Prodigal Son
Chapter 1

Copyright© 2020 by UtIdArWa

The war Chief of the Ute was nervous. He was in unfamiliar lands. Lands claimed by the Shoshone. He was a young Chief poor in horses and coup. This war party was meant to change that. His group of 20 warriors were loyal follower’s. childhood friends and younger family members. All were hungry for the riches and honors that their leader had promised them.

So far, this excursion had good fortune. Early on, after leaving the territory claimed by the mor-mons. The whites that had claimed the lands to the south of the poisoned waters. They had happened on a small wagon train. Five wagons of foolish whites heading towards the mining lands in the Nevada territories. They had been attacked and beaten. The war Chief himself carried three new scalps on his coup stick. There were also four horses and three women added to the spoils. Two young girls and an older woman. Also taken was a yellow-haired boychild 2 or 3 winters old.

The war party had wanted to celebrate their victory with the women captives. However, the war Chief stopped them. The young girls could be traded to the south. Either to the brown skins or the Comancheros. They could get two or even three horses for the young ones. The warriors argued, and the Chief eventually gave them the older woman. She lasted two days.

The warriors also wanted to kill the boychild. They considered him a bad omen. That he would bring evil spirits to them. The Chief, however, refused to kill the child. He planned to give the child to the medicine men when they returned to their lands. The medicine men would then sacrifice the child for the benefit of the tribe. And also, to gain the favor of the medicine men for the war Chief personally.

The war Chief demanded that they continue south and make contact with the brown ones or the Comancheros who they would trade with for the women. They would also take advantage of any opportunities that came their way.

It was one of those opportunities that caught the Chief’s attention. Early one morning, a scout returned with the tale of a lone Shoshone Chief that was camped nearby. This was something that couldn’t be ignored. The scalp of a Shoshone Chief on his coup stick was a talisman to greater honors than ever realized. The war Chief started making plans.

Red Hawk, a senior Chief of the Shoshone, was on his last war trail. Word had come that a party of Utes were trespassing on Shoshone territory. These intruders were coming from the north. With them, they had several white women captives. Red Hawk decided that as his last battle, he should win a Ute war Chief’s scalp for his coup stick.

His scouts had been tracking the party for several days when Red Hawk decided on the perfect battleground. Placing his warriors in the correct positions with the correct orders, he set a campsite to lure the Utes into the killing ground.

Red Hawk was sitting at his morning fire, smoking a pipe. He seemed to be at peace with his world. His coup stick heavy with scalp and feathers stood by his wickiup. His head was adorned with the symbolic feather headdress itself heavy with many red-dyed feathers. As the sun rose, he was facing the dawn.

To his left, a sage hen startled from its nest and started squawking and beating its wings. Red Hawk had tethered several hens on the approaches to his camp. They now served their purpose as intrusion alarms.

Red Hawk turned to his left and sent an arrow blindly into the bush. A high-pitched scream followed.

A second sage hen panicked to Red Hawks right Red Hawks young apprentice rose from the wickiup and sent an arrow into the bush. There was no scream, but the sound of the arrow piercing flesh was unmistakable.

These screams were the signal to the rest of Red Hawk’s war party. A swift and violent battle was quickly concluded.

Finally, a war scream came from Red Hawk’s front. The Ute war Chief himself burst from the brush and ran towards Red Hawk. He was brandishing a war club in his left hand and a steel knife in his right. Red Hawk, without rising, calmly reached into the dust at his side and raised a lance. A foot-long piece of sharpened obsidian pierced the Ute’s chest right at the heart. A full 3 feet from his target, he died before the scream ended. The melee was over.

Without their knowledge, the Ute warriors had been closely followed by Shoshone warriors. Their end came quickly.

At the end of the battle, as the honors were dealt out and the two scalps added to Red Hawks coup stick, he was asked about the captives. Red Hawk wanted nothing to do with the females and directed that they be taken to the Ruis Hacienda. The Ruis family were friends and would know what to do with them.

The yellow-haired boychild was a problem. The tribe’s sachem, who had been with the war party, stated that the child would bring good fortune for the tribe. That the child should be raised as a Shoshone. Red Hawk considered the situation as he held the child. The child showed no fear for the ferocious Indian. He smiled and reached for Red Hawk’s nose. That was when the child Sun Hair joined the Shoshone tribe, eventually becoming a member of the Bear clan.

Several years passed when word came to the council of a white man that had camped on the edge of their territory. A warrior was sent to see what this intruder was doing. When Waiting Lion returned, he told the council that the white man wished to speak to a leader. Red Hawk accepted this, and despite his age, he went to the white man’s camp.

Red Hawk was accompanied by 20 of the tribe’s senior warriors. All hardened veterans of battle. Consideration was made for the age of the elderly Chief. Red Hawk complained of these restrictions and made every effort to meet and exceed the youngster’s pace.

Well before sunrise, the party arrived at the camp. The white man was sleeping, and it was determined that he was either a fool or exceedingly brave for not having a guard. Red Hawk set a camp for himself opposite of the white man.

The next day, Red Hawk met and heard the peace offering from the Big Steel Colonel Joshua Anderson.

When Red Hawk returned to the tribe, he told the council of the peace offering that the white man he called ‘Big Steel’ had made. Without offering advice, Red Hawk left it to the council to decide.

While discussing Big Steel’s offer, the council debated again what to do with Sun Hair. He had just passed his manhood tests and had been given the tribal name firebird. One faction wanted firebird to remain with the tribe. He was a brave, strong, and smart warrior. It was felt that he could rise to become a war Chief if not a tribal Chief. Others felt that he was dangerous to the tribe. That his white blood would lead him to betray them. They counseled that he be returned to the whites. A third group voted that he be offered as a sacrifice. There were only two people in this group.

The council couldn’t come to a decision that all would accept. And so the matter of Firebird was set aside.

In the following months, a close eye was kept on the white man ‘Big Steel.’ When the large group of pony soldiers arrived at the Hacienda, the council was outraged. ‘Big Steel’ had lied, just like all white men. He had brought an army into their midst, and like all greedy whites would use them to steal the Shoshone lands.

Again, the council was told of ‘Big Steel’ arriving at the council site. Red Hawk again went to the place. He would either kill this intruder or die in the effort. But talking to Big Steel and his explanation for his riders, Red Hawk reconsidered his original plan. There was truth in his words. Red Hawk returned to the council with a changed opinion.

In telling the council of the meeting, Red Hawk counseled that they ally themselves with the pony riders. That if separate, the tribe would have problems with other whites desiring their lands. But with the tribe joining together with the pony riders, they could provide for their mutual defense against outsiders, both white and Indian. The council retired to consider these thoughts.

And again, the matter of Sun Hair was forgotten.

In the following months, life progressed. The tribal council agreed with Red Hawk, and a formal treaty was made with the pony riders. This was made in the Indian way Red Hawk and Big Steel became blood brothers.

Both groups were under strict orders as to their conduct. In particular, riders from the Regiment were barred from the lands of the Shoshone. This didn’t stop one group of riders. A group of between 30 and 50 riders would regularly come right up to the lands of the Shoshone. They would usually camp for several days in one site. Then send out both mounted and foot patrols every day. The warriors that watched this became concerned when these riders started tracking them. It soon became a game for the warriors to test the skills of the riders in finding and tracking. The warriors would lead the riders on a merry chase through the countryside. Ending in the trail leading into Shoshone territory. Invariably the riders, with obvious disappointment, would break off their pursuit and return to camp.

This continued for several months. But then a change happened. A large group of what had come to be called ‘the owls’ rode up to the border. Again, as usual, a camp was set up and soon in order. The difference was the addition of a large black man. He was noted as different by the yellow stripes on his arms. These were bigger and more ornate than the stripes on others. The black man also had a voice that boomed and carried through the canyons. The warriors named him ‘Loud Bear.’ And it was obvious that he was a Chief among the pony riders.

‘Loud Bear’ was shown many things that the watchers had been doing and learning over the months. They even took him on a track that they had set up. The warriors as a joke cut that fake trail with one of their own. It was with a certain amount of amazement to both the warriors and owls when ‘Loud Bear’ was the first to spot the real trail. And as usual, that trail was followed up to the boundary when the trackers warned ‘Loud Bear’ not to continue.

‘Loud Bear’ stood for a moment on the boundary. And then called out in his loudest voice, “Warriors come to council. I would talk with you.” A debate quickly followed among the warriors. Never had there been direct contact between the warriors and the Owls. Only the leaders of the tribe had met with the leaders of the pony riders. It was decided that ‘Waiting Lion’ as the senior warrior would meet with ‘Loud Bear.’ It was also agreed that Sun Hair as a member of the Bear clan, would go with him and greet his brother.

Waiting Lion and Sun Hair approached the group when they came into sight. They saw that the riders had placed their weapons on the ground well behind them. There were 3 of the riders Loud Bear and two others. They had built a small fire and had a small bowl of salt with a tobacco pipe.

Waiting Lion sat on one side of the fire opposite of Loud Bear. Sun Hair sat to Waiting Lions left and slightly behind. On the other side, Loud Bear and the leader of the trackers sat side by side. The third member of their group sat behind them.

The tracker’s leader offered Waiting Lion the bowl of salt. Salt was eaten by all. The pipe was then lit and offered, accepted and passed around. Once the formalities had been observed, the leader spoke to the third member of the group. He then, in broken Shoshone, repeated “Welcome warriors we wish to parley with you.”

Waiting Lion chuckled. “I have the white man’s words. We can parley.”

“Well, that solves that problem sort of. I am Lieutenant Roosevelt Hobson. This is Sergeant Major Young, and behind me is Trooper Humbolt. May I ask who you are?”

“I am Waiting Lion, a warrior of the Shoshone. With me is Sun Hair, also a warrior. He is a member of the Bear clan and wishes to greet his brother Loud Bear.” And indicated the Sergeant Major.

Sun Hair in Shoshone spoke to the Sergeant Major, “Brother, you honor my camp. May our friendship be long and honorable.” As Sun Hair was speaking, Trooper Humbolt translated.

“Young man, I am glad to make your acquaintance. I, too, hope our friendship lasts a long time.” Waiting Lion translated this to Sun Hair. Sergeant Major Young continued now speaking to Waiting Lion. “Am I mistaken? This boy is white, isn’t he?”

“Yes, Sun Hair was a slave of the Utes as a baby. He was to be sacrificed when the war party that took him was defeated. He is now a member of the Shoshone tribe and the Bear clan. He has passed his manhood trials but has yet to be on a war party or taken coup. Soon he will be sent on his first war parties. Then he will gather many scalps and coup. His enemies will come to fear his name and sing their death songs when he approaches. Their squaws will sing songs to his power and strength.”

“Waiting Lion, I do not doubt that this cub will grow to his full potential. And with guides like you, his path is certain.”

These words were repeated to Sun Hair. At first, he started to bask in these words. But then he realized that pride without reason was an error on his part. He downcast his eyes, and a hint of a blush tinted his cheeks.

As the council continued, all the parties agreed that they should keep this friendship. As the group returned to their camps, it was decided that a report from both groups needed to be made.

The source of this story is Finestories

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