A Tale of the Wild West Part 9 Flaming Arrow tells his Tale
Tanner had a lot to think about, but he did not want to. He jumped up from his pallet and went to give the Mare some feed. Tanner carried a good brush for his animals. He curried the Mare. Her roan coat glistened in health. He looked at the cut over her eye “Not ruined, just aged” he thought as he admired the animal.
His mind never strayed from the Indian on the rock above him. He had resigned his death to Flaming Arrow long before. “Could’a did me in afore first coffee for sure, then he patched my shoulder proper like” Tanner glanced at his wound “But that look in his eyes, as he held that knife,,, he was scared a me!”
Tanner prepared to break camp. “No more siesta for this cowpoke” he thought, still shaken by his dream. As he was running out of things to do, Flaming Arrow silently descended from the large boulder that Tanner called the dome rock. The Indian purposefully walked up to Tanner. Flaming Arrow pointed to his own shoulder. Tanner understood and turned to show him the wound that the Mare had inflicted on him. The Indian removed the bandage and studied the wound intently. He prodded the skin around the bite. Tanner flinched but said nothing. Flaming Arrow made his decision. He rebandaged the wound. Tanner put his shirt on and studied Flaming Arrow. The Indian’s face reminded Tanner to the rock formations around them. Flaming Arrow pointed to a circle of stones off in a clearing and headed that way. Tanner followed.
Flaming Arrow entered the clearing and removed a long pipe from his bag, he filled it and Tanner seeing the play, lit the pipe for his friend. The Indian blew smoke to the East and handed the pipe to Tanner. Flaming Arrow blew smoke to the remaining three compass points, handing the pipe back to Tanner each time.
Flaming Arrow seated himself and ground the ashes from the pipe into the soil. Tanner joined him.
The two men were silent a long while, then Flaming Arrow spoke.
“This place” he indicated the rock formation “is power place to my people”
“This place” he patted the ground and waved in a small circle “Is power place to me” he paced a hand over his midsection.
“I hunt” he pointed at his eyes “and” he pointed at his forehead ”Great father.”
“No food, No sleep, three days”
“Hear rider long, long way off. Ride hard, hard. You.” He pointed at Tanner.
“Horse slow, me listen, Horse walk”
“Me ready fight, You stop horse, you see me” he pointed at his chest “you say how”
“Night!””You see me!” The Indian struck his chest. “Say how!” Flaming Arrow peered at Tanner clearly agitated
Flaming Arrow was upset alright and Tanner at first did not understand why. “If I had seen you, you can bet I woulda kept on going” Tanner said. “How in the world am I still alive?” Tanner thought.
Tanner told the Indian “I did not see you”
Flaming Arrow said “Why you say how two time ehh?”
Tanner reviewed the event in his mind. A wild ride, then a long walk and I was thinking about the shooting and wondering how I could,, He stopped ,how, that’s right. I did say it.
“How?, how indeed?”
“Yes.” Flaming Arrow nodded emphatically “Why you say hailo if you no see me?
Haillo? Hello, Ok, Tanner got it now. How, was a form of greeting within Flaming Arrow’s people.
“Me answer, no.” Flaming Arrow passed his finger across his lips. He had been tempted to respond, but had not.
Flaming Arrow pointed to the rock formation, then waved his hand palm side down
“You go spirit place, good, bad, strong power!”
“You drink” Tanners friend shook his head. “Drink bad medicine in spirit place. You.”
The Indian pointed two fingers at his eyes then pointed his fingers at the rock formation “See” he said. Tanner turned and looked where he was pointing. With a certain shame Tanner realized how vulnerable he had let himself be. The dome rock was like a stage from this position, every darnfool thing he did that night could be seen from here. And he never ever heard, or saw a thing. He shook his head at his blindness.
Flaming Arrow said “You,,changed. Animal,, demon,,,spirit, bad spirit.”
“You throw bottle, call good spirits. Coyote Brothers three sides” he pointed to the compass points.
“Rescue me? Tanner asked incredulously.
Flaming Arrow nodded his head “Spirit demon gone” he pushed his hand quickly in front of him. “Coyote Brothers chase, you leave spirit place”
Well that was about as farfetched a thing as Tanner ever hoped to hear, but he had heard greater yarns in less polite, or deadly, company, so he held his piece and nodded that he heard, but did not necessarily agree.
“What about the coyotes around here?” Tanner asked.
“No coyotes” Flaming Arrow said “Me.”
“You pull gun” Flaming Arrow continued, then as no real surprise to Tanner the Indian put on a magnificent display of voice throwing. His Coyote Brothers yips sounded absolutely real to Tanners ears and the Indian knew the harmonics of the rock formations perfectly.
“Learn as boy here”
Tanner nodded, he had asked the question as a courtesy. He had long realized that he had walked right into the man’s house and only civility and curiosity had kept him alive.
Flaming Arrow changed the subject. “Your arm ver bad. Too quick. Demon sickness.”
Tanner had to admit that he considered the sickness in his arm to be way beyond what you would usually expect from a bite that small. He was kind of leaning towards blaming the horse though.
“I hunt, see” Flaming Arrow pointed at his eyes, then pointed at his forehead.”
“I fight shadow demon here” he pointed to his forehead again. “See shadow demon there.” He pointed to the dome rock. “You fight shadow demon.”
Tanner nodded his head. It felt like a fight.
Flaming Arrow turned to Tanner “My enemy, your enemy, we fight.” He made a fist in his hand, crossed it over his chest.
Tanner felt a deep gratitude to this offering of solidarity. Tanner knew that this was a serious offer from a serious man. Fighting sleep demons made as much sense as anything. And he was glad that he had spoken of his dream. It seemed less menacing now. Of course he would join with his friend.
Tanner’s fist crossed over his chest in turn. The men smiled.
“I speak to elder now” Flaming Arrow declared. Tanner nodded his head.
“Man Shot Pima? The Indian watched Tanner’s lips.
“Jose Guerena” Tanner told him. Flaming Arrow repeated the name several times.
“Where go now?” Flaming Arrow inquired.
“Tangue Verde tonight, then Tucson. Eventually.
“Ah, Tucson” Flaming Arrow nodded. Both men knew the town well, but from different perspectives. They agreed to meet in a weeks time, at a trading post they both knew on the edge of town. An uneventful place where red and white could mix without notice.
Flaming Arrow commenced to reloading his pipe.
“You” he pointed at Tanner’s forehead “Danger.” “You me” the Indian pointed to his own. “Danger” Flaming Arrow slowly continued. “You me close spirit world, shadow demon awake angry.
Tanner had a sudden image of the boy he had struck in the stable.
“Soon you me fight demon” he touched the soil “Good power.” He tossed some sand into the breeze “You me win.”
Flaming Arrow stood and Tanner joined him. Flaming Arrow quietly chanted a moment then loudly called “Jose Guerena” to the East.
Tanner lit the pipe for his friend. The two men saluted the Four Winds as before, Flaming Arrow calling ‘Jose Guerena’ each time. They left Flaming Arrow’s power spot.
At the camp Flaming Arrow pointed to Tanners shoulder and indicated he would saddle the Mare. This surprised Tanner but he allowed it. Tanner watched closely but the Indian worked quickly and the mare behaved. His roll and bags secure Tanner offered Flaming Arrow the checkered bag of food Matt’s wife had given him. Flaming Arrow smiled and took two handfuls of the tiny biscuits and one package. The two men looked at one another. Flaming Arrow crossed his fist over his chest. Tanner did the same, then hitched himself aboard the Mare, who shivered in anticipation.
“Tanner” Flaming Arrow said, this caught Tanner off guard a bit, he and his horse were ready to go. “Yes?” Tanner responded.
Flaming Arrow looked fully into Tanner’s face, he was as calm and still as the boulders around him. He spoke slowly and distinctly, total sincerity reflected in his features. “Thank You no kill me.”