For two days, C.J. sprawled on the juniper boughs. Someone put a cover over his shoulders and back. It was Skewy’s saddle blanket. C.J. snuggled into the warmth and familiar horsey smell and slept.
A woman who constantly scratched in her tangled gray hair brought C.J. his daily concoction of medicine. It tasted like a skunk smelled, but she kept pushing it at him until he drank it all.
On the third day, he sat up and surveyed the camp. He was off to one side, away from the loose cluster of wickiups, but could see five dwellings.
An old man squatted in front of one of the domed-brush shelters. Immobile as a statue, arms folded across his knees, he stared at C.J.
A naked child followed a woman as she hefted a pot under her arm, balanced it on her hip, and walked away.
Up the path came the medicine woman C.J. thought of as Lice Head carrying the gourd cup. She knelt and extended the drink.
C.J.’s stomach recoiled at the stench, and he waved it away.
She drew a knife from her belt and held it point up between them.
C.J. took stock of his situation. He didn’t seem to have a fever, his cough was gone, and he had no body aches. He took a deep breath and accepted the brew.
Tally System or Ritual
As he drank, Lice Head held the knife over her forearm.
C.J. saw fresh cuts on the old woman, and she was about to add another. He grabbed her wrist. “Hold on. That’s no way to keep track of doses. Can’t you pick up pebbles or something?”
Lice Head was surprisingly strong. C.J. put down the cup and managed to take away her knife. “I’m grateful, I really am, but I can’t let you cut yourself up for me.”
She got to her feet, muttering in Apache and left.
C.J. put her knife aside and hoped he hadn’t committed a blunder that insulted his hosts.
Up and About
C.J. visited the bushes behind his lean-to and walked around stretching his legs. His sickness was gone leaving him slightly weak and hungry. It was time for him to leave, but he had to come to terms with Lice Head for her care.
He strolled to the group of wickiups and saw Skewy in an ocotillo corral behind one of the brush houses and headed in that direction.
Lice Head, bent over to accommodate the low clearance, emerged from the doorway. An Apache woman about C.J.’s age followed.
Unlike Lice Head, the young woman had combed, shoulder-length hair held with a headband. Black as a raven’s wing, bright silver flashes sparkled from her silky waterfall when she turned her head. Her legs were exposed under a short buckskin dress causing a hitch in C.J.’s breath and a thumping in his chest.
Thank You, But …
“Look,” C.J. said. “I’m all better, and I’m ready to go. If you tell me what I can pay you for tending to my horse and me, I’ll try to fetch it or work for it.”
The black-haired maiden muttered to the older woman.
Here’s The Bill
Lice Head spoke, Black Hair translated. “My grandmother wants you to take me to Cibecue.”
Why go to Cibecue? Leave a comment now.
Five years before C.J. stayed in the lean-to, there was a fight at Cibecue between Apaches and U.S. soldiers from Fort Apache. Read the article here.
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