The so-called White River Utes were on the warpath, and the entire state of Colorado was on edge. Flywheel Ranch wasn’t too worried. After all, the White River Agency was in the northwestern part of the state, we were in the southeastern portion, and our friend Squirrel Talker’s band of southern Utes had their reservation in the southwestern corner.
But we were almost alone in our relative equanimity. As Sheriff Robert Olsen put it to us one day, “It’s easy for you folks to be all calm, cool and collected.”
“Why so?” Tam asked. He and I were in town, grabbing our usual meal at Ethel’s before heading back out to the ranch with a number of small but necessary items and a freshly inked agreement with Fred Walsen to provide meat fer the company store serving the Walsen Mine.
“Well, let’s see. You’ve long had good relations with the Utes–”
“Not the White River bunch,” Tam cut him off, “besides which, we keep hearing the Southern Utes are fixing to go help their White River brothers against the whites any day now.”
The Sheriff shuddered visibly. “Let’s hope Chief Ouray can git ’em settled down before that happens. But number two: Your operation is about half Indian as it stands. Flywheel has got to understand the situation from the red man’s viewpoint better’n most of us do. By default.”
“Understanding don’t stop no bullet from ambush, Robert,” I pointed out. “You know the word from White River as well as we do. They killed a bunch of folks, including the Indian Agent, Nathan Meeker. Who surely deserved killing as much as any man, trying to force warriors into being farmers and all. But we ain’t assuming we’re immune, jist ’cause we mostly git along with ’em.”
Which was a lie. Given the paranoid atmosphere among whites in Colorado at the moment, Tam and I’d decided it was best not to tout our total sympathy fer the red men who’d been pushed, bulled, and hornswoggled out of their treaty lands time and again.
There is definitely such a thing as too much honesty.
On the long ride back out to the ranch, Tam and I got to talk without any other ears within earshot. Except fer the horses, of course.
“Crazy Rifle,” I asked, not really concerned one way or the other, “you think there’s likely to be a secondary flare-up? Another true Indian War?”
He chewed that over fer a bit before answering. “Don’t really think so, Dawson. My gut says Ouray’s peace policies have pulled the stingers on the rest of ’em, more or less. More likely, it’s jist gonna simmer a bit from here on in–iffen Ouray gits the captive women back to the whites, that is, which I reckon he will.”
“Them women will likely have been used some before they git back.”
“True. So…what’s your point?”
“Nothing much, I guess. We can only wait and see how long it takes to feel safe fer us to make our annual pilgrimage to the Rez. Damn glad you’re hale and hearty this year, though; I’ll tell you that much.”
“Why thankee, cowboy. It’s nice to know you care.”
“Sadie told us last night she’s gonna marry Henry when she grows up.”
I thought my partner might chuckle at that, but he looked thoughtful instead. “Maybe she will. That’d sure make a strong combo fer inheriting the ranch, lock, stock, and barrel. Except this will be news to Henry, I’m sure.”
“No it won’t.”
“She told Henry himself the same thing.”
Now he chuckled. “She’s her mother’s daughter fer sure. Four years old and already laying down the law to the man of her choice. How’d Henry take it?”
“Surprisingly well,” I admitted, “fer a nine year old boy. By the way, Sadie’s five now. Jist so you know.”
“She is? My, how time’s fun when you’re having flies.”
“Know what Henry said? He said he’d very much like fer them to git married, but she was gonna have to wait till she was out of high school. ‘Cause he had Grandpa Tam’s itchy foot and knew he was gonna have scratch it fer a bit, later on.”
“Time out. Catamount Cut coming up. Feel clear to you, cowboy?”
We pulled up, fishing our glass out of our saddlebags, and looked the prime ambush spot over thoroughly.
“Couiple of rabbits feeding on the left side of the road without a care in the world,” I reported, “and the squirrel in that stunted jackpine on the right ain’t alarmed, neither. Looks clear.”
The tale teller didn’t comment or nod, but he did fold his little telescope back up. We headed on toward the Cut, reassured–but slipping the hammer thongs off our six shooters anyway. Familiarity breeds contempt, they say. Guess that must be true fer some folks, but not fer the two of us. Nor fer others who’d surivived the worst the West could throw at ’em.
Such survivors of course included Tam’s two sons, Cougar and Wolf, plus at least three of the wives: Tam’s Laughing Brook, my Marie–aka the onetime outlaw Trisha Cobb–and fer that matter, Coug’s redheaded Penny.
“Crazy Rifle,” I said suddenly, “I jist realized something.”
“Yeah. Remember me once saying I realized I’d been Elisha, the Old Testament prophet, in a past life?”
“Of course. When you come back to the land of the living after the bear tore you a new one. Same thing as me having been Tarabivo Naritgant, Dangerous Man. Or as the Spanish called him, Chief Green Horn.”
“Yeah. Well, I’m…seeing something. Waxing prophetic, maybe. The Prophet Dawson.”
He looked over at me then, jist fer a second, his eyes serious. “Well then, spill it, Prophet. Before you lose it.”
“I’m getting to it. We talked one time about having the insight that we were sent here by the Creator, or at least by whatever passes for a Spiritual Hierarchy, to this exact bit of Huerfano County, Colorado, fer a specific reason. You know, to be preservers and protectors of certain things that needed to be preserved and protected. The seed buffalo herd. Geode Cave. Later on, Sapphire Cave and the Inca gold. Prob’ly more we haven’t figured out yet.”
“There’s that,” Tam mused, “and a good deal more, I reckon. Your involvement at the Constitutional Convention helped protect and preserve a few things, starting with our right to keep and bear arms when them liberals wanted gun control written right into the Constitution fer the State of Colorado.”
I nodded. “Plus, there’s the future beyond us. The next generations. My grasp on this is fading already; I better spit it out quick before I lose it.”
“But Tam, Iet me tell you ’bout the kids.”
Dawson don’t get gripped by his Prophecy Persona all that often, but when he does, it’s a good time to shut up and listen. Which I done. Ever so often, I’d glance at him as we rode along, and what I seen weren’t the Dawson Trask I knew most days.
It was indeed the prophet Elisha, robe and sandals and gleaming bald head.
Jist like my Blackfoot warrior friend Tall Pine had seen me in full Chief Green Horn regalia back in the day when I let my mouth fly at them Gros Ventres that wanted to kill us.
“Git to telling,” was all I told him.
“Henry and Sadie,” he replied, “have got some adventuring to do. I can see it clear as day. They’ll be the ones to take over the ranch–I think they will, someday–but not fer a while yet. There’s a…a path ahead of ’em. Blazed with glory and hardships, maybe hardships as great as you or I or Brook or Marie ever seen. Which I wouldn’t wish on a pack a rattlers, but it is what it is.
“Reggie…I still don’t like that boy overmuch, nor him me, but–he’s gonna make a mark far from home, tale teller.”
I chuckled. “Reggie’s gonna make a mark wherever he’s at, I’d guess.”
“True that. But I mean a specific mark, with animals obviously. Like John James Audubon did fer birds, only I’m guessing history will end up knowing Reggie Tamson fer his work on–”
“Rattlesnakes?” My suggestion was tongue in cheek. Who’d give a hoot about a damn rattler?
“Exactly. Reptiles, anyway. You realize he’s still mad at me fer shooting the diamondback that bit him and tried to bite Felix?”
“No,” I replied slowly, “I did not realize that.”
“Well, it’s true. He is.”
“Any more? What about Felix?”
“Can’t sense much more ’bout anybody. Crap. There was more; I jist lost it. Not about Felix, though–some of the others, I think…no, dammit, it’s gone.”
“Well,” I shrugged, “maybe Felix is due fer a calmer incarnation.”
Dawson stared at me fer a second before commenting. “You’re saying Believer come back to Earth fer a bit of rest and recuperation?”
We both busted out laughing at that, cackling so hard our sides hurt before we could git ourselves to stop.