Chapter Four—Family

Eight years earlier…
           “You can’t compete.  You’re a girl.”
           “You’re just afraid I’ll beat you.  I would, and you know it.”
           Swift Current, aged 13, and Summer Rain, aged 12, were standing nose to nose, arguing fiercely about the upcoming contests.  Every spring, before the summer hunts, the young Indian males held a competition—rifle shooting, running, horseback riding, bow and arrow accuracy, knife and tomahawk throwing, wrestling.  Ever since he was 10, Swift Current had participated in the games, and he had won nearly every test since that day against boys who were several years older than he.  Now his sassy little female cousin shows up and wants to take part in the festivities.  That was unprecedented.  Women never asked to participate, they weren’t raised to do what the men did.   Most of the Indians gathered round were amused at the argument.
           “You can go compete in the cook-off,” Swift Current said.  “Let’s see if you can make deer meat as well and as swiftly as you can move your tongue.”  Then he snickered.  “The winner of this competition gets a new bear robe.  Why don’t you go make one for me?  If you can.”  He laughed.  Some of the other boys laughed with him.
           Summer Rain was furious and frustrated.  She turned to Winter Wolf.  “Father!  Why can’t I participate?”  She looked at Swift Current, her eyes blazing.  “Let him make the deer meat.  He can kill one first, except he’d probably run away when he saw it.”
           Swift Current almost lashed out and hit Summer Rain.  Denigrating a man’s courage was about the worst insult a Cheyenne could hurl at another.  She had stepped a little over the line, and there were some frowns in the crowd.  And everyone was waiting to see what Swift Current would do.
           And he had to do something—other than hitting her.  So he reached for her, intending to pin her down, spit in her face, and make her apologize.  It would save face for him and shame his cousin.
           But, as quick as he was, he was a turtle compared to Summer Rain.  She swung away from his grasp, then lashed a foot out, hooking Swift Current’s ankle, and lifting her leg as hard as she could.  He went stumbling and then sprawling. 
           That only made him madder.  He bounced up quickly and made a head-long, crouching rush at Summer Rain.  What happened next was incredible, and was talked about in the Cheyenne camp for many years afterwards.
           She didn’t wait for him, but came at him as well.  And when she got near enough, she jumped onto his shoulders and locked her legs around his neck.  The force of her leap and her weight caused the surprised Swift Current to stagger backwards.  Summer Rain then threw all her weight forward and her cousin began to fall.  But before he hit the ground, she curled her back, and, doing a somersault before she ever touched the earth, sent him flying 15 feet away.  He shouted the entire distance and landed with a resounding thump.
           “I think she wins the wrestling competition,” Winter Wolf said with a short laugh.
           The rest of the tribe chuckled a little nervously.  This wasn’t supposed to happen.  It was amazing to see such acrobatic moves as Summer Rain had demonstrated, but only men were supposed to do these things, not women.  Winter Wolf’s brother, Bear Claw, wasn’t especially pleased to see his son defeated by a girl.  “Doesn’t your white eyes wife teach your daughter to cook and clean and sew, as women are supposed to do?”
           Sandra was there, too.  She smiled.  “Oh, Bear Claw, I imagine she could win a cooking contest, too.  Especially against Swift Current.”  Everyone laughed at that.  Everyone except Bear Claw and Swift Current.
           The boy had gotten to his feet and he and his cousin were staring daggers at each other.  They weren’t really enemies, in fact, they were—on most of Summer Rain’s visits to the tribal village—very close companions.  But she had gotten under his skin a few times, making him feel less than the man he envisioned himself to be.  In that day, Cheyenne males weren’t allowed much of a childhood.  They started learning how to provide for the tribe from almost the time they could walk.  And that meant a lot of pride…a pride that Summer Rain had robbed Swift Current of on more than one occasion….
Two years before…
           Swift Current and Summer Rain, as they frequently did, gamboled and played in the forest—well, those are perhaps not the right words.  They were playing, but each had a bow and some arrows and there was method and purpose to their frolic.  How many animals could each kill?  At least that’s the game Swift Current liked to play.
           Summer Rain always let Swift Current win this game.  Her father had taught her that all nature was in balance, and that only man could disturb that balance.  She believed that senseless killing of animals did indeed upset the carefully crafted harmony that nature had spread before her inhabitants.  Killing for food was one thing; all animals did that.  Killing for sport, to Summer Rain, was something else.  No animal did that.  And man shouldn’t, either.
           So when she aimed her arrow at a squirrel or a bird or some other helpless creature, she always missed—intentionally.  Swift Current rarely missed, and he always snickered when Summer Rain’s arrows went awry.
           “Well, you’re a girl,” he’d say.  “Girls aren’t supposed to be able to shoot arrows straight.”  That always rankled Summer Rain when he said that; she knew she was missing deliberately, and she tried to tell her cousin that, explaining what Winter Wolf had taught her.  But Swift Current just pooh-poohed it.
           “An animal is an animal.  It’s going to die anyway.  We men need the target practice.”
           “You’re just a boy,” Summer Rain teased him.
           That made the 11 year-old Swift Current angry.  “I am not.  I am a Cheyenne man, and soon I will go on the hunts with the hunters.  And I will kill more buffalo than any of them.”  Actually, the buffalo was almost gone, but there were deer, elk, and the ever-dangerous grizzly that provided meat for the tribe.  Yet so ingrained into them was their history and traditions, that “buffalo” meant any kind of meat to the Cheyenne hunter.
           “I can shoot just as well as you can,” Summer Rain said.  “I miss on purpose.”
           “Ha.  I’ll bet you can’t even hit that tree over there,” Swift Current prompted.
           He pointed at a rather thin-trunked apple tree about 60 feet away.  Hitting the trunk would have been a good shot for a novice.
           “What will you give me if I do?” she asked him.
           “I don’t know,” he answered.  “I’m not even going to think about that because you’ll never come close to it.”
           Summer Rain looked at the tree.  She spied three apples conveniently dangling down from a branch.  “You’re right,” she said.  And in less than two seconds, she had three arrows in flight.  Each one removed a dangling apple from the tree.
           “Oh, rats,” she said, in mock disgust.  “I missed the trunk.  I guess you win.”
             She looked smugly at her cousin, whose eyes had bugged out, but he quickly caught himself.  He could have hit the three apples, but, given the small targets, he would have had to aim each shot and that would have taken at least half a minute.  Summer Rain fired her arrows in the blink of an eye…he had never seen anyone shoot so accurately, so quickly.  Not even Angry Mountain, the greatest hunter-warrior he had ever known.
           His only response to Summer Rain’s shooting was a lame, “Oh, anybody can get lucky one time.”   
           “You want to see me do it again?”
           No, he did not, so he simply said, “There is a stream up ahead.  It is a hot day.  Let’s go swimming.”
           That sounded good to Summer Rain, so her face lit up in a smile and said, “I’ll race you.”  And she took off, getting a head start.  In the race, she didn’t pull away from him.  But he didn’t get any closer, either.
           When they got to the water, Summer Rain frowned.  There had been a lot of rain that spring, and even more snow in the mountains the previous winter.  This stream was wide and deep, and had a…swift current.
           The boy began to undress.  They always swam in the nude and thought nothing of it.  Summer Rain hesitated.  “Well, are you going to get undressed or not?” he asked her as he slipped off his leggings.
           She was looking at the water.  “I don’t know, Swift Current.  That water is moving very fast.  It might not be safe.”
           “Ha.  Just like a girl.  Afraid of a little water.  Come on, we’ll have a swim race to the other side.”  It was about 100 feet across.  “But I’m not going to let you cheat and get a head start this time.”  Swift Current dove into the water.  And just as Summer Rain feared, before he got 30 feet, the current began to sweep him away.
           “Oh, no!” the girl cried, as she saw her cousin, flaying hopelessly, trying to swim across the powerful drift.  She watched him for only a moment as the water took him downstream away from her.  And then she started running along the bank, searching for some way to get Swift Current out of that swift current.
           She ran 100 yards…then 200, having to dodge some trees as she went.  At one point, she lost sight of the boy as he went under and she feared he was gone for good.  But he came up again, arms waving, trying to gain his swimming balance and head back to shore.  There was no way he would make it.  He started crying out for help.
           “Hold on, Swift Current!  I’ll get you out!”
           For all their playful yapping at each other, Swift Current was Summer Rain’s family and she loved him deeply.  And, as foolish as the boy had been, she would die with him rather than watch him drown. 
           With not a moment to lose, and whimpering herself, she sprinted ahead of him, jumping over logs, dodging low-lying branches, and almost slipping in the mud once.  Then, she spotted an area of the water where the current might not have been as strong.  Not wasting time removing her dress or moccasins, Summer Rain dove into the water and went as deep as she could.  The pull of the current near the surface was strong; however, the water beneath, though still moving, was not as intense.  She was drifting downstream, but not as rapidly as her cousin.
           Summer Rain was about 10 feet under the surface, holding her breath, looking for the boy.  Fortunately, the water was clear and she saw him…coming too fast…she’d have one chance, and would have to time it perfectly.  When he got to within about 10 feet of her, she shot up, grabbed Swift Current’s passing ankle, and tugged as hard as she could.   He came under, but not as far as she had hoped.
           The boy didn’t panic and that’s what saved him.  He looked at his cousin, and she frantically pointed downwards and made a swimming motion.  The current was speeding up again.  Swift Current understood, and dove for the bottom of the stream.  Finding the undercurrent not as strong, he put his youthful, powerful muscles to work and forced his way towards the shore.  With his lungs burning, he got to within ten feet of safety, but now he was near enough the surface that the current began to tug fiercely and persistently at him again.  But he grasped some rocks that were anchored on the bottom of the stream, and with these, was able to pull himself to where he could stand up and walk to dry ground.  He collapsed, breathing hard, yea, gasping for breath.
           And then he remembered.  Summer Rain!
           He leaped to his feet, still wheezing, looking urgently in the water for the cousin who had risked her life—and saved his.  He saw no sign of her.  He ran downstream, calling her name, fearful, frenzied, desperate, ready to dive back into the water at the least sign of her.
           He ran for one mile…two…frantic…then he saw boulders sprouting up in the stream, the water now white-capped as it rushed between and over and around these obstacles of death—death for any living being that smashed into one of them.  Swift Current stopped.  There’s no way she could have survived that…The young Indian brave watched the raging water for at least ten minutes, stunned…shocked.  His heart began to burn and he felt tears welling up in his eyes.  But Cheyenne men don’t cry, he told himself.  So, putting a stoic expression on his face, accepting the fate that had saved his life but taken that of his cousin, he made his way slowly back to the place where he had first entered the water.  I need to get my leggings and moccasins…what will I tell Winter Wolf?  I will tell the truth.  He will be proud of his daughter…
           Heavy of heart, Swift Current slipped on his pants and leaned against a rock to put on his shoes.  It was then he heard the voice.
           “Where have you been?  I’ve been waiting for almost an hour.”
           Swift Current turned and whooped for joy when he saw Summer Rain standing, a cheeky little smile on her face, about 15 away from him.  He ran over to her and gave her a bear hug that had her thinking he was going to squeeze her to death.  It also pained her greatly, but she didn’t cry out.
           He finally let her go and said, “How did you…Where…I didn’t see you…Oh, I thought you were gone.”
           Summer Rain just rolled her eyes and said, “You don’t know anything.  You’re not supposed to swim against a current, buffalo brain, you’re supposed to swim with it.”  She shrugged.  “After I pulled you under, I needed some air, so I went up and got some, and then went back down.  I swam with the current until it was weak enough for me to work my way to shore.  I saw you running downstream and yelled at you, but you didn’t hear.”  She shrugged again.  “I wasn’t about to chase you.  I knew you’d have to come back here for your clothes.”  Giving him a mischievous smile, she said, “I almost threw them in the water.”  That meant, of course, he would have had to walk back to camp naked.  Even for a Cheyenne, that would have been embarrassing.
           Summer Rain’s escape wasn’t quite as simple as she made it sound.  She did indeed swim with the current for about half a mile, coming up for air three times, but on two occasions was only just able to avoid underwater boulders in her path.  In fact, she bumped against both of them, each time striking her right side.  The pain was acute and she feared broken ribs.  But she came to a location where the undercurrent was very weak, and, crabbing around another boulder which provided even more shelter from the current, she succeeded in making her way to shore.  She did see and shout at Swift Current, but because of her ribs, she wasn’t able to put much air into her voice and he didn’t hear her.  The part about not wanting to chase him down was certainly true.   
           They walked back to the village, arm in arm, laughing and sporting, relieved to be alive.  Summer Rain would never tell anyone what had happened at that stream.  She knew, instinctively and intrinsically, that that was how it should be.
Two years later, back to the competition…
           The girl watched dejectedly as the Cheyenne boys ran, rode their horses, shot their arrows, and competed fiercely and with determination in the all-important contests of skill, agility, and purpose.  For indeed, these “games” had a distinct purpose—to create warriors and hunters who could defend their tribe and provide for them.  But that did not comfort the excluded lass.
             As she and Winter Wolf looked on, Summer Rain asked him, “Father, why can I not compete in the games with the boys?  I could win, you know I could.”
           Her father was silent for a few moments, and then he spoke.  “Summer Rain, there are things that cannot change, there are things that should not change, there are things that will not change.  A bear is a bear, and cannot be a deer or an elk.  This is something the bear knows, and he will always act like a bear and never pretend to be a deer or an elk.  Maheo—“and here Winter Wolf smiled—“or perhaps Sandra’s god, has made it so.  Animals are wise in that way because they know that, to survive, it must be so.  The bear will not live long if it tries to be an elk.  But nature has made man a little different from the animals.   In some matters, nature gives us a choice, to see if we are wise or if we are foolish.  She has made the man strong, proud, aggressive; she has made the woman weak, but tender, caring, and loving.  A man should hunt and fight, a woman should cook and care for the children.  That is the way it should be.  To reverse that, reverses what nature has done, and exposes man as a fool.  And like the bear who tries to be an elk, a man, and his tribe, that denies and battles nature cannot long survive.  To the Cheyenne, a man is a man, and a woman is a woman.  That is the way of the Cheyenne.  It is as it always has been and it is as it should be.  And for that reason, we have survived for countless moons.”  Then he smiled.  “And it will not change.”
           Winter Wolf’s words did not satisfy his pouty, 12 year old daughter.  “Then I will no longer be Cheyenne,” she blurted out.
           The Indian brave looked down at his only child, in patience and affection, as he always did.  “You did not listen well, my child.  I said there are some things that cannot change.  You are Cheyenne.  You have always been Cheyenne.  You will always be Cheyenne.  That, you cannot change.  Never fight against what you cannot change.  You will lose every time.”
           He continued, “Life is not fair, Summer Rain.  For some, the forests teem with wildlife, berries, and abundant herbs.  For others, their home is a desert, seemingly empty and barren, and providing only the scarcest existence.  Rain comes in abundance on one tribe, providing a bountiful harvest.  For another, it is only sun and drought.  But this is good, not bad.  For it tests man, strengthens him, prepares him for whatever life puts before him.  The weak complain and die, the strong accept and live.  You must never forget that, daughter.  For this will never change, either.”
             And Summer Rain remembered the stream two years before.  And she remembered that, to protect Swift Current’s pride, she had never told anyone what had taken place.  Reflecting deeply upon her father’s words, she replied, “Yes, Father, that is how it should be.”
           Watching the games frustrated her, so Summer Rain said to Winter Wolf, “I’m going riding, Father.”  And she walked towards the rope corral where she could get her horse.
           Winter Wolf knew, of course, that his daughter had a very stubborn streak in her, so he did not attempt to stop her.  Let her ride till she has used up her disappointment…
           Summer Rain headed for the forest, which started about two miles from the Indian encampment.  The current Cheyenne settlement was on a stream that flowed southward from the rising mountains to the north.  It was in the foothills of these mountains that the forest began, a forest full of wildlife—and mystery.
           The girl rode into the trees about 100 yards deep.  She stopped her horse and listened.  She heard forest sounds, but she did not hear what she wished to hear.  So she rode a little farther, the horse’s hooves almost silent on a bed of pine needles.  The birds, sensing nothing to fear from her, continued to sing and chirp.  Once she saw a doe and its fawn; they, too, simply looked at her, also seeming to realize that she meant them no harm.  And it was not deer that Summer Rain searched for.  Nor was it an end to her frustration and disappointment.
           About an hour after entering the forest, after several stops and having circling back around to near the forest’s edge, she finally heard what she wanted to hear.  She quickly dismounted from her horse, who backed away slowly because he had heard, too—and knew.  Summer Rain had learned the lessons well which her father had taught her about the forest.  And stealthily, watching and listening, she moved, downwind from where she wanted to be.
           Then, about 100 yards away, she saw her prey.  Her movements now became as cautious and as resolute—yet as economical as any creature’s could be.  She moved within fifty feet of the black bear that was munching on a shrub full of berries.  Summer Rain’s bow and arrow appeared in her hands and she rose up.  The bear only saw her a second before her arrow pierced his eye and went into his brain.  He never even grunted as he fell dead to the ground.
           The bear wasn’t huge, but it was still heavy, so she gutted it expertly and whistled for her horse.  The Palomino, knowing the danger was passed, came up.  Summer Rain took a rope from the saddle and looped one end around the bear’s neck, and the other around the saddle horn.  Then she mounted and began dragging the dead bear out of the forest.
           About an hour later, she slowly walked the horse, bear still trailing, into the middle of the Indian boys’ competition.  Every activity stopped, every tongue ceased, as every eye watched the girl approach.  She rode the horse right up to Swift Current.
             Loosing the rope from the saddle horn, she said, “Here, Swift Current.  You can make your own bear robe.”
           And she turned and rode away.

           It wasn’t all Cheyenne for Allie Summer Rain; the girl also absorbed much from her mother.  Yes, Sandra tried, with some success, to teach her daughter the “domestic sciences,” though Allie was never as interested in pots, pans, and washboards as she was guns, knives, and horses.  But the girl, whose energetic and quick mind had a boundless thirst for knowledge, did want to know about her mother’s people.  Unfortunately, because Sandra’s parents had been killed when she was only eight, she did not know as much as she would have liked.  Indeed, in many ways, she was more Cheyenne herself than Scandinavian.  But she did remember some of the sagas, and she unwittingly contributed to her daughter’s adventurous spirit by thrilling her with tales of Thor, and Loki, and Ragnarek, and Njal.  Queen Ragnhild’s dream of the great tree from which the Norwegian kings descended always enthralled Allie.  She even learned of King Halfdar the Black and the notorious Ivarr the Boneless.  They were bloody tales, gruesome, and sometimes frightening, but no more so than the tales of the ancient Cheyenne that her father shared with her.  Sandra also remembered some of the songs of the Scandinavian people, and in her lovely voice, would sing them to her daughter.  Allie could never sing very well, but she learned the songs anyway.  And, these, too, she never forgot.
           And that Scandinavian heritage, in many ways, came back to haunt Winter Wolf and Sandra, and by extension, their daughter.  Though Sandra had largely been raised in the Cheyenne camp, she was white, and there had been some resentment when she and her husband had moved into the white man’s world.  And many of the Cheyenne thought it just retribution when they were murdered by a white mob.  But they had raised their daughter in that world, and, except for the visits to the Cheyenne village, it was the world she knew.  As the white man increasingly crowded the Cheyenne out of their ancestral lands—moved them south, killed Dull Knife, then shoved the remainder on a cold, bleak northern reservation—Allie, especially after she became a Ranger, had an increasingly difficult time defending—verbally—the white man’s culture that she had sworn to defend with her life.
           Especially to Swift Current.
           And, eight years after the competitions Summer Rain so yearned to be a part of, as she sat on her horse hearing her cousin disown her, and watching him disappear into that miserable hovel, Allie Summer could only sadly whisper to herself, “It will not change, Swift Current.  I cannot change it…”

           The young Cheyenne brave-cum-farmer did not hear the whispered words of his cousin, of course.  He heard nothing but the angry bees buzzing in his own head.  Allie had seen the doorless entrance to Swift Current’s shack; what she had not seen—could not see—what the exit in the back of the dwelling, also without a door.  After pausing for a few seconds, to control his breathing and his temper, Swift Current left the house via that rear opening.
           The Indian houses, as we have seen, had been built in a rather haphazard arrangement, but close enough together, and at such angles, that nobody saw Swift Current leave or where he went.  He started running, a measured trot, not taxing, but ground-eating, a pace that he could have kept up literally all day.  And indeed, for the next hour, he did just that and covered nearly ten miles.
           The reader will no doubt not be surprised to learn that Wiley Wilcox had told more than one lie to Sheriff Dan Harmon.  He did not know whether the Cheyenne had any riding horses on the reservation, nor did he know, for sure, if any of them ever left the reservation.  He did give whiskey to “informants,” who told him what he wanted to hear, and then laughed at the bureaucrat’s gullibility.  Fleet Fox did not like the white man’s “fire water” being distributed to his people; to the chief, it only served to make the Cheyenne further dependent upon the white man and weakened the Indians’ sturdy character.  But he was fighting another losing war, and he knew it.
           Regardless, the Cheyenne on the Big Horn Reservation did indeed have some ponies, five to be exact, which they kept in a small, grassy ravine about 10 miles from the village.  It was to that ravine that Swift Current loped.  There were always four or five young men around the horses, watching them, taking care of them, and making sure they had the pasture they needed.  The Indians did not hobble the horses at night for their own protection, but there was enough grass in the ravine that the ponies wouldn’t leave unless threatened, especially since there was a small pond as well for water.
           As he approached the gully, still full of pent-up anger, Swift Current saw three other young Indians.  His best friend, Live Spirit, could detect almost immediately the rage in Swift Current.
           “Son of Bear Claw,” Live Spirit said, and tried to make a joke, hoping to lift his friend’s mood some.  “You must have missed out on the buffalo hunt this morning.”  There had been no buffalo hunt, of course.
           Swift Current was not amused.  He headed straight for a pony.  “Let us ride, Live Spirit.  I must get off this reservation before I strangle that little mouse until his eyes pop out.”
           Live Spirit frowned and hesitated.  “It is still daylight for a few hours, Swift Current.  We should wait for dark.”
           “You stay, then, Frightened Spirit,” Swift Current replied, insulting his friend.  He looked over at Tehoka and Buffalo Brain, the other two Indians standing nearby.  “You can come, or not, as you choose.”
           The two to whom he had just spoken looked at Live Spirit, who nodded.  Live Spirit knew his friend’s moods well, and thus did not take the offense at Swift Current’s derogatory name-calling.  “We will ride with you, Swift Current, if only to keep you from harming yourself.”
           Swift Current just grunted at that, and the four young Cheyenne, all within three years of each other, age-wise, picked out their favorite horse, and rode north at a cantor.
           After a few minutes, Live Spirit looked over at Swift Current and still saw the set jaw and the expression of anger on his face.  “What has outraged you so, my friend?  What has the mouse done now?”
           “It is not him this time, Live Spirit.  Summer Rain came for a visit.  She actually did a good thing.  I was about to bash the mouse’s head in with my shovel, but she stopped me from doing so.  Still, when I see her, my blood cannot help but run hot.”
           “She is as a sister to you, Swift Current.”
           “I know this, Live Spirit,” was the only response.
           It is a strange quirk of human nature that the ones we love most deeply can create, in us, the severest of negative emotions.  Such was the case with Swift Current towards Summer Rain.  The thought of any white men incensed the young Indian, but none so much as his own cousin.  And yet he loved her above all.
           The young men rode past dark and far off the reservation.  Wilcox never did a count, he did not know all of the Indians by sight, indeed, they all looked so much alike to him that he could recognize only a handful of them.  Thus, when a few of them were missing, he never knew.  He did trust his “informants,” who told them there were no riding horses on the Big Horn.  And Fleet Fox was insistent that no horses, off the reservation, be stolen.
           “If we are found with stolen horses, we will be shot or hanged,” he had told some of his more rebellious young braves.
           “And that is worse than living off the white man’s leftovers?” Swift Current had sarcastically replied.
           The old chief had looked at the young man.  “Swift Current, as always, has a swift temper and swifter mouth.  But Fleet Fox knows that Swift Current also has a swift mind.  And will do nothing that will cause harm or grief to the rest of his people.”
           It was a wise response by Fleet Fox.  For, except in rare cases, “individualism” was frowned upon among all the natives.  It was the collective first, the welfare of the many, not the welfare of the one or of the few.  And even any allowances for individualistic behavior had the greater good as its ultimate goal.  A man might become a fierce notable warrior or hunter through acts of personal courage and valor.  But it was not self-glory he sought, but the perpetuation of his people.  Swift Current knew this, of course, and would abide by it, though at times his definition of what was good for the whole might not agree with Fleet Fox’s or the elders of the band.
           As the young Indian men enjoyed their escape from the reservation, there was some lively chatter among Live Spirit, Tehoka, and Buffalo Brain.  Swift Current did not join in much, tending to be a little quiet and reflective by nature anyway.  They spent the night on a stream about 15 miles from the reservation, and then the next day continued to ride through an almost barren countryside, avoiding towns or any contact with other humans.  They saw a few cows, but no people.
           “How long are we going to stay out, Swift Current?” Live Spirit asked him about mid-afternoon of that second day.  Summer Rain’s cousin was the unspoken, but acknowledged leader, of the group.
           “Are you in such a hurry to return and see the mouse, Live Spirit?” Swift Current replied.  “We have been gone much longer than this before.”
           “This is true.  Do you…have anything in mind this time?”
           “We will take what comes.”
           They rode, mostly in silence now.  Evening came, then darkness fell.  They topped a rise and halted, looking down into a small valley.  There, spread before them, was a small ranch house, with a barn and adjacent corral.  Nobody was visible, but there were lights to be seen in the windows of the house.  Three horses were in the corral and a few cattle could be seen grazing nearby.
           His three companions looked at Swift Current, who was silently surveying the scene.  After a few moments, Live Spirit spoke softly.
           “Is your medicine good tonight, Swift Current?”
           “Is yours?” Swift Current replied gruffly.
           Live Spirit did not respond.
           A light wind blew and ruffled the thick, but short, hair on Swift Current’s head.  After a few moments, he spoke again.  “No, Live Spirit, I have no good medicine this night.  Summer Rain has seen to that.”  He turned his horse.  “Let us return to the reservation.”  Then he added, acidly, “If we must…”