In The Jailhouse
Esther May stepped forward to be the first to enter the stockade, but Major Winslow pulled her back.
“Usually it’s women first,” he said, “but this time we’ll enter by rank.”
He, Esther May, C.J. and the private on guard duty entered the one-room jail.
Three Apache men as old as Tsúyé, the chief of The Black Rock People, were inside. Two of them sprang to their feet. The third sat cross-legged and hugged his arm to his side.
Esther May knelt in front of the man on the dirt floor. His entire right shoulder was stained with dried blood. Beads of sweat formed on his brow highlighting an ashen face. His posture wavered as he rocked back and forth.
She spoke in his language. [We’ll help you, Grandfather.]
His words were soft and steady, countering the deep pain in his eyes. [Thank you, Daughter.]
Esther May touched the old man’s cheek with her fingertips as she spoke to the major. “We need a doctor.”
“Get Doc Kingman over here, private.”
At the Major’s order, the private was off and running again. The Arizona mid-morning heat and his woolen uniform didn’t slow him down.
Esther May stood but kept her eyes downcast in respect for an elder. She spoke to the nearest Apache. [I am Riding Woman. Why are you in the soldier jail?]
[A soldier shot Singer and made us come here.]
The answer was what Esther May had come to expect as typical from an Apache. The direct response to a question without embellishment.
[Please tell me what you were doing before you met the soldier and what happened to bring you here.]
“What’s he saying?” C.J. asked.
Esther May shushed him with a wave. To the Indian, she said, [Please talk on.]
[Singer and Gray Head and me—I am Bent Hands—were hunting javelina at the river. We saw a blue-pants passed out under a tree, and there was a whiskey bottle beside him. Singer went to see if there was any whiskey left. He was looking at the bottle when another soldier came around a bush and shot him. The soldier made us come here.]
Gray Head nodded. [Bent Hands tells it true.]
Not A Hostile Encounter
Esther May related the story to Major Winslow who asked, “Were the Apaches armed?”
[Did you have guns?] Esther May repeated the question.
[No guns. Bows and arrows. The soldier made us leave them at the river.]
Doctor Kingman arrived and cut the shirt off Singer’s wound. The doctor applied a liberal amount of alcohol to a cotton ball and rubbed it over the injury causing the old Indian to gasp.
Esther May looked away and related the answer.
“Ask him if the soldiers were officers,” said a young voice. “Daddy says only officers get whiskey.”
Esther May spun around. “Sally! You’ve gone too far. This is no place for you, and you know it.”
Sally lifted her shoulders and spread her arms. “But see? No one is dangerous, and I’m not in the way.”
“C.J., take her outside.” Esther May waved toward the door.
“I’m not leaving,” C.J. said.
Glued To C.J.
“I’ll stand by the cowboy and keep quiet.” Sally wrapped an arm around C.J.’s leg. He tried to push her away.
Esther May had to stifle a giggle as Sally hung on like a cocklebur.
“Hmm. She has a good question,” Winslow said. “Ask—what did you say his name is, Bent Hands?”
[Did the drunk soldier have stripes on his sleeves or little metal bars on his shoulders?]
“He says, ‘No,’ Major. I also asked him if it was an NCO, and he said it wasn’t.”
Major Winslow rubbed his chin. “Where would a private get whiskey? They’re usually stuck with beer.”
“I know,” Sally said.
What will Sally have to say? Don’t forget to leave your comments below.
Alcohol and the military. Read an article about their long relationship.
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