Standing Bear stood outside his lodge with Hunting Eagle and Old Coyote in the brisk night air. The women were inside with Sleeping Fawn giving birth to her and Standing Bear’s first child. As the three Apache men heard the first squalls of life from within the lodge Old Coyote noticed a young whelp in the litter close by kicking his paws and letting out small yips of glee in his sleep.
Old Coyote looked at his son Standing Bear and said. “Sleeping Hunter dreams of a rabbit chase maybe.”
At that moment one of the women came out and told the men that it was a boy child with good omens. Then she returned inside.
Standing Bear looked at his father and friend and said. “That will be his name until he leaves the rabbit society.”
Both Standing Bear and Sleeping fawn were older than most of the people when they have their first child. Both already had sprinkles of white mixed in their jet black hair. Standing Bear had seen over forty five winters and Sleeping Fawn forty.
Unknown to all here they would have another child, a girl in three more summers time, which would be their last.
Ten summers later Sleeping Hunter was a strapping young boy who was well liked by his friends and even some of the young girls, Standing Bear and Sleeping Fawn knew this by his sister Running Brook’s jubilant banter in their lodge at night.
Sleeping Hunter, like all of the people, knew well the sounds of joy between his mother and father under their robes at night. There was little privacy in the lodges of the people and the young learned quietly from their parents in all things, love like anything else was not for public scrutiny but was also not something to be ashamed of either.
His father was a well thought of hunter but not a man who displayed much affection either in public or not. It was Sleeping Hunter’s mother who appeared to be the one most interested in happiness. She was well known in the tribe for helping out with a smile to give everyone.
Sleeping Hunter most liked the stories told at night time campfires before the people retired to their lodges. His favorites were the Creation Story, Fox Stealing Fire from the Fireflies, Coyote Getting Buffalo from Humpback and anything with Big Owl (the boogey man) in it. He also liked to watch the men flint knap or decorate their possessions. His father however was only concerned about his prowess as a future hunter or warrior.
As the summers and winters passed Sleeping Hunter became well known for his prowess at hunting, stalking and trailing game. Although he was good at the warrior’s games he never hurt another boy just to show off like some did.
As Sleeping Hunter now known as Yellow Horse entered his seventieth summer, his best friend Great Hawk was spending some time with a comely young maid called Morning Star, but it was apparent to Yellow Horse knew that Great Hawk was not going to offer a bride price for the maid and since most of the young men knew of Great Hawk’s bragging, the maids bride price would dwindle.
Two years later with all of Yellow Horse’s friends married he started courting Morning Star. Their courtship was the talk of the village and Sleeping Fawn did not like the young woman even though Morning Star treated her with respect in all things, Yellow Horse’s mother did not consider her a right choice for her son. Standing Bear only cared that his son start to be a full apache brave; warrior, hunter and husband in that order.
Their marriage was full and over two winters later Morning Star was full with their second child (their first having been a son who was the apple of his grandmother’s eye along with her grandson from her daughter).
On a day like any other Yellow Horse and Great Hawk were out hunting when the two braves were surprised by Ndalkah (the puma). The great cat was on Great Hawk before they knew he was there. He had pounced dropping Great Hawk by the back before they saw him. Yellow Horse jumped from his pony instantly to help his friend. During the fight Great Hawk was allowed to roll free but Yellow Horse got clawed from his scalp across his left eye and down to his jaw. Yellow Horse’s knife thrust into the belly of the Cat and ripped up to its rib cage killed the attacker. Great Hawk and Yellow Horse skinned the cat and took the pelt with them back to the village, both would heal but Yellow Horse would not have use of his left eye again. His worth as a hunter and warrior were now much diminished and it would take a couple moons for full healing.
During the time of his healing Morning Star became at first despondent and then outright elusive of her husband. Some of the people even stopped calling him Yellow Horse and started using the name Cicatriz when they spoke of him. This also seemed to humiliate Morning Star until one morning when she and her two sons were gone altogether from the village. Yellow Horse sat for days on a mesa starring out at the world soon after that, he did not eat, he did not sleep, and he was not exactly in this world at all. When he came down finally, he said goodbye to his parents, his sister with her family and all his friends; went to his lodge gathered up a few possessions and weapons, mounted his favorite pony and then rode out of the village into the direction of the morning sun.
Cicatriz was never seen or heard of in his village again. He roamed for many moons toward the east, keeping away from any people he saw; his stalking and tracking skills benefited him well during this time of solace.
He had come into a land totally different from his own. More heavily treed with different types of plants and more abundant wildlife, hunting here was easy especially for one only supporting himself. But as he stayed secreted when the people of this land passed by he could hear that they spoke an unfamiliar tongue, he could catch no words or phrasing he understood.
One night as he slept in fitful dreams of falling from a high precipice three hunters skulked into his camp unheard. They sat upon their haunches watching as the scarred man fitfully tossed and rolled from side to side not uttering a word (to waken such a one in dreams could invoke the spirits that disturbed his sleep).
When Cicatriz awoke in a sweat seeing the three braves watching him, he startled for a moment before the first one broke the silence. He could not understand their tongue, nor could they understand his answers or attempts at introduction.
After walking with the men to their village and meeting with the tribes elders he assumed that they were letting him stay. It had been so long since he had been with people he had almost forgotten the easy talk, laughter of children and smells of a village, he had missed it. Cicatriz set up a camp at the edge of the village. Within a few days people starting greeting him as Cicatriz and he was beginning to understand some of their tongue. He had learned this area they called the Kiamichi’s and these people were known as Wichitas.
After a while he settled in and spent some time each day with the tribes flint knapper. Then as he spoke their language better he would be asked on some nights at the campfire to tell the stories of his own people. Like himself the children really appreciated the ones with Big Owl in them.
Late one evening after most of the people had gone to their robes for the night. A maid past the normal time of marriage ceremony slipped out of her parents lodge and quietly avoided being seen by the few old men left smoking pipes at the fires until she came to the lodge of this Cicatriz. Slipping through the door quietly she stealthed her way to the side of where he appeared to be fast asleep.
Cicatriz had heard her slip in the door but he could tell it was not a man, but a boy or woman, by the sound of the light treads on the ground. As she knelt down beside his robes he rolled over and looked into the eyes of the maiden. She smiled back at him as she began to slip her dress over her head. She was of a very slight build but with jutting small firm breasts and a flat stomach. She reached down and slid into between the robes with him. It had been a very long time since he had lain with anyone so Cicatriz took a very long time touching and exploring every part of the maiden’s body with his gentle hands and fingers first and then tasting her warmth. They were just falling asleep as the first pink light of dawn was peeking under the doors cover. The maiden hurriedly redressed slipped out the door and went in the direction of a nearby stream. Several minutes later he saw her walk back into camp with a load of firewood and start a cooking fire in front of her parents lodge.
These secretive meetings started happening at very regular intervals, every three days and went on for several moons. They never talked about love, only about their need for each other or missing each other’s closeness. While a trader was in the village on one of his infrequent stops: about once every two or three summers, Cicatriz was deciding to ask her father for a bride price and do what he thought was proper regardless.
On the day he decided to approach the elder man the flint knapper stopped by and asked if he had heard the news that the trader had offered a bride price for the maiden and her father had accepted. There was to be a ceremony in a couple of days and then the new couple would be leaving together, this meant that the trader would stop by more often now to visit and stay with her parents. Cicatriz told him no and thanked him for the news.
Several days after the new couple had been gone Cicatriz told all of his friends it was time for him to move on again and by the time two more suns had risen he left. In leaving he made gifts to many and traded with others to cut his possessions down to his pony and a travois.
He left headed toward the morning sun again as he had been traveling when he arrived here. About a moon later he came to the largest river he had ever seen. The Wichita’s had told him of the river and he agreed it must be the father of waters. He could barely see across it in some places. So he turned up stream continuing his journey.
Over the next tens of summers and winters the same type of patterns repeated itself many times. He would find a people, settle down for a time, meet a woman and the two would nurture each other’s needs a couple of times there was even a ceremony and they spoke of love. But there were never any children and the couplings always ended with him moving on, once in a far northern area beyond the father of waters he stayed with a tribe known as the Cree in a place called Wemindji. He married a widowed woman there and helped raise her two sons for six summers. But when her sons wanted to move on to a distant area she told him it was time for him to move on as she was going with them and they were now grown and he was no longer needed. As she left so did he moving on back in the direction of the father of waters but more on its rising sun side and then going inland from the river to the sun again.
Cicatriz told himself that a long life with a true companion was not what the spirits meant for his life. He did not anger at the thought but felt saddened at the loss of what he had hoped someday to be. Eventually he came to a people called the Cherokee in a climate warm through most of the seasons and aged ten full summers with them as a noted hunter, flint knapper and warrior when the time dictated the need despite his marled eye and long scar. He even took a widowed squaw again whose children were grown with families of their own. But she soon tired of any attempts at intimacy and for the last four summers none existed.
One morning before the rest of the tribe awoke they spoke in low tones to each other before he mounted his horse with but weapons and clothing and rode out of camp leaving all else behind as she wished.
Now his own hair dotted with the hairs of white and unsure of his own masculinity secretly he stopped moving north and languished near a great sea, the largest waters he had ever seen in all his travels since leaving his own tribe many tens of summers before.
He wondered at his own sons and how they had faired during their lives, or even if they were still alive with families of their own now.
He was staying with the Algonquian tribe near a large bay area and learning to like fish and shell fish from the salt waters there. His stories from all the tribes he had known were well liked at campfires when the tribe would gather before retiring to their long houses at night.
There was also again a widow with one grown son, who at first walked with him and they talked about their different pasts. She had told him she was certain that his fears about intimacy were not correct and that she would prove that to him if and when he desired.
She had been right and he was much in her debt for this affection. After only two moons they were joined and Cicatriz thought that he just might not die alone as he had come to believe.
Only later did he discover that her grown son did not hunt, he did not knap nor do anything but be gone to other clans of the tribe for short periods of time and then return to his mothers lodgings. He also was one to spend more time gambling away his mother’s possessions and make heavy use of the herbs and medicines that allowed the medicine men and others to walk in the spirit world.
His wife also it became apparent had some of the same needs in part because her son had shown her that with the medicinal plants use she felt no pain from her aging bones. The more she used, the more she did not care for her husband’s attention nor took any interest in his accomplishments with the people. Only that there was enough skins, points or anything that would get her the herbs and plants she now craved. The intimacy stopped before the second summer came.
Cicatriz took to staying away as much as possible. To be in the longhouse meant to hear the quarrels between mother and son, these he could not intercede. The son had brought back a cut nose woman with him and now they knew why he would go off as often as he did. With the woman were three children belonging to her son. All now lived in the longhouse Cicatriz kept in food and possessions and he was not sure he was up to the Challenge as well as the increased hostility between the mother and wife.
He spent much time gazing out at the bay when he could and after a time thought that he heard a gentle spirit on the wind telling him it would be better if he only loved well. These interludes became his only solace. But in too short a time the respite waned, spirits had much work with those who could be healed. Cicatriz could not leave, not again even though his wife told him to go now often and with increased venom over the past winter.
So he decided that even a bad life was better than dying alone, there would still be no one to mourn his passing when the time came but he would not be there to feel it. He did not know how long he could continue to be who he had always been, but there would be people around instead of no one until then.
His only regret was in the loss of that gentle spirit he had felt by the bay. He had never known that kind of peace since he was a boy listening to his mother’s laughter.