Piegan War Party
Rocky Mountains in what is known as Glacier National Park
I followed the Kootenai warrior back to the stream where his horse was tied. “You shouldn’t have interrupted my quest,” I said. “The Piegan warriors wouldn’t have seen me.”
“Why not? I did.”
“You’re in harmony with the mountain. They’re not.”
“It’s not the place of a woman to question the decision of a warrior.” I didn’t reply, for among my people a woman is obedient to a brave and doesn’t talk back. “You will ride with me on Straight Arrow.”
“I have my own horse.” I whistled for Good Thunder, then went to get my weapons and supplies. As I squatted down to pull them out from under the bushes, Good Thunder came running out of the woods toward me. He rubbed his nose affectionately against my back, almost pushing me over. I turned around and hugged the pinto around the neck.
The warrior watched us with interest. “This stallion is your horse?” His eyes widened with surprise.
“Yes.” I grabbed Good Thunder’s rope bridle as he started toward the other stallion, with fire in his eyes, looking ready for a fight.
“No, Good Thunder!” I fought him as he pulled against me in an effort to get at the other animal. Good Thunder reared up, lifting me off the ground. The warrior sprung onto his agitated stallion and moved him well away from Good Thunder.
After a short struggle I got Good Thunder under control, then threw a saddle on him and tied on my supplies.
“Where did you get that saddle?” the warrior asked.
“From my Comanche cousins. They steal horses with saddles from men living far to the south.” I picked up my bow, put on my quiver and mounted.
“You carry weapons, too!” His expression was disapproving. “I thought you were Shoshoni.”
“I am Shoshoni.” I wove my hands up and down in a weaving motion, the sign of the Shoshoni. “I belong to the band of Tukadukas, the Sheep Eaters.”
“Shoshoni maidens don’t use weapons.” He made a clicking noise and his horse started forward.
“Some of us do,” I replied, following him. “Who are your people?”
“They are the San’ka, the water people.”
“Who taught you to speak my tongue?”
“My mother is Shoshoni.”
“Did your father steal her?”
“You ask a lot of questions. Women of my tribe are more respectful and they don’t carry weapons. Are you a chief’s daughter that you own a warhorse and wear feathers in your hair?”
“I’m a chief’s sister,” I said proudly.
“Why does your brother allow you to carry weapons? You could hurt yourself.”
My temper flared at his arrogance. “I know how to use a bow and arrow! I don’t need your protection! There’s no reason for us to ride together.”
“A woman with such a sharp tongue will have trouble finding a brave.”
I respectfully lowered my head. It would bring shame on my people if I were rude to a warrior helping me.
He led me by a different route than the way I had come. I realized he knew the fastest way down the mountain. It would be easy to wind up lost in this rugged terrain.
This trail was probably made by mountain goats and Good Thunder had to make his way carefully. Straight Arrow was obviously more used to the mountains for he seemed to have no difficulty negotiating the trail. We rode down the rocky slope in silence. Good Thunder suddenly lifted his head and twitched his ears. Alert to danger, I patted his neck and looked around just as Wind Chaser slipped out of the woods in front of us. Straight Arrow whinnied and reared up. The warrior swiftly pulled out his bow and arrow.
“No! He is my friend!” I exclaimed. “He won’t hurt you or your horse.”
The warrior lowered his bow. “You have a wolf for a friend?”
“He is half-dog. His mother mated with a wolf, then returned to camp to have her litter. Wind Chaser has been my companion since he was a puppy.” I ducked down as Good Thunder went under a low branch. The trees were sparse here and the ground was rocky. We rode out onto a narrow path on the side of the mountain. A rocky wall rose up alongside of us and the other side was a cliff edge.
“I’m Masheka,” the warrior said. “What are you called?”
His question surprised me. Didn’t he know names had power?
“Do you refuse to answer simple questions?” he asked, sounding annoyed as he turned to look at me.
“The custom of the Tukadukas is to give their children names that tell something about them. The name may even change when a person does something that distinguishes them. We believe a name has power, so a person shouldn’t say their own name.”
He nodded. “Shoshoni ways are different. I’ll give you a new name. I’ll call you Vision Woman since you made a long journey for a vision. Do you like the name?”
“It’s a good name.” I was pleased with the name for a person who had visions was a person who had spiritual power. The name reminded me of my Vision Quest. “When I first saw you two days ago, I thought you were a vision. How is it that you are still here?”
“I stayed to guard you. Quests are no longer safe in the Sacred Mountains unless one is guarded. I came here because I’m a scout for the Crazy Dog society. We’re on the warpath against the Piegans. They attacked bands of our people who were living east on the plain. These bands have come here and together we have the strength to drive the Piegan from the Sacred Mountains.”
I reined in Good Thunder and looked around. “I thought I heard something.”
Masheka also stopped. “Ride ahead of me.” As I passed Masheka on the narrow ledge, he said, “They’re near. I’ll try to hold them off so you can escape.”
I urged Good Thunder into a gallop and twisted my hands in his mane. I heard a war cry and turned to see Masheka fighting a Piegan warrior with his tomahawk. I brought Good Thunder to a stop and pulled out my bow. My hands shook as I notched an arrow, drew it back and released it. The arrow missed because I was so frightened. Fitting another arrow, I took a deep calming breath and I concentrated on the Piegan warrior. I moved to a place beyond fear, focusing only on what I had to do.
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