The Second Hundred Years
Copyright© 2010 by woodmanone
Please read Chapters 1 & 2. The characters and events will make more sense if you do.
Constructive comments and emails are more than welcome and much appreciated.
Thanks for following my story and I hope you enjoy it.
"You think he's who?" Charley Samuels asked. He'd heard what William had told him but he couldn't believe it. It was early morning and William had just told him what he thought about the man sleeping inside.
"I know it sounds crazy, like some kind of science fiction story, but Lewis and I believe that Jim is my grandfather and Lewis' great, great, grandfather," William repeated.
Charley looked from William to Lewis and back again. They can't be serious, he thought. They're playing a joke on me.
"It isn't a joke Doc," Lewis said guessing what Charley was thinking. "C'mon lets go down to the barn. No need to let Jim hear about this; not just yet anyway."
William made a detour to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniels and three coffee cups. When the three men got to the barn they found seats on some barrels and an old recliner. William poured each one of them about half a cup of whiskey.
"Don't normally drink during the week or this early in the day, but this is a special occasion," William said to Lewis and Charley. Raising his cup he said, "Salud." He took a huge drink and looked at the other two men.
"Reckon you're right Grandpa. If it isn't I don't think we'll ever find a better one." Lewis knocked back about half of his drink. Charley finished his drink, took the bottle from William and poured himself another.
"What makes you think Jim Randal is your Jim Randal?" Charley asked.
First William and then Lewis told him their reasoning. They told Charley about the whispered 'Chante' in the cave, the scar on Jim's shoulder, the white streak in his hair, and the picture.
"What we're trying to say is that somehow, someway, that's our Jim Randal in the house," William finished.
"We'll know better once he's strong enough to really talk to us," Lewis added. "He'll tell us about himself and we can ask him some questions." He paused looking, at the ground. "But I'll bet this ranch that he's just who we think he is"
"But how... ?" Charley began.
"You're the scientist Charley," William said. "Not us. I don't know how, but I'm sure that the Jim Randal we found in that cave is my grandfather."
"Now that you said something, I do notice a strong family resemblance," Charley offered. "Hell Lewis, you and Jim could almost be twins. You've both got the same coloring, build, and facial features. And he's got the same white streak in his hair that you do."
The man who called himself Jim Randal had been with them for three days now. He seemed to be recovering from his ordeal. Jim would soon be strong enough to start paying attention to his surroundings and start to ask questions.
Charley was lost in thought for a few minutes and Lewis and William let him alone. Finally he looked at the Randals. "We'd better wait a day or two before we say anything to him. He's getting stronger but something like this could cause a heart attack in a healthy man."
The three men talked and debated about what could have caused a man to go into "suspended animation for a hundred and seventeen years", that's the term Charley used. Then come out the other side looking like he was 25 or so. They decided they didn't have enough information to even make a guess as to how that happened.
Lewis thought back to when and where he found Jim and remembered the smoke. "Doc, when I first looked into that room there was a kind of smoke coming out of the opening; I got a whiff and almost passed out. After I broke down more of the wall, the smoke seemed to disappear. Could that smoke have had something to do with it?"
Charley shrugged his shoulders. "Makes as much sense as anything else right now."
"That flame was another thing," Lewis added. "I've never seen a flame burning on rock without any kind of fuel source." After a few seconds he said, "I think I'll hike back up there tomorrow and look things over."
"Good idea, I'll go with you," Charley replied. "But we'll take the ATVs instead of horses won't we?"
Lewis had to smile. "Don't you like horses Charley?"
"I like em just fine; it's them that don't like me"
The next morning after a quick breakfast Charley and Lewis, mounted on the ATVs, rode toward the trail that led up to the cave. Lewis and Charley both had backpacks; Lewis's was a survival kit, Charles had some test equipment and a camera. They climbed up the steep trail for forty minutes and finally crossed the small canyon in front of the cave. This time Lewis had brought big flashlights so they could see their way.
Lewis led the way into the cave and to the room where he'd found Jim. The man made wall that had concealed the small room was totally collapsed, but the flame was still burning with a bright intensity. They stepped closer to the flame and looked at the rock that formed the niche. The rock still seemed wet and an oily liquid seeped toward the flame. Lewis noticed a spider web of small cracks running around the sides of the niche. He hadn't seen them the first time in the cave.
"I don't know what this is," Charley said. "It seems that the flame sort of melts this rock and the fluid feeds the flame." He rubbed some of the oil between his fingers, shaking his head. "It's like an eternal flame; as long as there is rock to melt the flame will continue burning. And there's the smoke you told me about," he said pointing to the wisps of vapor rising from the flame.
"That's about what I figured the first time I saw it," Lewis replied.
"Let's get a sample of the rock and the fluid," Charley suggested. "I have a friend in the chemistry department at the college in Prescott. He can analyze them for us"
Charley dropped his backpack and started to dig into it. Lewis suddenly put his hand on Charley's shoulder. "You feel that?" He asked.
Lewis thought he'd felt a tremor run through the floor of the cave. Looking at the niche where the flame was he saw pieces of rock breaking off and falling to the floor. He saw a small crack appear at the base of the wall and expand toward the ceiling of the cave.
He grabbed Charley. "Let's get out of here. That wall is shifting and falling apart."
Charley could feel the shuddering of the rock in the floor now. He nodded and struggled to put his backpack on.
"Leave it, we need to go now," Lewis ordered as he pulled Charley toward the entrance to the cave.
Pieces of rock were falling from the roof as they ran to get out. They cleared the entrance and Charley stopped to look back into the cave. Lewis grabbed him and pulled him across the canyon to the tall rock butte. Just as they got to the rock wall the cave collapsed in on itself.
Charley stood staring at the collapsing mountain; Lewis pulled him behind the rock butte just as a cloud of smoke, dust, and small rocks rolled past them. After the cloud had cleared both men stepped out and stared across the canyon. All that was left of the entrance to the cave was a pile of crumbled rocks.
Over head the eagles took flight, soaring around and shrilly calling to each other complaining about the cave in.
"So much for using science to investigate that rock," Charley said. Turning to Lewis he said, "Thanks for pulling me out of there."
Lewis nodded and replied, "Dotty would have been really upset with me if I had left you. I don't want to face her when she's mad."
Charley chuckled. "I know exactly what you mean. C'mon let's head back before the rest of the mountain falls down around us."
Ninety minutes later they pulled the ATVs into the barn and headed up to the house. "Find anything?" William asked as he greeted them.
Lewis explained about the cave in. "There's about a hundred tons of rock collapsed into that room. Reckon we'll never know what that rock was and how or if it kept Jim alive all those years."
"Yeah, and if Lewis hadn't pulled me out when the roof of the cave started coming down I'd be spending the next hundred years in there myself," Charley told William. Smiling at Lewis he added, "The boy is quite forceful when need be."
It was 4 A.M. when William heard Lewis stomping around out on the front porch. Boy's having another bad night I guess. I'll go down and sit with him for a bit. He quickly slipped on some clothes and went downstairs to join Lewis.
"Have another bad night son?" William asked as he came out onto the porch. His concern for his grandson showed on his face and in the tone of his voice.
"Oh, hi Grandpa. No, not really. In fact just the opposite," Lewis responded with a grin.
"Well, I got to thinking about it," Lewis replied. "If our guest in there really is our kin, just think how exciting it is. I know you remember hearing about him from your mom and dad but he was gone long before I was born. And now I get to meet and talk with him. Jim knows things about our family's history from personal experience, not from a genealogy chart."
William sat for a minute thinking about his memories of "Grandpa Jim". He smiled and said, "From the stories I heard growing up, he surely did lead an exciting life. It'll be good to hear them from someone that was there."
They went to the kitchen and William started the coffee. Lewis and William talked for over an hour. Charley and then Dotty joined them.
William looked at Charley, pointed at Dotty and asked, "Have you told her yet?"
With an embarrassed smile on his face Charley replied, "Yeah, told her last night just after we went to bed." He shrugged his shoulders and added, "Never could keep anything from her. Dotty can always tell if I've got something on my mind."
"Charley said you think Jim is your relation and why you think so," Dotty said. "He also said you were going to ask him some questions to prove it. Is that right?"
"We can find out pretty quick if he's who think he is," William replied.
"Well Charley and I agree that you ought to take it easy. Let him get back some strength before he hit him with this ... this ... well miracle I guess."
The four of them discussed the situation for another two hours before Dotty left to check on Jim. He was just waking up as she walked into his room.
"Good morning Jim. How are you feeling today?"
"Morning Dotty. I feel some better. My head's been a little fuzzy but seems better now," Jim answered. It's like a fog or mist has been lifted from my mind, he thought. My eyes have been blurry but now they seem okay.
"Well let's see how you're doing," Dotty said as she began her normal morning exam. She reached over and turned on the light setting on the night stand.
Jim jumped a little when the light came on. He stared at the lamp and then looked around the room. Dotty saw his little twitch and the wildness that came back into his eyes.
"What's wrong Jim?"
Jim took a deep breath and made himself settle down; Dotty was taking care of him and he considered her a friend. She wouldn't let or cause anything bad to happen to him.
"How'd you do that?" Jim asked.
"How'd I do what?"
"How did you get a light in here just by touching that thing next to the bed? I don't see a coal oil lamp."
All at once Dotty realized that if Jim was who Lewis thought he was that he wouldn't know anything about electric lights. I don't want to stress him out too much here, Dotty told herself.
She smiled at Jim. "Open your mouth so I can look at your throat," Dotty ordered quickly. She ignored his question and went on with the exam. "Oatmeal for breakfast?" She asked as she left the room.
Entering the kitchen Dotty went to her husband. Charley was standing with Lewis and William. "He's starting to ask questions." She told them about Jim's reaction to her turning on the light. "I don't think we're going to be able to keep as much from him as we wanted to"
"He's getting back to normal and he's starting to notice the things around him," Charley replied. Turning to William he said, "The stronger he gets the more he's going to want to know what happened. I don't think we can keep him in the dark much longer; just go easy when you talk to him."
"Let Lewis talk to him," Dotty suggested. "Jim seems to trust him. Remember how he looked for you the first few times he woke up? Maybe it's because you were the first one he saw when he regained consciousness in the cave. Anyway let Lewis answer his questions."
Lewis nodded and looked thoughtful. "I'll do what I can but I'm not real good at leading people on"
"Don't lead him on," Charley offered. "Tell him what he wants to know; but if he becomes agitated call us."
"I'm going to give him breakfast now," Dotty said. "Why don't you come with me?"
Lewis nodded again and picked up his bowl of oatmeal before he followed Dotty into Jim's room. Her look at him was a question. "If we're having breakfast together it will seem less like an inquisition; both ways," he told Dotty.
"Mornin Jim," Lewis greeted him. "Don't you look all bright eyed and bushy tailed."
"Yeah, I'm feeling better. I'm still a little weak but I'm getting stronger every day."
Dotty left them alone and they finished breakfast without talking. Charley came in and took Jim's blood pressure, check his heart sounds, and tested his reflexes. As he finished his exam Jim asked, "Can I use the privy. I feel like a baby using that pan thing. Beside I'd like to get out of bed for awhile."
Charley nodded. "I understand but you're still weak." He thought for a second or two and continued, "I've got a wheelchair over at my place that we can use to get you out of bed for a bit. Use the bedpan this morning and we'll get you up this afternoon." Jim nodded and Charley and Lewis left the room.
"I'll come back in ten minutes or so," Lewis told him. Jim would want some privacy. When Lewis came back the questions started.
Jim looked at Lewis and asked, "What happened? I mean how did I get here?"
"How much do you remember Jim?"
"It's sort of fuzzy but I seem to remember a cave or something. I remember looking up and seeing you and then I was in this room."
"That's right, I found you unconscious. We got you down the mountain and here to the house," Lewis told Jim.
Jim was quiet for a minute. Then the questions that Lewis had been dreading started. "Where am I Lewis? What's going on? Where's my wife and son? What..."
Lewis interrupted him. "Take it easy Jim," he said holding up his hand. "Do you trust me?" Jim looked at Lewis and slowly nodded. "I'll answer all your questions but would you tell me how you got in that cave first."
Jim took a deep breath. "I was tricked by a Lakota medicine man called Spirit Healer. He told me that Iron Buffalo, he's the chief of the Lakota, wanted to adopt me into the tribe. Spirit Healer took me to the cave for the ceremony."
"That was quite an honor, to be adopted as a Lakota," Lewis said. "Why did this Iron Buffalo offer to adopt you?" He knew who Iron Buffalo was and his relationship to Jim. Lewis wanted to keep Jim talking, hoping to ease what was coming.
"Yeah, it is. Iron Buffalo is my wife's father. At first he didn't like me much, but we sorta grew on each other."
"So Spirit Healer tricked you?" How?"
"I had to smoke a sacred pipe as part of the ceremony. I'm guessin he put something in the tobacco because after a few puffs on that pipe I started gettin dizzy." Jim stopped and stared at the wall. "Next thing I know I woke up and saw you."
"When did this happen? I mean what year?" Lewis knew the answer; he'd heard and read the story in the family history. Lewis could see that Jim was upset and waited for him to calm down a little. If talking about how he got into that cave bothers him wait until he hears the rest of it, Lewis thought.
"It was the spring of '90."
"That was 1890, right?"
"Of course 1890," Jim replied with impatience. "Okay, that's how I got in that cave. Now answer my questions Lewis." His voice was stronger and demanding.
"Okay I'll answer them but let me get something from the living room," Lewis said. At Jim's nod Lewis left the bedroom. He picked up a hand mirror, the family picture from the mantel, and rejoined Jim. By now Jim was sitting up on the side of the bed.
He looked up and smiled at Lewis. "First time I've been off my back since I got here."
"Here," Lewis said handing Jim the picture as he sat down. "You recognize these people?"
Jim had tears in his eyes as he looked at the picture. "That's me, my wife Chante, and our son John. It was taken about six months after John was born." He stopped and smiled. "There was a man at the trading post that had one of those ... err ... camera I think he called it. He said he was taking pictures of the country out west for a newspaper back east. I talked him into waiting while I went home and brought Chante and John back to the post so he could take that picture."
He stopped as he stared at the picture of his family. "Where's Chante and my son?"
"Bear with me a minute and I'll explain everything to you soon," Lewis replied. "Trust me Jim."
Jim nodded and Lewis handed him the hand mirror. "I know this sounds funny but I want you to look at yourself in that mirror. Most people really don't know how they look."
He took the mirror and studied his image. "I look real thin don't I?" Need a shave too."
"Now look at my face," Lewis requested.
Jim looked at Lewis and then back at his image in the mirror. He looked back and forth between the mirror and Lewis' face for over two minutes. "We could be brothers," Jim admitted.
"Yes we could. Let me tell you about finding you," Lewis suggested.
"Alright, but when you finish I want some answers," Jim agreed.
Lewis told Jim the story of finding him in the cave behind the wall. He explained about the flame and the smoke in the room. After several minutes Lewis came to the end of the story.
"Now for the part that you're not going to believe, Jim." Lewis hesitated. "William and I think you are related to us."
"We think that you're William's grandfather and my great, great, grandfather." Jim's face showed his shock and surprise at Lewis' statement. Before he could speak Lewis continued.
"In the cave you woke up a second time and asked William about Chante. You've told me she is your wife but she is my great, great, grandmother. How would you know her name if you aren't our Jim Randal? You have a scar on your left shoulder that William was told about when he was a kid. His mom told him it was from an arrow."
Jim's eyes were opened wide and he was breathing as if he'd run a foot race.
"And finally, there's that picture. You know about it, you even told me when and how it was taken." Lewis hesitated again. "That picture has been setting on the mantel for over a hundred years."
Charley came into the room pushing a wheelchair. He saw the tension between the two men and stopped. Jim took a deep breath and looked at Lewis with sad eyes.
"If what you say is true, then Chante is dead," Jim said. It was almost a question.
"For a long time now," Lewis replied.
Jim sighed and tears fell down his face. "My son John?"
"He's gone too, but they both lived long and useful lives." Lewis watched Jim for a bit. "Let's take a break for a few minutes."
"You wanted to get out of bed and now we can get you up," Charley said. "Let's get you into this chair and take you out to get some fresh air." He was trying to relieve the tension that hung in the room like a cloud.
Lewis and Charley helped Jim get into the wheelchair. Charley pushed the chair, following Lewis out onto the front porch. Jim seemed to sit taller as he saw the valley stretching away to the mountains. William and Dotty joined them, looking to see how Jim was doing.
Charley pushed Jim to the edge of the porch and stepped back. Jim looked at the scenery for several minutes. Lewis leaned on the rail close to him.
He looked up at Lewis and said, "Looks a lot like my ranch, Eagle's Nest."
Everyone froze for a few seconds. William came over and set on the step at Jim's feet. "This is Eagle's Nest Jim, or maybe I should call you Granddad."
Jim smiled a little at the granddad. "Those twin buttes in the mountains sure look the same." He looked back down the valley and at the mountains for several minutes. The people watched him but kept quiet, letting him get a feel for the place and his situation.
"I think that's about enough for your first time up," Charley said. "Let's get you back to bed."
Lewis took the handles of the wheelchair and turned Jim back toward the house. Jim looked over the doorway. "Wait," he said. "That's my totem," he said pointing above the door.
"According to the story, Iron Buffalo gave you that totem to protect your 'lodge'," William said. It's said you put it over the doorway to honor the Lakota chief."
"Until this minute, I didn't know what to think about all this," Jim said. "I thought y'all might be loco." He smiled and added, "But now I believe it's so." Pointing to the totem he continued, "Y'all could have made up a lot of stuff but that totem is real. I guess I've come home again after all these years."
The scope of who he was and what had happened to him almost over whelmed Jim. He motioned for Lewis to turn him back toward the valley. Jim sat lost in thought and none of the others intruded. He took Lewis's hand, as if to steady himself, and continued to stare at the landscape for a few more minutes. Finally he shook himself, let go of Lewis' hand, and sighed.
"Guess I'm ready to go in now," Jim said. He almost smiled and added, "Don't do much good to think on something that I can't do anything about. Just have to accept it"
They helped Jim back into bed and Charley checked his blood pressure. Nodding at the results, he left the room. As Jim got settled, William stepped close. "Get some rest. After supper we can talk some more, if you like." Jim settled back on the bed and was asleep before William left the room.
In the kitchen the four people talked about the day's events. "His blood pressure is up a little but not dangerously so," Charley said. "I don't see a reason to stop talking to him."
William nodded. "I'll tell him about the family history after supper. Lewis you come with me."
Everyone gathered in Jim's room after supper. Charley suggested that he get into the wheelchair for a little more time out of bed. "The more you can sit up or move around, the sooner you'll get your strength back."
"So what happened after I disappeared?" Jim asked looking William.
"What I'm gonna tell you are the stories I heard growing up and what I remember from when I was a kid," William said. "Chante was almost frantic. Iron Buffalo and most of his braves came to look for you. No one could find any sign of you or where you'd gone."
William took a drink of his coffee. "Your brother, William, came back from California or wherever he'd been about two weeks after you disappeared. For the next thirty years or so he helped Chante run the ranch and protected it from land grabbers. Chante lived to be almost seventy; William passed away a few years before her. Your son John, who was my father, had been in charge of Eagle's Nest for several years. I was born here on the ranch."