Legends: The beginning


Forty Rod:
Chapter 1. 
It was over.  No more jolting, rocking, clanking, or rattling.  Gone for a bit were the dirt, smell, discomfort, and inconvenience.  I had had my fill of dust, cinders, horse manure, sweat, and bugs for the time being.  At least for now I could rest a bit.  All of the “wonders” of modern travel were behind me.  Over two thousand miles, and what felt like a lifetime ago, I had left my home in Maryland and started my journey west.  I had begun the trip alone and with sufficient, albeit limited, funds, but had later been joined by two people who would forever after have my affection, devotion, and respect.  Alone and together we had traveled by train, stagecoach, and mud wagon across hills and mountains and prairies, suffering together the heat and cold, the wind, rain, drought and discomfort of the trip.  Now, here at last, deep in the Rocky Mountains, I had come to the end of my portion of the trip. 

The stage driver, a gaunt whip of a man named Wilbur Coleman, who had been most solicitous of my welfare, passed my two pieces of luggage down to the station agent, who set them roughly with several other pieces belonging to those passengers who were stopping in this small town.  Unaccompanied freight was stacked in another pile.  As I waited for people to pick out their belongings, I heard one of my companions say to the other, “This is not much of a town, Frisco.  We need to find a place to stay the night, at least, and see if we can find this Bartholomew Bolton that Marty is looking for.” 

The speaker was John Diamond, a handsome man standing over six feet tall, dressed in an expensive, if somewhat flashy, manner.  He and the lady traveling with him had joined me a few hundred miles south of Chicago many days ago, and upon hearing my story, had ‘adopted’ me.

“John, we have to try.  We have to make sure everything is going to be okay.   I couldn’t live with myself if we didn’t do all we could for that kid.”

This was the lady known as Frisco Deane.  Miss Deane owned an entertainment establishment in San Francisco.  She had been visiting relatives in New York, and she and Mister Diamond had some sort of arrangement to conduct business together on the west coast.  They were not, I was certain, aware that I could overhear their conversation.

I had heard ‘Cherokee’ John Diamond referred to as a gambler by many people, and a gunman by a few.  None of this was said within the range of his hearing, however, and I gathered that he was both  respected and feared, perhaps a dangerous man.  Father would have called him a ‘fancy man’ and would have been shocked to find that I had taken up with such a person.  Both of my parents would have been horrified to know of my friendship with Miss Deane, as well.  She was not considered ‘respectable’ by most ‘upstanding’ citizens, yet both of these fine people had taken good care of me, seeing to my comfort and wellbeing, looking after my interests.  I believed that my parents would eventually have approved had they lived to know the pair, but this was not the case.

Momma had died first, of cholera, just short of three years before.  Father was killed only seven months ago when the factory he owned burned down.  He had escaped, but had gone back inside to try to save some workers who were trapped.  All of them perished.

I had then gone to live with my father’s sister, Aunt Lucille, for a short time, but she was not well.  She finally gave me all of Papa’s remaining money, his gold watch, some of Momma’s jewelry and personal things, some family pictures, and a small Colt’s revolver converted to shoot brass cartridges.  She also gave me all her love and best wishes, and sent me on my way to a new home in the ‘Wild West’.  I later learned that she had only survived a month from the time I left until she succumbed to the disease that had wasted her away.

After finding a place to clean and freshen ourselves somewhat, we took a table near the back wall of a small, surprisingly clean café.  Mr. Diamond sat, as he always did, facing the door in a position where he could also keep the entrance to the kitchen in view.  He wore two beautiful silver plated pistols covered in engraved patterns.  They had carved ivory handles of almost pure white.  I had commented on them when we first met and was told that beauty also lay in function, and that these pistols were beautiful in more than just their appearance.  Mr. Diamond told me that he considered them to be the finest pistols available anywhere in the world today.  It was a short lesson, and one that I never forgot.

As we sat eating a light meal of beef and potatoes, which seemed to be the standard fare for this part of the world, Mr. Diamond’s eyes never stopped watching everything around us.  We ordered a dessert of apple pie at the waitress’s urging, and as it was placed before us, Mr. Diamond asked her, “I beg your pardon, Miss.  Perhaps you might tell us how to find a Mister Bartholomew Bolton.”

The lady smiled. “Bartholomew?  He’d be amused to be called that, nowadays.  He goes by just plain Bart.  He was in town earlier this mornin’.  An’ I’m a ‘ma’am’, not a ‘miss’, but thanks anyhow.”   She turned and bellowed into the back, “Hey, Bill.   Bart Bolton still in town?”

We heard the sound of a door opening and closing, before getting the reply.  “His wagon’s still down behind the gen’ral store.  Why?”

“Folks out here lookin’ for ‘im.”

The cook’s head appeared from the door for a second, then disappeared again.  From the kitchen we heard another yell, “Hey, Willie, run down the block an’ tell Bart Bolton there’s some folks want to see him down here.  Tell him there’s a lady.”

The door slammed open and closed, and footsteps could be heard running away.  Ten minutes later, after the messenger had returned, a young man of perhaps seventeen years entered the café, sidled to a place near the door, and stood leaning on the counter and watching us all carefully, especially Mr. Diamond.  As soon as he appeared, Mr. Diamond had slowly risen to stand beside his chair and leaned back slightly until has shoulders barely touched the wall.  His hands hung loosely at his sides, not far from those beautiful revolvers. 

I noticed the young stranger and noted that he also wore two guns.  They were not as pretty as Mr. Diamond’s pistols, nor as modern, but worn with familiarity and authority.  They were more like the gun that Aunt Lucille had given me, but larger, forty-four caliber Army guns.  The barrels were only about five or six inches long and the guns were carried in holsters worn high on a single belt strapped tightly about the young man’s waist just above his hip bones.  They were worn and obviously well used, but clean and well cared for.

His clothing was also worn, but relatively well cared-for and almost clean.  His tan canvas trousers were tucked into soft Indian boots with a scalloped top that came to just below the knee.  The boots were decorated with large, tarnished brass buttons called ‘conchos’, attached down the outside seams with leather thongs.  He had on a very nicely tanned buckskin shirt with fringe across the yokes and over the tops of the sleeves.  Upon his shoulders was a battered hat hanging down his back from a thin, braided cord, and his dark hair hung below his collar and curled across his forehead.  I noticed that his cold blue eyes practically never blinked, and he never took them off of Mr. Diamond for more than a split second.

The sound of boots on the boardwalk outside was abrupt and loud, and the boy stood away from the wall quickly.  He faced Mr. Diamond squarely, his thumbs resting on top of his gun belt near his pistols.  I looked quickly to Mr. Diamond and saw him, eyes locked on the door, but keeping the young man in sight, as well, his hands still positioned near his own guns.  A moment later the door burst open and four men entered.  I only really looked at the first man as the other three spread out behind and beside him.

He was taller than Mr. Diamond, and considerably heavier.  He was also twenty years or more older than my friend, who I had judged to be forty or so.  Dressed in black trousers tucked into tall black boots, a rough gray wool shirt, and a brown leather vest beneath his heavy black range coat, the man looked both huge and formidable.   His only visible weapon was a long barreled revolver called a ‘Peacemaker”, worn on the left side so that he would have to reach across his body to draw it.  He stopped in the middle of the room, looked hard at Mr. Diamond, glanced briefly at me, and then removed his hat before speaking to Miss Deane in a voice like controlled thunder.  “I’m Bart Bolton.  You wanted to see me, Ma’am?”

Miss Deane smiled brightly.  “No, Mister Bolton, not I.”   She tilted her head to me as I stepped forward.  He turned back to me, his eyes narrowed, and his voice changed from a thunder to a mild roar.

“Well, now!  What have we here?”

I felt myself trembling and fought to control it.  Before I could speak, he rumbled at me again.  “Who are you, and what business do you have with Bart Bolton?”

I stood up as tall as I could manage.  Sir, I am Marty Holtzinger, formerly of Maryland.”  I stopped as he suddenly leaned toward me, catching me off guard.   “Take off your hat.  Let me get a look at you.”   I did as I was told.

“So!  You’re Alice Ann’s kid?  Is that right?”

“Yes, sir!”

“And what are you doing here in High Park?  Where’s your Ma an’ Pa?” 

I swallowed hard and looked straight into his hard cold, copper-colored eyes.  It took me several tries before I could get it out.  “Mother and Father are both dead, sir.  I stayed with Aunt Lucille, Father’s sister, for a while, but she was very ill.  She couldn’t raise me, so she sent me here.  I have since learned that she, too, has passed on.”

He stared at me for the longest time.  Finally, his eyes lowered and he growled softly at me, “Alice Ann is dead?  I hadn’t heard that.  I’m sorry.  I wasn’t told.”  He shook his shaggy head from side to side slowly several times.  He looked very stolid, standing there, and I wondered at the lack of emotion.  I was to learn that this was simply his way.  He felt the emotion, sometimes very deeply, but never let it show.

 Suddenly he looked back at me.  “Are you afraid of me?”  I thought about that for a few seconds before I took in a deep breath and answered.  “A little, sir, but not much.  Momma told me that you were”, I recited, “ the hardest headed, toughest, meanest old bastard on either side of the Mississippi River,”…he let go an abrupt burst of laughter…”but that you’d never mistreat nor hurt an woman or a child, nor allow any harm to come to them if you could prevent it.  She also told me that she loved you more than you could ever know, but that she had to lead her own life, in her own way.”

A startled look crossed his weathered face, and he blushed slightly and cleared his throat.  “Well, we didn’t agree on a lot of things, I guess.  I should have told her how I felt, but I just never learned how to say them kind of words.”  After a pause, he turned to Miss Deane and Mr. Diamond.  “How do you folks fit into this.”

 I answered his question before they could speak.  “They are traveling with me, sir, and have been very gracious and helpful to me.  Without their assistance my trip would have been unbearable.  They are my friends.”  I turned to each in turn and said, “This is Miss Francesca Deane, of San Francisco, and Mister John Diamond, from Juniper City.”

The young man at the side counter tensed visibly at the mention of Mister Diamond’s name and Bart Bolton glowered at Mr. Diamond for a bit, then nodded sharply.  “You folks have a place to stay tonight?”

Mr. Diamond shook his head.  “Not yet, Mister Bolton.  We wanted to make sure that Marty was cared for first.  We can put up in a hotel…”

“Nope, you can’t.  Ain’t a hotel in town fit for you folks.  Well, then,” he decided without consulting anyone else,  “you’ll stay at the ranch.  My guests.  We’ll see you get back in time for the stage day after tomorrow.” 

He turned to the young man who had first come into the café.  “Jack, you get out to the house and make sure Mrs. Gonzales has the extra rooms ready by the time we get there.  Tell her what’s goin’ on.  Perry, you go round up a buggy for us and see to these folks’ bags.  Mose, my complements to Mrs. McGuire, and would she mind staying at the ranch for a spell to help out?  Explain things to her.  And, Mose?  Be polite.  Be real polite.”

He turned back to me.  “Turn around…let me get a look at you.”  I turned and ended up facing him again.  “Yeah, I see it.  You got your Ma’s eyes.   How old would you be?”

“I’m thirteen, sir, just barely.  My birthday was two months ago.”

“Thirteen.  Well, well.  Now, let’s do something about this ‘sir’ business. I ain’t used to being called ‘sir’.  What would you like to call me, somethin’ easier on both of us?  How would ‘Grandpa’ suit you?”

“Grandpa.”  I tried it out for size.  It fit nicely and I told him so.

He reached out awkwardly and with a huge, gnarled hand, pulled me closer to him.  I was every bit as awkward when I moved to stand beside his towering bulk. He smiled down at me and suddenly didn’t seem so fierce.  He raised his eyes to the others in the room and announced in a booming voice to those who were in the small room, “Folks, this here is Martha June Holtzinger, my grand-daughter, and she’s come home to stay.”

Forty Rod:

Chapter 2.
The next few months were a time of getting acquainted and learning new things for everyone involved with Marty Holtzinger, and it all started right away.

Early the next morning, after Marty moved into the big house on the H B ranch, Bart Bolton sat alone on the front veranda, drinking coffee, and staring off into the valley below.  John Diamond, a cup in his hand, joined him.  “Do you mind if I sit here with you, Mister Bolton?  It looks like a pleasant place to welcome the morning.”  Bolton nodded at a chair and murmured, “Sit on down.”

After several minutes of silence, Bolton harrumphed and sat up in his chair.  He looked over at Diamond and started to speak, then turned away.  A second time was more successful.  “Diamond, I don’t know you, an’ I got no right to ask you for nothin’, but, well….”  He hesitated, coughed again, and went on, “Marty is, well, she’s a female…I mean, well, ah ….”  He stopped again, and again found a way to restart.  “Look, Marty seems to trust you and Miss Deane.  I don’t know what happened back on the trail out here, but you could help me… uh, her… get sort of adjusted here, if you know what I mean.”

John Diamond didn’t look at the big old man, but put his coffee down and stretched his legs out in front of him.  He pulled two cheroots from a leather case and held one out to his host.  Bolton took it and looked it over.  He eventually, after watching Diamond, cut the end with his pocketknife and lit the cigar.  “Thanks.”

“You are certainly welcome.”  John drew the smoke deeply, exhaled, and said carefully, “Miss Deane and I discussed this very thing last evening.  We were about to ask if you would object to us staying on a week.  Not only for Marty’s sake, but for ours, as well.”

“Yours?  Why?”  The big man looked frankly doubtful.  Diamond sipped coffee and took another drag on the thin cigar.  “We, Miss Deane and I, have become quite attached to Marty.  She is a fine young lady and she held up to the trip without complaint.  More so, I might add, than many of our fellow travelers did.  We want to see her settled and happy before we continue.  Also, I have a step-daughter only a couple of years older than Marty, and Miss Deane has a daughter just her age and a son of sixteen in schools in New York City.”

Bart stared at John Diamond as he finished speaking.  When John was done, Bolton said, “Never figured you for a family man, Diamond.  You ain’t got the look.”

John laughed.  “I never considered myself a family man, either.  Not until two years ago.  I married a widow with a daughter and have become quite respectable.  To this day, no one is more surprised by that fact than I.”  His face was split with a wide, happy smile.  “Besides”, he continued, “both Miss Deane and I are thoroughly tired of traveling, and, while I cannot speak for her, my bed was wonderful, and the food is excellent.”

Moments later they were joined by Frisco Deane and Margaret McGuire, the woman from town who Bolton had asked to come out to stay with them.  Mrs. McGuire began by saying, “Good morning, Gentlemen”, as John and the old man both rose to their feet.  “ Miss Deane and I will be needing some things from the store for Marty, if she’s to stay with us, Bart.  I will be needing a few things for the kitchen, as well.  May I also tell Mister Morrissey that while his cooking may be sufficient to keep cowhands from starving, it is in no way suitable for young ladies?”

Bolton smiled for the first time that morning.  “No, Ma’am, YOU tell him.  Just give me time to get some boys out with the cattle, because when he hears that his yellin’ is gonna start a stampede for sure.”

She smiled sweetly up at the big man.  “No he won’t.  I promised to teach him how to bake on the trail.  He thinks I’m an angel sent just for him.”

They all laughed as Bolton told the ladies to go into town and get whatever they needed.  “Have Benson put it on my bill.  Is Marty going with you?”  Having assured the men that Marty was indeed going, the ladies went to secure a wagon.  Bolton stood and walked to the edge of the porch and whistled.  Down by the bunkhouse three of the men who had been in town the day before turned as one and walked quickly over to the veranda.  When they got there, Bolton made introductions.

The first man, a tall, efficient looking Mexican with a wicked scar on his chin and a wide mustache, was introduced as “Emiliano Jose Guadelupe Maria Escobar.  Call him Segundo or Melio.  He’s the foreman and ranch manager here.”

Next was an older hand.  “This here is Perry Whitaker.  Perry’s the blacksmith, vet, harness maker, and people patcher-upper, along with everything else he does.” 

He turned to the last man, the youngster that had been in the café the day before.  “This is Jack Thorn.  Jack is hunter, scout, and all around top hand.”  He turned to Perry and told him to get the ladies to town and back.  The man scurried off to comply and Segundo leaned against the nearest post.  Bolton looked a Jack Thorn.  “Jack, I need you to do something a little out of your line.  I ain’t tellin’ you you hafta do this, but I’m hopin’ you will.” 
His voice was controlled, but still a deep bass rumble like far off thunder.  The kid didn’t say a word, but stood waiting. 

“Jack, I need someone I can trust to watch after my grand daughter, keep her out of trouble, see she learns the ropes around here.  You’re as good as I got, an’ besides, you’re nearer her age than anyone else here.  More’n that, Jack, I know I can trust you to keep her safe.”

Jack Thorn looked down at his boots for a long time.  When he looked back up at Bolton, his face was a mask of misery.  “But, Boss,  I don’t know nothin’ about girls.  I mean, I don’t know NOTHIN’ about girls. I don’t know how to talk or act around ‘em, don’t know what they want, what they think…”

Diamond interrupted with a laugh.  “If you ever figure out what a woman wants or thinks, Mister Thorn, come and see me.  We can write a book together and get very rich selling it to men just like us.”  Everyone but Jack saw the humor in this.  At last he swallowed, coughed, and, still looking at his boots, replied, “Okay, Boss, I’ll give it a shot.  Don’t you go getting’ all mad at me if it don’t work out right, though, ‘cause like I said, I don’t know NOTHIN’ about girls.

John Diamond noticed an immediate change in the men of the H B ranch.  Within a day their language had improved in at least two ways.  The profanity was reduced to a minimum and their grammar got better.  He also noticed a marked upgrading of personal hygiene and attention to personal dress.  He and Frisco Deane smiled and said nothing.

On the fifth day Diamond walked behind the big combination barn and smithy.  He had asked if there was someplace where he might practice his ‘marksmanship’ and was directed to this place.  Moving without sound, he found himself abruptly facing Jack Thorn’s six-gun.

Easy, son.  I didn’t mean to startle you.  I wasn’t aware that anyone else was back here.  I was told by Segundo that it would be acceptable to do some shooting. “

The short, ugly Army Colt swept back and slid effortlessly into its holster.  John Diamond noted the amazing speed of the boy’s draw, and filed the information away for future reference.  “Sorry”, the youngster muttered. “I wasn’t expectin’ nobody, either.  I was just about to do some practicin’ myself.”

A half-hour later, John Diamond had seen enough to know that Jack Thorn was as good a natural talent with a six-shooter as he had ever seen.  He made a decision on his way back to the room that had been provided for him.  He carefully unpacked a bundle from his small traveling trunk and laid it on the bed.  He unwrapped the parcel and set the pieces in a pile, took out a compact cleaning kit and set to work.

Following dinner Diamond asked Jack Thorn to join him outside for a moment.  The kid warily followed the older man onto the veranda, where John sat down next to an object wrapped in a cotton cloth.

“Jack, I have been watching you.  I think you are a good man.  I know you have great skill with a handgun, and suspect it is also true of any weapon you pick up.”   The boy stood stoically looking down at Diamond.  “You have more than skill.  You have judgment that is rare in someone of your age, truly of any age.  When we first met, you were ready, but not ‘proddy’, not on edge. I thought perhaps that you didn’t know any better, but earlier today you held your fire when I surprised you behind the barn.  You were very fast, and you were ready.  You were not, however, overly excited nor nervous.  That is rare even among more seasoned men than you.”  He stopped and peered at the young man before him, standing so calmly, watching.  Finally, John Diamond leaned over and picked up the package beside the chair and held it out to Jack.

“Jack, I want you to have these guns. They are far superior to yours.  Your guns are old and worn.  I would hate to see them fail you when you needed them most, or when Miss Marty needed you to have them work reliably.”

Jack unwrapped the cloth to find a pair of short-barreled Peacemakers in tooled black holsters and a matching belt.  Diamond held out two boxes of forty-five caliber ammunition.  Jack Thorn pulled one of the guns reverently from the holster, pointed it at the roof above and set the rest down on a rocking chair.  He checked to see if the pistol was loaded, hefted it expertly in his hand, and looked at John.

“Mister Diamond, I can’t afford these guns.  I’d sure like ‘em, but they’re outta my range.”  He turned to put the gun back in its holster.

“How do you know you can’t afford the guns when you don’t know my price?”
Stopping in place and turning slowly, Jack faced the gambler, one eyebrow raised.

“The guns are yours, Jack, with some conditions.  First, use them to protect Marty when necessary.  You have the judgment and the skill.  Use them both.  Second, don’t ever shame me with them.  Don’t ever go against the law, and don’t show off with them.”  Jack nodded slightly and John continued.  “Third, don’t ever sell them or give them away except to your own children when that time comes.”  Thorn’s head snapped up and he blushed a bit.  John smiled inwardly, then went on, “Finally, Jack, if you fail me in this, I will hear of it and I will come back and take the guns away from you.”  He looked up at the serious young man holding the guns.  “ Can you meet my price, Jack?”

Jack Thorn, at sixteen years of age, accepted the deal.  He solemnly held out his hand and had it taken by Cherokee John Diamond.

“Don’t you worry, Mister Diamond, I won’t let you down.  You won’t be havin’ to come for the guns, sir.”

John slapped the young man gently on the back and asked, “How do you feel about Mister Bolton sticking you with Marty’s care and instruction, Jack?”

“Aw, you know, she’s a bit of a pain in the neck. Always askin’ questions an’ pokin’ into things.  Just naturally curious, I ‘spect.  Sorta like a cat.  She’s okay, though.”

He paused before going on, “I never was around no girls before, Mister Diamond.  I guess I didn’t know what to expect, but they’re just like guys except prettier an’ softer.  An’ a lot quieter, too.”  He grinned boyishly.  They walked back toward the front of the house, when Jack suddenly stopped and turned to face John Diamond directly,  “Hey, did you know she can read?  Caught her at it this mornin’ after breakfast.  She’s readin’ about some hombre called Hawkeye somethin’ or other.  She says he was real good in the wild country.  Some hombre name of Cooper wrote stories about him.”

 He looked very serious when he asked, “Mister Diamond, can you read?”

“Why, yes, Jack, I can read.  Can’t you?”

Embarrassment crossed the young face when he replied, “Nossir, I can’t.  Never learned how.  Never saw the need or took the time.”  He gave John a pleading look.  “Could you mebbe teach me?  I’m real smart an’ can learn fast.”

John smiled at the earnestness displayed before him.  “No, Jack.  I simply haven’t the time, but I believe we can make another arrangement.  I would be willing to wager that Marty would enjoy teaching….”

“NO!  Why, goshamighty, man, she’d think I’m stupid.  I couldn’t let her know she’s smarter’n me.”

John laughed right out loud at that, then explained when he saw the hurt look that his laughter had caused.  “I am sorry, Jack.  I meant no disrespect.  Listen to me, son.  Women are smarter than men in many ways.  Who works to take care of them and buy them pretty things?  Who fights to protect them?  Who takes them places to entertain them?  Who builds and sweats and slaves for them?  Who fawns over them and makes them feel special?  I am not saying that women don’t work hard, or can’t defend themselves, or amuse themselves from time to time.  But Jack, don’t you see that we do it for them because they expect us to?  Because they make us want to?”

As he turned away to go back inside he said over his shoulder, “If you would like for me to, I could ask Marty if she would be interested in teaching you.”

Inside, Jack hurried to Marty and spoke softly to her before Diamond could say anything.  John smiled slightly as they walked off a short ways and talked quietly.  After a few minutes Frisco detached herself from the settee where she had been standing near the two young people and walked to stand beside John.

“John, do you know what Jack is asking Marty?  He wants her to teach him to read.”

“I know, Frisco.  We discussed it a few minutes ago outside.”

“I think it’s wonderful”, the woman bubbled.  “I really do.  She could single-handedly bring civilization to this part of the world.  Do you know what else they were talking about?”

John looked tolerantly amused.  “Frisco, my dear, I haven’t a clue.”

She virtually gushed.  “She is demanding that in exchange for reading lessons and arithmetic, too, by the way, that Jack teach her to shoot and ride a horse  ‘western style’.”

That evening, after most of the others were in bed, John Diamond sat on the front veranda looking at the stars.  He missed Kate and Becky.  He hadn’t wanted to come on this trip, but a man had to look after his investments in person once in awhile.  He reflected that if he hadn’t come he would never have met Marty, and he shuddered to think what that might have meant to a young girl alone out here.  As he sat there a coyote cried into the darkness and he marveled at the sound.

“Almost spooky, ain’t it?”  John was surprised, but long practice and good nerves kept it from showing.   Bart Bolton had moved silently beside him.  He pulled over another chair and sat down next to the gambler.

“You got anymore of them little ceegars?  I gotta order me some of ‘em from Benson, too.”

John handed the cheroot to the big rancher and watched the man carefully cut the end off and light it.  Once it was going to Bolton’s satisfaction he turned to Diamond.  “You give Jack them guns with no strings attached?”

“No, sir.  That I did not.”  He explained the terms as he had laid them out to the young ranch hand.  “Do you object, Mister Bolton?”

“Nope.  I just wanted to be clear on the deal.  You always have extra guns to go handin’ out to folks?”

Diamond laughed at that, then explained, “Not very often, no.  I happened to win those from a man who thought he was a gambler.  He was no such thing.  I gave him enough to buy a decent gun so he wouldn’t be unarmed, but I took these from him to teach him a lesson.”

“Did it take?”

No, it did not.  Several days later he made a much more serious error.  He not only though he was a gambler, he also thought he was a gunfighter.  The man who killed him did not think so.  Miss Deane and I attended his burial the day before we met Marty.”

“They look like good guns.  Why didn’t you keep ‘em for yourself, or sell ‘em?”

Cherokee John pulled his coat open to reveal the guns he carried, gleaming softly in the lantern light.  “I prefer my Smith and Wessons to the Colt.  They fit my hands better.  I can’t explain it any better than that.”

The big rancher stood up and stretched.  “No need to.  I know what you mean.  I’m goin’ up to bed.  Thanks for the ceegar, Diamond.”

John Diamond sat alone for a short while before he finally got up and went inside.

Forty Rod:
Chapter 3.

The evening before they were to leave, Miss Deane and Mr. Diamond asked me to join them away from the others.  We went into the big parlor, a room seldom used, and made ourselves comfortable.  “Marty, before we go, we wanted you to know how much we will both miss you”, Mister Diamond said.  “We also want you to know that you may call on either of us at any time and we shall do all in our power to help you.  You only need to write our send a wire, (Is there a telegraph in town?  We must find out before we leave.) and we shall do what we can.  Do you understand?”

I assured them both that I understood fully, and I thanked them with all my heart.  Miss Deane handed me a folded sheet of paper.  I opened it to find both of their addresses and some other useful information, then refolded it and set it aside.  A long, awkward silence followed, broken finally when Mr. Diamond held his hand out to Miss Deane and asked, “Shall we go back to the others?”

My Grandfather, Mr. Segundo, and Jack Thorn rode with Mrs. McGuire and me as we escorted my two friends to the stage depot in High Park.  Wilbur Coleman, the driver we had on the last leg coming to high Park, was to be their driver on the next leg of their journey away from me.  He smiled at me and winked, as if to let me know that he was going to take care of my friends. 

After hugs and handshakes and many tears, the stage rolled out of town and I was left with my new family.  Already I was becoming accustomed to being in this new and wonderful place, among some of the most interesting people on the entire planet.  I had no idea how many more there were and how different my life was about to become.

Over the course of the days that followed, Marty Holzinger could be found almost anywhere on the H B, or in town.  She learned everything very quickly, and was fearless around animals.  At one point she demanded, and got, a rangy black stallion to ride.  Segundo at first refused, but gave in when Bolton told him quietly, “Don’t let her get busted up too bad, but it won’t hurt her none to get throwed and bruised.  Let her learn the way you did.”

Segundo fingered the scar on his chin and grinned at the bigger man. “Are you sure, Boss?  I learned most of my lessons painfully.”  Bart Bolton smiled.  “Yeah, I know.  I was there for most of your lessons, remember?  Hell, Melio, I got mine the same way.”

The horse promptly dumped the girl hard into the dust of the corral.  Marty got up as the horse was roped and led to a far corner, brushed herself off, and checked for damage.  Limping a bit, she walked to where the horse was being held.  The animal was wild eyed and struggling against the ropes that held him in check.  Marty stood a moment staring at the horse, then asked Segundo, “Could you tie him so he can’t move his head, please, and blindfold him?”

The ramrod glanced at Bolton who simply shrugged and nodded.  As the horse was being secured as she had asked, Marty walked to a shed nearby where she picked up a leather work glove and filled it with loose dirt.  She next filled a small jar with warm water from the trough, and gathered up a large piece of discarded cloth.  Taking her materials back to the horse, she set the jar and cloth aside, then suddenly swung the dirt-filled glove in a high arc.  The glove smacked the horse hard between the blindfolded eyes, making a loud sound like one gets from hitting a log with an ax.  The startled horse jumped violently as the girl picked up the jar and sloshed the warm water on the very spot she had hit.  The horse became frantic, but was well secured to a post sunk into the ground near the center of the corral.  A brief moment passed when the gathered crowd watched to see what this eastern girl-kid was up to.

Everyone was amazed to see Marty take the cheek strap of the headstall and pull gently on it, talking to the big horse all the while.  He resisted, lurching about, trying to free himself.  She mopped at the water on his face and used a singsong voice, telling the animal that it was all right.  She then gently took the muzzle and blew gently into the nervous horse’s nostrils.  The animal calmed noticeably after just a few minutes and Marty finally reached up and removed the blindfold.  The horse rolled his eyes, blew, stamped, and generally acted nervous and upset.  The girl continued to talk to him and mop at his wet face, sometimes blowing again into his nostrils.  Finally, she walked away, only to return with an apple and a turnip.  She gave these to the stallion as the cowboys stood in looking on in amazement.  The last thing Marty did was to untie the horse and lead him around the corral a half dozen times before stepping into the saddle and riding around on a now calmer and more manageable mount.

Bart Bolton, Segundo, and the others gathered around as Marty reined the black to a stop and climbed down.   She stripped the gear from him and let him loose in the corral before turning to look mildly at the cowhands.

“Girl, what did you just do out there”, Bolton asked?

“Grandpa, Papa told me that horses aren’t very smart about some things.  I simply fooled him into having to trust me.”

“I don’t get it”, said a redheaded cowboy named Bobby Bryant.

“He was blind and helpless and afraid.  He was also very angry and expecting to be hurt by the people who had him tied.  I hurt him with the glove full of dirt…oh, not really.  You can’t do much damage with a glove and a handful of sand…and the water was warm enough from the sun to make him believe he was bleeding.”

Amused glances went around before she went on.

“Now he was really scared, and that’s when I helped him and became his friend.  I was there, mopping the ‘blood’ away and making the hurt disappear.  The hurt stopped because he wasn’t hurt in the first place, just startled.  Then I talked calmly to him and helped him slow his breathing.  Finally, I let him follow me around.  Now we were fast friends.  See how easy it all was?  It’s not as hard on the horse and not as hard on the rider”, she absently rubbed a sore spot, ”as ‘rough breaking’ them.”  She smiled brightly at the men who looked at her in awe.

“And you learned this from your Pa”, Bolton asked?

“Yes I did, Grampa.  Papa knew a lot about horses and men.  Momma said he didn’t know much about women, though, and that’s why she caught him.”  That brought a blast of laughter from Bart and some of the others.  Marty noticed that Jack Thorn didn’t laugh.  Jack Thorn looked confused.

A week later Marty walked around the house and came on a scene she would always remember.  Standing in the yard in front of the house were her grandfather, Segundo, and Jack Thorn.  Facing them was a middle-aged Indian standing by his horse, two younger warriors on horseback, and another person mounted behind the two.

Marty pulled her cloak tighter around her and shivered, partly from the chill of the morning, and partly because she had never before seen a real, live wild western Indian.  Back home the Indians were few and mostly civilized.  A single glance could tell that these were NOT civilized Indians, though she detected not a trace of paint and the only feathers in sight were attached to the horses’ manes.  Bolton caught sight of her from the corner of his eye and slowly signaled for her to step closer.  As she approached she saw that Segundo was talking to the older man, using an odd mixture of English, Spanish, and the Indian’s own tongue, as well as a large measure of hand gestures and smaller finger signs.  As she watched, one of the young men’s horses sidestepped and Marty saw a girl watching her from the back of the last horse.  She decided the girl had to be about her own age and smiled and waved.  The girl shyly waved back and looked to see if the others had noticed.  The older Indian looked sharply around, saw what was going on, and smiled and nodded slightly.

The Indian girl slid down from the back of the pretty little liver-and-white paint pony she was riding, and nervously walked toward Marty.  Marty reached up and pulled the hood back from her head, letting the bright, but not very warm, autumn sun shine on her hair.  The Indian girl stopped, staring wide-eyed at the long waves of red that fell over Marty’s shoulders, then she slowly crept forward.

When she was a mere pace away her hand slowly moved to touch the copper hair, jerked her hand away, hesitated, and then moved again when Marty smiled.  The girl felt the hair, petted it, and smiled.  She looked into Marty’s eyes and began to talk.  Marty realized with a start that no one else was making a sound.  Segundo appeared at her side and began to translate.  “Her name is Bright Bird, and she is…uh…fascinated by your hair.  She has never seen such a color before.  Is it …real?”  He laughed.  “She would like to have a few strands to show her mother and her friends.  She says they will never believe her without proof.  She is afraid they will call her a braggart.”

Marty turned with a huge smile.  “Oh, Mister Segundo, please ask her to wait.”  She ran for the house as Segundo translated.  The girl looked frightened until the older man spoke softly to her.  Marty returned quickly with Missus McGuire in tow, and a pair of sewing scissors in her other hand.

“Missus McGuire, will you please cut about six inches of my hair and give the cuttings to me?”  When the woman didn’t move, Marty turned to Bart Bolton.  “Grampa?  Is it all right?”

The big man grinned and nodded, whereupon the woman trimmed Marty’s hair.  “Don’t worry about getting it neat.  We can trim it up later.”  She took the cuttings, a hank an inch in diameter and six inches long, wrapped them in a cotton handkerchief, and solemnly presented the package to the Indian girl.  The girl stared at the hair, then at Marty’s face, and then at the newly cut locks.  She turned and walked back to her pony, as the yard stood silent.  She carefully put the small package in a bag, then stood with her hands on the pony’s rump, thinking. She finally reached across the horses back and removed something from the other side, and held it for a while, her lips moving silently.  When she returned to stand in front of Marty, she proudly held out a fan made of feathers with small polished bone decorations and a tiny metal mirror.  Marty took it carefully and turned it in her hands several times.  She turned to her grandfather.  “Grampa, may I keep this?  Is it meant for me?”

“Yeah, darlin’, it’s yours.  Bright Bird is giving you one of her most treasured belongings ‘cause you gave her your hair.  I reckon you two are friends now.  Sorta like sisters.”  Marty held the precious fan to her face and felt the smoothness of the feathers and the coolness of the bone.  “Thank you Bright Bird.  Thank you so very much.”

As the Indians rode away, Bright Bird turned and smiled back at Marty.  “Pooneekay Vatsoom Ahduih”, she called softly.  Marty looked at Segundo for help.  “She said she’ll see you again, Marty.”
Iron Bear and his people are Utes, Marty, Weeminuche Utes”, Bolton told her later.  “He’s a chief, though that don’t mean what most white folks think it does.  He’s sort of elected, an’ he’ll be the boss until he gets too old, gets sick, or gets careless.  Some youngster will replace him some day.  The young men with him were Rock Face, the one on the left, and his own son, Magic Cloud.  The girl is his grand daughter.  Iron Bear came to see if he could have some cattle to feed his people.  I told him to take what he needed.”

 “I thought the Indians were great hunters, Grandpa.  Why would you need to give them your cows?”

Bart Bolton smiled at Marty.  “Good question.  They are great hunters.  Old Iron Bear could track a butterfly over a lava bed, but there simply ain’t no game to be hunted.  Been a bad year.  Dry.  They need help, an’ it hurt him somethin’ awful to have to ask.  He’s a proud man, Marty, a mighty proud man.  I consider him a friend, of sorts, an’ he’s a good leader for his people.  A bad leader would have tried to get by on huntin’ or would have stole my cattle.  He swallered his pride an’ did what it took to save the folks who were countin’ on him to take care of them.  In my mind that’s the sign of a good leader, a good man.”

He put his hand out and let it fall softly on her shoulder.  “You done good today, baby girl. You surely did.  That Injun child will always remember you gave her something of yourself, and took  an' cherished what she gave you in return.  That might count for a lot someday.”

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Forty Rod:

Chapter 4.
“Bart, the girl simply wants a nice Christmas dinner.  Nothing very elaborate.  Just a simple celebration and a nice dinner.”

Marty had been outside in the brittle cold night air before going to bed, and heard the conversation when she returned.  Neither Mrs. McGuire nor her grandfather were aware that she was listening.

“Aw, Margaret, I never had much to do with such goin’s on.  Besides, we still got a ranch to run….”

“Which will wait a couple of hours while we have dinner on Christmas Day.  Leave it all to Marty, Missus Gonzales, and me and we’ll take care of it.  You don’t have to do anything.”

Bart Bolton couldn’t find a way to handle this woman.  He never understood his own wife or daughter, and now this woman and Marty had taken over his house and his life, and had him in a situation for which he felt himself to be ill prepared.  Finally, he shook his head in resignation, murmured something about ‘a lot of fuss a’ feathers’ over a meal’, and started to turn to leave.  Mrs. McGuire quickly caught him by the chin, stood up on her tiptoes, and kissed him on the cheek.  She was out of the room before the color had finished rising in his face.

The next week was a rush of activity around the H B.  Bart Bolton often looked in on some occurrence or another, shook his head and muttered, and went off on his own, contributing nothing.  Mrs. McGuire ram-rodded the preparations with the capable assistance of Mrs. Gonzales, terrorizing the hands when they were not doing something directly involved with running the ranch. 

Mickey Morrissey was recruited and discovered to have recipes and skills unknown before this.  Mrs. Gonzalez had the help of her own three daughters, and together they gathered the necessary items for their portion of the food.  Perry Whitaker and a man known only as Swede, brought in a huge bull elk and dressed it out, ready for roasting.  The magnificent antlers joined several others hung over the door of the blacksmith shed.  Two hogs were purchased from a farmer and added to the menu.  Finally, Jack brought in four large turkeys, a dozen partridge, and an equal number of rabbits.

The hands got caught up in the spirit of the day and, brought out their finest clothes, washed and crudely pressed, polished and mended.

Christmas morning 1885 dawned bright and cold.  In front of the house three large pits had been fired and cooking had begun hours before.  The chuck shack and the kitchen in the main house were working to capacity.  The big barn had been cleaned out and the animals moved into the smaller barn and blacksmithy, boards had been placed across hastily constructed sawhorses, and a mixed batch of dinnerware had been assembled to meet the day’s needs.  The ranch hands, freshly shaved and with new haircuts, were herded into position and recruited to help where they were needed.

The few invited guests began to arrive an hour before noon, bringing yet more food.  Introductions were made, and old acquaintances renewed.  Marty was everywhere, playing hostess to each and every one.

Bart stood apart from the bustle with Segundo and Jack Thorn, and the storekeeper from High Park, Amos Benson.  He had an amused smile on his face, Benson’s and Segundo’s matched Bolton’s, and Jack simply looked nervous.

“Boss, I ain’t never seen such a thing.  What am I supposed to do?”

Big Bart Bolton turned to gaze at the much younger man.  “Kid, you’re supposed to act sixteen years old, eat, have fun, an’ eat some more.  If you run out of somethin’ to do, eat.  Don’t look like you’re idle or those women will put you to work.”  He grinned widely at the youngster.  “One more thing, Jack.  Say ‘Merry Christmas’ a lot, an’ dammit, boy, SMILE!”

Christmas dinner was a huge success.  There were all the meats and vegetables and fruits available in the area, plus canned peaches and pears and tomatoes, pies made from dried apples, cherries, and apricots.  There were enchiladas, tamales, frijoles, fresh hot salsa, and desserts, “Imported From Chicago, USA” chocolate for icings and candies, and a small package of sugar cookies for each person.  This last item was Marty’s idea, and she insisted on making them with no help from anyone (except just a bit from Mrs. McGuire and the three young Mexican girls).  Each bundle of cookies was wrapped in a square of cloth and tied with a short length of colored string.  Folded into the package was a hand-written note from Marty to the person getting the gift.  No one was left out.

Following the meal the tables were cleared and the most unlikely people were recruited to assist with the clean up.  Cowboys were washing dishes under the watchful eye of Pat Morrissey, the cook, and being very careful to cause no damage, while the storekeeper and his daughters swept the place clean under the supervision of his wife.  The boards were taken away and the sawhorses moved to the back of the barn by men unaccustomed to doing anything that couldn’t be done from the back of a horse.  Once the big building was prepared, Marty and the Benson sisters, Amelia and Loretta, walked out in front of the group.  Accompanied by Perry Whitaker on guitar, Amos Benson himself on mouth organ, and Moses Guifford on banjo, the three girls sang and danced the rest of the short afternoon away.

Finally Bart Bolton called a halt to the festivities.  “I wanna thank you all for comin’ out here in all this cold an’ takin’ Christmas dinner with us.  It means a lot to Marty, and, truth be told, I think it means a lot to everybody here.  We’ll do it agin next year if you want.”  The cheering that followed startled the old man and set everyone to laughing and talking.

Just before everyone turned in for the night, Bolton had Marty come sit beside him.  “Honey, I don’t know much about Christmas, an’ even less about little girls, but I wanted to get you somethin’ special.”  He leaned over and picked up a crudely wrapped package from the floor beside his chair.  Marty’s eyes lit up when he passed it across to her, and she hurriedly took the wrapping off, setting the paper aside for later.  She lifted out the item that was on top and then the rolled bundle below.  She jumped up, holding a Colt’s pistol in one hand and a tooled belt with matching holsters in the other.  The pistol was a twin to the one she had brought west with her those many months ago.  Holding them to her, she laughed with joy, finally pushing the gun into the left holster and swinging the belt around her waist and buckling it there.  She fidgeted and fussed until the rig hung just so, then threw herself on the startled man who had given them to her.  “Grandpa, they’re absolutely perfect.  Now I can have Jack really teach me to shoot.  Oh, Grandpa, what a perfect gift.”

Bart Bolton’s eyes sparkled.  “I know it ain’t girl stuff, but you never showed much interest in things like dolls an’ such.  I thought you could get more use out of these than a doll any…”

He was cut short by a laughing, copper-eyed redheaded young woman who suddenly kissed him on the cheek and put a finger to his lips.  “Grandpa, they are perfect.  PERFECT!”  She stood up straight in front of him and twirled around.  “I’ll bet they look great, too, don’t they?”  She kissed his cheek a second time.  Merry Christmas, Grandpa.  Merry Christmas.

Forty Rod:
Chapter 5   

Spring came early that year, in spite of heavy snows and bitter cold earlier.  As soon as it was possible to do so, Marty was out every day, ranging over the H B on the big black horse she had named Ebony.  She was always accompanied by one of the men of the ranch, generally Jack Thorn, but sometimes Segundo, Perry, or Moses Guifford.  Jack had taken to his duties as Marty’s mentor with the seriousness of a religious calling.  He made sure she was riding properly, with care for her horse and for herself.  He taught her to shoot and she took to the little converted Colt’s with a natural ability that surprised everyone.  She became adequate with a carbine, but never learned to shoot it as well as she did the six-guns.  Marty surprised everyone when she showed a natural talent with a lariat, too.  Hardly big enough to do the job of serious roping, she nonetheless was a help with calves and foals, letting Ebony do the heavy work.  Of course, she took her share of falls, even breaking a finger at one point, but always getting right back into the fray as soon as she got her wind.

Marty Holtzinger earned the respect and admiration of every hand on the H B, and for miles around, as well. 

One afternoon, well into the late spring, Marty was riding alone while Jack pulled a log out of a water hole.  She hadn’t gone very far…well within shouting distance of Jack…when she came face to face with a fierce-looking young Indian on a bay pony.  She let her hand fall back to hover near her gun, but the Indian held out both hands to her, palms forward.

“Um aa’ nuu apag’ad”, he asked?”

“I’m sorry. I don’t understand”, Marty replied.

“No.  No.  Mi esposa…ayuda.  Ayuda.  Por favor, ayuda.”  The man looked nervous and frustrated.  He shook his head violently from side to side.

“I’m sorry, I don’t speak your language.  Do you speak English?”

From behind her and to one side she heard Jack’s calm voice, “Marty, don’t move.  Don’t touch your gun.”

He rode forward.  The Indian turned to Jack and said again, “Ayuda.  Mi esposa.”

“Dang, that’s Mexican.  I don’t speak that lingo, either.  Somethin’ about a wife.”  He held out his hands, palm up, and shrugged, “I’m sorry, friend.  I don’t know what you’re sayin’.”

The man waved for them to follow him and turned to ride away.  When they didn’t follow, he turned around again and motioned for them to follow.  His voice was almost pleading when he repeated the words.  He suddenly reached for his old Spencer carbine and grabbed the gun by the barrel.  Marty flinched, but Jack’s gun appeared in his hand almost like magic.  The Indian held the gun out to Marty, gripping it by the barrel.  When she hesitantly took it from him he again turned to lead them into the pines.

“Jack, this man just gave me his GUN!  He wants us to know he doesn’t mean us harm.  I think he needs help.” 

The Indian turned quickly at her words.  “Si! Si! Help!  Esposa help.”

The Ute led the way as Jack and Marty fell in behind him.  Through the pines they went for a half-mile, to a clearing.  There they found a rough shelter of pine boughs and a hide from an elk.  A tiny fire burned in front of the lean-to structure, backed by a pile of stones serving as a reflector to direct the heat inside.  The man got down and ran to the shelter with Jack and Marty right behind.

“Oh my God!”

“What is it, Jack?”  Marty craned her neck to see past the two men.  Inside, in the dim light, she saw a woman wrapped in blankets and furs.  Jack turned to Marty.  “Marty, this woman’s having a baby an’ she needs help bad.  Get back to the ranch an’ fetch Perry out here as fast as you can.”

Marty stepped around the men and told Jack, “You get Mister Whitaker and Mister Segundo.  Bring Missus McGuire, too.  I’ll stay here and help her.  She’s frightened and needs an woman with her now.”

“Yeah, but…”

“But, nothing.  Go, Jack.  Go right now.  I’ll be okay here.”

As the young ranch hand rode reluctantly away, Marty shooed the girl’s husband out of the lean-to and sat beside the scared Indian girl.  She took the girl’s hand and started talking in soft tones, surprised that they were not much different in age.  The young Indian woman gripped Marty’s hand and sobbed.  “I know.  It hurts, but it is supposed to hurt.  It will be all right in awhile.”  The girls sat together with Marty talking in soft, soothing tones, knowing that the other couldn’t understand a word she was saying, but knowing, too, that it didn’t matter.  What mattered was that another woman was there and that she wasn’t alone.

By the time Jack, Perry Whitaker, Margaret McGuire, and four others got back, the Indian girl was holding a squalling baby boy, the new father was strutting around, waving his arms and whooping, and Marty was cleaning up the mess.  Segundo finally got the young man calmed down enough to speak to him.  He translated as he went along.  “His name is Three Ponies.  He is a Nooch, a Ute.  They were coming from…uh, far away…not sure where, exactly.  The girl’s name is Snow.  This is their first baby and he didn’t know what to do.  He was coming to find help from Iron Bear’s people when you came across him.”

He turned to grin at Marty.  “He says you were sent by the Creator to help Snow and the baby.  He thanks you and asks your name.”  He turned back to the Ute and said “Marty”.  The man walked to Marty, said her name several times, and held his hand out to her.  “Tograyok! Tograyok!”    She took it and he turned her hand with the palm toward him and placed it against his chest.  He spoke rapidly for a few seconds, then turned and walked to where the woman and baby lay.  He returned with the child and held it proudly for all to see, speaking rapidly in both Spanish and his own tongue.  Segundo smiled broadly and told Marty, “the boy’s name will be He Who Has A Red Haired Guardian.  They will call him Red Hair for short.”

“Can you do it, Mister Whitaker?”

Perry Whitaker turned the small silver trinket in his rough hands.  He glanced down at the simple drawing that the girl had made and smiled at the anxious face beside him.

 “Of course I can do it, Marty.  Would you like to help?”

As Marty ran to change her clothes into something more suitable for the coming chore, Jack looked at the piece of silver jewelry that the old blacksmith held.

“I don’t understand what she wants, Perry.  Do you?”

“Yeah, I do.  Look here.  I can take this stone out, hammer this down a bit so’s it’s longer an’ thinner, and make a loop out of this part for a thong to hang it on.  Then I can take this hair an’ dip the end in some melted pine pitch to sort of glue it together, an’ once it’s dry, we can crimp it in here.  Then she has a sort of necklace thing with about five inches of her hair hangin’ down.”

Jack Thorn shook his head.  Perry smiled at the younger man.

“And she wants to give this to that Indian kid?  Why”, Jack asked?

“Because she’s kinda like a godmother, a big sister, to the little boy”, the smith explained.  “He’s sorta named for her an’ she wants him to remember her.  Segundo told her it’s expected that she make a gift an’ that it’s good luck or some such nonsense.  At any rate, she found this doodad down at Benson’s an’ bought it for a dime.  It’ll work out just like she wants it to.”

More than a week later, Marty was helping Whitaker make horseshoes.  She held the tongs while he hammered them into the perfect shape.  The ringing of the hammer was lulling and exciting at the same time.  The morrning was sliding by until Bobby Bryant stuck his head into the hot shed and announced, “Marty, you two best get out here.”

She looked around, startled.  “Why?  What has happened?”

“Come see for yourself”, he answered as he walked away toward the front of the house.  Marty handed the tongs to Whitaker and went to the big tank to wash up a bit.  She ran her fingers through her hair before tying it back with a narrow leather strap.  As she rounded the side of the house and saw the yard, she stopped abruptly and turned to run inside.  She quickly changed into a clean blouse and combed her hair, tying it back with the same strap.  She picked up the ‘trinket’ that she and Perry had made and ran back downstairs.

Waiting in the yard were twenty or more Indians.  She smiled broadly and walked out to stand by her grandfather and Segundo.  Facing them, standing proud and tall, were Iron Bear, Three Ponies, and Magic Cloud.  Marty looked quickly at the others and smiled when she saw Bright Bird and Snow.  Snow was holding the Baby and grinning back at her.  Bright Bird also smiled and raised a hesitant hand.

Iron Bear stepped forward and raised his hands in front of him.  He started talking to Marty, to the sky, to the trees, to everything and everyone.  Segundo tried to translate as the old chief talked, but fell behind and missed a lot.

“Marty, he says you are a special person, sent from the sky to watch over his children and his children’s children.  You have helped Red Hair come across into this world and are now his….uh, 'godmother’ is about as close as I can come.  His spirit and your spirit are like one and …will always be…’connected’…’together’ is maybe closer.”

The speech went on in this same vein for a long time.  Marty and the others stood patiently waiting for it to end.  Finally Iron Bear went to Three ponies. The young father handed the chief a robe made of white rabbit fur and decorated with ermine tails and very small, very black crow feathers.  There were elk teeth sewn around the yoke and small tin cones on red string tied to the front and back in a regular pattern above the yoke seam.  He held this robe out to Marty in both hands and spoke again.  “By taking this robe you become one of us, godmother to Red Hair, sister to all of my people, and daughter to me.  You are now a Ute, a Noochee.”

Marty’s eyes brimmed as she took the robe and, with Iron Bear’s help, put it around her shoulders.  She turned around to show everyone what she wore, then asked Segundo to translate for her.

“I thank my friends, my new family, for this beautiful robe and for the honor you have given me.  I would ask that I be permitted to give a gift to Red Hair to celebrate his birth and to bring him good luck.”

Iron Bear and the other men whooped and yelled as the women got down and gathered around Marty.  Snow held the baby boy out to Marty and allowed her to tie the newly made pendant around his neck.  Three Ponies took the boy and held him up for everyone to see, then gave him back to his mother.  He turned to Marty and said in slow, painfully broken English, “I t’ank you, mi sissster.  Mi son t’ank you. Mi esposa…mi wa-iffa t’ank you.”  He had obviously worked hard to learn the few words of this strange language.  Marty beamed widely as she said, “Oh, Three Ponies, you are so welcome.  Thank you all, too.”

That ended the ceremonial part of the gathering, but Bolton told Segundo to ask if they would stay for a meal.  That opened up a whole new cycle of celebrating.  The Utes brought in a beef (one of Bolton’s own, he was sure), a bushel of dressed partridge, and a wild pig.  Morrissey dug into the larder and came up with corn, beans, rhubarb, and bread.  It all seemed so unplanned that Marty was flabbergasted to find out that Iron Bear and her grandfather had been discussing this very thing for much of a week.

“Quite a speech, Bart.”  Bolton turned his head to see Segundo standing beside him.

“His or Marty’s?”

“Well, he’s a chief.  He’s supposed to be a good speaker.  I was thinkin’ of Marty.  She sure has a way with words, Bart.  She’s got class an’ ..what’s that word?…poise!  She’ll do good in this world, I’m thinkin’.”

Bart Bolton grinned and lit one of his new cigarillos after giving one to his friend and foreman.  “Got that from her grandma’s side I reckon.  I wasn’t never much of a talker.”

“Like hell”, the Mexican muttered.

“What? What’s that”, Bolton demanded?

“I said ‘I recall’.  That you ain’t much of a talker, I mean”.”  He sauntered away trailing smoke from his nostrils.  Bolton watched until he was out of earshot, then said, “Like hell.”  With a chuckle he went to find his grand daughter.


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