over his mouth, sighed, and gestured back toward the way he’d come. “After you.”
Hmmm. What trouble awaits this relationship? I hope you’ll read and find out. Get your copy today!
You know, I write Christian Western Romance not only because the locations and century speak to me, but I LOVE the values espoused in CLASSIC Westerns. Men were men–strong, honest, hard-working, gentlemanly, and compassionate. I use that last word because I’m thinking of a couple of classics like Cheyenne Autumn and Broken Arrow. In these two films, the heroes see Native Americans as strong, proud, but, sadly, defeated. Regardless, they treat them with respect.
The US government and, arguably, the tribal governments, have done the American Indian no favors. By relegating reservations to remote areas, supplying the people with minimal handouts and then saddling them with an astonishing level of governmental mismanagement, these supposed “sovereign nations” have become Third-World nations within our own borders. (See below for just a few statistics…)
And then along comes Elizabeth Warren wrapping her white, office-seeking, ambition-clawing hands around the label Cherokee. Flaunts it. Waves it like a flag. Starting in 1986, she claimed her “minority status” and used it to make Harvard look like it was hiring women of color. She has also used the label to garner attention, support, and dollars from democratic voters.
But what has this Champion of the Cherokee done since being elected to the senate in 2013? NOTHING until 2018 when she co-sponsored two bills directly related to Native Americans. Gee, thanks, sister.
But she’s given lots of speeches to them.
My point is, Native Americans have been used enough in this country to further the blind ambitions of greedy politicians. And they won’t be used anymore, judging by the response yesterday from the Cherokee tribe to Warren’s claims. I think they’d like to invite her to play a game of Indian Stick Ball rather than claim her.
I’m sure she’d join in. Righter after she finishes a bowl of that traditional Cherokee dish, Pow Wow Chow.
Here are some disheartening facts: Native Americans have the lowest employment rate of any minority; on average, less than 50% of Native students graduate high school; more than 60% of the roads on the reservations are dirt or gravel; 1 in 10 Native American homes lack reliable or clean drinking water; only about 10% of Native homes have internet; the suicide rate for Native teens is 2.5 times the national average! I could go on and on.
Day 3 Friday
I got up early yet again (still on EST) and took a morning hike back up to Mt. Moriah. I went no further than the gift shop. I didn’t sneak past the gate which would have been ridiculously easy. Not because I’m a saint, either. I mean, really, for a $2 admission fee would it have been a big deal to walk among the headstones? I would have covered the donation later.
No, on the way up, I saw two deer or playing. Then at the gate, I realized how quiet the place was, how isolated. I was alone. No one knew where I was. Hmmm. Yeah, seemed the better part of valor to retreat. A mountain lion could drag me off and no one would ever find my body.
I shared my thoughts with the hotel clerk who had given me shorter directions to the cemetery. She gasped and said, “Yeah, I forgot to mention those.”
She forgot to mention the possibility of a mountain lion attacking me.
At least she gave me coffee. I will forgive her oversight.
Later in the day a bunch of us authors and our cadre climbed aboard some tour buses and totally did the tourist thing. We stopped outside Mt. Rushmore for a quick pic, then headed off to Big Thunder gold mine. It was damp and dark. Outside my sister Dawn and I panned for gold. The weather was perfect. I loved it and I even found a few flakes.
Next stop: the majestic Crazy Horse monument. I bought a dreamcatcher necklace there from a handsome Sioux whose mother made them for the museum. Dawn and I got so hung up shopping and looking at stuff in the museum, the bus nearly left without us! No kidding. Some of the other authors were upset with us. I am truly sorry.
For the last stop, we went to Prairie Berry Winery. They specialize in some oddly flavored wines. Nothing there pulled my trigger. Rutabaga wine or some such. Ick. A very nice winery, though. You should stop by.
Along the way, we made some friends and walked to dinner with them at some place I forget the name of. It was rustic in a roadhouse sort of way. We had a ball with our new friends Kari Trumbo, Mary Ann, Diane and her daughter Kim.
After dinner, Dawn and I turned in. Yeah, real party animals.