A Ten Pound Bag
Chapter 68: An Evening With the Pawnee

Copyright© 2020 by Emmeran

Exhausted. That was exactly what I felt. So exhausted I fell to my hands and knees and was dry heaving. Brin collapsed next to me and he wasn’t in much better shape. My horses were blowing and shaking the water out; their eyes looked pretty dull.

Of course, my rescuers were laughing and chatting back in forth in a language I didn’t recognize. I reckoned I’d just done something stupid.

I finally pulled myself back to my feet and stood there, somewhat shakily, looking at them. They laughed even harder. There were ten of them in total, mostly young teens, with the one guy about my age. He was the one who had called to me. He laughed the hardest whenever one of the young guys made a new crack.

I grabbed my pack towel and dried the river water away, then pulled on my shirt and boots. The exhaustion slowly ebbed as I clothed myself and, once I was reasonably presentable, I turned to the apparent leader and asked, “What is funny?”

Yes, I spoke in pidgin English; I also carefully enunciated my words. When dealing with foreign languages, it was best to ensure they understood exactly what you were saying. If you just rattled on, throwing in slang and such communication would become nearly impossible.

It turned out what was so funny is that, about a half of days travel upstream, there was a spot you could wade across the river. I looked at them in disbelief and then simply sat on a log with my face in my hands for a minute. That brought on even more peals of laughter.

I did the proper then and introduced myself to the leader and thanked them all for their help. I used my standard handshake greeting because I simply didn’t know theirs, but he seemed comfortable with that. His name was Petalesharo but I was to call him Pete. Well, that threw me a little bit and I vowed to follow up over dinner.

Pete sent his guys out in three man teams to scout, track, and forage on our way back to their camp. “We train young men today,” he said matter-of-factly. I simply looked at him, so he continued, “Scout for Army, helps bring food in winter”. I certainly understood that; the Pawnee were famous Army Scouts and their bravery and service had been well documented.

We finished the short journey silently, with Brin and the horses trailing behind. Dinner and sleep couldn’t come soon enough, in my book. Pete set an amazingly fast pace for how silently he moved. You could tell this was a skill that was decades in the making. He was not a man you would want to go one-on-one with in the forest or brush. I was the elephant behind him. I was probably even clumsier because he was so damn good; have you ever danced with a true talent? Even if you have some skills of your own, you lose rhythm and step on toes like never before. That was me, bumbling along behind him. He grinned at me a lot, which only made me stumble more. That was enough, I planned to have my bourbon revenge tonight.

He led us down a bare memory of a side trail and into their small camp. It was barely big enough for the lot of them. He took the horses’ lead from me and led us about a hundred yards further down the same trail to a small clear spot. He turned to me and said, “You sleep here, eat there with us.” I merely nodded and smiled. I would have had visitors that night, regardless, and they probably would have stolen my horses just for fun. They were in training, after all, and horse thieving was one of their favorite cultural pastimes.

“No fire,” he said, “tonight boys steal horses.” I smiled and nodded. “No shoot!” he said, “they learn.”

“Ok,” was the best reply I could think of. I’m so frigging witty sometimes. Actually, I was thinking that Brin might have an entirely different opinion on the matter; it would be good training for somebody either way.

“Dark comes, we eat, you join.”

“OK,” I was still on a verbal roll.

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