A Native American Indian girl on a Greyhound bus across the States.

A Native American Indian girl on a Greyhound bus across the States.

 

In 1971 I was on a greyhound bus with my girlfriend, now my wife. We’d spent three months in the States working in Boston and then hitch-hiking and bussing our way around. We’d been up to Canada, down to Mexico and across to San Francisco, the redwoods, San Diego and Los Angeles with a memorable night under the stars at Big Sur where the mountain lions howled.

There were numerous incidents and tales that came out of that trip, tales of cars, crashes and near death, friends, camping and music. But now it was nearing its end.

We were heading back from the West Coast to the East in order to get a plane back to Britain.

On that long bus ride I got talking to a young woman. She was a Native American Indian who had been across to visit her grandfather on the West Coast and was now returning home to the East Coast.

She told me her tale.

Her grandfather had contacted her and asked her to come and visit as he was dieing. When she got there she found him hale and hearty and full of life. He lived in a log cabin he had built himself. It was set into a ridge. He had carved it into the ridge and used logs to timber up the front. It fitted into the landscape.

She asked why he had summoned her. He told her that he would soon be gone and he wanted to share his life with her and for her to help him say goodbye.

Together they rode round all the places he had lived and visited. At each place he sat and reminisced about his life and said goodbye. For three weeks they had travelled round. When they returned to his cabin he dug up a number of artifacts buried in the floor of his home. They were ancient artifacts that had been passed down through generations. He was now passing them on to her.

She would not show me most of them. She told me they were too sacred. But she did show me one thing. She unwrapped it from a leather bag sealed with a thong. It was a large rounded rock about ten inches across. Around it there was a well worn groove. It looked old but I could not tell what it was. She explained that it was a traditional weapon for killing buffalo. The hunter would ride alongside the buffalo twirling this heavy implement around and then bring it down on the buffalos head. The stunned beast would drop. He would leap off his horse and cut its throat with a knife before it could recover.

As I held that rock in my hand I could imagine the skill and bravery. To ride flat out, bareback, hanging on to a horse at full gallop with hand on mane and knees as it careered in the midst of a buffalo herd, where any slip meant death by trampling. To guide that horse and twirl that heavy rock at the same time and bring it down with precision; to spring down and kill a huge animal in the midst of a stampeding herd. That was skill and bravery.

I could see it in my head.

I have never seen or heard of such a device yet I held one in my hands and saw it being used in my mind.

 

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In the USA in both paperback and digital:

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