A Tale of the Wild West Part 7 Flaming Arrow
Tanner came to himself slowly. He had wedged himself in a good spot, his rifle was by his side, he could feel the presence of his horse, so what was wrong? He slowly opened his eyes, an Indian, squatting down, about a hundred feet away was staring at him. Tanner focused on the man’s face. Although he was some distance away it strangely seemed that the Indian and he were staring eyeball to eyeball five feet away. The Indian suddenly smiled and raised a mug. “Coffee?” he offered across the expanse.
Tanner played it thru quick “If he wanted me dead he could of already done it. He glanced at the Mare who was looking back at him. The problem with a horse like her was that everyone who knew something of animals wanted her. He must be ever vigilant to protect her. He had not been last night, yet the horse was still here. He had been lucky and he knew it.
“Aw hell” he muttered. He nodded his head in the affirmative and yelled back “I’d be most appreciative” then started to get up. He stopped. Tanner could hardly move his whole left arm. From where the Mare had bit him on his shoulder down to his wrist was just one big throb. “Aw hell” he muttered again. “Can’t have that feller see me creaking around like some kinda invalid “he thought. So, despite his pain he soon retrieved his tin cup and walked over to the Indian.
The Indian was studying Tanner intently. Tanner nodded at the man. The Indian nodded back and raised the coffee pot. Tanner presented his cup and it was filled. Tanner squatted down and looked back at his camp ”Lordy,” he thought “Bout the only place this fella coulda seen me is right where he is. This ain’t no accident, that’s for sure.” He looked over at the man. He was not smiling now. Tanner got the feeling that he did not smile often. He tentatively tasted the coffee, it was good. He took another taste, good coffee and something else, a smokey flavor. He told the man the coffee was exceptional. The Indian ignored it.
“You are hurt” he said.
Tanner thought he had hid it fairly well and was upset at his failure. “Yeah, my horse and I had a little set to” he sighed
“That Mare is an exceptional animal” the Indian said.
This earned the Indian a long look. Tanner did not like his own words being used on him.
The Indian continued “the cut over eye, you fix, get bit?”
Tanner stared at the man. “If he was close enough to figure that out, then,, well I guess he coulda killed me twenty times over.” He nodded his head “Thas about what happened” he said quietly.
The Indian turned to look at him, he said “You did good fix,” nodded his head once and smiled.
Tanner felt strangely proud, getting praise from this stranger. The man offered Tanner more coffee and he accepted.
The Indian said “Horse bite bad. Bad medicine. Me fix. Me good medicine.”
This set Tanner back on his heels. He fumbled with his fixings as he considered the offer. He offered the pouch to the Indian who looked Tanner in the eye and accepted. He expertly set about rolling the tobacco. As he handed the pouch back he said “I am called Flaming Arrow.” Tanner transferred the pouch to his left hand and said “Tanner” and offering his hand. Instead of shaking it Flaming Arrow gave him a smoke that he had just rolled. Flaming Arrow put a smoke in his own mouth, lit it and offered the cupped flame to Tanner, who accepted the flame. “Tanner” Flaming Arrow tested the name. Tanner nodded. The Indian pointed to the camp and said “Me fix there” and turned to put out the fire. Tanner picked up his rifle and went back to the Mare.
Tanner felt weak. He realized he had not eaten since those salty nuts, the boca, that he had been given yesterday at the cantina. With the Tequilla. Then the Whiskey, Lordy, he knew better than that. His head hurt more than a little, but it was nothing compared to the pain from his shoulder. He inspected the Mares cut above her left eye. The wound looked fine with the salve still fresh and no bugs about. How had Flaming Arrow even seen that in the dark he wondered?
He slowly unbuttoned his shirt with his good hand. There was a lot to consider but he just did not have the energy. He trusted Flaming Arrow for the mere fact that the man could have already killed him and did not. He was willing to live with that decision. Or die with it.
As he took his shirt off, he caught a whiff of himself.
“Oh my,” Tanner thought as he retched “So that’s how Flaming Arrow knew.”
The Indian was suddenly in the camp. He sat Tanner on a rock and put a smoke in Tanners mouth. “Smoke good” he told Tanner and waved his hand. Tanner understood. Flies were already swarming around his bite. He really did not want a smoke but accepted a light from Flaming Arrow anyway. He exhaled the smoke over his injured shoulder. The Indian nodded, then set to his work.
Flaming Arrow placed a poultice over the cleaned wound on Tanners shoulder. The worst of it over, Tanner was drawn and pale. Flaming Arrow was still concerned, he handed a canteen over to Tanner and motioned for him to poor water over his head, not something you usually do in the desert. The Indian pulled out Tanners bedroll and a red and white bundle fell out. Tanner stood up. The package Matt’s wife had given him. He had forgotten all about it. FOOD. He opened the former tablecloth and thrust his hand in and pulled out a tiny biscuit, size of a half dollar, hard as a rock. Tanner was just that hungry and put it in his mouth.
Flaming Arrow spread the bedroll and a blanket for himself in the shade of a high boulder. The heat of the day would be spent here. He went to get Tanner. Tanner offered some biscuits to the Indian. He opened his mouth to show him the biscuit resting there. Flaming Arrow nodded his understanding and followed suit. Tanner pulled out a package that the biscuits were tossed around and unwrapped it. Jerky! He grabbed a piece and gnawed into the dried and spiced beef. The taste was awesome. He immediately offered the package to Flaming Arrow who was examining a biscuit. The Indian was not too impressed by the earlier offering so he bit into the jerky with care. This was more like it. He nodded vigorously in approval and prepared to start the fire.
The two men rested comfortably. Tanner was feeling a whole lot better about the world in general. Flaming Arrow had set up a contraption that would transform the hard, half dollar biscuits into bites of pure gold and a second, smaller package had contained smoked fish. Remembering miz Jezzies words Tanner had taken the third package from the other side of her bundle and was happily surprised to see a fruitcake. Flaming Arrow was particularly impressed as sugary things were rare to him. He made a healing tea for Tanner and imbibed of it himself. The Indian had changed Tanners poultice and saw the evil draining away. He was pleased with his work.
Satiated, Tanner drifted off to sleep.
And woke up screaming. His muscles were in knots, he was hyperventilating and his eyes bulged out as he fearfully came to his senses. He saw Flaming Arrow with his knife in front of him. “You are Demon” he cried. Tanner looked into his Indian friend’s eyes. He saw fear. He understood. “No, no demon” he sighed as he shook his head “Dream” He held his hands up to show no threat “The gawd dam dream.”