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Taima's Woman

Taima's Woman

Автором Trish Dudek

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Taima's Woman

Автором Trish Dudek

Длина:
408 pages
6 hours
Издатель:
Издано:
Feb 2, 2012
ISBN:
9781469735740
Формат:
Книге

Описание

Margaret is not a conventional woman of the early-nineteenth century. Shes not interested in pretty dresses and tea parties, but instead longs for adventure in the great outdoors. Margaret convinces her father, William, to seek opportunity in the fur trade business.

They embark on a journey that follows the Louis and Clark route along the Missouri River into Blackfoot country to trade for beaver skins. As she gains freedom from the social structures that bind her in the East, she doesnt anticipate the changes this new life brings. The travelers face an array of challenges from the weather, wild animals, and the native Indian tribes.

Margaret thrives in this wild country, where she catches sight of Taima, the Thunder Horse, who refuses to be caught. Together with Night Hawk, a warrior in the Black Horse Band of the Kainah Blackfoot, they both seek to capture this beautiful, wild horse. Night Hawk believes the elusive Taima will fulfill his dreams. He doesnt expect his plansor his lifeto be complicated by a Long Knife woman with similar dreams.

Margaret, Night Hawk, and Taima gain honor and strength from each othera strength that is shared with the Black Horse Bandproviding a link to the future that could have been.

Издатель:
Издано:
Feb 2, 2012
ISBN:
9781469735740
Формат:
Книге

Об авторе

Trish Dudek loves horses, books, and Native American history. This combination led her to write after she retired from teaching. She has published several children’s stories. On their farm, in her husband’s memory, Trish continues to operate Rivendell ReCreation Center, a not-for-profit therapeutic riding facility for children and adults in South Wales, New York. A portion of book sales will be donated to Rivendell. Contact Trish through www.rivendellrec.org.

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Taima's Woman - Trish Dudek

TAIMA’S

WOMAN

Trish Dudek

iUniverse, Inc.

Bloomington

Taima’s Woman

Copyright © 2012 by Trish Dudek

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

iUniverse books may be ordered through booksellers or by contacting:

iUniverse

1663 Liberty Drive

Bloomington, IN 47403

www.iuniverse.com

1-800-Authors (1-800-288-4677)

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.

Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models, and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.

ISBN: 978-1-4697-3570-2 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-4697-3571-9 (hc)

ISBN: 978-1-4697-3574-0 (e)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2012900766

Printed in the United States of America

iUniverse rev. date: 1/23/2012

CONTENTS

THE LEGEND

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

CHAPTER 23

CHAPTER 24

CHAPTER 25

CHAPTER 26

CHAPTER 27

CHAPTER 28

CHAPTER 29

CHAPTER 30

CHAPTER 31

CHAPTER 32

CHAPTER 33

CHAPTER 34

CHAPTER 35

CHAPTER 36

CHAPTER 37

CHAPTER 38

CHAPTER 39

CHAPTER 40

CHAPTER 41

CHAPTER 42

CHAPTER 43

CHAPTER 44

CHAPTER 45

CHAPTER 46

CHAPTER 47

CHAPTER 48

CHAPTER 49

CHAPTER 50

EPILOGUE

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

To my late husband, Chet, in memory and with love. A promise kept.

THE LEGEND

The legend of The Thunder Horse spread among the Indian tribes of the region; all plains and mountain tribes had lost mares to him. He came, fought, and stole mares. Herd stallions couldn’t stop him; he used his size and speed to escape capture. Since the summer of his third year, no man could catch him.

During the summer of his third year, The Thunder Horse had been driven into a trap by a group of Kainah Horse Medicine Men. He might have found the chance to escape if he had stayed at the edge of the herd with the older, more experienced horses. But he became trapped in the middle of the frightened herd with no way to get loose. Then, in the Kainah village, he felt a rawhide noose tighten around his neck, strangling the air from his lungs. His legs felt the hobbles that robbed him of movement. He spent agonizing days in captivity, longing to run free. One morning, a careless young horse tender gave the hobble some slack. The Thunder Horse’s legs pulled the rawhide tight and snapped it! He thundered through the village at a fierce gallop. Now The Thunder Horse knew the two-legged creatures wanted to take his freedom, and he needed to stay away from them!

As the black and white stallion grew older, he realized men didn’t possess his strength and knew there wasn’t any reason to fear them as long as he kept open space around himself. Even the best of their horses wasn’t a close match for his speed.

Today he ran with a storm at his back; the long hair of his mane and tail flowed in wind-whipped streams. The thunder rolled across the sky, and streaks of jagged lightning stabbed the hillsides. The horses behind him stretched from the rocks and yellow pine down over the valley floor, through the stream, and up into the hills on the other side. The stallion led his herd; their blood was hot from the run.

Clouds thickened in the late afternoon sky, and flashes of lightning continued, followed by the deep rumble of the thunder that announced the rain. The rain began as intermittent drops but quickly became a downpour. The stallion tossed his head, kicked his hooves, and moved his herd up into a hollow among the trees for shelter. Then he turned to gaze toward the valley below.

Into his valley came riders. They were young horse-medicine warriors from the Black Horse Band of the Kainah Blackfoot. From the high mountains to the buffalo-darkened plains they pursued this most-coveted stallion. They wanted to capture the stallion that had the speed and strength of ten of his kind. They didn’t care about the rain. All they wanted was the horse.

No other stallion matched his majesty. He stood proud on the crest of the hill; the black of his coat appeared blacker than night in contrast with the pure white markings on his rump. Many tribes and villages knew him; he roamed the mountains and plains; he appeared like a ghost to steal mares from their herds. Herd stallions challenged his supremacy, but none could defeat him. Taima, The Thunder Horse, ruled his land.

Today, this legend was hunted. Blackfoot warriors pursued him again.

Down on the valley floor, the Kainah warriors forded the stream, whooping and hollering. They raced up the slope of land that took them into the hills above. The rain fell steadily against the rocks and trees; thunder reverberated across the sky.

With a snort and a shake of his head, the stallion plunged down the slope toward the warriors, leaving his mares hidden in a thick stand of cottonwood trees. He was partial to attacking when his adversaries least expected it—the stallion became the hunter instead of the hunted.

The proud stallion saw this as a chance to tease the warriors and an opportunity to show his power. In a flash, the stallion charged down the hill and on to the valley floor, pounding through the rain toward the warriors. He galloped ahead, snorting and flattening his ears.

The lead Kainah warrior reined in his horse at the sight of the stallion bearing down on him. He shouted to his followers. They tried to turn their horses; it was too late! The Thunder Horse was already among them; he knocked the lead rider sprawling face-down in the mud.

The big stallion charged each warrior one at a time, bumping and rearing, until the warrior fell off or raced away on his horse. They had heard the stories of the stallion’s attacks, but the Kainah warriors couldn’t believe the fury that charged out of the storm at them. Confusion kept the warriors from throwing their rawhide loops at the horse. His power was so great, the attack so sudden, there was no chance for them to do anything but disband and run away! The warriors stopped when they could to pick up fallen horse-medicine riders. Some were injured; some only stunned. No medicine power could match the fierce pride of this wild stallion!

The rain stopped as quickly as it had begun. The dark clouds scattered, allowing the rays of the late afternoon sun to push through. Behind the storm there was stillness, and the light shined gold against the jagged hills. The stallion led his mares on a run through the rocks and scrub timber covering the slope above the valley. Tossing his head, the proud leader ran his herd over the hills and down into the valley floor where they could drink at the river.

Evening arrived. The Thunder Horse stood on a hill overlooking another valley not far from the place he’d left the defeated Kainah warriors. Below was the Kainah Blackfoot village of those horse-medicine warriors. The village was quiet; women were doing evening chores; the older men were sitting around the fires, telling stories of their youth. On a flat near the village, a large herd of horses grazed, watched by those too young to have ridden on the horse hunt. There were many mares in this herd, and The Thunder Horse coveted them!

The stallion hid his mares again and walked to a ridge above the village. He snorted and raised his nose to the sky. The evening breeze carried the pungent aroma of burning sage. The Thunder Horse knew the smell; he wasn’t alarmed by it. It was only the smoke from the leaves and branches of the long-leafed silver sage that grows along the valley floor, and it was burned by the Blackfoot during ceremonies.

The Thunder Horse watched three old Kainah horse-medicine warriors sitting next to one of the fires. One was the warrior who always paid homage to The Thunder Horse in chants and ritual dances. This eldest warrior, The Old One, somehow gained power whenever they met. These meetings gave the old warrior much pleasure; The Thunder Horse sensed the Indian’s reverence for him. This evening a young warrior sat at the fire too.

The Thunder Horse moved farther along the ridge and looked down on the warriors at that fire. They all leaped to their feet at the sight of him. The young warrior gazed with awe and disbelief. The Old One pointed to The Thunder Horse and spoke to the young warrior.

The Old One began to chant:

"He is the one who rules the mountains.

He is the one who is like a storm in the clouds.

Ah, hau! He has more power than any other of his kind.

He has come from the Thunder Lodge.

He is the one called The Thunder Horse."

The young warrior thought, He will be mine one day!

The wild stallion snorted and loped forward. The herd stallion on the flat below was a powerful, solid black horse. The people of this band of Kainah, the Black Horse Band, named themselves after him and his predecessors. The Thunder Horse reared in challenge and tossed his head; his heavy mane flowed along his neck and withers.

Below, many villagers ran out to watch The Thunder Horse challenge their herd stallion. The black horse squealed in answer and left his mares to answer the challenge of the wild stallion. He charged toward The Thunder Horse. The young horse tenders knew they couldn’t stop their stallion from defending his herd. They also knew the wild stallion was invincible. They felt helpless knowing they’d lose mares.

The Thunder Horse met the charge of the black stallion; they both reared. The herd black was a strong antagonist and fought with fierce determination. In the village below, shouting began. The young warrior followed The Old One to the crest of the hill where they watched the stallions in their deadly struggle. With mouths open, strong teeth bared, the stallions met. Hooves flew with speed and power, passionately striking each other. Though the herd stallion was a proud ruler, The Thunder Horse began to wear him down. The wild stallion was strong and wily; the neck of the herd stallion ran red with blood. The herd stallion staggered, and his front legs crumbled to the ground.

The old horse medicine warrior nodded as he watched the wild stallion take the measure of the herd stallion. The Thunder Horse, he knew, was like no other horse born in these lands. The old warrior thought: This powerful stallion will rule the lands for many winters to come. It was indeed an honor to see him this day, and to show young Night Hawk that such a horse lives.

Finally, with the blazing twilight at his back, The Thunder Horse left the herd stallion dazed and beaten. The herd stallion struggled to regain his feet. Shouts rang through the village as The Thunder Horse rushed down the hill and began moving part of the herd of mares away. He vanished into the hills with the captured Black Horse Band mares to join his hidden herd.

For a long time, after the stallion had gone and the sun disappeared, young Night Hawk sat alone in the darkness. He couldn’t get the wild stallion out of his mind. Night Hawk had just reached his twentieth winter. Although he was well-respected as a competitor in games, as a warrior of the Black Horse Band of the Kainah Blackfoot he lacked honors.

The young warrior knew ownership of the magnificent stallion would bring him more honors than a hundred triumphs during battle. The horse would change his status in the band. All the maidens in the village would look to him while he decided which of them would become his first and most important wife, his sits-beside-him wife. As owner of the mightiest stallion in any land, his name would be sung around celebration fires, and stories would be told of his bravery.

Night Hawk could only dream; no single warrior was a match for the wild and proud stallion. Still, he dreamed.

The Old One had told him of a vision where he saw a mysterious rider on the back of The Thunder Horse. In the vision, The Old One saw Night Hawk standing nearby with joy on his face. The Old One saw the vision in his dreams more than once. Each time the mysterious rider appeared on the stallion’s back, only once was the rider Night Hawk. For many nights, Night Hawk sat in the darkness and wondered at the vision of The Old One.

What did this vision mean?

Who was the mysterious rider?

The Story Begins …

CHAPTER 1

Margaret flicked her eyes open and then swiftly shut them. Confusion saturated her mind. Fever rolled across her like a thunderstorm. Pain jaggedly stabbed her body in bold bursts of heat. Each stab was a bolt of lightning that glowed for a moment at a nerve ending and blazed down each tendon. The lightning was a remorseless ribbon of radiant light. It struck over and over; it felt like the dithyrambic sword of an avenging angel.

She never knew for certain if her eyes were open or closed. She never knew if she was awake or asleep. She saw nothing but boiling gray clouds, red-rimmed and clustered in patches, shrouded in the clouds. She tried to hold on to one scarlet fragment and follow its path. She clung to the route of its angry glow and listened to its following thunder. The thunder grew louder and louder as she fell deeper and deeper into the roiling clouds. She heard nothing but the pounding of the thunder.

Faces sometimes appeared in the clouds. Some were strangers, unknown faces that gazed at her with curiosity or indifference and then went away. Others seemed familiar, but she couldn’t name them. They tried to grasp her vision with their caring glances. But she let those glances slide away. She couldn’t hold on to them; she had no strength. She knew they spoke to her; she saw their lips move. But no sounds reached her ears. The sounds were overwhelmed by the thunder of her personal pyretic storm.

Time had no meaning. In the passing of a moment, a day, a week, a moon, a fragment of a dream hovered above her head in a tiny clearing of the clouds. It was evening; candles were burning, and she could see a desk. Was it her father’s study? A woman was speaking. Was it her Aunt Anne?

It’s deplorable, William. She cares not in the least how she looks. Nor does she care what picture she portrays to the public. She sets a shocking example for other young ladies. She has all that long, lovely black hair, but she allows it to fly loose in the wind, streaming out behind her as she thunders along on her big horse. And she rides without a hat! Why, she is as brown as a Mahican! And I do believe I have seen her ride astride!

The bitterness of medicine touched her lips. She heard hushed sounds tenderly curling at her ears. There were no words yet, just the soft susurrus of sounds. And behind the medicine lodge a sweat lodge had been erected and was covered with old pieces of buffalo robes. Near it blazed a fire, its flames wind-whipped. As the Medicine Man approached it, Night Hawk, using the crossed ends of two tied sticks, lifted fist-sized rocks from the flames and carried them, one at a time, into the sweat lodge. He put them in a pile to one side of the cedar branches covering the ground. The Medicine Man, indifferent to the sharp air and wearing only his medicine loin cloth, spread out his arms and put back the robe Night Hawk received and held for him. The Medicine Man stooped and entered the sweat lodge, closing the flap behind him. With a cedar whisk he flicked water from a gourd onto the hot, hissing stones until steam filled the lodge, enveloping, warming, and purifying his body.

As in the center of a stage, his patient, Margaret, lay on a woven mat of cedar bark in the middle of the medicine lodge. Her face, turned from the fire, was in a shadow. Night Hawk could see the labored rise and fall of her chest and hear the shudder of her breathing. He sat near Margaret, head bowed and hands tightly clasped. Night Hawk’s friends sat on one side of the lodge, their eyes wide and solemn.

The waiting was prolonged; the tension increased. No one moved. No one spoke. Only Margaret stirred, turning her head restlessly.

Suddenly, a draft of cold air swept into the lodge. The Medicine Man entered. All eyes turned to him, held by the dynamic, compelling power of his presence. He stood with his fierce, intense gaze fixed on Margaret, oblivious of the other people in the shadowed lodge.

Moving swiftly, he jerked back his head, and taking up the drum, gave it one slap, an ominous, opening note. A deep thrill ran through the watchers and they followed his every move. Leaning forward, knees bent, the Medicine Man moved slowly toward his patient, lifting his feet in time to the rhythm he tapped out on the drum. He began to chant, his voice at first so faint and deep that the listeners couldn’t tell when it began but felt it—like a song that had risen from deep inside them. Four times he circled the patient, his gaze concentrated on her. Gradually the tempo of his drumming increased to a continuous, insistent beat, and his chanting grew louder. As he circled about her, firelight glistened on his bare back, arms, and chest and flashed on his beaded medicine loincloth.

He fell to his knees beside Margaret and with one swift gesture threw back her robe. He drew from his medicine bag a handful of earth, gently rolled Margaret back, and drew up the buffalo robe. Then, with his head tilted back and eyes closed, he resumed his chant, banging with both hands on the drum now held between his knees. His voice, resounding, vibrating, rose from deep in his chest and filled the lodge with his supplication. The watchers, entranced, swayed with the rhythm, following every modulation of his voice.

And Margaret dreamed.

Another dream lapped at the edges of her mind as a kitten laps at a bowl of milk. She saw a man crying. Was that her father? The tears were his private grief at the loss of her mother and brother. Their loss had hurt him deeply; it left pain lines etched into carvings of character on his face. On the surface, he appeared stern and forthright. Inside, he was warm and loving.

At the fringe of her fever, Margaret felt she had gotten to know him very well after their deaths. She sensed too that she was now a woman.

A new dream dropped into place as her father’s face dissolved and then turned solid again, a dream of a late afternoon ride with her father. They reached the top of a hill overlooking their home in eastern New York. In the distance, a coach moved briskly down a dirt road pulled by four dappled, light-gray horses. Dust puffed at each stride of their legs. Shades of green melted into an endless forest that rose tall around them. Interlocking branches heavy with the bright growth of spring leaves cast a perpetual gloaming over the leaf-matted earth. Sunlight, however, still filtered through the layers of green, speckles that were mere pinpricks that glittered through the heights.

I had hoped you and Henry would come to an agreement, her father said. A woman needs a husband and a family to share the joys of life with. You cannot expect me to live forever.

Oh, Father, sighed Margaret. I understand your worry and distress. You know, however, that I’m not like other women. I don’t fit into society. Everything about me is different. I know I am supposed to be happy with a husband and children. But I could never stand next to a man and simper sweetly while he controlled my every movement. There has to be something very special about the man I will someday marry. Special like you. I haven’t found that kind of man in any of my suitors. Henry came the closest to being that kind of man. Perhaps I should have been another son for you and not your daughter.

Margaret sensed her father could think of nothing to say in response.

Margaret continued. I feel foolish. I feel trapped. This night air carries to me a touch of something far away.

As they rode back home, she found herself gazing out beyond the darkening sky at the horizon. A low bank of puffy clouds absorbed the red glow of the setting sun. She sighed, wishing she could see some of the other places the sun was touching as it sank into the clouds.

You can remember, she thought. Where are you? How did you get here? Why can’t you stop shaking? Bitterness numbed her lips again. Murmurings brushed against her ears as soft as the rabbit fur under her cheek. She tried to touch it with one finger as her burning brain played back a conversation she had overheard.

You’ve heard about Jacob Astor and his fur trade? Well, he’s planning to increase his wealth by going from the Great Lakes to the Northwest Territory. The unknown man’s voice boomed from the walls of her father’s study.

Yes, I know the name, her father said with a laugh. And I know his stories. The tavern talk is rich in the stories of Astor and McKenzie and Manuel Lisa. The stories tell of roaming wild country, fighting off savages, and building shelters from animal skins. It takes a different sort of man to live that way. Then there is Zebulon Pike and the government expedition of Lewis and Clark. If I were a young man … Her father’s voice drifted into silence.

In the silence Margaret flicked her eyes open. A wrinkled, toothless face peered at her nose to nose. Confusion flooded her mind, banishing any ability of clear thought. Fire burned behind her eyelids while the aroma of sage tickled her nose and throat. She quickly closed her eyes again and let another dream flow.

This dream brought pictures of vast, snow-capped mountain ranges like hands reaching for the sky, and streams that bubbled down over moss-laden rocks to settle in deep lakes and mirror the peaks above. She saw herself surrounded by an immense, untamed land. Could she talk her father into risking everything they knew?

She heard him say, There are no roads, no coaches, and no method to travel except horseback—or boat where possible.

I am aware of that, Father. You know I’d rather travel on horseback than any other method. This is my one chance to free myself from a life I don’t want. The wilderness, as well as the idea of trade, lured her.

A subdued wind vibrated through her ears. The laggard beat of a drum whispered in the background while an elk bone rattle chirped cheerfully between drum beats.

Where am I?

Tremors rocketed through her again, from her feet to her head. The scorching fever shot through her blood again like bolts of lightning. A pair of strong arms bound her, restricting her convulsions. A unique man-smell breached the scent of the sage.

Night Hawk? Did I find him?

Hau. Sleep now, Margaret. Dream yourself well. Hear the drum calling to your blood. Hear the rattle calling to your soul. Sleep. Dream. Heal. I am here. The deep, tranquil voice freed her from the need to wake.

The fever scorched.

She slept.

She dreamed.

CHAPTER 2

She dreamed. She tasted bitter jimsonweed paste on her lips. Heat boiled. And there was the steady beat of a drum. Life fought to keep Margaret. Sage burned; its aroma filled her soul.

Then the Medicine Man put aside his drum and laid his hand on Margaret’s forehead. He took a pouch of mixed herbs—willow bark and slippery elm bark—from his sacred bag and stirred them into a gourd of icy spring water. He dipped his fingers into it and bathed Margaret’s head, stroking firmly up and down. Margaret responded with a kind of groaning sigh. Lifting her head, the Medicine Man held the gourd to her lips. At first the herb water trickled down the side of her chin, but the Medicine Man persisted. Finally, Margaret’s lips moved, and she made an effort to swallow.

Setting aside the bark water, the Medicine Man opened a pouch of boneset paste. He rubbed it in rhythmical, circular movements on Margaret’s chest and then on her arm and leg muscles, massaging and flexing them. Gently he rolled her face down and rubbed the paste into the muscles of her back. The aromatic smell of the chokeberry mixed with the boneset filled the room. Rolling Margaret onto her back again he gave her more of the willow bark water to drink. Margaret weakly opened her eyes.

Drink, said the Medicine Man. Margaret drank. Now sleep and be healed.

He covered Margaret again with her robe. Margaret’s eyes stayed open. The Medicine Man began to chant again, softly accenting the rhythm with a beat on his drum. Slowly Margaret’s eyes closed, her head tilted to one side, and she slept.

The Medicine Man rose and increased the tempo of his drumming, chanting softly but confidently, stepping in time to his beat. He sang at Margaret’s left side, then at her feet, at her right side, and finally at her head. The watchers in the lodge moved with his rhythm, their dark faces flushed in the firelight, their eyes glowing. As he circled ’round and ’round his enlarged shadow slid across the lodge poles, shot up into the edges, and came tamely back to his measured step. Finally, he stopped at Margaret’s head, sank to his knees, lowered his head, and extended his arms over her. A pulsing silence filled the room. Moisture glistened on his broad, curved back. His powerfully muscled arms vibrated, merging the power of the watchers with his own, concentrating all the tension: focusing it; stretching it; holding it taught; suspending it.

Suddenly, just before the breaking point, his muscles went slack. His body sagged. He stood up, arms hanging wearily. Night Hawk stepped forward, holding up a buffalo robe. The Medicine Man wrapped himself in it, covering his head, and quietly left the lodge.

Night Hawk and his friends carried the drum and the water gourd and followed him.

And Margaret dreamed. The dreams lengthened. They deepened, helping her find her past, present, and future.

Margaret and her father, William, rode next to a wagon somewhere along the Ohio River, talking about their hopes for this expedition. He had taken a chance and invested in a trading expedition to the lands near the headwaters of the Missouri River. The stories talked about the Valley of the Three Forks as the richest beaver trapping in all the Rocky Mountains. The only drawback to trading and trapping there was the Blackfoot Indians. They held that area as the southern extension of their hunting grounds.

William said to Margaret, Even Manuel Lisa left that region because the Blackfoot killed so many of his men. Since his death, the mountains, and the northern plains hold no American fur traders.

Margaret said, But I have learned that the Blackfoot prefer the quality of British trade goods. So our trade goods should equal to or exceed the British in quality and quantity.

Then the city of St. Louis and the keelboats exploded in her dreams.

Their guide, John Weaver, came up from the boats. Margaret saw in him the attributes she hoped to find here. He was wild and untamed, with a dislike for society yet was as courteous as the men she’d known in the East. He appeared independent beyond all compare. But at the same time, Margaret felt he would be loyal to her father and her. The keelboats were loaded with the goods to trade for furs: knives of all sizes and shapes; guns and powder; mirrors; steel for making arrowheads; lances; beads; cloth; vermilion dye; tobacco; and more. Then the food provisions for the crew were loaded: beans, salt pork, coffee, and flour.

The Missouri River, a wide, swift torrent of brown was Margaret’s gateway to a new life and a new world. It would take her and her father until autumn to reach the river villages of the Mandan and the area considered the edge of the western fur trade.

Smoke burned her eyes whenever she tried to open them and waken. The nagging pain in her head compelled her sleep to deepen again. But she couldn’t stop the images in her head. She dreamed the journey’s beginnings.

Margaret saw herself becoming comfortable with the outdoor life. The strange foods settled easier in her stomach. She could see that her body grew stronger with each passing day on the river. She was no longer exhausted when evening came. Now she appreciated the beauty of the night sky, rich with stars that seemed bigger and brighter with each passing night. The sounds of the woods along the river (croaking frogs, hooting owls, singing crickets) rang in her ears as she gazed into the flickering campfire. Still, it would take months to gain the strength and knowledge she would need to survive in this land.

Several weeks out of St. Louis she had finally learned to welcome the surge of the keelboat through the river current and to sleep on shore in a bed of buffalo robes. The smoky fires of a riverbank camp and the aroma of roasting venison or wild turkey replaced the fine linen and imported china of her eastern home. The wide sky invigorated her soul. She had never been happier.

Out of nowhere came a dream of her eighteenth birthday. As the dream engulfed her, tears rushed in torrents down her face, soaking into the buffalo robe. She thought she felt fingers brushing away the tears.

Happy birthday, Margaret, her father said.

The shape of the package he presented was long and thin. Could it be a gun?

If this is a rifle, Margaret said, I can’t believe it. You always said women don’t need weapons.

You’re right, if we were still back East. Out here, however, women need to hunt and protect themselves. Do you like it?

By this time, Margaret had torn off the rest of the paper. She found it difficult to keep from bouncing like a child in excitement.

It’s a Lancaster, her father explained. "I think probably the only one of its kind. I thought about buying you a Hawkens in St. Louis, but they only make heavy rifles that fire heavy balls. When I talked with Mr. Lancaster, he said a smaller caliber was more accurate, and with just a bit more powder, gave as much power

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