With the Indians in the Rockies
James Willard Schultz
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Thomas and his friend Pitamakan, a Blackfoot boy, live at Fort Benton on the western frontier. One day, having ventured into the mountains to trap beaver, Tom and Pitamakan are attacked by a band of Kootenay Indians, who spare their lives, but make off with everything they have. The boys are stranded without horses, with no food or weapons, without shelter or any means of building a fire.
Tom is sure they're going to die. But Pitamakan teaches him how to survive in the wilderness according to the old ways, and together the boys struggle to build shelter, fashion handmade weapons, and hunt for food and clothing. Still, months of harsh winter weather lie ahead and there is danger everywhere. Will the boys ever see their families again?
Brave, honest old Ah-ta-to-yi (The Fox), as the Blackfeet and frontiers-men loved to call him! We buried him on a high bluff overlooking the valley of the Two Medicine River, and close up to the foothills of the Rockies, the "backbone-of-the-world" that he loved so well. After we had filled in the grave and the others had gone, Pitamakan and I sat by the new-made mound until the setting sun and the increasing cold warned us also to descend into the valley. The old chief was crying as we mounted our horses.
He spoke just in time, for I was on the point of springing up and running for the timber. The game—they were mule-deer, which are not fleet runners, like the white-tail—came bouncing awkwardly toward us, while the Indians gained on them perceptibly. Never before had I felt that I was a giant; but as I sat there in the short grass of the open prairie, I felt as if my body was actually towering into the sky. I instinctively tried to make myself of smaller size. All my muscles quivered and contracted so tensely that the feeling was painful.
The next task was to get the poles for the sides. These we made of the proper length by first denting them with sharp-edged stones and then snapping them off. They were slanted all round against the four sides, except for a narrow space in the south side, which we left for a doorway. Next we thatched the roof and sides with a thick layer of balsam boughs, on top of which we laid a covering of earth nearly a foot deep. This earth we shoveled into an elk hide with elk shoulder blades, and then carried each load to its proper place.
The men who surrounded us were tall and powerfully built. For what seemed to me an endless time, they sat silently staring, and noting every detail of our outfit. There was something ominous in their behavior; there came to me an almost uncontrollable impulse to make a move of some kind. It was their leader who broke the suspense. "In-is-saht! " (Dismount! ) he commanded, in Blackfoot, and we reluctantly obeyed. At that they all got off their horses, and then at word from the chief, each crowding and pushing to be first, they stripped us of everything we had.
Sum-is! " Pitamakan cried, pointing away south to the place of the deer chase. "I-kit-si-kum! Sap-un-is-tsim! " (Seven! The whole number! ) I exclaimed. The horses of the enemy were picketed out there and quietly grazing, but not one of the hunters was to be seen. It seemed too good to be true. We stood still for some time, while we searched the prairie and the mountain-side for sign of the enemy. "They seem all to have taken our trail," said Pitamakan, at last, "and maybe that is the way of it. If one has remained to watch the horses, he must be lying in that little pine grove near them.