This bond was to prove to
be still as strong as in the old days. They had unity and strong families
going back to the law of their clans to take care of each one of the
family. She half turned, looked back at her sister and waved good-bye.
Narcisse, how can I ever
be happy again?" Lizzie was thinking to herself. She knew there would
always be an unseen connection between them. True to this, years later,
she followed him to his grave soon after he died. He returned once to
visit with her shortly before his death. She invited her granddaughter to
be with her and to meet him. There was such a sadness to see the tender
love they still had for each other even at that elderly age. He could have
been a young boy on bended knee and she a shy maiden as they visited.
Somehow, the wrinkles of age and frail bodies fell away under the aura to
surround them. It was sad to see, but a joyful vision, also.
Today, Creth had let her
sister know they planned to all set a schedule and someone would be there
at her place, everyday, to help her learn to do all she had to do. Their
taking turns like this would work no hardship on the big family or any one
As Lizzie drove away from
her sister's house she did not feel at all brave about driving home and
facing the inevitable task of getting on with her life. The only thing she
could do was to somehow continue on as she had been doing up to now. She
knew her brother was dependent on her and the children were also, so she
must not hesitate about taking on her duties. She made the trip home
without any trouble and as she drove up the small grade of a hill toward
her home she could see her brother standing in the door waiting for her.
There was a chill all about her body. Was it the early night air or was it
the end of Indian summer? "This is the end of Indian summer." Lizzie
caught and snuffed a tiny sob in her throat. "My Indian summer, Narcisse.
One day followed another,
days became weeks and weeks became years. Lizzie lived a methodical
existence doing the things that had to be done. Caring for her children
kept her mind busy and with the daily attention from her family she was
able to survive. True to their word they came daily, one or the other, to
do the things she couldn't do such as chopping wood, carrying water, or
tending the animals. All the burdens were lovingly lifted from her
shoulders by her sisters, their children, and their husbands.
Sometimes, the entire
family came to the wooded area below her home and camped in the timber for
extended lengths of time. These always proved to be happy times for Lizzie
and slowly she began to mend. Her children were gifted with seeing the
skills of her old folks at the time as to the drying of foods, the smoking
of meat into jerky strips and, of course, the evenings with social
gatherings and story telling. The regimented hard skills she learned at
Chilocco were now replaced with another almost dream world of times past.
The fact that the work was pursued in a different manner than the
marching, static, order of the boarding school, made it different, but
desirable. The diligent quietness of the native people was essentially
more determined than the military world bwecause it had to do with daily
survival. Her life now was of another persuasion. The gentle ways were
loving and soft yet the underlying strength of it gave no barter.
As a style, a work, or a
story was told, it was done as it originally was hundreds of years
before. There ere no changes or no tampering with a tradition.
Out of every sorrow comes a
full circle of mankind's will to live. To make right out of wrong seems to
be the wish. This happened too, with Lizzie's children. If not for the
leaving of Narcisse, they probably would not have been able to have the
same contact with Lizzie's family they now had and would not have had the
opportunity to learn of those ways. These customs soon to be overcome and
over run by a forward moving world. Standardization and modern lifestyles
created another era. This new time was one totally apart from this quiet,
conservative, non-destructive culture. The old ways which said that even
the trees or the rocks were to be treated as respected creations of their
This growth was even now
striding forward in the little community with the zeal and strength of a
teen age boy. There seemed to be no dark days for the people under the
influence of the Miller brothers. The talented men were bringing the 101
Ranch into the forefront. With the coming of the railroad progress was
being felt. No longer would the area be a totally isolated part of the
nation. It was to become accessible to any who had the price for the fare
of a train trip. Many of the Ponca people were beginning to already blend,
somewhat, with the ways of the Anglos. It was still not acceptable for the
women to marry into the other race as far as the Poncas themselves were
concerned. However, this rule was soon to come to an end.
One day Lizzie and her
sisters were visiting. Crete brought up the subject of their Aunt, Minnie
Little Swift. "She sure has a lot of nerve," they gossiped, "I know Uncle
Osborne doesn't like her to go gamble around with those Mexican men who
work on the railroad. I don't guess he can do anything about it. She is so
bold and free."
This comment was to refer
to the part of the practice of the Ponca having to do with gambling. It
was something they loved to do and they, of course, simply refined their
old ways of gambling up to the present culture. Today saw them mastering a
skill of playing with cards instead of certain seeds and beads.
"Oh well," Annie
contributed, "it's her white blood" She tried to excuse her by blaming
someone else for her ways. "And, besides, who cares, she's another tribe,
too. Maybe that is the way they do things," she added.
This was another way out
for her aunt and she was still protecting her supposed superiority in
being of Ponca blood, an acceptable social practice in the rivalry between
The truth being that
gambling was something they loved. Still, they were trying to live up to
the their newer Christian teachings against it.
Creth now looked directly
and levelly at Lizzie, "She has found a husband for you, Lizzie."
Lizzie stopped stirring the
pumpkin pudding on the stove, and looking toward her sister said, "Oh my!"
There was silence among the
women because no one ever knew what Lizzie was really thinking. She was so
measured in her manner she seldom revealed her emotions. Lizzie broke the
silence with a joke. "Maybe its one of the little brown men!" she
referred to the legend of the little people who supposedly inhabited the
underworld. "It would have to be because there sure are not any Indian men
around." Her sisters laughed at her wit.
"This man is one of us.
He's Aztec!" Now, Crete was stretching the truth a bit as far as claiming
he was one of them.
"Aztec? What's an Aztec?"
Lizzie had a way of telling her sister she was stretching the adherence of
abiding to their tribal laws By not marrying out of their tribe or race.
Crete was pleased with
herself to know something they did not.
"Well, an Aztec is a tribe
out of Mexico."
"Oh Crete! You are about as
transparent as Dad's old inkwell." Again the girls all laughed together.
"I ask you.....one of the
crew men from the railroad?"
Crete wouldn't be put off.
"I think this man is different. His own fair Spanish father from Spain
married an Indian woman, an Aztec. He claims she came from an old royal
Aztec family. So, I guess he is something like a prince. Crete was really
trying to sell her idea by this time.
"Hm-m-m, a prince? What
kingdom does he rule? I can just see him. Is he one of those short little
men ruling a kingdom?" By this time the laughter of the women was
uproarious. At the picture of the tall women paired with someone shorter
than they was hilarious to them. Crete's husband peeked in to see what all
the fun was about.
"What? What?" he questioned
Crete was trying to enlist
an ally. "I was just telling Lizzie about the man who wants to meet her.
You've seen him. Tell her about him."
Crete's husband was willing
to accommodate his wife. "Yeah, I've seen him. Enrique Hernandez is his
name, but we call him Henry."
"Is he short?" Lizzie was
still injecting her doubt. The tall women were always anxious about that.
"No, no, as a matter of
fact, he is very tall."
"Is he handsome?" Lizzie
was beginning to show some interest.
"I don't know what handsome
is to you women. He is tall, and he claims to be one-half Aztec. He is
dark. He speaks English well. He has nice handwriting. I've seen some of
his handwriting when he signed papers there at the 101 store."