Hessian John : Indian Wars Surgeon

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2012-09-25
  • Publisher: Textstream
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When Ruby and I returned to Sheep Mountain from New York City in the late fall of 1874, I found three Arapaho bands preparing to winter on the east flank of Sheep Mountain and among willow thickets of the Little Laramie River north and east of Ruby's ranch. Surveying her herd, we noted 12 cattle were missing. Old Billy Harrigan told us, "Two young braves I didn't reconize come by last week with a young woman who asked fer He Who Knows and wantin' ta trade hides n' little nuggets fer beans n' flour." I asked Billy, "Did the woman mention Chief Red Sky?" He responded, "She said, 'Him with spirits; Hungry Bear now chief of Inunas'." I then asked, "Do you know where I can find the band?" He said, "Go up thet Crick named after ye onto the small meadow where I b'lieve they're awaitin' fer ye, Doc." As Ruby and I rode along John's Creek Trail on the east side of Sheep Mountain to find the band's winter camp, I told her, My contacts with these tribes started hight here 25 years ago when I met Chief Red Sky's Inuna Band of the Hitavwo Vee Cloud Men up on Sheep Mountain; other Arapaho clans were up on the high Snowies west of here. Much farther west I'd traded with friendly Bannocks at Fishing Falls beyond the precipitous cataracts on the Snake River in Idaho Territory. Many other tribes were less friendly then so we avoided them for fear of losing our horses or our lives. Nevertheless, my original contacts with Chief Red Sky had opened my broader associations with plains tribesmen and other mountain tribes across the West. I continued, In 1852, Lt. Sam Grant and I dealt with peaceful Cayuse, Chumash, Klamath, and Yakima tribes along the great Columbia River, and Umatilla salmon fisherman at the upriver Les Dalles cataract. Having learned bits of their languages and treating white-mans' death-wind diseases that had devastated some tribes, I'd gradually become welcome among more clans. Finally after participating in the 1868 treaty meetings, I'd become known by many as Red Sky's friend, He Who Knows. Ruby already knew I'd been a contract surgeon serving railroaders and their survey parties moving far ahead of track-laying works, where during '67 and '68, I'd encountered other Arapaho clans whose people welcomed me as blue-eyed man with strong medicine and noise-music in a box. I told her, "Only the Crow, Shoshoni, and Blackfoot clans kept their distance and avoided contact with me, especially when soldiers were present. Since the snow had already covered most of Sheep Mountain forcing the deer and elk below the snowline, I could smell roasting elk well before we approached the Arapaho camp. Soon after, three young warriors rode out to greet us, having already recognized my big horse they called Slow Elk. After eating warm slivers of undercooked roast with Chief Hungry Bear, we talked of early years on the mountain, of reservation problems, and of the lack of promised winter supplies that had driven them from the Wind River Reservation to former hunting grounds. Hungry Bear also told us of nearby Arapaho bands that had followed him to these hunting lands south of the railroad now forbidden to them by treaty. Finally, he said, Inunas no shoot your woman's cows. Willow-bottom people find no elk. Very hungry. Will pay Ruby-woman with soft buffalo robes after winter. Go with 2nd-son Smart Calf to camp beyond big cow farm to meet Chiefs Strong Face and Elk Tooth. They know you and wish to be friends again. My brother High Horse is with wife-woman Snowbird at Strong Face's camp in willow shelters where they eat fish from river. Go to help Rock Mountain and Elk Mountain bands. Return here often; Red Sky's mountain––your mountain. After meeting the Rock and Elk Mountain chiefs and seeing many hungry clan members, Ruby agreed to provide three more steers and a milk cow for each band. I also told High Horse, "I'll help you shoot Elk with my new rifle that I brought from the big sunrise city that shoots twice as far as any gun here at Sheep Mountain." As Ruby and I started to leave, Snowbird and Chief's woman, Rose Marie, presented her with a beaded buckskin dress, calling her in French, Ruby Bon Coeur (Ruby Good Heart).

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