“Settlers from the east, father. When will they stop?”
Chief Yonaguska looked down at the boy. “Never, my son, but if we are respectful of each other’s ways, there will be no trouble.” Father and son sat atop their horses, staring down at the wagon train.
Wagon master Patrick Hall spied the Cherokees and whistled a Celtic melody, their established warning signal. The women and children took cover in the wagons while the men remained on their horses – one hand on the reins, the other fingering a shotgun.
Cautiously, Yonaguska raised his arm in a sign of peace. Patrick did the same. Slowly Yonaguska and his son turned their horses around and returned to their tribe.
“We’ll be gettin’ no trouble from those Cherokees” declared Patrick.
“They’re all savages!” argued Donal Byrne “Ya shoulda just shot ‘em!”
“I’ll not hear another remark like that again, Donal!“ replied Patrick angrily. “This is a good spot to camp for a few days. We’ll give the horses a rest and do some huntin’ and fishing’.”
When Patrick and a few men left, Donal and the others stayed behind to protection the women-folk and work on the wagons. The women baked bread while the younger children napped. Some older girls went to gather fruit and berries to make preserves. They were given orders to remain together and not go far but as young giggly girls are often wont to do, they didn’t pay attention and wandered off.
Anxious about the girl’s tardiness, Donal and some of the men went looking for them. They became aware of faint screams in the distance. The men searched but couldn’t find the girls. Then they noticed discarded baskets, remnants of cloth and blood. Gathering the items, the men found their way back to camp just as Patrick and the hunting crew returned.
Donal raced toward Patrick bellowing “See! I was right! Ya shoulda killed those savages when ya had the chance. Now they’ve taken our girls and God knows what they’ve done to them! I say we go get our girls back, even if we have to kill all them stinkin’ bastards!”
Just then Yonaguska and several braves appeared on the hilltop, the chief sitting imperially on his stallion. As they cautiously made their way down the hill, the settlers could see each brave carried a girl on his horse. Some of the girls were bleeding, their clothes rent.
“Ya blasted barbarians! What have ya done to our girls?!” shouted Donal and he aimed his gun at Yonaguska.
“Donal! Drop it or by God I’ll shoot ya where ya stand!” threatened Patrick. Begrudgingly, Donal lowered his gun. “Now, Donal, take a look behind the chief’s horse.”
Only then did everyone notice a giant dead grizzly bear. The girls explained how the bear had attacked them and the braves came to their rescue. The braves gently lowered the girls to the ground and they ran to their parents.
With raised hand, Patrick stepped forward. “We have nothing to offer ya but our thanks and friendship for protecting our girls.”
Yonaguska replied “Your girls were in peril. It is fortunate my braves were there to help. All we want is peace between us.”
Then with a slight tug on his stallion’s rein, the Cherokee chief withdrew. He and his braves silently disappearing over the hill.
When cooler heads prevail, there will be no trouble.
NAR © 2019