Hot off the trail
Chapter two, Blood Canyon:
The horses are nervous, I've got a creepy feel'n and I don't like any of this a bit. Stuck in this canyon with Roy lying there helpless and as for how it looks, hopeless as well. When night falls in a high desert canyon the sky appears to be pulling itself away from the world. The clouds are high, thin and run out of here like white smoke drawn away in a passing wind. The shadows begin moving around on the canyon walls like mysterious cloaked dancers passing from one side of the stage to the other and though they do not have any substance they seem to have a living presence. As the darkness increases the shadows fade into the shear walls of the canyon, but you somehow feel that although now hidden, they are still there lurking throughout the night.
Soon your vision fails and everything looks the same, black! Just when you think the night has settled and all is calm, the keeper of the canyon begins her nightly work. You can hear her coming from a distance from the direction of the canyon's mouth. She swoops through the canyon sweeping her magical swirling broom from side to side. Rustling everything in her path and whisking away with any and everything not attached. When she reaches the canyon's end she slithers up and over the wall carrying off all of the days debris.
With the canyon swept clean the air becomes cold, crisp and clear letting the midnight blue heavens show through with all of its sparkling pulchritude. Now is when your bones start to chill and your thoughts can begin to wonder. Sounds that would never penetrate the commotions of the day stand out bold, piercing to the ear and they become confusing to the mind, as they seem to have no known origin. This is the setting from which myths are born.
Suddenly out of no where like Lazurus coming forth from the grave, Roy sat up and looked straight at me Eye to eye with a look on his face that would scare the devil himself. He spoke to me as though he was not a bit surprised that I was there. He said, 'there here! ' Who I questioned? "Yahi" he answered. I thought back for a second for my reply, Yahi, they ain't none of them left except that squaw back in town. I talked to one named Ishi yesterday claimed Roy. Needless to say I breathed a sigh of relief, as I knew without doubt Roy did not talk to anyone yesterday. I couldn't help but to laugh a little as I explained to him that he must have been dreaming cause I was sitt'n right here nurse maid'n him all day while he was sick with fever and I told him that I reckoned that the fever must have been what caused him to wonder into this box canyon to begin with.
Roy explained that he was not sick nor was he lost. He said that it was a dream that he had before he left that brought him out here. He said that he was having a vision when I got here. He began to explain the vision to me. He started off telling me about how there were stories of Indians that could turn into animals, which I have heard something of before. Roy went on to explain how the squaw at General Shore's house was this Ishi fellas's sister. So I had to wonder and ask, what does any of this got to do with us? Roy replied, Ishi has the missing girl from town and he wants to make a trade. "A trade!" I questioned, the two girls aren't even connected. I continued on stating, The white girl's family can't decide for the General's family and the General's family can't decide for the white girls family.
Roy explained, the fact that Indian people don't look so much to the individual when it comes to things like moral issues or something that will affect the community as a whole. He continued on saying, They do believe that each is an individual but each with a special part that helps make the whole. When one suffers they all equally suffer, I guess you could say in Ishi's mind it's a more than equil trade, a young girl for a young girl and both end up where they belong. In this case the whole community consist of Ishi, his sister. You see, Shore's men did not just kill a tribe of Indians this time, they finished off an entire race of human beings. Ishi and his sister are the last of the Yahi people forever. Just a couple hundred years ago there were roughly 25,000 of them and most of those died from terrible diseases, which we brought here. There is one other thing stated Roy, What might that be? I reluctantly asked. Not knowing that the answer would be something that would shock the world as the town knows it. Roy answered saying, there is something secret and dark about this white girl's life, I'm just not sure about it yet.
So tell me Roy, just what is it that that you and I are supposed to do about all that mess? I mean do you think that anyone in town is gonna buy all that crap? Hell, I been sitt'n right here the whole dog garn time Roy and I didn't see or hear none of it. I began to speak out my reasoning for leave'n all this be. First off Roy, California has a bounty on the head of every free Indian and it ain't no dead or alive bounty neither. In fact a scalp is all that's required to collect, you know that Roy. Why if we were found to be part of helping an Indian we'd be killed fer it as well, and there wouldn't be nobody care that you're a big shot and all that neither and they sure wouldn't give hang'in me two cents worth of thought either, I'll tell ya that much.
There was no talking Roy out of it and he said he had some kind 'a medicine that would make everything turn out all right. Roy for some reason believed that this time there was things involved more powerful than guns and know'n how to use-em. He said there was right and wrong like we know it here and now, and there is a bigger right and wrong that will one day belong to history and someday God will sort it all out. Then he said, Know'n all of that, this was something he just has to do.
Well let me tell'ya something else he knew too. He knew darn well enough that I would not of be here at all if I hadent already come to the conclusion that he was up to something like this and that I really already decided to take part in it. I just had to sort out the details and get the facts straight in my own mind. One thing I can tell ya for sure, regardless of what Roy said about the big picture. I'm glad I have my guns and my confidence, backed by experience of course, to use them, as well as if not better than anyone.
The day passed rather quickly with all the discussion and settin up a proper camp, as Roy expected that we could be here for a while. Being use to these kinds of adventures Roy and I both packed plenty. Along about dusk Roy had a good stock of wood in and I was boiling up a pot of rattlesnake and cactus stew. The cactus I got fresh but the snake meat was some I cured out a while back and brought along. It is not a bad stew with the right seasonings and I always travel with a pouch of my favorite blend of dried homegrown herbs and spices. Hey, even when everything else goes wrong on these missions of ours, we always eat good!
After supper we made some fresh coffee, which we enjoyed along with some small talk as we stoked the fire enough to still have hot coals for morning breakfast. Out under the wild open skies of the western desert mountains and canyons you have to sleep with a roof. For the bugs and small critters it's little holes in the sandy floor, for the snakes and lizards it's under a rock ledge, for cougars and bears it's caves and for us it's two woolen blankets. The corners are propped up off of the ground with sticks, the foot end up about two feet and the head end about three feet. If you just slept out here with your cloths and a blanket you would wake up wet with dew in the morning and catch a bad chill in your bones.
As the night passed I found myself uneasy causing me to toss and turn till I decided to get up in the middle of the night to put some more wood on the fire. I threw on a couple of logs and sat there gazing into the fire in a "half a-sleep haze" poking around at it with a stick. The flickering flames bring out a ring of shadow dancers that surround the camp, and my mind was blank in a peaceful bliss. All of the sudden as I sat there an awakening chill came over me causing me to sit up straight and open my eyes in a wider manor than they were. About a hundred or so yards off, straight in front of me, I saw what seemed to be more than just a few Indians and one was walking right toward me. Without drawing attention to it I started trying to wake Roy up. Just short of yelling nothing was working.