The Second Hundred Years
Copyright© 2010 by woodmanone
"The old trading post sure has changed since the last time I saw it," Jim said.
"Cole's Corner is more like a general store now," Lewis replied with a smile. "It doesn't do trading like it did back in your day. Cole does sell some Indian jewelry, weavings, and art work but now he pays the craftsmen for their work instead of trading goods like the old days."
Jim had spent the last two weeks regaining his strength. The wheelchair wasn't needed anymore; he could now walk around the ranch for up to an hour before tiring out. Jim was slowly putting on the weight he'd lost while unconscious in the cave. He'd gained almost 20 pounds since his awakening. However, this was his first trip off the ranch.
Doc Charley Samuels had returned from Prescott with the results of the blood test and the DNA test about ten days previously. The DNA proved something that William and Lewis already knew; Jim was their direct ancestor.
"The blood work up turned up fairly normal," Charley told Jim, William, and Lewis. It showed that Jim's a little anemic but a good diet will take care of that." He paused for a few seconds. "The only thing that might be of concern is Jim's blood doesn't have some of the antibodies that a modern man's does. But as long as Jim isn't exposed to today's germs like the flu and a handful of others it shouldn't cause a problem."
Charley suggested that Jim get out of the house and get more exercise so Lewis had brought him to Cole's to get Jim some clothes. A man ought to have his own things to wear, Lewis thought. Jim needs his own shoes or boots among other things. Those sneakers I gave him are way too big and he has to shuffle as he walks. It is sorta funny watching him though, Lewis said to himself.
Jim smiled when he saw the denim pants. These were something he was familiar with; he'd worn them when he worked the ranch in his day. Lewis laid out several pairs of denim pants, shirts, socks, and all the other things a man needed. He offered to get Jim one of the new razors but he said he'd continue to use a straight razor. William had a straight razor passed down from his father and let Jim use that once he was strong enough to do his own shaving.
"I better call Grandpa, and see if there's anything we need at the house. It would be really dumb to have to come right back," Lewis said taking out his cell phone. As he was talking to William he saw Jim staring at him in surprise. "Here Jim, want to say hello to your grandson?"
Jim gingerly took the cell and held it up to his ear. "Hello, William?" He said in a very loud voice. Jim talked to William for about two minutes and handed the phone back to Lewis.
"You remember the telephone in the kitchen? Well this is the same thing but we can carry it around with us." Lewis chuckled and added, "You don't have to shout when you talk on it; people can hear you just like you were standing next to them."
Jim shook his head and smiled, "I don't think I'm ever gonna learn about all these new fangled contraptions."
"Don't worry about it Jim," Lewis consoled. "I was born while all this was going on and I haven't learned all of it yet."
As they left Cole's, Jim walked across the parking area. Looking back at the trading post and around at the mountains, he stopped. He had a smile on his face but Lewis could see that his eyes were tearing up.
"It was right here," Jim said softly. At Lewis' questioning look he continued, "It was right here, near as I can figure, that I met Chante." He paused and took a deep breath.
"Tell me about it Grandfather," Lewis requested. "Don't believe I've ever heard the story of how you met."
Jim smiled at the use of Grandfather. He stared off into the distance for a few seconds and began his story. "I'd come by the trading post on my way home to get some salt and sugar. Three down on their luck trappers were trying to steal some furs from Chante and her brother Chayton." He laughed out loud.
"My god she was a hellion; fighting with one of the trappers tooth and nail. The other two was attacking Chayton. Before I could make up my mind on whether to help or not, the man fighting with Chante drew back his fist and hit her." Jim laughed again. "That sure made up my mind for me and I waded into the fight.
I chased those trappers off with my Winchester. Chayton had been cut bad and I talked Chante into taking him to Eagle's Nest." Turning to look at Lewis he said, "Chayton would have bled to death before Chante got him back to their camp. After we got him to the ranch, I tended to him and stopped the bleeding.
The next morning I went to find Iron Buffalo but he found me first. I brought him back to the ranch to see Chayton and then talked him into letting the boy stay with me for a bit until he could heal up; Chante stayed with him. She said it was because he didn't speak English, but I think it was so she could be close to me." Jim laughed and slapped his knee.
"At least that's what I always claimed. Anyway I met Chayton right here at the post about two months later. I asked about Chante. He told me she was of marrying age but none of the young bucks wanted to pay the bride price to marry her. He said they thought she'd been dishonored by staying at a white man's lodge while Chayton healed.
I couldn't get her out of my mind and decided this was a way to get close to her. I took two of my best horses and went to Iron Buffalo's camp. He'd given me that totem that's nailed over the ranch house door to protect me; so I strung it around my neck and rode into his camp like I owned the place."
Jim chuckled as he remembered that day. "I offered the two horses as a bride price for Chante. Iron Buffalo asked her if she wanted to marry me; I can still remember what she said." Jim paused and wiped his hand across his eyes. "She said, 'Yes father it would be a good thing'. We had the marriage ceremony the next day and I brought her home. A month later the circuit preacher married us the white man's way."
Lewis felt tears in his own eyes and he watched and listened to Jim tell his story. Lewis commented, "From what I've heard in the family stories she was a great lady."
Jim nodded, unable to speak. Finally clearing his throat he said, "Reckon we should get back to the ranch." The trip back was mostly silent. Each man was lost in thought, but thinking about the same thing; Chante.
After supper the three Randal men were sitting on the front porch. It was late October and winter had all but set in. "Won't be long before we can't sit out here at night," William said. "It'll start to get too cold to be out here for more than a few minutes."
"I remember," Jim replied.
"I keep forgettin this is your home."
"Jim told me the story of how he and Chante met when we were at Cole's today," Lewis explained to William.
"I bet he told you that she stayed with Chayton because she wanted to be near him too," William said laughing.
"Well it were the truth," Jim responded with a big grin. After a bit Jim asked, "Would you tell me more about Chante and my boy and what happened after I ... err ... left?"
William nodded. "I told you that your brother came home and decided to stay on and help run Eagle's Nest. Iron Buffalo and your brother looked for you for six months before winter set in and stopped them."
"Tell him about Iron Buffalo and Spirit Healer," Lewis suggested.
"That's right, I forgot to tell you that part," William said to Jim. "Seems about two years after you disappeared, Spirit Healer was bragging to some of the young bucks about how he got revenge on the white man that had stolen Chante. Course no one wanted to remember how the tribe had treated her."
William chuckled. "Anyway Spirit Healer was running his mouth and Iron Buffalo heard him. The Chief confronted Spirit Healer and asked what had happened to you. The medicine man told him that you were dead and buried in a sacred place. Iron Buffalo banished the shaman from the tribe. Spirit Healer didn't want to go but he was told to leave or die; he left that afternoon."
After taking a drink of coffee William continued. "Spirit Healer was never heard from again. But a little over a year later, two Lakota braves were following a deer trail down by the river and saw a small depression high up on the bank.
When they looked in the cave they found the remains of a man dressed in buckskins. Lying next to him was the medicine bag that Spirit Healer always carried. The braves returned to camp and told Iron Buffalo what they'd found. Iron Buffalo nodded and with a grim smile on his face returned to his lodge."
"Serves the bastard right," Jim said in a soft voice. After a moment he asked, "What happened to Iron Buffalo?"
"It was about five years later that he came by the ranch and said goodbye. Said he'd had enough of the white man telling him where he could live. Said he was going north where they couldn't find him; he and his band moved to Canada. Up around Moose Jaw."
"Sounds like something the old bull would do," Jim replied, smiling.
The next morning was cold with a light rain falling. Jim and Lewis walked down to the barn to check on the horses. William had installed a propane heater in the barn. He said he didn't ride much anymore but wanted his "friends" to be comfortable during the cold weather.
"You hurt your leg Lewis? Jim asked. "Noticed you been limping some this morning. You were limping last night too."
"My leg doesn't like the cold weather but it really doesn't like it cold and wet too," Lewis replied.
"You're a mite young to have rheumatism."
"It's not rheumatism Jim. I was wounded when I was in the Army. My leg got hit and I lost most of my little finger," Lewis told him as he held up the stump to show him. Jim stared at him for a minute, surprised to hear about the boy's military experience.
"I noticed the finger but didn't think it was any of my business how you lost it," Jim revealed.
Lewis smiled and told him the whole story starting with his discontent with his life and joining the National Guard. He had to take a few minutes explaining what the National Guard was as Jim didn't understand the term.
"Sorta like a state militia," Jim said after hearing Lewis' explanation.
Lewis nodded and continued, "I guess I didn't think it through before I joined the Guard," Lewis admitted with a sheepish grin. "Anyway I made it back in one piece; well almost." In a more serious voice he added, "A lot of men didn't make it back."
They returned to the house and the rest of the day was spent doing a few repairs. William and Jim worked on a saddle and Lewis watched and learned. The saddle would be Jim's if he decided to start riding horses again.
"Got a few more questions, if you boys don't mind," Jim said. William and Lewis both nodded for him to go ahead.
"You said my boy took over running the ranch when he was about seventeen," Jim recalled. Again, both men nodded. "I know he got married or had a woman cause, you're here William." He smiled at William and continued, "Who'd he latch onto? Who was your mother William?"
William continued the story. "John was about eight when Iron Buffalo left, but every spring he and Chante would go stay with his grandfather for four or five weeks. Chante told him he needed to learn about his heritage and what it meant to be a Lakota. His Uncle William and Chante made sure he learned to read, write, and do arithmetic the rest of the year. John lived with the Lakota every summer until he turned seventeen. That's when he decided to take over running the ranch. His uncle stayed on and helped but John was the ramrod of the outfit."
"Sounds like my boy grew up in a hurry," Jim said
"He certainly did," William replied chuckling. "That last summer with Iron Buffalo, John earned his Lakota name. I can remember my father and Iron Buffalo telling me the story of how he earned his name."
After ten seconds or so Jim requested, "Tell me the story please; Grandson."
William smiled at the term grandson. 'This ranch was already called Eagle's Nest so my father decided that for his manhood trial he would gather enough eagle feathers to make a war bonnet for Iron Buffalo. He made his way high up into those mountains near where we found you. John spent three days and nights up on that mountain, sneaking into the eagle's nest when they were gone hunting." William stopped for a bit, smiling at the memory.
"Well don't leave me sittin here with my mouth opened," Jim complained. "Tell me what happened."
"Like I said he'd sneak into the nests; he'd take some of the feathers shed by the eagles. But he needed six or so tail feathers to complete the war bonnet. One morning, just at first light, he jumped into one of the nests and grabbed eight tail feathers from the two birds in the nest."
"The eagles just let him pluck them like chickens?"
"Not exactly. The male attacked him and cut Dad's face with his talons. He had a cut across his forehead and on his right cheek. Dad carried the scars for the rest of his life; he was damn lucky he didn't lose an eye." Shaking his head in admiration William said, "Dad made the war bonnet and when he presented it to Iron Buffalo he was given his Lakota name. It was Ska Anunkasan."
"Know what it means?" Jim asked.
"Hahn." William replied in Lakota and then translated for Lewis. "Yes, in English it is White Eagle."
"You speak Lakota then?" Jim asked.
"Hahn. My mother and father made sure I was taught Lakota ways; Chante helped too. And I spent several summers with Iron Buffalo and his band when I was a boy, just like my father. Iron Buffalo died when I was fifteen." William stopped for a bit and then continued his story.
"Anyway, when John turned eighteen he rode north leading two horses. He was gone for a month and when he came back he brought a Lakota wife with him." William chuckled again. "Her name was Morning Star and she was as pretty as her name, even if she was my mother."
"Well, I'll be damn," Jim said and laughed. "I guess he followed in his father's footsteps."
"My father and Morning Star used to play together when he'd go visit Iron Buffalo every spring. That's how they met and as they got older they decided they wanted to marry. He did follow after you; he took those two horses as the bride price," William explained, mostly for Lewis' benefit.
"My father was a half blood Lakota and my mother was a full blood Lakota. Guess that makes me about three quarters," William said with a big grin. "I always say I'm more Lakota than white."
William got a sad little smile on his face. "The ranchers around here built a one room school house over at Cole's Corner and hired Susan as the teacher. About a month later I was at the trading post one afternoon and met the new teacher. Susan was 18 and the prettiest thing I'd ever seen. I saw her several times over the next two or three months. I guess it was like you and Chante; I couldn't get her off my mind. About six months after we met, I asked her to marry me, I'd just turned 22."
He chuckled and continued, "The ranchers weren't real happy with me stealing their teacher. They had to find another one and convince her to come out here." William stared at the wall for several seconds.
"Susan and I had a great life here at Eagle's Nest. We had a son and named him John Chayton, using my father's first name and my middle name. I lost her to cancer a little over four years ago. Our son and his wife Ellie brought us Lewis here, but they passed away in an accident several years ago." William paused, putting his hand on Lewis' shoulder. He sighed and added, "That's the family from you and Chante down to Lewis here."
"And how about you Lewis, you got a gal? Are you gonna carry on the Randal name?" Jim asked with a big grin. Seeing the look that passed over Lewis' he regretted his questions.
Lewis took a deep breath and then chuckled. "Well I thought I was but I guess she didn't see it that way."
"I'm sorry; I shouldn't have asked. Weren't none of my business," Jim said apologizing.
"No, it's okay. I was engaged but Julie, my fiancée, sent me a letter when I was in the hospital recovering from my wounds. She told me she'd met and fell in love with another guy while I was gone," William explained. "She never did understand why I joined the National Guard."
Lewis was lost in thought for a moment looking down at the floor. "I guess I can understand her confusion. We both had really good jobs, making really good money. Why couldn't I be satisfied with our life she asked me when I joined the Guard?"
He looked up and continued, "I wanted to do something that had meaning, I wanted to do something more than just make and spend money. Maybe I wanted to help people. Whatever the reason, I felt like I needed to make a change"... "Julie never understood that."
Lewis sighed, "So, yes I want to have a family and I want to raise them here at Eagle's Nest." He laughed, "All I have to do is find a woman that wants to live on a ranch."
The three men were quiet for a few minutes; Jim thinking of Chante, his son John, and how he'd become a man at an early age, William thinking of father, his wonderful childhood, his beloved Susan, and Lewis thinking of his parents and how glad he was to be home and with his family.
After several minutes William shook himself. "C'mon Jim, it's time to show you another one of those new fangled contraptions. The TV," he told Lewis.
They went into the living room and William turned on the television. "Jim this is a television, sometimes called a TV. John, my son not my father, used to call it a damn stupid babble box. He didn't care for it much. But it sometimes has some good entertainment on it and it's a good way to find out what's going on in the world and locally."
The TV came on and Jim almost jumped out of his chair. The sound and pictures coming out a big square thing hanging on the wall really surprised him. William and then Lewis explained how they used the television and what it could do for them. Neither man tried to explain the technology behind it.
For the rest of the winter their days consisted of a few chores, some small repairs, talking, and sometimes watching television. One evening there was a show on The History Channel that depicted a group of modern day people recreating the travels of a wagon train. Jim watched for about thirty minutes and started laughing.
"If people had done what that group did, they'd never have made it," Jim said. "They'd have all died on the trail or turned back." He went on to explain in detail what the creators of the show had wrong. William and Lewis were fascinated. Here was living history telling them how things had really been over a hundred years in the past.
After the first of the year, Jim started riding horses again. It took him that long to get back to his full strength. His weight was now a lean 170 pounds. Lewis taught Jim the fundamentals of driving their pick up but what he really liked were the ATVs. His first love was horses but he had a lot of fun on the ATVs.
Lewis, William, and Jim had just come back from a ride inspecting fences and were putting the horses away. Jim asked, "William do you know what happened to my horse, Sampson?"
"Your brother rode him for six years or so and turned him over to John when he was ten," William replied. "John rode that horse until he had to put him out to pasture. I think Sampson lived to be about 30."
"He was a damn good horse," Jim said softly.
"Sampson was the one that let Chante know something had happened to you," William added. "He came back to the ranch the day after you disappeared. Chante came out of the house and he was standing at the corral gate wanting back into his stall. That's when she started looking for you."
"Like I said, he was a damn good horse," Jim repeated. "You know when I went to claim Chante, Iron Buffalo tried to get me to give him Sampson instead of those other two horses. He was a good judge of horse flesh and knew what a fine animal Sampson was."
Jim laughed. "I guess I would have given him up to get Chante but it would have been a real tough decision."
Two weeks later they were watching TV and saw a show about a dude ranch in Colorado. It was a working cattle ranch but people paid to come and work like 'real' cowboys. The owner said they still raised and sold cattle but the income from the 'dudes' was substantial.
The next night as the three sat in front of the fire place, Jim was a little quiet. Staring into the fire Jim asked, "William why isn't the Eagle's Nest a cattle ranch anymore?"
"Well ... After John and Ellie were killed in that car crash, I just didn't have the heart to keep it going. Lewis had his own life in St. Louis and I didn't want to bring a bunch of strangers in to work the place." William looked at Jim for a short moment and said, "Sometimes I wish I'd kept on raising cattle."
"Why don't we start it up again?" Jim asked, looking at William and Lewis. "I mean there's three of us now and even if we hired some help, it'd still be our place."
Lewis smiled; he had been wondering about making Eagle's Nest a real ranch again. "I'm willing if Grandpa, I mean William, is. But maybe not in the same way you're thinking."
"What are you talking about?" William asked.
"That show last night about the dude ranch in Colorado gave me the idea. We could do the same thing here at Eagle's Nest. Our weather is better than in the high country of Colorado so we could have a longer season and run more 'dudes' through the place."
"How do you figure?" William asked. Jim was interested too.
"We could split the herd and move half of them up into the high pasture in the spring," Lewis replied. Both men nodded and he continued, "At midsummer we could drive the other half of to the high country, so that's two trail drives. Then in the fall we could drive the whole herd back down to the valley."
William and Jim nodded their understanding. "That fall drive would be a big drive and we could have more of the 'cowboy wannabes' on that one," Lewis smiled, proud of his idea. "We could have three sets of wanna be cowboys during our season instead of just one like that place in Colorado."
"You've been thinkin about this some," Jim said. Turning to William he said, "Sounds like a good idea to me."
"That part of the herd that spends the whole summer up in the north pastures will be fatter than the others. Those are the cattle we ship to market," Lewis suggested. Laughing he added, "We'll use the cattle to make money two ways."
"It's gonna take some money to get up and running," William said. "First we have to get cattle." He thought for a minute. "The ranchers around here usually cull their herds to keep from overgrazing the land. They normally do it in the spring so they don't have to feed the animals all summer. We can buy those culls at a reasonable price."
Jim had been listening as William and Lewis discussed the way to start their business. "Y'all are forgetting something," he told them. Both men turned toward Jim with a questioning look.
"Unless you plan to bed down the 'dudes' in the house here, you're gonna need someplace for them to sleep." Jim could see by the look on their faces that they hadn't thought of what to do with the people once they got there. "And if you don't want them sitting around the table in our kitchen and them being underfoot, you're gonna need someplace and some way to feed them."
"I don't think we can afford the expense of building a hotel for them," William said. Lewis nodded his head in agreement.
"You youngsters are thinkin about it all wrong. Those people want to play at being cowboys so let em sleep and eat like cowboys," Jim explained. "We'll build a bunk house that'll sleep about twenty or so in bunk beds; we can even put in one of those new fangled bathrooms. At one end of the bunkhouse we can attach a covered Ramada for cooking and eating. It won't have walls but the roof will protect the dudes from the rain."
"That'd be a cheaper way to go," William agreed. "But something like that would still be costly."