Than Elderberry Wine
Get Down! Get Down! White Man!
John hammered the stake
with the rag tied to the end of it into the ground and instantly he was
the owner of 160 acres. Some of the folks were taking their time about
getting back to register their land but he wasnt at leisure to do that.
Zona was waiting for him with the wagon holding their camping gear and he
would necessarily need to get right on back and take care of business
before enjoying the luxury of basking in the pleasure of his
accomplishment. Before he mounted his horse once more he pulled his suit
coat off and threw it over a large rock. Upon the coat, he placed a
smaller stone, directly in the middle of it so that he would be able to
easily find the location apart from all the other stakes in the ground.
That evening with Zona and
their wagon now in tow John was trying to see where he had left his
jacket. It was no where to be seen. Had someone taken it? Finally after
much backtracking and searching he realized a small prairie fire had run
through and burned up his jacket except the small part that was under the
Oh John! I cant believe
you have lost your one good suit coat. Ill have to sew one up. How on
earth are we going to get to Sundays meeting without it?
Aw, someone of my uncles
will have one I can borrow, Im sure.
John was not worried one
bit about his suit coat. More important things were on his mind.
Have you noticed the folks
camped next to us? John asked Zona.
Yes, I know they arent
Osage and arent Cherokee. I wonder what is their tribe. I wonder where is
their home or maybe just traveling through? Zona was curious. The Natives
were going about their business and paid little attention to them.
John knew some of the sign
language with which the tribes used to communicate and was thinking about
this as he rode carefully into their camp.
Get down, Get down, White
man! A tall Native man spoke to John in broken English. You want water?
For my family, over
there. John motioned with his head toward his wifes direction.
This kind of body language
alone made the Native man know John was not a stranger to their ways and
it made him less suspicious.
Come take bread, soup.
The Native man offered his womens cooked food.
John knew it would have
been rude in their eyes to refuse their gift of sustenance and they would
have less respect for him if he did not accept their hospitality. The
leaders could even believe he wasnt brilliant.
Lacking a permanent tee-pee
made John know they were on the move and after taking their gifts of a
meal he was back to setting up his own camp.
Who were they? What
tribe? Zona wanted to know.
I would say, Ponca. This
is not far from their reservation. They cant be caught out of bounds
without being arrested but Im sure the scouts know about how far to go.
This small hunting party wont draw attention.
Why were they friendly to
you? She asked.
I dont know. Could have
been the few Osage words I was able to speak which is similar to Ponca or
maybe it was the sign language? I think part of it is curiosity about what
has been going on with the run. They thought everyone was trying to run
away from something. This small group wouldnt trust us if we werent in a
family. These people surely have respect for that if nothing else about
us. At the time John had no experience with this tribe and it was too far
into the future to know that one of his sons would marry a beautiful
mixed, French-Ponca woman.
The cool of an Oklahoma
April evening settled quickly upon them and John was in a hurry to get a
good camp fire started. He immediately dismissed the brief encounter they
had with a small band of peaceful Natives.
The wind off the prairie
was now whipping at the fire and spread small, sparkling bits of cinders
up and around the camp before lifting up to the night sky.
Zona had already used the
fire for cooking and heating bath water so John was ready to extinguish
the last of the burning embers.
Best get this out for now.
Are you through with the fire? John waited on his wife to answer.
Yes, and please do put it
out. I dont even want to think of a raging prairie fire at this time.
That would be the last thing these people need after having come through
The day had been long and
the hardest part of their adventure was over. A claim was staked and
registered. All they now needed was a roof over their head. John narrowed
his eyes, looked out over the expanse and visualized a location where he
wanted to build a house.
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