A Story of the Cherokee Removal as it might have been seen through the eyes of a seven year old boy
Chapter 2 of 19
Young Bear awoke slowly. He had not slept soundly. Now he was in that gray area, between being asleep and being awake. He was cold and the damp air magnified the cold. He wondered why his father, Otter Skin, did not have the fire burning as he did on these cold mornings so their home would be the warm and comfortable place it always was. He did not smell the white man's bacon they had become so fond of. He did not smell the coffee his mother, Spring Doe, had boiling on the fire each morning when he awoke. Then he remembered. The soldier's bullet had taken the life of both, his father and his mother. Suddenly he was fully awake. The memory flooded over him. He had to bite his lip to keep back the tears. He could taste the warm, salty, blood in his mouth as his teeth pierced his lip. He could not understand why they had to go to that place called Oka something or other. He only knew he did not like to hear that word. then he remembered Old Beaver Tail and all the events of the previous days. He opened his eyes and sat up. He could see Old Beaver Tail bending over a small fire made mostly of damp bark and small twigs. He was cooking something but Young Bear could not see what it was. After the death of his father and mother Old Beaver Tail had taken care of him in much the same way as a father might. He could not understand why the old man had taken care of him as he did. During the journey they walked near the end of the group on the trail.
When they came to the place where they were to camp the land around the campground had been gleaned of everything that was edible and all wood, bark, twigs, or anything that could be used to build a cook fire but Old Beaver Tail always managed to have enough fuel to build a small fire to cook their meager rations and to warm their hands and feet and to dry their damp clothing. He would cook the small quantity of corn meal and fat pork they were given each day. The
old man had carried a small iron pot. Before he cooked the corn meal he would fill the pot with water. He would then add the corn meal. After a few minutes he would skim off the bugs and small worms that infested the corn meal. Then he would pour off the water, mix in the fat meat, and add any edible roots or plants he had picked up during the day's walk. Old Beaver Tail ate sparingly, allowing Young Bear to get as much nourishment as possible. Young Bear had no blanket. He had given his blanket to his mother when she was riding in the sick wagon. After his mother had taken the spirit trail it was not returned to him. The soldiers would not give him another blanket so Old Beaver Tail shared his blanket with Young Bear. When the weather was very bad he would let Young Bear take the blanket for himself.
He would sit near Young Bear and keep a small fire going all through the night so the boy might be warm as he slept.
One day Young Bear asked Old Beaver Tail why he cared for him as a father does a son. Old Beaver Tail looked at Young Bear. He leaned back against the tree he was using to shelter them from the wind. As he started to speak his eyes grew soft. The wrinkles seemed to leave his face. He spoke of a time many winters past. He told Young Bear that when he was a young man he had taken a beautiful young maiden as his wife. He had given her the gift of venison. She had given him a gift of corn. Their blankets were joined. The tribal ceremony had joined them for life. In the second year of their life together The Grandfather had sent them a baby girl. Even though they had lived together for ten winters more no other children had been given them. In the fall of the eleventh year his wife had caught the white man's disease. Small red bumps had appeared on her skin. Her face had become very hot to the touch. On the forth day she had gone to sleep and could not be awakened. On the evening of the fifth day her spirit had taken the spirit trail. He had been very sad. He had felt sick at his heart because of the death of his wife. He thought he had nothing to live for. As he sat thinking of how he could take the spirit trail his young daughter of ten winters came and put her arms around his neck. As he put his arm around her he knew he would not take and could not take the spirit trail now. He had taken care of her until she seventeen winters of age. It had given him much pleasure to watch her grow. She was so much like her mother it was almost like seeing his dead wife again. She was just past her seventeenth winter when a young man had come into her life.
Although many young men had watched her and tried to court her she had not returned their attention. One day the young man she had been watching, secretly, she thought, had come to Old Beaver Tail and asked for his daughter for his wife. Old Beaver Tail had seen his daughter look at the young man many times. Each time she saw him she would stop what she was doing to watch him until he passed from view. Old Beaver Tail knew she cared for the young man so he agreed the young man could take his daughter for his wife. Again, the tribal ceremony had been performed. The gifts of venison and corn had been exchanged. The blankets had been joined. Young Otter Skin and Spring Doe had been married.
In time the Grandfather had sent them a son. He had been a fat baby with much bushy hair. He looked for all the world like a little bear cub. Because of this he was called Young Bear. Young Bear listened closely to the story. He understood that Old Beaver Tail was the father of his mother, Spring Doe. As he heard the revelation of Old Beaver Tail his heart began to swell. The blood sang through his veins. A warm feeling came over him. He was no longer alone. He had someone who cared for him, someone he could care for. He understood why Old Beaver Tail took care of him. He had a blood relative. He had a grandfather!
The Saga of Young Bear is a copyrighted creation of Dick One Eagle AKA Comanche.
This story may not be copied or used in any way without the express written permission of the author.