Where Did They Come From
Apaches materialized in front of Esther May. One moment only creosote bushes were across the stream. The next second, Indians stood among the skimpy, long-branched plants.
How could she miss seeing the intruders when they wore sunny, white cotton pants and shirts? They should have caught her eye like reflecting mirrors.
Esther May dropped her biscuits and spun for the wagon. “My rifle!”
“No! Wait,” Abuela said. “They will talk.”
Esther May stopped.
Alejandro gulped and swallowed. “How do you know?”
“Because we’re still alive. I will speak with them.”
Esther May gritted her teeth. She had flirted with danger. Alejandro told her this was Apache land, and here they were. She took a deep breath and focused on the situation.
Over two dozen Indians were visible; behind the men were women and children. The tension left Esther May’s shoulders. This wouldn’t be a war party.
Abuela stepped to the stream and waited.
Two men, one with gray streaks in his hair and a scowl on his bronze face, left the brush and came forward. They were no taller than Esther May, but they projected a sinewy power.
Their high cheekbones, round chests, and slightly bowlegged strides befitted men of this harsh country. They moved lightly across the rocks of the canyon floor.
The older man carried a staff but didn’t seem to need it.
A Better Look
They wore knee-high moccasins and necklaces of shells and beads. The younger man had a wide headband around his shoulder-length hair. Most of the warrior-aged men were dressed similarly.
The women, with few exceptions, wore their long hair loose and free-flowing.
At a closer glance, their clothes weren’t bright white. Dust and dirt helped blend the cotton garments into the background.
The gray-haired man at the water asked Abuela, “Are you Dinèé?”
Esther May understood the Apache words. The sound was slightly different than what Abuela taught her, but the language was the same.
Abuela said, “I am Mimbreño from where the Gila River is a baby. What People are you, Tsúyé?”
Esther May grinned. Abuela was quite a diplomat. Her use of the name for a maternal grandfather for the older man was a mark of respect.
Don’t Speak Among Elders
The younger man puffed out his chest. “We are the Black Rock People.”
A quick, “PAH!” and brief slice of his hand, and Tsúyé silenced the young man.
Is This An Ambush
Abuela waited while Tsúyé eyed the camp and the grazing cattle. He turned his sight to the cliffs behind the wagons. “Where are the others?”
“You see them. The white woman and the Mexican.”
“Just you? You brought the cattle here?”
“We wish to go to Camp Grant. Will you let us travel your land?”
The Apache didn’t reply, his face wrinkled in a scowl.
Abuela said, “We pay. Take two beeves.”
Tsúyé snorted. “We could take them all.”
“Perhaps,” Abuela said. “But not all Black Rock People would live to eat them.”
“So, you lied like a white woman. There are others hidden, watching us.”
“No. But that is Riding Woman standing by the wagon.” Abuela straightened her spine. “She has so little fear, she is unarmed. But she would still kill most of your young men before you can cross the stream.”
I Don’t Believe It
Tsúyé jabbed his staff into the ground. “Save your chĭdn stories for the children.”
“You think it’s a ghost story to scare you,” Abuela said, “but she killed my son and many other Mimbreños. Ignore her with your life.”
Tsúyé’s square face was unreadable, but his eyes scanned Abuela then Esther May. A long moment later, he turned to his now wide-eyed companion and waved a hand toward the cattle. “Get three.”
Abuela didn’t protest. Esther May understood that Tsúyé had to make some kind of defiant counter move.
As the young Apache waved to a friend to come help round up the three head, Abuela said, “Please come, Tsúyé. The Mexican will prepare breakfast for you.”
Tsúyé crossed the stream with a snort. “Mexicans! PAH! They’re enemies of the People.”
Esther May hid a grin behind her hand. Abuela had kept them safe. “Another breakfast, please, Alejandro,” she said, “and serve it with smiles.”
Her optimism faded when she noticed the young warrior pointing at her while talking with several grim-faced men.
Did they take Abuela’s description as a challenge?
Is Esther May in trouble? Leave your thoughts here now.
(Do you see the face to the left of the waterfall?)
Here is an article encapsulating the Chiricahua Apaches dealing with Mexico and America. It could be a tale of almost all Apache bands.
To read the series, click here for the first post. This will be Tales Old Roy Told. Tap the down arrow in the Archive box to open the list. After Tales Old Roy Told, work upward.
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