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The Savage American

The Savage American

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The Savage American

Longueur:
434 pages
6 heures
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Jul 14, 2000
ISBN:
9781468563245
Format:
Livre

Description

THE SAVAGE AMERICAN tells the story of Victorio, an Apache Indian, a Vietnam decorated war veteran and the last living member of a Willow Creek Reservation family.



His anger builds as he observes the continuous erosion of their Treaty rights and suffers the abuse of Dumbroff, a San Vicente County Deputy Sheriff.



Tribal efforts to build an earth fill dam to serve their cattle, all within reservation boundaries, is dynamited with the loss of many Indian lives as well as loss of agriculture property bordering Willow Creek. Elected Chairman of the Tribal Council, Victorio calls a Tribal Meeting and delivers a passionate plea to close the reservation to all non-residents until their rights are recognized by law enforcement and governmental authorities, Treaty rights established for more than a hundred years. He creates barriers on highway entrances to Willow Creek, pulls up railroad tracks and closes the Federal dam that services off-reservation ranchers.



The reaction explodes in a series of brutal killings. When the National Guard occupies the reservation Victorio leads his squads in a series of counter moves that receive international attention.



THE SAVAGE AMERICAN, with an appealing hero, plenty of villains and non-stop dramatic action is a gripping and shocking story of a wonderfully authentic Native American drama. Interwoven in the crisp, tight action is a poignant love story.

Éditeur:
Sortie:
Jul 14, 2000
ISBN:
9781468563245
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

James Jess Hannon has authored an extensive inventory of novels following a near fatal accident outside the U.S. that demanded many years of therapy and recovery. He has written original story concepts and treatments for John Wayne, Batjac Productions, Paul Donnelly, Universal Studios, Marlon Brando Sr., Pennebaker Studio and others. He and Marlon Brando Sr. were associated in an endeavor to construct a motion picture 'back lot' on an Indian Reservation in Arizona. Mr. Brando's untimely death ended the venture. During these months, Hannon developed a compelling interest in the history of Southwestern Native Americans and worked with Indian leaders to create a meaningful story based on actual events that would reach a broad section of book lovers. His first effort in years past brought enthusiastic response from Indian leaders. '... Many people tend to see the Indian and his problems, but do not perceive ... you have gone beyond the periphery ... may you walk in beauty ...' Hotana Roebuck, Choctaw, University of California. 'The depth of your knowledge of the Indian and his regard for the land is overwhelming ...' Totus Watson, Chairman, Yakama Reservation. '... The frustrations and anger exhibited by Victorio could well be written in my own biography ...' Ronnie Lupe, Chairman, White Mountain Apaches. '... The Savage American could not have been written by a white man ...' Marvin Mull, Chairman, San Carlos Apaches.

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The Savage American - James Jess Hannon

story.

THE SAVAGE AMERICAN

CHAPTER I

Victorio sprawled inert on the cold, wet concrete. His head touched an overflowing, seatless toilet bowl attached to the back wall of the unlighted drunk tank. Two tiers of steel spring bunks along one wall were occupied. Other semi-conscious and sleeping inmates huddled on the floor or sat leaning against the opposite block wall. The San Vicente County Sheriffs Department did not provide mattresses or blankets for its overnight guests.

A single, high-barred, unglazed window sent numbing, icy air flowing across the cell to the corridor separated by a steel-barred partition. Despite the force of the draft, a fetid odor permeated the cell.

They were a typical Saturday night roundup, four miners, two farm hands and six Willow Creek Apaches. There would have been more if the facilities could have accommodated them.

Noises were endemic; coughing, snoring and heavy breathing were interspersed with moans and strangling sounds as someone retched. Overall restless noises were punctuated at intervals by an outburst of wild cursing and incoherent mumbling as dreams faded.

An inmate, groping his way to the toilet, stepped on the outstretched fingers of the stirring Victorio who rolled over shouting crazily and struggled to a crouching position. Stumbling, he grasped the tiered bunks as he made his way to the corridor, his passage marked by a storm of obscenity from those kicking and grabbing at him as he passed.

Victorio was an impressive man, thick chested, heavily muscled and proud in bearing. Habitually, he wore blue Levis, a white, long-sleeved shirt and cowboy boots.

His disposition and temperament on occasion were unpredictable. Deep within smoldered a raging but controlled hatred of the white man. In many ways he was a throwback to ancestors who had never accepted the cruel fate inflicted on them by the punitive, insatiable Pinda Lick-O-Yi. Victorio had never compromised his convictions or his conscience. During high school he had earned a lasting reputation as a ‘competitive’ athlete. Those years had provided matchless opportunities to give vent to his feelings. The consummate running back was a mean, rampaging force who loved to feel the stunning, crushing contact. Elation and pleasure came to him in waves when a defensive back, after receiving pile driving knee smashes to the ribs, collapsed as Victorio stormed by looking for someone between himself and the goal line. He was not averse to moving away from the direct path downfield if an opportunity for another collision course loomed up. Savage on defense, he caused fumbles and dropped passes as the opponent learned to anticipate Victorio’s particular brand of contact.

There were rumors born on the playing field that if he could get away with it he might apply knee or ankle twists designed to inflict lasting hurt. In substance, there were those who said he was a dirty player. His response was a casual, I had good teachers.

The years between high school and the military could also be called formative since it was the time when he became known as a ‘bad Indian.’

San Vicente was typical of numerous communities in the southwest close by reservations where Indians were classified as good or bad. Good Indians stayed in their place, with their own kind and never caused trouble. Bad Indians, on the other hand, insisted on being served in turn and treated like customers. They didn’t like to get smart mouthed by local rednecks or manhandled by overly aggressive law enforcement people and might raise hell if the price of a drink or bottle was automatically raised when they walked in the door.

Victorio had a good memory and a large amount of patience, waiting two years in one instance to even the score with a town constable who had blackjacked him from his blindside when he was protesting a bar tab. Many San Vicente County residents took advantage of the openness practiced by the Willow Creek Apaches regarding hunting and fishing privileges on their reservation.

Indian reservations, most notably those west of the Mississippi were placed in settings of magnificent, occasionally spectacular natural grandeur. When good roads and dependable automobiles became available, those who could afford the time and cost began invading Native American homelands.

Those residing in bordering communities, without guile, crossed reservation boundaries to enjoy hunting and fishing without interference. Among those who availed themselves of the opportunity were San Vicente County lawmen who habitually fished and hunted the Willow Creek Reservation at will, a small transgression perhaps, but not in the eyes of Victorio.

Accompanied by four other cowboys, Victorio happened on the law officer and two companions fishing a creek in the Range Seven high country. Dismounting, he descended on the hapless fisherman without ceremony, who was still in the act of casting his fly. The stunning assault was brutal and sustained until Victorio dropped the unconscious lawman on the bank of the stream. His companions retrieved him just as he was being swept into deep water. Victorio departed the scene, seemingly disinterested in the fate of the unfortunate constable.

On his good days or nights Victorio presented a formidable and handsome image. At the moment, he was not enjoying one of his good days although it was, in a manner of speaking, a not uncommon Sunday morning.

His right boot was missing, depriving him of the ability to stand or move with his usual grace. Both knees of his Levis were torn; shirt buttons and one sleeve of his soiled white shirt were missing. His swollen and battered face was masked with dried blood. Squinting at the single white bulb in the corridor, a murderous glint revealed his anger. Cursing and scowling, he seized the steel door and shook it violently, causing loud metallic clanks to accompany his profane shouts.

Open up-Sherf-undaste in-open up…

Quiet down, goddamn you, Victorio, quiet down, and don’t call me a bastard.

Netdahe-gusano.

Death to all white man whores, O.K., you make it easy for me. Let ‘im out, Dumbroff.

The racket became all-inclusive as the inmates picked up the chant, White men whores; it broke the monotony and gave relief to their confused brooding anger.

Sheriff Gordon was big and burly, Deputy Dumbroff a larger version. They slid the tank door open just enough to let Victorio step into the corridor, then the heavy steel clanged shut. Without any preliminaries, Gordon and his Deputy went to work, the second time in a span of four hours. The prisoner was ironwood tough and amazingly strong, but it wasn’t enough. Blinded by his own blood, wild drunk, his efforts were aimless and ineffective. Finally tiring of the sport, Dumbroff applied a chokehold from behind while the Sheriff stomped down hard on the struggling man’s bare foot. As he gasped and went limp, they opened the door and threw him head first into the cell to the accompaniment of curses and hoarse insults of other inmates.

Sheriff, say the word, ah’ll take care o’ that mother fer sure; one day his ass is gonna’ be mine.

Sheriff Gordon glared into the packed cell. He made no effort to lower his voice as he turned away.

Goddamn savages, all alike, lazy drunks, thieven’ blanket asses; Victorio heads the list, you better believe me!

Dumbroff smiled as he opened the corridor door and stepped aside to let the Sheriff through.

Yer’ too easy, Sheriff, ever’ time they poke their nose off tha’ reservation, wham! Knock it off! Bust ‘em up!

Gordon hurled himself into a swivel chair, hammered the desk and shouted, I’ve known ‘em all my life. Other than a couple of old timers, there’s no good ones. General Sheridan said it by God, ‘Only good Indian is a dead Indian’.

Dumbroff nodded his head as the Sheriff reached for the telephone.

Hours later, Victorio wakened, stiff, sore and sick, to the ugly revelations of daylight as a Deputy called the roll. Each time a man responded to his name, the door slid open, he passed through, and the door clanged shut. The Deputy motioned to the released man, escorted him to a door at the end of the corridor, pushed him through and repeated the procedure.

Victorio sat down on a lower bunk, cold and depressed. He inspected his torn clothing, bleeding foot and skinned knuckles, then began the slow process of reconstructing the past twenty-four hours.

Saturday, it was always Saturday, traditional and anticipated, he got drunk. Not that it was the only night he got drunk, but he couldn’t remember missing a Saturday night for-well, since the war. He and his drinking buddies had an early start at Sam’s Pool Hall, bar and lunch counter. There were other bars in San Vicente, but they always stopped first at Sam’s, that too was traditional. Funny part was nine times out of ten the Saturday drinking not only started at Sam’s, it also reached its climax there. Then jail, he made the tank too often now and blacked out, that was something he couldn’t accept. In the past, he could remember every incident, every drink, no matter how many.

And fighting, formerly it was the opponent who took the punishment. He felt his face, winced, then touched his swollen nose. There were lumps under both eyes and one above his right eye. He had a mental picture of how he looked.

All right, Geronimo, you sad lookin’ son-of-a-bitch, come on, ya’ don’ wanna’ miss church. Dumbroff laughed as he slid the door open.

Victorio stood up and stumbled forward, stopped, removed his left shoe and continued barefoot into the corridor. The Deputy behind the booking desk handed him his wallet, a couple of crumpled bills and some loose change.

Count it.

Pocketing the items and staring hard at the Deputy, he answered, Indians don’t know how to count.

Sheriff Gordon banged through the street entrance and stopped in front of Victorio.

Listen to me, Victorio, and listen good, one more time, one more and I, personally, am goin’ to see to it you get six months on the farm, you better believe me.

Victorio’s look was murderous as he spat out, Victorio try to be good Indian.

Gritting his teeth, he brushed past the bulky figure and limped to the street.

He blinked in the strong sunlight, crystal clear in the early hours. It had a chilly, therapeutic effect. He inhaled, held his breath and let it out, then crossed the main street, walked to the corner, turned north to the South Pacific track, faced east, stepped between the rails and set out. It was twelve miles to Willow Creek, five or six hours if he held out.

The first hour wasn’t so bad. After that, hunger pangs and his throbbing foot began to get to him as the morning chill was replaced by warming stillness in the air. The track curved through cuts and fills until the long trestle at mile one-four-two, starting out at a deep cut, curved to the north and terminated at a similar cut half a mile across the arroyo; a bad place to meet a train or be overtaken by one.

His cousin, Carl Turner, had met a westbound freight on a Sunday afternoon almost two years to the day, best he could remember. The meeting happened approximately halfway across. Carl had tried to run back as the engineer hit the air, but before the long, heavy freight lost any headway, Carl was under the wheels.

Victorio counted the telephone poles-thirteen, fourteen-that was the spot. He raised his eyes and stared at a place high above the arroyo where a thin tree line began.

Pacing his steps to mesh with the bridge ties, he kept his eyes downcast to avoid stepping into the gap, causing a tenseness in his leg muscles as the mincing gait placed an added burden on his injured foot.

A shrill whistle followed by a series of blasts sent him stumbling and over the side of the trestle to the understructure where he held on while the train rumbled overhead.

Hurting and hungry, he climbed down and followed the stream to a place where it formed a pond rounding a sand bar. He undressed under the lea of a deep gravel bank and lowered his throbbing foot into the cool, clear water. Stepping out into deeper water, he sat down, stretched out flat on the bottom and felt the hot, tired feeling ooze out of his abused body. After a time, he sat up and scrubbed his hair with handfuls of sand to wash out the offensive smell.

Problems beyond his physical pains released his anger. They’ve made us what we are, what they wanted us to be, took all that was ours, even our self-respect. We don’t fight them, we fight for them in their wars.

He shouted his anger, There must be a way, there has to be a way.

It was an old exercise, the eternal search for a way to harass and annoy his enemy. He became quiet as he mused; the world was different now, instant communication, news fed on strife and conflict. How could he use the tools, the only tools that were available? He needed issues to make events and events to make news. They must be basic, defensible issues launched and sustained in order to make the Pinda Lick-O-Yi retaliate. The reaction would be emotional, there would be violence, injuries and worse, permitting the Willow Creek Apaches to bring their struggle out in the open and keep the issues alive. He yearned to fight for what had been taken from them all the way back to Eskimo-Tsin’s time when the discovery of copper launched the beginning of the attack on their last refuge. A Presidential Executive Order moved the reservation boundaries north to accommodate the mining company and deprive the tribe of a rightful share of their resources.

Victorio had been elected to the Tribal Council the previous June. During Council meetings and open discussions he had built a reputation as a determined, unbending champion of all things that could help his people.

In late afternoon he reached the outlying wickiups of Willow Creek; the hovels and way of life fashioned by their oppressors had changed little.

Unsightly poverty never escaped him. Older women wore flowered, cotton dresses that had not varied in his lifetime or in the life span of the oldest, white haired, wrinkled grandmother among them. Reservation children, as children everywhere, were occupied with their own activities.

Hurt and anger came out as he limped past the little ones, still and quiet, watching his passing.

Our replacements, our future, what will we leave them? Innocence giving joy and comfort in their private world until they wake up to the hard facts, second class citizens, prisoners of the great white father whose greedy children are never satisfied.

He slowed and exchanged glances with a little boy who held the hand of a smaller child. There were unformed questions building behind the steady, unblinking stare. The brief encounter was a knife in Victorio’s guts, a sack of stones on his back. He fought to hold his anger in place, increasing his pace, feeling a desperate rush of hate at the uncertainty of their wasted lives and the guilt building from the knowledge that he was part of it.

Everyone loves children. According to the Gospel of Reverend Sampson, God put Jesus Christ on earth to teach love, but to teach love it must be felt. It didn’t work out that way, love is not words put together for his Sunday morning sermon.

Another toddler group by the side of a wickiup stood still watching the limping man approach.

They wonder, who is he? Can I trust him?

As he rested for a moment, he spoke to them, I am Victorio, one of your leaders, a football hero, a war veteran with medals, I don’t always look like this.

They ran out of sight behind the cow shed as he spoke aloud of his growing guilt. Had a bad night, and damn few good ones. Seems I’m losing the war. We’ve been taken prisoners, all of us, spectators watching the final hours of our way as it vanishes forever, our culture, religion and pride dying, waiting only to be buried.

He left the road where a stand of ancient Willows provided a tent-like cover, sucking up year round nourishment from Willow Creek as it wound around the reservation’s business center.

It’s all there, Hargin’s Trading Post, Hargin’s Garage and Gas Station, Tribal Offices, Tribal Jail, Post Office, primary school, hospital and some business enterprises serving five thousand Apache Indians.

Sitting on a rock, his feet in the cool stream, he was screened off from the usual Sunday morning activities. Small sounds of road traffic, barking dogs and children’s shouts filtered through the green canopy.

He knelt on the gravel, plunging his head under the water, then sat down on a rock waiting for the urge to move the last mile to his cabin. His mother’s death five years past left him without any known family ties.

He inhaled, holding his breath for a count to clear his head. Standing, he became aware of the lessening of physical pain, replaced by his persistent, scalding sense of shame.

It had become a ritual to replay each remembered sequence of the long, mean night as he set out on the crest of the dusty road. Family groups passed, returning from their weekly devotions, a long hour of Reverend Sampson’s warning harangue.

Greetings and stares were noncommittal. Despite his too common Sunday display there was no erosion of his impressive stature and formidable presence. He struggled to display his fierce pride while his incongruous gait caused by the injured foot along with his assorted lumps, abrasions and torn shirt made all of it a burlesque on the order of a circus clown.

He had no patience with the pathetic humor of his miserable state, avoiding the silent stares of the women. On the outskirts circling the town, he utilized rutted roads and footpaths. It was a habit now anticipated by passerbys on Sundays, which added to his humility and guilt.

Greasy cooking odors and barking dogs assailed him. Faint and numb with fatigue and pain, he stumbled into his yard and sat for awhile on a battered upholstered chair under a Willow tree. The sun felt good on his face; he rested his head on the split upholstery and fell asleep.

A gentle nudging against his shoulder brought him slowly back to a state of hazy awareness as he reached out and touched the soft nose.

Najidil stomped his right hoof. Victorio sat up; the magnificent white stallion was still saddled and bridled. Standing unsteadily, he lifted the saddle and bridle, pushing away a wave of disgust sweeping over him. He was haunted by the ritual of Najidil being led home while he spent the night in the drunk tank. He collapsed on an old chair and closed his eyes in despair.

The Sheriff, Dumbroff? Lois Kitchener’s soft question brought Victorio upright, embarrassed and belligerent.

Who else?

She was immaculate. He winced, feeling unclean in her presence.

Dear Victorio, you make it easy for them, is whiskey that important?

He touched his nose, winced and turned to her answering quietly, No, but it helps. My Dad killed at Guadacanal, my Mother dying when I was in Vietnam, why do we fight them?

Lois walked to his side and sat on the arm of the chair.

Try to control your hatred before it destroys you. She put her hand on his shoulder.

I’m the mother to four orphaned children, you and I can’t give up.

He turned to face her. Their Bureau people live here in Willow Creek with a fence around them, segregated from the ‘savages.’ Valley people farmland that was ours, use water and power created on our reservation. They mine our copper for free. Damn them all, all white eyes.

He felt the weight of her hand pressing down as she answered, You’re a Council Member, our people believe in you, don’t disappoint them-or me. You could do so much if…

His hand touched her knee. If I quit the booze?

She sat close to him. He swallowed hard and cursed softly.

The bastards never let up, pushing, grabbing, crowding, without the booze I might explode.

She turned his face, kissed him, then leaned against his shoulder. ‘Tou give them every chance to destroy you."

He made a derisive sound. Why not me? They always destroyed fighters, Cochise, Geronimo, Mangus Colorado, Eskimo Tsin, why not me?

Maybe I could understand if you were fighting for all of us, but your way has no good purpose. Nothing that happens to you in bars or jails has any meaning. Can’t you see that no one can support your crazy, drunken fighting? Everyone would support you if you were fighting for them.

Lois brushed the tears from her face and stood up. Don’t waste your life, you are strong and good. If you must spill your blood, spill it for your people.

He watched her walk away, proud and sad. She stopped at the gate, turned, waved and vanished into the elm grove.

He began to shout her name, checked himself and spoke half-aloud.

The Chiefs, the braves in those long ago days were different. They hit back and knew satisfaction when their tormentors were beaten, smashed and hurt. It’s not the same now, we don’t fight, our wheel is broken, the circle is incomplete. All things are his. The Pinda Lick-O-Yi takes, plunders, wastes and destroys; the forests, game, things above and things below ground submit to him. He doesn’t permit anything to live as it was meant to be. He has made us dependent on him, afraid of him and wonder what it is he wants from us now when we have so little left. He believes he stands above all things, alone, supreme and righteous.

Victorio stood, walking awkwardly to favor his throbbing foot. Hunger and waves of nausea almost drove him to the ground as he shouted, Damn them, all of them, they deserve the hell they created for us.

There were times when he felt his contained rage would consume him. It was worse since the war. While he had known hatred, he was not certain about himself, knowing he was wasting his life.

The war as he saw it was another example of the white man’s righteousness. Shipping and flying Americans eight thousand miles beyond the western boundary of the United States to kill and be killed by people unknown to them before becoming soldiers. That started it for him. Knowing the history of his people, he began to have doubts about the purpose of the war.

Easing out of the chair, he moved to the cabin, stepping carefully to avoid more pain in his left foot now turning black across the arch.

Gradually, his battered features softened. A smile marked the moment when he found his way and moved into the timeless conflict.

CHAPTER II

They walked in silence along the rim of a spectacular gorge cutting across the northwest corner of the Willow Creek Apache Indian Reservation.

As John Corey gazed toward the far horizon, Victorio studied the remarkable old man. He was over ninety years of age, to the best of his recollection, and there was no one alive who could add to or detract from that estimate.

With an uncommon memory, he had created the only written history of the Willow Creek Apaches covering a span of more than a century. A Missouri miner and philosopher revealed to him the timeless beauty and adventure of the written word. His consumption and retention of the multitudinous wonders revealed to him was a testament to the depth of his intellect.

Corey’s copper skin was creased with wrinkles, his eyes pinpoints of brightness. He spoke to Victorio.

You must understand the history, all the history of our people and our land.

He gestured with his right hand, making a sweeping, all-inclusive motion. This, the Pinda Lick-O-Yi did not take from us, two million five hundred thousand acres. Our five thousand people live out there, in the pine forests, on the meadowland, along the banks of our streams, on the lowlands among the Willows, on the arroyos and mesas and on the shores of Lake San Vicente.

Turning from the gorge, they continued through the straight, tall pines, treading on the springy carpet of fallen needles, breathing deeply as the breeze stirred and whispered through the interlaced branches heightening the sweet pleasure of the fresh perfume. As they emerged from the heavy growth, Corey stopped and pointed.

We are capable of doing many things; look there, our Range Seven Dam, hundreds of feet long, higher than the forest growing below the sloping earth wall. The water will form a lake large enough to water all the cattle on our reservation. Those yellow machines crawling there are owned and operated by Apaches.

They moved on through the undulating range grass reaching up to their fingertips.

Nasta, are we becoming like them?

The hint of a smile began at the corners of Corey’s mouth. You call me Nasta, one who knows, I accept the word from you because I feel your respect. Are we becoming like them? No, we are different. Indian lives with nature, Pinda Lick-O-Yi is in conflict with nature.

Corey broke off a piece of grass and chewed it thoughtfully. We call them Pinda Lick-O-Yi, white eyes as the Indian knows him, his oppressor, his enemy, seeing only what is advantageous to him.

He stopped and crouched, searching in the grass. Holding a water-smooth, fist-sized stone in his left hand, his voice was soft, almost reverent.

Indian believes all things have spirit; rocks, lakes, river, plants, the sky, the wind, the rain, animals and man. White man believes only man has spirit or soul. Indian knows the life experience means to touch and feel and to be touched and felt, not to see but to perceive. Indian embraces the land and the sky in his oneness with nature. Pinda Lick-O-Yi is forever in conflict, he understands force and fear, there is in him the need to bend nature to his ways.

They walked in silence to Victorio’s pickup. As they drove slowly across an open field bordering the rutted mountain road, Corey turned his head and looked at Victorio.

This land is our land, everything on it and under it belongs to our people. They will not be content to respect what is ours, they will try again to take from us. He paused for a moment.

Victorio, someone must lead our people for in the eyes of the Pinda Lick-O-Yi our reservation is not meant to be permanent.

As he spoke, the ancient one knew the Pinda Lick-O-Yi’s medicine, the gun and the bible, had left no place for the way of the Anasazi.

The way of the people, using the gifts of the Great Spirit, grew things, herded animals, built shelters and monuments under the towering face of canyon walls and paid homage to their spiritual Gods a thousand summers before the white man was aware there was a land stretching between two great oceans, greater than all of the kingdoms existing in the old world.

CHAPTER III

Reverend Sampson had, in a sense, inherited the reservation from his father, the first churchman to establish himself, his residence and his church on the Willow Creek Reservation shortly after the turn of the century.

Their long, undisputed tenure had, the way those things work, given the Sampsons a kind of sovereign station in that pliable, tolerant society, a society which, somehow, never received any credit for its largesse.

As had happened repeatedly through the history of the western world, the missionary or the soldier cracked the surface of the ancient culture, permitting diverse forces of erosion to cut the ground out from under their long enduring and fulfilling way of live.

Possessed with a fanatical belief in the indisputable righteousness of the genesis version of creation, as time rolled by the rigid template of their own particular brand of religious truth was applied to all manner of customs long practiced by the people whose lives they had invaded.

During roundups Victorio rode alone, bringing in strays and yearlings. The task was so familiar he performed instinctively leaving his mind free to explore the areas that had become troublesome to him.

His philosophy or religion, more truly his devotion to the dictates of his conscience, made Reverend Sampson’s preachments abhorrent to him. He simply could not accept the Reverend’s version of creation nor the threat and fear engendered by the disturbing matter of his exclusionary concept of the after life.

To him, it was a contradiction of what he had been taught and what he believed to be true; life evolves and dies as the medicine wheel foresees, to be born again. The soul of the eagle, the grass or the tree is as sacred as that of man. No one thing is viewed to the detriment of another in the eyes of the Great Spirit. All things were there to be used and to serve other life and matter only as needed. Destruction and exploitation of natural things was not their way and yet, it was too often what Reverend Sampson’s Christian people practiced as a God given privilege.

They met one Saturday morning as Victorio roped a calf and led it out of an arroyo. The Reverend sat his old Appaloosa on the mesa watching him work, admiring his easy way with animals.

He waited until Victorio acknowledged his presence then spoke with his usual hearty cheerfulness, You make it look easy.

I’m a cowboy, Reverend. It was a matter of fact statement, neither boastful nor modest.

Victorio dismounted, released the young steer and methodically coiled his lariat. He studied the washes and trails for a moment then mounted his horse.

Too bad, all that work wasted on the Range Seven Dam. A benign smile spread over the preacher’s sharp, angular features. Those valley people have rights, you trap the water in the high country, San Vicente Valley would be deprived.

You live on the reservation, Reverend, not in the valley.

The smile faded as the tall man eased around in his saddle. Charity, Victorio, means many things; love for thy neighbor, when you have an abundance of something, share it, that’s the Christian way. By the way, why don’t you drop by tomorrow, I’m going to acknowledge a contribution from the San Vicente Cattlemen’s Association brought in by Steve Harper.

Victorio smiled. As he spoke, he looked at Reverend Sampson, We’re completing the Range Seven holding tank and that’s only the beginning. Seems kind of appropriate, Indians doing for themselves. Charity begins at home, Reverend.

The churchman had become noticeably more distant; his manner was close to cavalier as he answered, I’ve heard you don’t hold with the view of the church. Non-Christians, Victorio, will never find a place in heaven.

Victorio turned in the saddle, his voice had an edge.

I have, as my people have had through the ages, my way, our medicine wheel. I have no need of your religion and what I’ve seen of your intolerance for our way has not been inspiring. There are religions that were ancient thousands of years before there were Christians. Since the beginning of time man has found his way, his wheel, his meaning.

Sampson became tense, his voice harsh and grating.

"Superstition, ignorance, false gods have plagued mankind since the birth of our life on this planet. Christianity is a known, calendar

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