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Chapter 9: Caught!

Chapter 9: Caught!

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Published by Gordon Clark

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Published by: Gordon Clark on Jan 17, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The savage caught me as I squatted at the water’s edge, my hands just about to splashwater on my face. I did not see him there.In one swift motion, he grabbed me by the back of my jacket and yanked me cleanupright and off the ground. One moment I’m looking at the water; the next moment I’m lookingdirectly into the face of a wild Indian.Even today I can remember so clearly every feature of this heathen’s face, and heterrified me. He held me at arm’s length without saying or doing anything. We stared at eachother for what seemed like forever. Then slowly he lowered me back to a standing position,without once letting go.I could feel my legs buckle, but he did not let go and I did not fall.I realized with horror that this was the same brave who was tracking me the day before,the same one I had seen trading at the stockade. When seen this close, his eyes just inches frommine, this Indian seemed even bigger than I first thought. His face was strong, fierce, almostexplosive. He looked at me as if he was looking through me, or into my soul. A chill flashed upand down my back. And then . . .And then, for just an instant, I thought I saw a look of curiosity across that fierce face. Aquestion, perhaps.Two other Indians came up, the same two I had seen earlier. None spoke. They justlooked at me for the longest time. I was sure they meant to kill me on the spot.One of them reached forward and poked at me a little, like one might stab a piece of meatto see if it was cooked enough. He handled the buttons on my rough jacket, looked at my shabbyleggings, my tattered boots, my father’s hat. He saw my knife still strapped to my waist and withone clean jerk ripped it off me and gave it to the first brave.With a few guttural sounds, the first brave nodded toward the woods. One of the other Indians disappeared, and then returned a few minutes later with a length of vine, the same as Ihad used to lash together my raft. This the first brave tied around my waist like a lead for a dogor a horse, while he held the other end.Without a word and without looking back at me, the savage led the way into the forest.He set a fast pace. I stumbled along a few feet behind him, pulled by the lead yet tripping over logs and fumbling with branches in my face. He never relaxed his hold on the leash, nor did heslow down. Eventually I picked up a rhythm to his running and managed to keep from falling.The other two ran behind, watching closely.
I had no idea where we were going, but I was sure it was no good. I had heard manystories of Indians in battle, how they scalped their victims, or burned them at the stake. I evenheard whispers that some Indians ate their prisoners. I wondered which of these fates would bemine.We ran on, rarely stopping. These Indians seemed to know exactly where they weregoing, ‘tho I could see no trail. At times we paused for water; once we stopped for some moldy biscuits that one of the pagans pulled from a small knapsack affair I had not even seen. Andalways it was in silence. They wasted little effort talking to each other. Toward sundown the leadIndian slowed the pace somewhat, apparently looking for something. Quickly he found what hewas looking for, a small, shallow cave in a hillside, nearly hidden by a low copse of elm trees.We ducked in. Roughly he pushed me to the back of the indentation while the three of them satat the entrance, looking out toward the forest. He still had the leash around my waist. It wasremarkably warm in there, and the day’s pace had tired me out.I sat with my arms around my legs, chin on my knees, looking at the backs of these threewild men. They were talking quietly among themselves, with long pauses from one to the next. Iimagined they were deciding how to kill me. If so, the prospect must have amused them, for every now and again they would all chuckle. Never once did they look back at me.But I watched them, or at least their backs. I had no doubt these three were ferocious andcruel when excited in savage battle. In the dying sunset I studied their tattoos and dress. Idecided I would call the fearsome one “Tall Feathers”, because he was tall and he wore threeeagle feathers stuck into his one remaining lock of hair on the back of his head. Eventually Icurled up in a ball and pretended to sleep. Whether they were intended to kill me this night or wait until the morrow I could not know. I only knew I must be watchful for a chance to escape.That chance never came. Nobody held my lead through the night, but it did not matter, asI could not have crawled past them without waking them up. Eventually I drifted off to sleep, myfingers clutched around my Hannah doll, ‘tho they continued to sit upright at the mouth of thesmall cave.In the morning I awoke with a start when I felt a sharp tug on the lead still wrappedaround my waist. The Indians were stirring. Two moved away from the cave a short distance,and soon returned with an abundance of hickory nuts and roots or herbs. These they piled at themouth of the cave and began to eat. Tall Feathers said something to me in his native speech,which of course I did not understand. But he made motions for me to eat with my hands, which Iunderstood well enough, as I was sorely hungry. I crawled up to the food pile and began to helpmyself to nuts and roots, of which I knew little. One root had an especially bitter taste, and Iswallowed it quickly. At this I must have made a peculiar face, as the savages all laughed. TallFeathers took one of the same roots, put it into his mouth, and began to chew, and chew, for thelongest time until he spit out the remains. He indicated I should do the same. In this way Idiscovered the root had a certain taste not unlike anise, but one had to chew it thoroughly torelease that flavor.Today I believe an Indian could flourish in these woods with only a knife and tomahawk,and would fatten where a wolf would starve. On that day so long ago, I saw no real food and noway to stave off real hunger.
 Now I shall tell you a discovery that may seem rude to you, but you may forgive mychildish curiosity. When we finished eating, one brave stuffed the remaining food into his littleknapsack. Then he stood, walked a short distance from the cave, and squatted down. I watchedhim, and was surprised to see that he was urinating. It seems that the White man’s practice of standing to urinate is not universal; at least among these uncivilized Indians, all men squat. As Ialso had to urinate, I made a sign to Tall Feathers, who released the lead. I removed myself fromthe cave a distance, turned my back to the men, and peed standing up. As I turned around andreturned to the group, they all were watching me with some curiosity.Soon enough Tall Feathers picked up my lead and the four of us started off once more, atthe same fast pace as the day before.In fact, this day was much the same as the one before. The Indians seemed to know or sense a trail where I could see none. I could tell from the angle of the rising sun that we weremoving away from the river, in a northwesterly direction, but I knew not what might lie ahead.All day we rushed along, stopping at small stream crossings to scoop up fresh water, and twicestopping for nuts and bread from the knapsack. Little was said among the braves as we moved,and in this way I could observe them closely while still working to keep my balance and to keepthe stray branches from slapping my face. I noticed that ‘tho Tall Feathers seemed to knowwhere he was going, all the time he kept moving his head from side to side, watching. Was hewatching to see if we were being followed, or was he looking for others from his tribe? I was stillsure of my imminent death, but in a strange way I was grateful I was with them, for they provided a certain comfort in this strange, rough country.We traveled thus for three more days, these beastly savages always on the alert, alwaysmoving quickly, and me always tied about my waist. Now on the fifth night, we made campmuch as before, but this time in a huge hollowed tree with a hole on one side where we couldenter. All four of us could easily stand upright inside the trunk, and it was closed to the elementsabove, providing a nice shelter. As before, roots and nuts were gathered, though this time we hadthe added feast of a groundhog. Tall Feathers shot it during the day and roasted it over a smallfire in front of the hollow tree, over a fire he started with a flint. The groundhog, being small(about the size of a beaver), gave us a taste of warm meat, but the Indians seemed pleased,almost jolly. They talked and laughed into the night, in a manner of a small celebration.I wondered whether they were celebrating how they might kill me.Early the next morning I awakened just at sunrise. ‘Tho I still wore a shirt and heavy jacket, I shivered in the early morning chill. The two braves wore rough buckskin jackets, butTall Feathers, lacking shirt or jacket, seemed more comfortable than any of us in the cold. Againthe heathen seemed happier than I had yet seen them. There was much talking amongst themnow as we ate and prepared to move on. I was never made a part of the discussion, even if Icould have understood them, and this deepened my apprehension. It seemed they were preparingfor some grievous big thing today, which caused me great worry.We again started walking, but this time the pace was considerably slower, more of anormal walk. And the Indians seemed less watchful, less cautious today.We had walked but a few hours when Tall Feathers stopped and gave out a loud bird call.The call was familiar to me, ‘tho I did not know the type of bird. At once his call was answered by another from a nearby ridge. We turned, and I saw an Indian running down the hill, followed

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