Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Hillside Cabin of Jeb Catrall (Cont'd - 6)

The Fourth of July came and went and the new flag on the hillside caused quite a stir in the town when it was first spotted. Well, it wasn't actually spotted, because the citizens never looked at the hill. The hill was just there in its greenness and immobility and everybody was so used to it that they never spent time looking at it in their day-to-day activities. It was Cliff that started all the excitement by asking Ben Haggerty, the owner of the lumberyard who had come in the station for breakfast, "Have you seen that new flag up there at Jeb Catrall's place on the hillside, Ben? I saw it first thing this morning when I went outside, and it sure makes a pretty sight waving in the breeze this Fourth of July."

Of course, from there the word spread like a wild fire with Haggerty telling everyone he met and Cliff telling everyone he saw, and pretty soon the young kids had to get a closer look at the flag and climbed the hill part way to set off their firecrackers and exploding bombs and then run home to tell their parents.

The flag added a certain patriotic awareness and everbody had a better Fourth of July because of it. Going from one place to another, they stared at it and some sang the National anthem, at least tried to sing a few words of it, and it was a day not to be forgotten, at least for a week or so. 

The week went by and Catrall had been flying the flag and building his cabin with the help of young Sebio and Cliff and waiting for that letter from his daughter . The flagpole was a ten-foot long two-by-four which he and Cliff rigged for the purpose.

"That ain't very high up, Jeb. I think you should've used a longer two-by-four," said Cliff.

"You get it too high and the wind will blow it down," said Jeb. "And it'll be easier to put up and take down at this length. It'll be just fine. It looks pretty to me, waving in the breeze, huh, Sebio?"

"Si, si, muy hermosa!" Sebio said with bright and shiny brown eyes.

The house had been progressing nicely, too, with both sidewalls added on to the foundation and the old, rotten floor boards changed out. The summer monsoons had started when the building was blown down and they knew the winds could pick up at any time. They propped up the walls with two-by-fours to prevent another blowdown.

"There, that'll hold 'em," said Jeb as he nailed the last support into place. "It'll have to be a another strong wind to blow this one down."

Meanwhile, down in the valley on the edges of Tropolis in a dark and hot hut were gathered three old Indians, known as Old Hates White Men, Cat Chaser, and Kit Carson Escapes Into Bushes.

"We been hated, castigated, ridiculed, and practically emasculated by our own people," Old Hates White Men was saying. "All because of our past lives and the evil that befell us on raids of the white men camps. Our own people never understood us or what happened in those raids, yet, they expelled us and made us objects of derision among the young people, and I say we must do something that will wipe away our misdeeds and miscues and make us once again the strong brave warriors of our youth in the eyes of our own peoples."

Cat Chaser looked at him with his dark eyes and a question on his brown face that needed an answer. He drew himself up to full stature in his white-man's shirt and denim trousers, that is, he straightened up from his sitting position on the dirt floor of the hogan and raised his wrinkled right arm, pointing at Escapes into Bushes in the dim light, and said, "Him beyond redemption no matter what we do, Old Hates White Men!" he said emphatically. "Him no good! Can't be redeemed! Mark my words!" He took a deep breath, lowered his arm, "Look at him...passed out from too much mescal. Indian shouldn't be able to buy mescal, ruin many lives."

"Him heap drunk, all right, but when he doesn't have any mescal, he's a straight arrow, Cat Chaser," said Old Hates White Men. "We'll see that he doesn't get any more till we redeem ourselves." He stared at the little old man across from him, his pupils just dots in the reddened dark eyes under his bushy eyebrows and long gray hair that he had tied in a knot that fell over his back. "How are your old legs? How far can you walk in a day?"

"Humph, legs are in good condition," replied Cat Chaser. "I walk into town every day as you know to steal something to eat. My legs can outrun yours any day, Old Hates White Men!" He straightened his legs out in front of him, resting the calves and heels on the dirt floor, squeezed his old, leathery right thigh muscle with his right hand. "See there! Strong muscles, like iron. Feel them! I could pull a dead bull two miles in the mud with these legs."

"Good, you'll need good legs when I tell you how we're going to redeem our lives. But we have to wait until Kit Carson Escapes comes out of his drunken sleep, because I'm only going to tell you both once, that's all. We'll be welcomed back with a big celebration, a big dance to the wolves and the moon with lots of good medicine and all the mescal we can drink." Old Hates White Men grinned and touched the side of his head, watching the old man sitting across the ashes of the dead fire.

Cat Chaser was staring back at him, thinking, "He must have a powerful medicine in his breeches to think he can do that. We'll have to wait to see what's in it, though. A-agh...I don't know why Kit Carson Escapes into Bushes has to be part of his medicine. He can't stay off the mescal long enough to do much. The last time he sobered up, he got to shakin' and sweatin' so bad I thought he was a dead Indian before long." Aloud, he said, "Aa-agh, Old Hates White Men, I can't trust that Indian to do anything. Why did you have to pick him to be part of this plan?"

"We stick together, you, me, and him. We been together for a long time and I'll need him to do his part in it. I just can't let him not be a part of it. We three are the only living braves from that last big raid on the white man's camp and we'll stick together until the end. You agree with me, don't you? That Indian should be redeemed with us or it's no deal."

"Hah, he may get us killed, him and his drunken liquor," said Cat Chaser. "He's been like that ever since he let that dirty white scoundrel Kit Carson get away. We have to make sure he's sober and not just enough to stand up and walk. We need to take his mind off mescal so he doesn't get the urge for it. Otherwise, I may not want to go along with you. You're the oldest of us, and we always looked up to you, Old Hates White Men, but, look at you, you can barely stand up on those creaky, old, wrinkled, brown legs. You better start walkin' with me when I go into town and get them lookin' like they used to. You need to do that, if there's a lot of walkin' in your plan. My legs are strong; I can walk for a week if I have to."

"As soon as that ancient brown one lying there asleep wakes up, we'll do a little walking. We all need strong legs to redeem ourselves. And while we prepare for this plan we need to make some arrows, good strong arrows that fly straight and true and a long way, Cat Chaser, and we'll have to steal some string for a good, strong bow, too. "

Old Hates White Men glanced at the sleeping, emaciated body of Kit Carson Escapes in the Bushes, sighed, dug around in his bag and pulled out an old pipe. 'Here, let's have a good smoke to seal our redemption," as he pulls out a pinch of tobacco from a pouch and presses it into the bowl of the pipe with a dirty thumb. "Smoking is good medicine," he added, striking a match and putting it to the tobacco. He sucked on the pipe until he had a cloud of smoke wafting to the ceiling, coughed three or four times, and passed the pipe to his old companion.




  1. Excellent, Oscar. Love the little nuggets of humor in there.

  2. Just a couple more to go. Thanks, Levity!