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Page 17

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 of them.

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 Great Spirit.

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 tribes.

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 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 his wife.

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."

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