A Ten Pound Bag
Chapter 69: Fire Honey

Copyright© 2020 by Emmeran

Dinner was interesting. We had prairie chicken that had been stuffed with wild rice, whole eggs, crabapples, and other flavorfuls. Then it was wrapped in layers of wet leaves and corn husks and roasted in the coals. The prairie chickens weren’t huge, but were more than enough for one man; most were shared between two. As the honored guest I got my very own bird to eat and it was obviously the biggest of the lot.

Some of the young guys looked enviously at it, but I simply smiled politely. Manners said I couldn’t turn it down because everyone else was getting their normal share, and this was a training session for them, after all. They just needed to work on their poker faces a little more. A short prayer was offered and I followed along attentively. When Petalesharo nodded at me, I began to eat.

After the first bite, I sat back to enjoy the new flavors. While doing so, I paid close attention to the mannerisms of everyone else. I was pretty sure I was seeing best behavior and what I learned here would help me with any other peoples I met. Social customs melded across neighboring social groups wherever you went in the world; you had to go a long way to see a radical change.

The whole egg in the stuffing turned out to be a true treat. It was smallish, but cooked most of the way through. It added a delightful sauce to dip your chicken in. Some of the guys got eggs with fetuses in them, and those seemed particularly prized. It was nothing I’d ever tried, but I was sure that, at some point in the future, I would. Plates and serving tools weren’t used; you didn’t carry that stuff while traveling fast and light. In fact, I was pretty sure that, aside from the rice and corn husks, none of this dinner had existed before they rescued me this afternoon. It occurred to me that was probably where the boys had disappeared to, after the river rescue.

After sating myself, I leaned back, patted my stomach, and released a mighty burp. This brought smiles and chuckles all around. Everyone else seemed to finish right after me. Well, all except one kid, who ended up needing a sharp elbow from the older teen next to him. With that, I sat back and grabbed my Santa’s bag containing my gifts.

“The food was very good,” I said slowly and clearly. “I also bring gifts for my friends.” I turned to Pete and handed him a small cotton bag of gun powder. I knew that the US Army protected their powder furiously so that even their allies like the Pawnee only got a small allotment of it. It was a strategic advantage the Army was zealously maintaining.

“Thank you, my friend,” he replied with a big smile. He would smile even larger when he found out how potent that modern powder was. I would caution him later on how to use it. I had a feeling he was going to love the fact that, while it wasn’t smokeless, it was a heck of a lot less smoky than what he had. Holder had loved it in his long rifle and he claimed it fouled the barrel a whole lot less.

He passed it around the circle while I pulled out the next bag. It was a half-pound of loose tobacco. The tobacco went over well also, and followed the same protocol. I felt good that my gifts were well-received. I couldn’t see faces any longer in the darkness, the fire really didn’t provide any light to see by and they had even dampened that light by placing an evergreen swatch over the top of the hole. But my eyes had adapted well enough by now to make out bodies in the starlight.

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