The Indian in Our Camp

by r. nuñez 15 days ago in literature


The Indian in Our Camp

Monday Morning, May 11, 1860

My name is Billy Thomas. I am 9-years-old.

We’re leaving Santa Fe today, heading north and west. That’s what Pa said. He said there’s supposed to be land out there that a man can claim for himself, that a man can work, and that’s what he wants. Pa talks that way. He likes to farm.

Ma told me to start writing this journal. She says it will help with my learning how to read and write. She’s going to help me with my grammar and spelling so it will look proper if I show it to anyone.

I’ll write more later. There’s lots of stuff to do for now.

Monday Evening

We’ve made camp now, we had our supper, and I did my chores. Pa said we did pretty well our first day out, that we might have covered as much as thirty miles.

Without the fire, it would be really dark out here, except for the stars. I asked Ma how many stars there are, and she looked at Pa, and they both laughed. Pa said it’s good for me to ask questions, but there’s probably no one in the world that would know such a number.

I like the fire. It lets me see, and it makes me warm. And when we sit and just talk and look at the fire, I feel sort of strong, like nothing could ever hurt us because we always got each other.

I had to learn the word 'contraction' tonight, because Ma said I use a lot of them, and that’s alright.

Tuesday Morning, May 12

So much has happened! Last night an Indian came into our camp; it was really scary. I was already sleeping in the wagon, but I heard Pa talking sort of loud and I woke up. He was asking somebody what they wanted; and when I looked outside, I saw him holding the gun like he was fixing to shoot at something. Then I looked at where he was looking, and I saw the Indian. He was holding a knife and was wearing only pants and moccasins.

He seemed to glisten in the light of the fire, and he looked wild sort of, all mean and dirty. Then he just sank to his knees and fell forward. He had been shot. Ma and Pa spent half the night cleaning him up and fixing his wound. Ma had to dig a bullet out of him. All night long they kept looking in on me and telling me to go to sleep.

Tuesday Afternoon

Pa said we might have to stay here a day or two. He said the Indian is too badly hurt to just leave him, and he probably can’t travel either. And besides, he might not want to go north and west with us. At first, I didn’t understand why we’re making such a fuss over an Indian. I mean—how come do we have to stop our trip just like that—because of an Indian?

Ma said he’s human—just like us. And he must be one of God’s creatures. I asked her weren’t we at war with them? And she said no. She said some people don’t get along, no matter how hard they try. But we, meaning our family, are not at war with anyone.

The Indian’s been sleeping all morning. I keep going over there and looking at him. He does look like us mostly, but he sure is different.

Wednesday Morning, May 13

I didn’t want to write this, but Ma said I should.

Yesterday, I ran from the Indian—and I cried. When I was looking at him, the Indian opened his eyes and looked at me. For a moment I just froze. His eyes just held me there, and I could see things in them.

I could see his hate and his anger. I felt like he wanted to kill me. And then it all changed—the look in his eyes. A sort of cloud came over them, and then I could see sadness and pain in his eyes.

He started to move his hand. But I ran. I ran all the way to the stream and I cried. Pa saw me and asked me what the matter was, and I told him I just got scared, but it wasn’t really that.

Later, I told Ma about his eyes, how I saw that sadness and pain in his eyes, and I could sort of feel it myself. Pa told me I need to go face that Indian again and the sooner the better. Ma told me to write about it.

Wednesday Afternoon

The Indian was sitting up and resting against a tree. He saw me coming, and he kept watching me as I walked up to him. I brought him some water. He seemed friendlier, but I could still see that pain and sadness in him, sort of. Well, he has been shot.

I introduced myself and he nodded but didn’t say anything. I had to show him how to shake hands. I think he sort of smiled, but he still didn’t say anything. He gestured with his hands, and he got me to help him stand up. We walked around a bit with him leaning on me, until he found a stick, which he starting using for a brace.

He’s really something that old Indian, so tough and strong. You can tell he’s in pain, but he tries not to show it.

And when he looks at you, you feel like hiding somewhere, because there’s a sort of fire in his eyes, and it burns when you look in them. I wish he could tell me about his pain. Maybe I could help.

Pa was trying to talk to him earlier. I saw the Indian shaking his head, and then he turned and walked away like he was mad. Pa said he tried using the little Spanish he knows, but it made the Indian upset for some reason.

Wednesday Evening

He sat with us at our fire tonight, and he ate with us. I’m pretty sure he liked Ma’s cooking. How could he not? And after supper, Pa shared some of his tobacco with him.

The Indian noticed I was writing, and he held out his hand, like he wanted to see. I doubt that he can read, but he looked at my tablet like he was real interested. And when he handed it back to me, he was nodding and he did smile at me sort of.

I asked Ma if she thought the Indian had found my journal proper, and she giggled and said I was being silly.

Thursday Morning, May 14

Pa was out getting water early this morning. I got woken up when he was trying to help the Indian into the wagon. Then he gestured for us to keep quiet.

After a while, we heard some people come riding in. I heard them and Pa speaking in Spanish, and I saw the Indian get real nervous-like. Finally, they rode away, and he seemed to relax some.

Pa said they were Mexican soldiers, and they were looking for an Indian. He was pretty sure they wanted our Indian. I’m glad Pa didn’t give him up. I don’t know why they want him, but I don’t want to see him hurt anymore. He’s my friend.

When we got out of the wagon, the Indian looked at Pa in a strange way, the way somebody looks when they want to ask a question. Then he started walking away into the woods. Pa told me to go with him in case he fell, but he also told me to watch out for trouble.

The Indian was looking for a high point; and when he found one, he stood there and looked around for a spell. He might have been looking for the Mexican soldiers, or he could’ve been figuring out how to get home.

Thursday Evening

Ma read the part where I called the Indian my friend. She asked me could I really think of him as a friend even though he never talks and I don’t know his name.

I told her he might be shy. Or he could be embarrassed because he doesn’t know English. He could be afraid, because he’s alone. Or maybe he just needs time. But yes, I like him and I think of him as a friend.

And then she smiled at me and played with my hair a bit, the way she does sometimes. She told me that we would have to be going soon, and the Indian would probably go his own way. That made me sad, and she held me for a while. And she sang.

It seems like no matter how quiet my Ma sings, everything else gets even quieter, like the whole world wants to listen.

Later, we talked about 'quotation marks', and how I need to try using them.

Friday Evening, May 15

We had more trouble today, and now everything has changed. The Indian and I were down by the stream this morning when some bad men showed up at the camp. There were four of them.

When we were coming back, we saw the men on their horses. One of them had a gun pointed at Ma and Pa. The Indian put his hand on my chest and gestured for me to stay back and keep quiet. While the men were making demands and Pa tried to reason with them, the Indian circled all the way around until Pa could see him.

Things sure happened fast then. It seemed like everything got real quiet for just a second, and in that moment, the Indian came charging out of his hiding place, yelling really loud. It was so sudden and he yelled so loud that he spooked all the horses, and two of the riders were thrown.

I saw the Indian draw his knife and lunge into the man with the pistol, and I saw it all at once as he slit the man’s throat. I looked away and saw Pa pounding his fists into the other man who had fallen, while the man kept trying to pull out his gun.

The other two men had to grapple with their horses for a bit, and then they both went for their guns. A shot rang out, one of them fell, and the other went still and held out his hands. And there was Ma standing tall and aiming Pa’s gun at the man on the horse! She had just shot a man, and she was ready to shoot another!

I saw Pa walk over to the Indian; he held out his hand and said, “Thank you.” And the Indian shook his hand back… but that still seems to puzzle him.

The surviving outlaws were made to dig a grave and bury their friends, though one of them was of little help. Ma thought he may have had some broken bones. Pa told them there was a doctor in Santa Fe.

As they started to ride off, one of them turned to Pa and said, “You think you’re safe now? Don’t you know who that injun is?” (That’s how he said it.)

And tonight, the Indian sat with us at the fire again. He used his hands a lot, but he finally started talking. He talked really slow, like he had to think about every word, “Father—make—good—fire. Good fire—be—good medicine. Good medicine—make—good family—strong family.” Then he looked at me, “You be—white people. I be – Apache. You—William Thomas. I—Goyaalé.” (Ma had trouble helping me spell that one.)

Goyaalé kept on, “Tomorrow—you go. Goyaalé—go.” And he waved his hands this way and that way when he said it. Then he stood up and walked off quietly.

Pa said it was probably time. He said those men might come back, or they might talk to other men who might come looking for us or for Goyaalé.

Saturday Afternoon, May 16

Before he rode off early this morning, Goyaalé came to see me, and he held out his hand. And when I shook his hand, he said, “Goodbye—William Thomas. Thank—you. You—good boy. Father—proud.”

I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t. He put his hand on my shoulder, and he smiled at me with his whole face, “You—me—friends.”

Then he got on one of the horses, and he did something I’ve never seen before. He touched his chest with a fist and reached out with his open hand. And then he was gone.

I am sad that I will not see him again, but I’m glad for him too. Soon, he will be home with his own Apache friends and his family, and I know we helped him.

Pa said he doesn’t understand why there seems to be so much hate and fear towards the Indians. We just spent a week with an Indian in our camp, and he was friendlier than a lot of other people we know.

Pa and Ma are going to ride in the wagon; we got an extra horse now, and Pa’s letting me ride him. I’m going to start calling him Goyaalé.

And Ma said we’re going to spend some time learning about adjectives and adverbs tonight.

north and west

r. nuñez, 4/2011

r. nuñez
r. nuñez
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r. nuñez

I am a shamanic priest who loves to write stories, poetry, and songs. Retired, but still helping people, animals, and the planet.

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