Moon at Midnight – Part XXXX (day 2014)

(part XXXIX)

Before noon we had one eight point deer
It was such a beautiful animal
That we all sat for a while looking at it
Hunched over on our heels
Tall Pine’s arrow went in
Right above the left front shoulder
As we opened it up
We saw he had hit the heart perfectly
By evening we had slung it up
In a neat cache for our return
And we went around to familiarize ourselves
With where we had put it
So that we would be able to find it
On our return.

The next morning we were off at first light
Further East to see Amy, Frank, and Clarinet
As it got closer to darkness
We decided to find some food
And camp the night in a nice covered area
Among the great Pines.

Moon Cow recognized where we were
This was his old land that he knew well
And he guided us towards Frank’s place
With relative ease
We had come at them from the West
I had thought we would still be well North of them
And would have to head South for a good long time
But as it turned out
We were only about three hours North of them
And we were at their door by nightfall.

They were all very excited to see us
And had much news and stories to tell us
About the Summer they had had
And news of the U.S. Army
For being isolated as we were
We hadn’t any news of their movement
They told us that many of the bands
Were signing treaties
Some of them were forced to sign at gunpoint
While others were just too tired
To fight anymore
So they signed and moved their people
To the land appointed them
There was nothing good coming of this whole thing
We knew it, and so did they.

I told them of our own village’s attack
And Frank told me that he had heard of a rogue group
Of miners who had done the same
To a few of the homesteads they had come across
He wasn’t sure if they had hit many other villages, too
But luckily, they hadn’t found their house
So they hadn’t heard or seen any sign of them
I could see that Amy had a bit of worry in her eye
As one usually does, living so remotely
And really vulnerable to renegades like that
I knew that it was a conversation they had had
And surely one that would continue
The older Clarinet got.

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXIX (day 2013)

(part XXXVIII)

When the hunting party returned
They knew something was wrong immediately
And came right to me
I told what had happened
And also what I had learned from some of the family
I had been talking to in the village
Who were there when it happened
When Mountain Chief heard
What Tall Pine and I had done
He pulled from his headpiece
Two eagle feathers
And honoured each of us with one.

Most of the damage had already been fixed
Prior to the men returning
So we all kept ourselves busy with
Smoking and curing the meat
A very necessary task for the upcoming winter
They had returned with sufficient supply
That we were all fairly confident
There would be no shortage of food this winter.

For two days we had a grieving ceremony
And it was very sad to watch those who were very close
To those who had been killed, mourn
But as a community, as a family
We were all there to help them, to support them
To give our own offerings.

I took Tall Pine along with Moon Cow and I
As we went on a hunt of our own
With our bows across our backs
We set off to the East
To see if we could find some grazing animals
Still exposed, unprepared for the coming months
We had a rough idea to head towards
Amy and Frank, as Moon Cow also knew them
And was wondering how they were doing.

By the end of the first day
We hadn’t found anything,
But had fresh tracks of many smaller animals
Mostly rabbits and pheasants
So we were able to feed ourselves
But nothing to bring home
We woke early the second morning
And were off at daylight.

part XXXX

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXVIII (day 2012)

(part XXXVII)

We returned to the waterfall
Where I had told the scouts to go
And to bring Willow and Lily
I was happy to see them there
And the scouts had also found
Most of the other women and children
I took three of the older scouts with me
Tall Pine included
And we made our way back to the village
To assess everything.

When we arrived there
Our hearts sank
As they had the first time I saw the damage
Teepees tipped over and half burnt
Same fate for the smokehouses
We found two women killed
And one young scout killed
With a tomahawk in his hand
There were three other women mulling around
In a complete state of shock
But only minor injuries, bruises and cuts,
From trying to fight
Upon finding the state of things
I sent one of the scouts to the Waterfall
To bring everybody back.

We were relieved to see
Not much other damage had been done
I had come upon much worse before
But it’s never easy to see
Our hearts were sullen as we
Built platforms on the edge of the village
To place our dead people.

When that was done
We all began to try and piece together
The teepees and smokehouses
There was still lots of meat to be smoked
And we knew that the hunting party would return soon
Hoping we would need to smoke lots of meat.

That night I told Willow as we sat side by side
Around the fire that was burning
In the center of our village
What had happened when Tall Pine and I
Had tracked the men down
She sat silently as I told her
And put her arm around me when I was done
I could see a few of the other women
Were listening to the story
All of the scouts, too
Were straining their ears to listen
I made sure to embellish
The fearlessness that Tall Pine had shown.

part XXXIX

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXVII (day 2011)

(part XXXVI)

Tall Pine and I kept following the tracks
Until we could hear them laughing
Off in the distance
We had the advantage of being silent
Without horses
So we easily snuck up on the bastards
We counted three
And waited until we saw the other two
We knew we had been following five horses.

When they returned
Pine and I had already made a plan
He was good with the arrow
And I had two tomahawks in my hands
They were against a few large boulders
Beside a creek that had a shallow pool
Eating the meat that we had been smoking
And having a gay old time
He assured me he could have three down
Before I jumped
There was another boulder to the left of the group
That he was able to get beside
And also use as a shield
He had eight arrows.

He watched carefully as I silently
Made my way up behind the group
Clearly oblivious to anybody following them
As Pine began sending his arrows into their chests
I jumped on one who was lazily falling asleep
When I turned around two were looking at me
Fumbling to get their guns
And a third had his trousers down
Caught red handed and frozen
Lucky for me,
When the first one fired his gun
It only clicked
I guess he hadn’t reloaded since raiding our village.

With my first swing his hand was gone
The second swing was into his neck
As I swung around
I planted my tomahawk into the seconds head
And ripped my axe from the firsts neck
Pine had taken down the third
Who had his trousers down
Still just standing there unable to move
The horses spooked
But stayed close being tied up
I went over to the first Pine had hit
And made sure he wasn’t still breathing.

The woman was clearly distressed
But recognized me
She sat there, weeping silently
As Pine came up beside me
He gathered the horses
And asked what we would do with them
I told him to remove the saddles
And we will take them with us
But we will walk for now
He tied them halter to tail.

I brought the woman to the creek
To wash her face
I washed the blood from my hands
And cleaned my axes
I tied the guns onto one of the horses
And we began walking back at a fairly fast pace
Still on alert should we have missed anybody.

part XXXVIII

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXVI (day 2010)

(part XXXV)

One of our favorite places to go
To the South, about two hours
We had found the lookout after wandering
For medicinal herbs one summer day
We didn’t hear anything as we walked up
And we didn’t hear anything from where we sat
But looking out, we watched an abnormal amount
Of smoking coming from our village.

I trotted ahead cautiously
Keeping my eyes on alert
And my hatchet in my hand
As I got closer
I flanked our village on the West
And came across a few of the children
To afraid to move, watching
Most of the teepees had been knocked over
As well as the smoke houses
The men had left two days ago
On a hunting party West
Into the deeper forest and mountains
And weren’t expected for a few more days
So it was mostly women and children left.

It was hard to know who had done this
There were clear signs of horses
Often with missing shoes
Which could mean a band of renegades
Most Army men kept their horses happy
And any Tribe I ever came across
Didn’t shoe their horses
They had come from the North
I could see that clear enough.

There was very little movement or sound
Coming from our small village
Except the smouldering smoke
So I walked into the encampment
On high alert
Listening and watching
I found one woman who had been badly hurt
I asked her where did they go,
She pointed West
I came across two killed
No doubt in my mind a few had been taken
A few of the elders had holes through their chests
My guess was five god damn renegades
Chicken shit bastards
With loaded guns and fire on their breath.

I went back to the young scouts I had come across
And told them Willow and Lily were coming
Where I had just come from
I made it known they should go that way now
And intercept them before they got here
And direct them into the Woods
To the East side of the Waterfall
Where the big fir had fallen over
I took the eldest with me
He had his bow and arrows
As we scanned the village.

I heard from one of the teepees some noise
And looked inside
One of the bastards was on a woman
And I buried my hatchet into his head
I told her to keep quiet
And where we were meeting at, to go to
She grabbed a few tools and snuck away.

There were no others
I could only guess the one I had killed
Was reaping the benefits
Of the renegades he was following
For he didn’t look like much of anything
Nor worth keeping any kind of company
I followed the ones who had left
Horse tracks to the West
For fifteen minutes
And didn’t come upon them
When I reached the creek
I saw they had crossed and kept going
Deeper West, moving fast
I hoped that the men would come upon them
And see any women or children that had been taken
They would know what had happened at once
And do what had to be done.

part XXXVII

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXV (day 2009)

(part XXXIV)

Moon Cow, Long Arrow and I went hunting
We were gone for four days and three nights
We went South to try and find the buffalo
But what we found was elk and a moose
They were buffalo people but also reasonable people
So we knew that we had to take the animals that came to us.

We made camp that night and began cutting
I reflected on the beautiful Swiss blade that
Frank had given to me,
Wondering how his summer had gone
How things were in his Valley
By night time we were all covered in blood
But had everything cut that we could use
Leaving mostly just the bones
For the wild coyotes and wolves and ravens
That were always around.

We built a makeshift sleigh
That we took turns pulling in twos
It was hard work
But we were in no rush
And had feasted till our hearts content
The night before
On the fresh meat we had
Moon Cow talked about the buffalo a lot
He worried our people wouldn’t have enough food
And Long Arrow agreed, as always
Grunting in his affirmative way.

I asked if they wanted
To go see Amy & Frank
To hunt at their traditional buffalo run
They reminded me it was no use
Unless we moved back to our traditional winter home
That we had been at last year
I asked why that was a bad idea
And they made me understand they disliked the U.S. Army
And also that Mountain Chief had said
We would stay here now
And they didn’t want to go against him.

When we got back, the women were very happy
We had done so well on our hunt
Smoking began at once
This time I was able to build a smoke house by myself
As Moon Cow built the second one
I was proud when he came over to inspect it
And had nothing to say bad about it
Giving his nod of approval
As he poked at the holes
And casually patched them
With his skilled hands.

I talked to Mountain Chief about Winter
About how he felt his people were prepared
He said he believed everybody had a good hunt
As we looked around and saw all the smoke houses
Filling the camp with mouth watering smells
I asked him if he thought about the buffalo run
And he said: “Of course,” as he pointed to his inner arm
Making a motion of cutting it
Showing me it was in his blood
I could not guess the pain he felt
Not being able to lead his people
Where his people had always gone.

part XXXVI

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXIV (day 2008)

(part XXXIII)

In the morning Lily told us
She had dreamt of an owl
And had spoken to it
She said it was dad
His name had been Night Owl
Who gave her a message for Willow
And she told us
He had said that things ahead
Were going to get dangerous
And that sticking with Joe
Was very necessary.

Mountain Chief came to us that morning
Saying he had dreamt about Night Owl, too
He repeated what Lily had said
That the vision was a strong one
And Joe was to be trusted
And so I was to be trusted.

I didn’t really know what to do
I had always been a believer
That a family unit was one that shared decisions
So I kept silent
Could I really forecast, prophesize
To give any sort of resolution?
I did reinforce to Mountain Chief
And to Lily and Willow
That I could be trusted
And if I knew anything, I would speak.

When I stepped out of the teepee
Many of the people in our family
Were waiting, looking at me
Expecting some kind of miracle
But Mountain Chief settled them all down
Laughing at them and slapping me on the back
He was a good leader, a fierce warrior,
A strong man
One I had no desire in challenging
A man who was my friend
And his honesty and consideration for me
Only affirmed my affection for him
A man who had let me into his home
And into his heart like a brother.

Willow, Lily and I walked to our favourite lookout
Where we could see the entire valley
And the distant snow covered peaks
We wondered how long it would be now
Until the snow came to us
We had our furs and were gathering food
But winter is winter
No matter how many campfires you have
It’s still cold to the naked skin.

When we came down we paused near the place
I had found Lily the night before
And sat there for a while
Trying to understand the energy of the space
Suddenly out from the canopy
Came a beautiful owl
With a wing span that must have been 3 meters across
It came straight at us
Then turned sharply fanning us
For us to see it’s full and beautiful wing
It floated down the clearing
And in to the thick canopy.

part XXXV

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXIII (day 2007)

(part XXXII)

I woke with a start
As I heard the calling from within my dream
I knew something wasn’t right
And I looked for Lily and she was gone
The teepee door flapped lightly
In the dark summer night’s breeze
I grabbed my hatchet and stepped outside
Stars were out and the moon was shining
Waxing crescent – energy building.

My eyes adjusted and I listened
I didn’t hear another call
But I started walking along the ridge
Leaving the encampment behind
I walked for a while silently
In my moccasins Willow had made for me
With little beads Lily had threaded in
And thought of their faces
When they presented them to me.

I saw her standing on the other side of the clearing
Facing into the darker woods
That loomed in front of her
I couldn’t tell if she was in a trance
Or had been led there
But I didn’t want to scare her by coming up silently
Nor did I want to alert whatever demon
Should there be one at her mind.

I kept the hatchet in my hand as I approached
Watching the darkness for the spirit
And Lily turned around and looked at me
It was Lily in body, but in spirit it was not Lily
I clicked my fingers
Like I had been showing her how to recently
Then made the bird call she had made me practice
She had said if there’s ever an emergency
Make that call and her bluejay spirit
Will come to me.

I called again
And clicked again
And she shook her head
Like she was waving off a thought
And looked at me curiously
A bit confused
And asked: “Joe?”

When we returned to our teepee
Willow was boiling some peppermint tea
As we sipped the warm tea
Willow told me the story
Of the first time this happened
And what the medicine man had said
In my experience I had seen this before, too
I had learned in boarding school
That some kids sleep walked
Without knowing they sleep walked
Like peeing the bed
Something that one just comes to understand.

part XXXIV

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXII (day 2006)

(part XXXI)

Each day I fell more and more in love with Willow
Not to be overlooked was sweet Lily
But Willow was my woman and I her man
And everyday we learned each other more and more
She was patient with me when I needed to learn
Something that most of the young scouts knew naturally
But she could see the desire in my eyes
And she always believed in me
I can only imagine it isolated her a little bit
From the rest of her family
Falling in love with a white man
But then again
Her and Moon Cow were always kind of unique.

She was a good woman
And provided for me in a way I could have never imagined
We grew with each other
And I’m sure I wasn’t like the men she knew, like Lily’s father
We didn’t quite fully understanding each others ways
Expectations of our own cultures
But we were both very patient and considerate
Which allowed us to subtly learn and adjust
To fit.

At night I would lie with her
Smelling her warmth next to me
Feeling her breathing upon my chest
Listening to words she did not speak
But a deep comfort she exuded
She was as kind and interested in me as I her
And our passion frequently overtook us
As the coals on the fire deeply tingled asleep
As the first birds of day sang sweetly.

We would often walk through the forest by ourselves
Looking for herbs or vegetables or roots
Anything really, mostly for ourselves
We would hold hands and stop by little streams
Or our favorite viewpoints
Or little meadows with wild flowers growing tall
And make love to each other
Without restraint, wildly,
And cleanse each other in the refreshing water
After we had enjoyed the buzz
And warm sun on our bodies.

part XXXIII

20151125-vancouver-island-victoria-port-renfrew-trestle-ned-tobin-64

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXI (day 2005)

(part XXX)

Willow’s best friend was named Mercy
Mercy’s man’s name was Long Arrow
And he was one of the most skilled hunter and tracker
I had ever hunted with
By now I had learned enough Pikanii
To be able to communicate on a basic level
As we walked – Long Arrow, Moon Cow and I –
Through the forest hunting
They were both mostly silent
Making subtle gestures and wild bird calls I envied
But when they were feeling like sharing
They would point and teach me words
Of things I wouldn’t learn
Sitting around inside a teepee.

At our new home, Mercy and Long Arrow
Would join us around the fire on many evenings
Long Arrow was less of a story teller then Moon Cow
But it was nice to have him around
And we all became very close to one another
They had two boys
That were a few years older then Lily
And it was clear that one of them
Would become her man when the moon spoke so,
The eldest was Runs Wild and the younger was Big Moon.

Life was good here, and I felt like I belonged
More so, I felt like I had a part
In keeping the family together
I was helpful, strong and eager
And in a family who lives off the land
That is always a benefit
Plus, I quickly became pretty good
At hunting with a bow
And was able, most days, to bring home food
The others also accepted me
At first I could definitely see them wondering who I was
And what I was doing there
But eventually they all knew me by name
And smiled when they saw me, not scowled
It definitely helped that I was Willow’s man
For she was loved by everybody
That much was clear.

I often wondered to myself
If this was the answer to my journey East
That had started the year before
Before I had met Amy, Frank and Clarinet
And before I had met the Blackfoot
Before I had met Willow, Lily and Moon Cow
It seemed so long ago now
So much of a lonely journey
That was now so much past me
But there was still something inside of me
That called me further East again
I wasn’t quite sure what it was
Or why it was
Only that there was something that I was missing
That I kept seeing in visions
And I knew that it was only a matter of time
Before I journeyed further East
To meet who I knew I was to meet.

part XXXII

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