Chapter Three—Going Home

           Two days later, the reservation had another visitor. 
           That visitor hadn’t passed any Cheyenne planting useless corn cobs, and upon arriving in the small village, was more disgusted and angry than Sheriff Dan Harmon had been.  And an uncomfortable guilt feeling gnawed at the visitor’s gut…
           I should be here…
           It was the way she felt every time she visited her people, though this was only her second trip to the reservation.  But Allie Summer was half-white and had made her decision to live in the white man’s world.  She didn’t regret it, but she did feel the pull of the Indian blood that was within her.  It was strong, and it came from her father.
           His name had been Winter Wolf.  He had married a blonde-headed Scandinavian woman named Sandra.  Before she had been born, Sandra’s parents had moved from their native Norway to the eastern Montana territory, being assured by the rapidly expanding railroads that the country was safe and that the soil was good.  The latter may have been true, but the Sioux and Cheyenne especially were still trying to clear the land of white settlers.  When Sandra was eight years old, the Cheyenne raided her home and killed her mother and father.  They captured the girl and raised her in their village.  She was eventually given in marriage to a young brave named Winter Wolf.  It was a good marriage, while it lasted.  It ended tragically.
             In order to try to convince the Cheyenne to be peaceful and give up their hope of having their ancestral land, the United States government granted homesteads to any of the Indians who wanted it—provided, of course, they would lay aside their weapons and turn to farming or ranching.  Winter Wolf and Sandra took that option, the only ones in their village who did so.  It created some friction, but never a complete break between Winter Wolf and his people, whom he visited frequently, taking his only child, a daughter, with him on these visits.
           Winter Wolf had named the girl Summer Rain.  Sandra called her Allie, after her maternal grandmother.  The girl, out of love and respect for both her parents, eventually took the name Allie Summer.
           Her father taught Allie everything he knew of Cheyenne ways, and the girl soaked it up.  She was intelligent, agile, quick of reflexes, and eager to learn.  She became a master of every weapon in common use at the time—white and Indian—knew the art of Indian wrestling—something few white men could counter—and learned to move in the forest with the cunning, silence, and invisibility of a panther.
           “The forest is your friend, Summer Rain,” her father told her one time.  “But only if you respect it.  Move with it, never against it.  Listen to it.  It will speak to you.  What your eyes cannot see, your ears will hear.  The forest is pure, unlike man.  It will never deceive you.  But you must not deceive it, either.”  Allie never forgot anything her Cheyenne father taught her.
           But from a very early age, Allie had wanted to become a lawman.  It was a peculiar desire; but then, Allie was a peculiar sort of girl.  When she was five years old, her parents bought her a kitty, which Allie loved dearly.  One day, the little cat escaped Allie’s arms and ran off.  The girl chased her pet, crying, but couldn’t catch it.  The kitty darted up a tree and sat on a branch about five feet above Allie’s head.  Allie stood below, crying, pleading with the tiny animal to come down, but it wouldn’t.  Finally, a tall, lean man walked up, took the kitty from the tree, and handed it to the little girl.  Allie was so happy.  The man smiled at her and patted her on the head.  The girl noticed that he was wearing a star on his chest.  She asked her mother what that meant, and was told that the man was a lawman.  “They catch criminals and help people,” Sandra told her daughter.  From that day forward, Allie became obsessed with joining the territorial Rangers.
           Winter Wolf and Sandra thought their daughter would grow out of it, but she never did.  And when a white mob killed her parents—an Indian married to a white woman was more than a drunken rabble could abide —Allie escaped and made her way to Port Station, the headquarters of the territorial Rangers.  Because of her talents, she was able to convince Captain William Travis McConnell—the man who had pulled her kitty from the tree—to hire her.  That was three years before this story takes place.  Allie was 17 at the time.  It didn’t take her long to become the best Ranger in the force.
           And she loved her work.  She loved being a Ranger.  She loved ridding the world of “human debris” (her words) like B11 Tallent and Red Dog Mitchell.  Oh, she would take them back to trial if they would come.  But she’d leave them where they were if they wouldn’t.  Leave them six feet underground.
           Most people who had heard of her, but hadn’t met her, thought Allie was simply a man with a strange name.  The Rangers didn’t hire women, everybody knew that.  Allie didn’t care one way or the other what people thought; she simply loved her work, and if, when she left a town, the people thought she was male—as had happened in Shepler, Dakota Territory—that was fine with her.  But she was a woman, and that was something she could never change, inside or out.
           And she was half-Cheyenne, which was something else she could not change—and did not want to.  Whether it was because she lived where she did—near her father’s people and not her mother’s—or whether for some other reason, the “Indian” in Allie was very strong and almost completely subsumed her Scandinavian ancestry.  Not that she was ashamed of her mother or her people; it was just that she was very proud of her father and his people.  But there was one other thing that Allie could not change, and it was a stark reminder that she did have that European blood in her veins.  Those ice colored eyes.  Sandra’s had been light blue, but still blue; her daughter’s eyes were…ghostly.  When in bright light and her pupils were constricted, the two orbs between Allie’s eyelids looked almost solid white—a frightening sight indeed.  Oh, those eyes could smile, they could laugh, they could twinkle, they could cry.  But any outlaw who had ever looked into them would also say they could freeze hell.  It was simply one more thing that helped make Allie Summer the best Ranger in W.T. McConnell’s force.
           She worked for the white man.  But never, ever forgot the Indian blood within her.
           Allie had family in the reservation village (which didn’t even have a name) overseen by Mighty Mouse Wiley Wilcox.  Her father had had a brother—well, he was still alive.  Bear Claw was his name, and he had a son, a year older than Allie, called Swift Current.  She was related to Fleet Fox in some manner she never quite determined—her father’s mother’s husband’s uncle or something.  Nearly everyone in the village was related in some way or another.  But only the close relatives—once removed—were what counted when “family” was discussed. 
           So, on this day of her second visit to her people in their new dwelling place, Allie Summer rode slowly through the bleak, soiled, morose village her people now—by force—called home.  The first time Allie had been to the reservation had been very soon after the Cheyenne had been moved onto it.  None of what she now saw had been built yet, and what she gazed upon appalled her.  A once proud people…a still proud people…but now with nothing to show for it but crooked, thin wooden shacks for houses and hand-me-down clothes from white people who had disposed of them to some charity.  The land was good.  But it wasn’t earned.  And Allie knew that would destroy the Cheyenne quicker than anything else.  Slaves of the United States government, that’s all they’ll ever be.  I thought a war was fought to end that…Anger, frustration, bitterness, and sadness all welled up inside the young woman as she slowly walked her horse into a seemingly hopeless hamlet. 
           The last time Allie had visited the reservation the men wouldn’t look her in the eyes.  She understood.  They were ashamed.  To their all-consuming masculinity, they had failed their women and children.  They had been beaten.  Their whole vision of the world had been shattered, and they were now being rounded up and herded like dumb cattle, like brute beasts, to wherever the Great White Father wanted to put them.  Allie wasn’t a man, of course, but she could still understand the disgrace and dishonor felt by the Cheyenne brave.  It went deep, thousands of years deep.  Honor and Pride, thy name is Cheyenne…The women would follow their men; they would love them, support them, bear their children, die with them.  It did not matter, so much, to the women folk, except as they saw what it did to their men.  But to those men, it will never…never…be the same…THEY will never…never…be the same…
           Allie almost hated coming home any more.  She gave herself a wan smile as she realized this is home, not Port Station…
           But she could never come back, except to visit.  She had made her choice, she would live with it, and indeed, she was happy with it.
           A huge part of her, however, would always be here.  With her people.  And with one other thought, she realized that these people were, indeed, her people.  The only Scandinavian I’ve ever met…is my mother…
           As she rode further into the village, she saw smiles, though they seemed a little strained.  “Hello, Summer Rain,” a young teenaged boy called to her.  She was “Summer Rain” to the Cheyenne.  Allie wasn’t even sure they knew her white-woman’s name.
           “Hello, Tall Thunder,” Allie called back.  “You are taller than you were the last time I saw you.  Is your temper still as bad?”  He laughed.  The youngster had gotten his name from his height and his pension for throwing tantrums at an early age.
           Allie stopped her horse as several people came over to her.  “You do not come to visit us any more, Summer Rain,” an old lady said accusingly, and cut Allie to the heart.
           “I know, gentle one,” Allie said.  “And I am sorry.  I…my work…it is difficult…”  It wasn’t often that Allie Summer Rain was at a loss for words.  But she had none now.
           “Well, Maheo has sent you to us now, and that is good.  You must stay for a few days.”  Maheo was the name of the great Cheyenne creator God.
           Allie didn’t have the heart to tell her that she wouldn’t be able to stay more than a few hours.  McConnell had told her to get back to Port Station, on the double.   She had been on an assignment not far from the reservation, the first time she had been so near in many months.  McConnell or no McConnell, she wasn’t going back to the Ranger HQ before she saw her people.
           “Are you well?” another old squaw asked.  “You look well.  The white man’s world suits you.”
           “I was raised in that world, Bird of the Night.  My father believed…it would give me…the best chance.”                                                      
           “Winter Wolf was wise in many things.  But he trusted the white man too much.”  The Cheyenne, for obvious reasons, would never trust the white man again; Allie understood this.  I don’t trust them much, either, for that matter, she thought wanly.
           “What is all this talk I hear?”  A voice spoke up from beyond the gathering.  “It doesn’t sound like English to me.”
           Allie looked up and saw a white man approaching.  He looks like a mouse… Wiley Wilcox, and his animal traits, have already been described, and it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out his demeanor as he stalked towards the Ranger and the crowd surrounding her.
           And, indeed, the Indians—and Allie—had been speaking in the Cheyenne tongue, something else her father had taught her.  “Only English,” however, was the rule on the reservation.  Allie knew that, of course, but she wasn’t excited, or overly concerned, about following such rules.
           The man pushed his way through the Indian group and stood next to Allie, who was still on her horse.  “Who are you?” he asked.
           Netonêševehe?” Allie responded, and the Indians laughed.  She had, basically, asked him the same thing in return.  “Oops, excuse me,” she said in English.  “My name is Summer Rain.  Whom might I be speaking with?”
           “Summer Rain?  Are you Cheyenne?  Why aren’t you on this reservation?”
           “I am on this reservation,” Allie answered.  “Where do you think you are?”  More chuckling from the Indians.
           “That is not what I mean,” Wilcox replied.  “If you are a Cheyenne Indian, by law, you are supposed to be living on this reservation.  I will report you unless you make immediate arrangements to move into this village.”
           Allie slowly and deliberately looked around at the poorly-built houses, the ill-clad people, the depressed atmosphere.  “Why in the world would I want to live here?”  Then, she looked directly at Wilcox.  “With you?”  
           “You don’t have a choice in the matter, young lady,” Wilcox said, his fists balled up against his hips.
           “Ah, the land of the free and the home of the brave,” Allie responded, the sarcasm evident in her voice.  “Provided you have the right ancestry.  Are you Cheyenne?  If you are, you’re the ugliest one I’ve ever seen.   And if you aren’t, why are you living here?”
           “My name is Wylie Wilcox.  I am the agent for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and I live here, for the time being, to help these people learn to adapt to the ways of the United States of America.”
           What a snot…”I think these people were doing quite well, thank you, before you showed up.  So why don’t you just slither on back to where you came from.  You can live and be free in whatever mouse hole you crawled out of, and these people can live and be free in the home they have had for thousands of years.  That way everybody will be free and happy.  How does that sound?”
           Wilcox was turning red.  “You have a very sassy tongue, young lady, and your English is very good.  Are you not from this band?”
           “Are you saying these people are stupid?”
           “I didn’t say that—“
           “You said my English is very good and that I’m not from this band.  That implies that their English isn’t good.  That sounds to me like you are maligning their intelligence.”
           “I was not.  I was only—“
           “It seems to me that, if anybody around here is stupid, it’s you.  These people can speak two languages.  Some of them more than that.  How many can you speak?  Or squeak?”  The Indians laughed.
           Wilcox was turning very red.  “I wasn’t trying—“
           “Then what were you doing?”
           “I’m trying to find out who you are!!”  Now the agent was apoplectic.
           “Aw, nêsétsêstahe,” Allie said, waving him off, and the Cheyenne all laughed again.  What she had said was, in effect, “spit on you.”
           Then, another voice spoke up.  “Is this…”—and here the speaker spread an all-encompassing arm around at the village—“and he…”—motioning towards Wilcox—“what you give your life to defend, Summer Rain?”
           Allie looked over and saw her cousin Swift Current about 15 feet away.  She was immediately struck—again—with how handsome he was, although the attempt to Anglicize him had blunted some of his features.  What use to be long, beautiful black hair was now cut short.  A young man, who would dress only in leggings, showing off an upper body without an ounce of fat on it, was dressed in a torn white undershirt with suspenders holding up baggy britches.  There was no red headdress around his forehead any more.  A shovel in his hand looked so out of place.  More sadness swept over Allie Summer Rain.
           She and Swift Current had had this argument before and she did not intend to have it again—not at the moment.  To Swift Current, Allie was betraying the Cheyenne by being a law officer for the people who had stolen their land.
             “Hello, Swift Current,” is all that Allie replied.  Her eyes met his and they held for several seconds.  It was he who turned away, disgust on his face.
           “Are you going to tell me who you are or not?” Wilcox butted in.
           Allie gave him a very annoyed look.  She carried some identification in one of her saddle bags.  She reached back, found it, and tossed it to the agent.  He took a moment and read it.
           “Allie Summer.”  Then he laughed.  “Territorial Rangers.  You’re a Ranger?  What are you trying to pull?  The Rangers don’t employ women, that’s common knowledge.  Is this the best cover you could think of?  And here I thought you were intelligent.  You need to get down off that horse and come with me, missy.  We’ll get things situated and you can move in with your people today.”
           Allie looked at him.  “And if I refuse?”
           “I’ll report you.  And when you are found, you won’t be living here on the reservation, but in the territorial prison.  That’s where all Indians go who reject the reservation.”
           Something caught Allie’s attention from the corner of her eye.  She looked quickly and saw Swift Current moving towards the Bureau agent, fire in his eyes.  “Stop, Swift Current.”
           He acted like he didn’t hear her, but kept moving towards Wilcox, lifting the shovel as if to bash the agent’s head in.  Wilcox saw him and started to back up, his face turning white.
           But before the Indian could get any closer, a derringer appeared in Allie’s left hand and she fired.  The shot landed about an inch in front of Swift Current’s right foot and he halted.  He looked at his cousin and his face was ugly. 
           But when he spoke, he spoke very calmly.  “If I flee the reservation, Allie Summer, are you going to search for me?  Catch me?  Throw me in your white man’s prison?  Me?  Your own family?”  He spat.  “Bah.  I disown you.”  And he turned and walked away.
           That bit into Allie deeply and, with a profound sorrow in her heart, she watched her cousin until he disappeared into a crude, derelict, unpainted fleapit that had no door.
           The memories were bittersweet for the lady ranger…