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 OLD MEN, Part 3

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Boli Shagnasty
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PostSubject: OLD MEN, Part 3   Thu Feb 27, 2014 8:23 pm

VII
As the months went by, Eli settled back into life on the ranch. Each morning he woke early, ate a good breakfast and went out to work with his Father and two ranch hands that worked for Silas. Life was good for Eli. Each day it seemed that a bit of the tension from the war eased away from him.
It was the nights that were not good for Eli. Most of the time he was too tired from working all day and would fall right to sleep. But sometimes, old memories would come flooding back . . . the flash of cannons would sear his vision . . . the smell of gunpowder burned his nose . . . the screams of wounded and dying men pierced his ears . . . and the night would last for a thousand years . . .
During the time Eli had been away, Silas had aged noticeably. Life was hard on the frontier. It took a toll on a man. Silas was only 45 years old but looked 65. Eli took some of the harder chores to spare his Dad from doing them.
Eli was alone in a small grove of trees, chopping wood for the fireplace when he suddenly felt the grip of strong arms pulling him backward. He stumbled and fell. Immediately a Comanche warrior was sitting on his chest, a knife held to Eli’s throat. His arms and legs were pinned to the ground by other warriors. He could only move his head. Eli looked into the face of the warrior sitting on him. He had seen this warrior before.
The Comanche recognized Eli as the man he had seen on the plains several months ago. He had known then that this white man was a warrior returning home. And this white man had shown him respect that day.
The Comanche warrior hated the white man, all white men. He wanted to kill them all for what they had done to his people. But he could not bring himself to kill this particular white man. Something about it just felt wrong to him.
He stood up and backed away from Eli, saying something to the others with him. They released Eli’s arms and legs. The Comanche stood in a circle around him. Eli stood and faced the man with the knife.
This was a dangerous time. Eli knew they could still kill him if he made one wrong move. He did not know what else to do. He could not simply walk away. He put a hand to his chest and said, "Eli."
The Comanche stared at him for a few seconds, then put his hand to his chest and said in broken English "My . . . name . . . Nahquaddy."
Eli gave Nahquaddy a small bow of his head. Nahquaddy returned it.
"Nah . . . Nahquaddy, two times, you have spared my life. I am thankful. Let there be peace between us, always."
"I am . . . warrior. You . . . warrior. How we have peace?"
"I will defend what is mine, Nahquaddy, but I am a warrior no more. I am just a man who wants to live in peace, with all people."
"But your people . . . make war on mine. Your people steal from us . . . starve us . . . kill us."
"Yes. Great wrong has been done, on both sides. But I have not done these things to your people, nor have any of my family that lives here."
"But if we not kill you, more of you come."
"They will come anyway, whether you kill my family or not. You cannot kill all white people who come here. You cannot stop them. They are too many. They will come and come and keep coming. They will kill and kill until the last one of you is dead and the light of the Comanche is gone from the world forever. Do not let your people die."
An argument broke out among the Comanche. Some wanted to kill Elias right that very moment. Nahquaddy did not. Still, others remained silent waiting to see which way the argument would go.
"I . . . War Chief here. My people want kill you now. Why should I not?"
"Tell them I am not their enemy. Tell them that many of my people may be their enemies, but I am not. Tell them that each time they kill a white person it just makes the white man more determined to kill them all."
"My people not afraid of white man."
"I know this . . . but they should be. The Comanche are few, like the sun and moon. The whites are many, like the stars and the sand, and they will swallow the Comanche as a great eagle eats a fish . . . You know that I speak the truth, Nahquaddy. You know that I made war on the white men in the blue coats. There were many thousands of us . . . thousands more of us than your people . . . and we killed many, many thousands of the men in blue . . . Yet they still defeated us because there are so many of them . . . they will come here and if you fight them, they will kill all of you."
"We fight them. Better die warrior’s death, than live in shame."
"And if all of you die, who will be left to sing your songs? Who will be left to tell the stories of the great Comanche people? Who will remember you? For a short time, the white men will laugh and tell lies about the number of Comanche they killed. Then they will go and kill someone else, and the Comanche will be forgotten. Your names will not even be whispered on the wind."
Nahquaddy was quiet for a few moments as he thought about what Eli had spoken. A warrior to Eli’s left drew out his knife and advanced toward Eli. Eli turned to meet the threat.
The voice of Nahquaddy cut through the air in his native language.
"No!"
The warrior advancing on Eli stopped in his tracks and looked at Nahquaddy.
"No, Tadaco, this man is not our enemy. If you kill him, you must kill me also."
Tadaco looked at Nahquaddy. He did not care to fight Nahquaddy. It was one thing to kill an unarmed white man. It was something else to fight an armed Comanche. Tadaco hesitated a moment, then sheathed his knife and stepped back.
"White man, again I spare your life. What you trade for it?"
"Nothing."
Nahquaddy’s eyes narrowed and he put his hand on the hilt of his knife.
"Do not insult me, white man."
"I mean no insult to you, but I will trade you nothing for my life. Instead, I will freely give to you the honor a great warrior deserves. I will give to you the respect that one man owes to another. I will give to you friendship, for your actions have proven that you are indeed, my friend. And I hope to be as good a friend to you as you have been to me. You and your family are welcome in my home at any time. If you and your people are hungry, you may always come here and get meat. This is what I freely give you for my life."
"How I know you keep your word?"
"If I do not do as I say I will, you can always kill me later. We are alone here and there are few of us. But I am not one of those white men that lie and cheat the Comanche. If you believe that I am, then kill me now."
Nahquaddy stood, thinking about what Eli had said. Finally he took a deep breath, having made his decision.
"I not kill you now. We shall see if your word true. From now, you not fear me or my tribe. I not promise from other Comanche."
"I understand, my friend."
Eli gave the small nod of his head that had come to symbolize their recognition of each other. Nahquaddy returned it. The he yelled out something loudly in Comanche. Through the trees came a Comanche warrior leading a string of horses. The Comanche mounted the horses and rode swiftly away.
Eli’s legs buckled beneath him and his butt hit the ground hard. He sat there, trembling, trying to catch his breath. Once again, God or fate or luck or something had saved his life. He wondered how long it would last.

VIII
 
"What the hell have you done, Son?"
"Dad, they was gonna kill me. Then they would probably have come here and killed all of you."
"What makes you think they still won’t?"
"They will if we don’t do what I said we would . . . Dad, I told you about that day when I was walking home. Nahquaddy could have killed me then, but he didn’t. He could have killed me this morning, but he didn’t. Then he saved me from one of his own people. I believe he is an honorable man who will keep his word as long as we keep ours."
"Where did you ever get the idea that you knew anything at all about Indians?" his Mother said. "You don’t know nothing about them."
"No, Mom, I don’t. But in case you have forgotten, I do know a little something about warriors."
"Son, you don’t understand. They will come here and take everything we have. They will drive us into the poor house."
"No, they won’t. Nahquaddy doesn’t want what we have. He just wants to be able to take care of his people. They will only take what they need from us, one or two head, just enough to feed themselves. If it means we can live in peace with them, we can surely afford that."
"I don’t like this idea, Eli." Sara said. "I don’t like it at all. If we wind up dead, it is going to be your fault."
"Maybe, Mom. They could come down here any time, pull a quick raid and kill us all. And so we live our lives in fear, weapons close by, always afraid that one day it will happen. But is that any way to really live?"
"Son, when you run across a rattlesnake, there ain’t no reasoning with it. There ain’t no making peace with it. You either kill it or it kills you."
"Nahquaddy is not a rattlesnake, Dad. He is not an animal. He is a man. He may be a different kind of man than we are. He may believe different things than we do, but he can still be reasoned with. The only time he will turn unreasonable is if we break faith with him . . . Daddy, I gave him my word. Please don’t break it."
Silas Edwards stared angrily at his son. His mind frantically trying to process all the thoughts and emotions whirling through his brain. Silas had seen the Comanche at war. He had seen what they could do to white men. Silas had killed some Comanche in the heat of battle. Silas’ brother had had his throat slit by a Comanche warrior. Yet now, his own son had offered peace to his worst enemies.
Silas wanted to take the easy way out. He wanted to tell Eli that his actions had been those of a young boy who didn’t really understand what it was he had done. He looked at Eli, started to speak, but then stopped.
Silas took a second look at his son, and then it hit him. Eli may only have been 22 years old, but he wasn’t a boy anymore. Eli was a man who had seen and done much in his short life. He had done things that no man of any age should ever have to do. He was worthy of respect. He had charted this course of action, and he was betting his life on the consequences of his actions. As he stared at his son, Silas realized he believed in the man his son had become.
Silas turned his head to his wife. Sara just looked at him for a moment. She knew her husband well enough to know what he was thinking. She smiled uncertainly and slowly nodded her head up and down.
"Son," Silas said. "I hope you realize just how hard this is going to be for your Mom and me. Old habits and ways of thinking die hard. But maybe, it is time. We’ll try it your way."

IX

The roundup was over and the younger cattle branded. The cattle ready for market had been taken to Fort Worth and sold. It had been a good year. A war weary nation was hungry for beef. Beef prices were rising and Silas Edwards had made more money than ever before.
Several ranchers in the county had pooled some of their money and built a small church. The church was about 10 miles from the Edwards ranch and every Sunday morning the Edwards family made the trip to hear an itinerant minister the ranchers had hired to preach to them.
When not being used as a church, the building served as a school and a kind of communal meeting hall. All three Edwards children had spent a few years going to school there, as had many younger children from the area. Their parents usually took them out of school when they got older and big enough to work around the house and ranch.
One of the regularly scheduled events was a dance held every other Saturday night. Among the ranchers and their families were a several people who played the fiddle, the banjo, and the guitar. It was said Silas Edwards played the best fiddle in the county.
Sara Edwards and her two daughters loved to dance. Silas knew he had to take Sara and the girls to the dance or Sara would make him regret it. Silas Edwards often gave others the impression that he was a stoic, taciturn man. He could be that, but it wasn’t his true nature. He would moan and complain about the dance, but secretly, Silas loved to dance with his wife. He always had a good time at the dances, but he would not have let Sara know that for the world. Sara knew it anyway but was content to let him play the game.
Eli had never learned to dance. As a boy he had been too awkward and shy to ever ask a girl to dance. Then he went away to the war and had never had a chance to learn. His knowledge of the opposite sex was limited to what he had learned from older men in camp during the war. All Eli really knew was that he enjoyed looking at them.
"Eli, there is a dance this coming Saturday. Are your good clothes clean? You better bring them in for the girls to wash."
"Ma, I really don’t want to go to this dance."
"Why not, Son?"
"Well, someone needs to stay here and keep an eye on the place."
"Eli, one or two of the ranch hands always stay here. You know that."
"Well, maybe they need some help."
"They don’t need any help from you, young man. What is the real reason you don’t want to go?"
"Ma, I been to four of these dances since I got home. I don’t know how to dance. All I do is watch other people have fun. I rarely talk to anyone since all the guys I knew are dead. I just stand against a wall and all the girls look at me like I was a prize bull at the county fair."
"Why, Eli Edwards, if I didn’t know better I would think you were afraid of them girls."
"They do scare me."
"Oh, Son, I guess we have kind of left you on your own, haven’t we? You are going to this dance, Eli. You need to meet one of them girls and make her your own. You need a woman, Son."
"What for?"
"Eli, don’t you want to get married and have some kids?"
"Well . . . yeah . . . I guess so . . . I mean . . . "
"You know that house y'all are building on the other side of the creek?"
"Yeah?"
"Your Daddy is going to give it to you when you get married . . . that and a 500 cow spread to go along with it. Had he not told you that?"
"He never said a word."
"Well, I guess he just wanted to surprise you."
"Ma . . . what if I don’t get married? What if I never meet anyone I care that much about?"
"You are sure not going to meet her staying here on the ranch. And who knows? You might just meet the right girl for you at this dance."
"How am I going to do that?"
"Well, the usual way is to ask a girl to dance."
"I don’t know how to dance, Ma."
"I can fix that. Every night after supper we will have Pa get out his fiddle and play. The girls and I will teach you how to dance. Come Saturday night you will be dancing like you have known how all your life."
Eli was a quick learner. At first, his feet would get tangled up and often he stepped on the toes of his mother and sisters. But he soon caught on to what his feet were supposed to be doing and could get through a tune without too many mistakes.
The first night his sister Betsy taught him to do a schottische. He had some trouble remembering just when to run and when to hop. And did one hop on the turn or just step? For a while Eli was confused. Sara and Rachel could not help themselves and laughed out loudly at him on a couple of occasions. Eli turned bright red, but that just made him even more determined to learn how to do it.
By the end of the evening, even Betsy could not keep up with her brother. He had worn her out so he took Sara on one arm and Rachel on the other and danced all around the room with them until bedtime.
The next night, while Silas played his fiddle, Sara took her son and taught him how to do the two-step. This was a much easier dance than the schottische and under his Mother’s teaching, Eli learned to glide smoothly around a room with a woman in his arms.
On Wednesday evening, Little Rachel took her big brother in her arms and taught him how to waltz. Rachel was a wonderful dance partner. After teaching him the basics of the waltz, she taught him spins and other moves that would make his waltz a bit more special than what everyone else would be doing.
Eli found he enjoyed the smooth easy rhythm of the waltz. He took to it so naturally he did not even have to count his steps. He thought the waltz to be very romantic and though he would never have said so to his Mom and sisters, he couldn’t wait to get to the dance and try it with one of the girls there.
Suddenly, that thought froze in his mind . . . the girls at the dance.
At the last dance Eli had counted eight of them looking him over like hungry vultures about to devour his dead carcass. And that was just the unmarried girls. Eli had noticed five widows also looking him over very closely, including the widow of his friend Billy Joe Wicker.
Beverly Wicker had tried to start a conversation with Eli without notable success. ‘She probably thinks I am dull-witted,’ thought Eli. All he had managed to tell her was that Billy Joe had died bravely. But he could not talk to her as he kept seeing the broken, bloody body of Billy Joe lying next to him.
On the fourth and fifth night he just practiced what he had learned with his Mom and sisters. The girls and widows at the dance did scare him some, but he was ready to test his new dancing prowess. Maybe that would at least help him to enjoy himself at the dance.
He was ready.
Or so he thought.
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Ann
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PostSubject: Re: OLD MEN, Part 3   Fri Feb 28, 2014 8:47 am

Personally I do not approve of how the Indians killed white men women and children, they were not selective. But I do approve of how Eli made friends with the Indian, stood up for himself and his family and to his father... A man's word is his honor.

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sarianna



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PostSubject: Re: OLD MEN, Part 3   Fri Mar 07, 2014 11:34 am

That closing line makes me wonder if Eli is about to meet the woman of his dreams. lol Sure wish you'd post more than one at a time, I hate not being able to turn the page to see what happens next.
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Barbi



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PostSubject: Re: OLD MEN, Part 3   Mon Mar 24, 2014 8:44 am

Did we read parts of this story before? This is Bobby Ray's ancestry isn't it? I thought you'd have finished the book by now.  lol!  I must say I enjoyed the reread to re acclimate myself on the characters and story line.
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Boli Shagnasty
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PostSubject: Re: OLD MEN, Part 3   Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:26 pm

Dear Ann,

The quality of savagery between the Whites and the Indians was equal on both sides, just the methodology was different. But the historical record bears out that the Indians did not bother the Whites until they took something the Indians considered as theirs.

Thanks for the read.
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Boli Shagnasty
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PostSubject: Re: OLD MEN, Part 3   Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:29 pm

Dear Sari,

He is indeed about to meet or get reaquainted with a few young women. We shall see what happens. lol

Only posting a little at a time to keep up the suspense. lol

Thanks for the read.
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Boli Shagnasty
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PostSubject: Re: OLD MEN, Part 3   Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:32 pm

Dear Barb,

When you consider that when I started this story I was all the way on the other side of the world, and that much has happened in between, you will have to give me a break on not being finished with it yet. lol

I figured you would remember this before you got to far into it and I an glad you have enjoyed it.
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