Many of our Coffee Clutch and Facebook friends know I'm polishing and fixin' up my novel, Tom Named By Horse. For some, this is the first you've heard of it. Tom Named By Horse is the first novel I wrote, (long before "We'll Have The Summer,") and the first of a trilogy about Tom Named By Horse. An Historical Fiction spanning the years from 1850 to1910. Of course it's a love story, and much more than that ... The first book tells of a young Tom, orphaned on the prairie, sold to a sadistic buffalo hunter from whom he escapes – and immediately befriends Chief Red Cloud's granddaughter. Charged with a mission by Red Cloud, Tom selects the chief's granddaughter to travel with him. And that is just the beginning .... This excerpt is from the first chapter, only days after escaping the miserable hider, Tom finds himself in Red Cloud's village, and today meets with the chief. It picks up where pt1 ended last Monday. You can find pt1 here… I hope you enjoy, and please leave your comments. Thanks!
|Kessy & me writing - She's my editor|
Tom Named By Horse pt2
When the pause came, Still Water turned to Tom and translated. “Today you have proven yourself to be a brave Sioux warrior. You can take your place among the proud Sioux, and you will forever be welcome in our villages. You have saved the life of our great Chief’s son, Iron Shell. Who will one day be chief of all Lakota Sioux.
“You have killed two of our enemy. But there is still one of those buffalo killers that also kill Sioux with guns that can shoot very far. Red Cloud believes you know this buffalo killer. For us you must kill him also. You may have from our ponies any two you choose to keep for your own. Take one day to eat and rest. Then take your ponies, and your gun that shoots today and kills tomorrow, and one brave of your choosing. And go and kill this man. You must leave him naked on the earth as you have the other two. You may keep all that was his, but Red Cloud will have his hair.”
When Still Water finished she searched Tom’s eyes. “You may ask any question,” she told him as if she knew he was confused.
“I do know the hider he speaks of. He would often travel with us. He's a very mean and cruel man. But why does he ask me to do this? Red Cloud has hundreds of braves in this village.”
Red Cloud understood white man’s English, and gave Still Water his answer. She listened and then said to Tom, “He has many braves who want to kill any white man. That is true. Some of his braves have already gone with the Sioux brave, Tall Dog, to kill whites. Perhaps there will come a day when a great war must be fought with the white man. But today, Tall Dog is wrong, and will only anger the white horse soldiers, who will kill many of our people. In this village, Red Cloud tells his people it may still be possible to share what Grandfather Mystery has given the Sioux. For now it will be better for Red Cloud if you kill this buffalo killer, who hunts Sioux women and old men ... He will hear your answer in the morning.”
Iron Shell and Red Cloud stepped into the lodge, leaving Tom to gaze at the fire and contemplate. Finally he turned to Still Water and said simply, “I am tired.”
Still Water led him to an empty lodge, “In here we have made a place for you. In the morning I will send my daughter to you with something to eat." She smiled. "You have a lot to think about. I'll leave you now so you can sleep and think.” She raised the flap and walked away, leaving Tom very tired, and much confused. Stepping inside he closed the flap and made a soft bed with blankets and skins. He removed the buffalo hunter’s boots and lay down. He lay awake a long while, watching the fire light dance on the lodge wall, and thinking. He didn’t even know what he was thinking about, he was too tired.
Noise from the village woke Tom from a deep sleep. It was already daylight. He threw back the blankets and hurried outside where he was greeted by a very different sight than the night before. Everywhere people were busy, building fires, cooking meat, gathering wood. Children dashed after each other and chased their dogs. As far as he could see there were lodges and activity. More noise than he had ever heard hung in the air and trees. All this made his skin tingle. His breath short. He looked toward the horses. He'd rather go there.
Then he saw her. “Hello, I am Soft Cloud. My mother told me to look after you. Are you ready for something to eat?”
Tom studied her, “I don’t know.” He remembered seeing her in the lodge the night before, but in the morning sunlight she was even more beautiful than her mother. Unlike her mother she had long black hair, and her skin was dark. Not as dark as the others, but a lovely light brown color. Her large, friendly eyes were dark brown.
“Well I’ll just sit here then, while you get ready.” Soft Cloud said.
“Why do you talk English?”
“Would you rather I spoke Sioux?”
“No … no that’s not it. I mean why would a Sioux woman speak English at all … I mean first your mother, now you. Were they your brothers last night? Do they speak English too?”
Soft Cloud giggled a little. “Yes, but not as well as I.”
Still unsettled Tom went on, “How I mean … Why. I just can’t figure it.”
“My mother wanted it. Actually I learned English before I learned Sioux. Although I speak both equally well. I can even read English.”
“You can read?”
“Yes, of course, can’t you?”
Tom dropped his eyes “No, I never got taught. I only ever saw one book.” He looked back at those warm brown eyes, “Why would your mother want you to know English?”
“She understands it is important. Have you found an appetite yet?”
Already Tom was beginning to find it easy to speak with Soft Cloud. It calmed him. The peaceful surroundings of the Sioux village and the gentle company of Soft Cloud were having a strange affect on him. He felt as if he was growing wiser by the moment, and he seemed to understand things more clearly, in a way he had never experienced before. His thinking seemed easier, too. Never before did he need to organize thoughts, or plan things for a day. While frightening, it was also exciting.
“I think I can eat now,” Tom's gaze fixed on her wonderful eyes.
Soft Cloud left for a moment and came back with a bowl of mush made of wild grass seed and stems of wild tea, and a fat bodied prairie dog. Using his fingers he began, timidly, to eat his meal while Soft Cloud sat patiently nearby, watching him.
“Will you do as Red Cloud asks?” She asked Tom in a soft voice, as lovely as her eyes.
“And how will you do this?”
“Just go shoot him,” he answered wondering why she needed to know so much.
“How can you be sure he won’t shoot you first?”
“Because that’s not how I see it in my head. This buffalo hunter will be sitting by his wagon, and I will lie down on the ground, and shoot him, and he will die. I can see this clearly, so I am sure it will happen that way.”
“And you can see this?”
Tom finished his meal and took a long drink from the water skin.
Tom left her to find a sunny spot on a rise to watch the horses, and think. The hider must die, not just because Red Cloud asked, but for his own reasons, too. But he'd rather just sit with the horses than kill another man. Why can't he just stay here where it was safe and peaceful? Why can't he just forget the hider? He'd heard an old man say, "If a man looks hard enough for trouble, he's bound to find it." He never understood what that meant, but today, he wondered if that was what he was meant to do. Look for trouble. He turned from the horses to look back over the camp. The sounds of running, playing children floated out to him. For them? For their safety? Must he look for trouble?
He would take Tom Gray as his saddle horse and use the pair of mules to pull the wagon. Better to take the wagon, he thought, to carry enough supplies in case they are gone a long time. Sitting in the grass, with the sun warming his back while taking in the sounds of the village, and gazing at the horses, and the prairie beyond them, his mind continued to clear.
There were about five or six hundred horses grazing and engaging in small battles and short chases, each defending their own territory and supremacy. Tom quickly spotted the three mules and recognized his old friend, who was the most comfortable looking of them all, simply eating grass and having nothing to do with chases or battles. It made Tom proud, that even in a herd this size, his big gray horse stood out. He sat and watched them for a long while, absolutely content. So content he fell asleep. Before he fell asleep, he told himself he would have a horse ranch one day. A horse ranch like the one he had seen near Ogallala when he visited there with the old hider.
Tom woke with a start at the braying of a mule. It was late morning so he hurried to Still Water's lodge, hoping to find Soft Cloud. She was there. “I'm ready to tell Red Cloud my plans, and I'd like you to come with me.”
Nervously Tom waited for her response, expecting her to reject him. Instead she rose. Together they made their way through the Sioux village weaving between low campfires and lodges. They walked in silence past meat racks loaded with buffalo strips, rabbits and prairie dog. Women busily scrapped hides, and young boys cut arrows. This Sioux village had more lodges than Tom could count, but he guessed near two hundred. Today all the activity soothed him, unlike the worry it had given him the night before. Did he belong here? He glanced at Soft cloud.
They stood by the fire waiting at Red Cloud’s camp. Soon Iron Shell and Red Cloud stepped from the lodge, and signaled they should sit. Tom and Soft Cloud sat together across the fire from Red Cloud. His big black eyes stared straight into Tom’s, demanding information.
Tom turned to Soft Cloud and began, “I will ride my horse. I have known him a long time, and I’ll take the two mules and the hider’s wagon. I will take as my brave Soft Cloud ….”
Soft Cloud bolted to her feet. “I cannot be your brave! I am a Sioux woman not a brave!”
“I have heard that the Sioux tell the Crow, even their women can defeat them in battle …Tell him.” Tom meant to offer a compliment but saw instantly he'd failed.
Soft Cloud moved to Red Cloud, they both saw Iron Shell smile. She stood over Red Cloud, her voice wavered. She flung her hands as she spoke. Red Cloud looked at Tom, not able hide his amusement. Tom returned the look, but Soft Cloud caught him.
For a long moment Red Cloud said nothing, just looked at Tom over the low fire. Soft Cloud stood by Red Cloud. She glared at Tom, her brown eyes narrowed to dark slits on her tan face. Since Red Cloud did not respond, Tom continued, “Soft Cloud should choose from the ponies the one best for her. I ask for Sioux leggings and moccasins.”
Soft Cloud stared at Tom, defiance and disbelief radiated from her.
“Tell him." Tom offered a faint smile and remembered from the night before that Red Cloud understood some English, but he wanted Soft Cloud to tell him in his own tongue.
Soft Cloud spoke again. With emotions high, and hands waving, she told Red Cloud the things Tom asked.
Red Cloud sat quietly, and Iron Shell continued to smile at Tom. Soft Cloud stood between them at the edge of the fire. When finally Red Cloud spoke, he looked directly at Tom, with a faint smile on his lips. As he spoke Soft Cloud became more agitated. She turned to Tom, “Red Cloud is worried because your horse is older than you, and he may not make the trip. But he is not worried that I must go with you!”
Tom didn’t try to hide his smile, “Tell him my horse can smell old buffalo hunters, and Crow.” She turned to Red Cloud and told him, and Red Cloud nodded. Then Iron Shell removed his moccasins, and leggings, and handing them to Tom, he spoke to Soft Cloud.
She turned to Tom, “They will bring you back safe and victorious.”
I hope you enjoyed this part of Tom Named By Horse's journey – Please share your comments. Perhaps from time to time I'll post a few more excerpts as I edit & polish for publication ~
To Read Pt 3 CLICK HERE -
Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry
To Read Pt 3 CLICK HERE -
Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry