Dancing Moon (by Tessa)

Summary:  Adam encounters the survivors of a massacre.
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  12,105


 

Disclaimer: The Washoe Indians were peaceful people who did not go to war like the Shoshones and Paiutes. Like Ben Cartwright, they used the land as a resource to survive and did not abuse it. The Indian names and suggested rituals are not necessarily a part of the Washoe Indian culture.

*****

 

The first time he saw them, he fell in love with them. He was young then. But that didn’t matter. From his father’s stories of hope and dreams of a life in the west, his mind drew a picture of what this new land would look like. The first time he saw them, he fell in love with them. They were just like that picture he drew in his mind. As Adam grew older, he never thought that there might be a day he would hate these mountains. But today was a good day to feel that way about them.

Adam sat on a rock and took his boots off. He was exhausted. His feet were hot and tired. Adam had dismounted Sport and walked along side him to navigate some of the terrain a little easier. He looked around at his surroundings and thought that when a man stands and scans the mountains from a distance, the beauty can be overwhelming. But the beauty can hide the, sometimes, ruggedness that can make a trip over them dangerous and treacherous. He would just rest long enough to let his feet cool. Then he could continue his journey towards home. He looked at Sport, whose liveliness wasn’t present as it is when they are on the Ponderosa. Sport swung his head around and eyed Adam as if he might ask to be carried. Adam had made several long trips on Sport, but this one was the most taxing on both of them.

They traveled a few more hours and then approached a small rise on the west side of the Sierras. Adam saw faint smoke rising and smelt the odor of burning wood. He had to ride through a grove of trees, but when he entered a clearing, he saw a disturbing sight. A wagon had been set on fire and now smoldered. Nearby were five small Indian children. He saw two girls, two boys, and a baby. Two of the small ones were crying. The others appeared dazed.

Adam dismounted Sport and walked around to survey the site. The children didn’t move, but watched him closely. The situation they were in now had been created by the last white men they encountered. They didn’t know if this white man had some similar intentions.

Adam found adults in Indian dress sprawled on the ground. One man had been mutilated around his head. Two women appeared to have tried to huddle together before their lives were taken. Despite the appearance of their bodies, he put his fingers on their necks where a pulse would beat if there were any life left in them. He felt nothing and found them cold to the touch. They were all dead.

He walked over to the smallest boy who sat by one of the dead women away from the other children. Adam figured the woman was his mother. He picked up the crying child, who was about 17 months old. and gently hugged him trying to comfort the boy. Then he walked towards the other children.

Two of the children were older boys. Adam guessed them to be about 9 and 7 years old. He smiled and asked the oldest looking one. “Do you speak any English?”

The boy’s voice shook a little, but he answered, “Yes. I learned to speak English when I was very young.”

“What’s your name?” Adam asked.

“It is Two Wolves.” The boy watched Adam closely. Two Wolves had heard many stories during his young life about the cruelness of the white man towards the Indian people. Yesterday, he witnessed this cruelness, first hand. This white man seemed to be nice, but was he? Two Wolves wasn’t sure, but inquired as to Adam’s intentions. “Are you going to kill us?”

“No, Two Wolves. I’m not going to hurt you at all.” Adam tried to assure him in a soft, sincere voice.

Two Wolves asked the strange man in black. “Who are you? Why are you here?”

“I’m Adam Cartwright. I live on the Nevada side of the Sierras with my father and two brothers. I’m on my way home to them now.” Adam smiled at the boy to try and ease any fear of the white man he may have.

“If you are going to steal from us, there is nothing left to take,” Two Wolves said. In spite of Adam’s smile, he remained stoic. His voice did not quiver any longer. “We have nothing to give you.” Two Wolves tried not to show his fear on the outside. But after what Two Wolves witnessed, any Indian must always be afraid of the white man.

Adam responded in a warm voice, “I’m not going to steal from you. I’d like to try and help you.” Adam reached out and touched Two Wolves’ shoulder. Adam’s tiredness seemed to have diminished since meeting the children. Now, his desire to get home wasn’t his priority. His father taught him responsibility beyond the family, and Adam would embrace this responsibility for the sake of the children, who needed him.

“If this is not a trick, we could use some food,” Two Wolves advised. With the adults gone, he was now the leader of what remained of the group from his tribe.

“I don’t have a lot of food left, but I’m happy to share what I have.” Adam smiled trying again to gain the boy’s confidence. Adam set the baby down. “And who is this little fellow?”

“He is Laughing Eyes. He doesn’t always cry, but that’s his mother. I think he thinks she’s asleep. I know he is hungry. When he couldn’t wake her up, he started crying,” Two Wolves said. Each time he spoke, he gained confidence that this man was not here to hurt them.

Adam was quite impressed with Two Wolves. He sounded very intelligent when he spoke. He had a good command of the English language. Adam admired the way Two Wolves accepted his responsibility for the others. It brought back some pleasant memories for Adam when he had to accept the responsibility of helping his father with Hoss and Joe. Some of those times were tough, but overall, the experience left him with solid values of taking responsibility for someone else.

Two Wolves volunteered to introduce the other children to Adam. He pointed to the next oldest boy. “This is my brother, Kineo. It means high bluff.” He then pointed to the 6 year old girls, who were obviously twins. “These are my cousins. She is Morningstar and she is Goldenstar. We are Washoe Indians. We are proud of who we are.”

That comment caused Adam to smile big. “You should be proud. The Washoe people are good people. Your people believe in taking good care of the land. You are peaceful people.” Adam’s look then turned curious as one eyebrow arched. “Two Wolves, where is your tribe? Why are you here and not with them?” He knew the Washoes were usually down in the Valley by now and not so high up in the mountains.

Two Wolves answered, “We were going to our winter home in the valley. My cousins and Laughing Eyes got sick. So my uncle, aunt, and Laughing Eyes’ mother decided to stay with us until we could join our tribe in the valley.”

“Were you sick, too?” Adam asked Two Wolves.

“No, my brother and I were old enough to help the adults, so we stayed with them. When the white men came, they fought with my uncle before they killed him, my aunt, and Laughing Eyes’ mother. They burned our wagon and took our supplies,” Two Wolves explained with sadness in his voice. “I asked them to leave us something, but they did not.”

“You’ve been here a little while by yourselves?” Adam asked in a consoling voice. His eyes scanned the other children before turning his attention back to Two Wolves.

“We were all going to leave yesterday, in the afternoon. That’s when it happened.” Two Wolves voice died off during the last part of his sentence.

“No one is going to hurt you now,” Adam promised. “When did you eat last?” Adam was concerned about their hunger.

“I killed a squirrel last night for us to eat. Except for Laughing Eyes. He’s too little and had a hard time chewing the meat. He tried to suck on some of the meat. But we mostly gave him the water we had left,” Two Wolves said in a worried voice.

“Water doesn’t fill the stomach for long. It’s good that you know how to hunt for some food. It’s a valuable skill,” Adam said, trying to compliment Two Wolves.

Two Wolves put a little smile on his brave face. “I’m a good hunter, mister.”

Adam smiled back. “I don’t doubt you are a good hunter, Two Wolves.” Adam looked around the area and then turned back to the boy. “I can’t leave you here. I’m going to have to take you to your people.”

Two Wolves asked, “Will you kill the white men that killed our people if we find them?”

“Killing is wrong, Two Wolves, no matter who does it. Especially, revenge. If we find them, they will be turned over to the law.” Adam delivered this message in a very serious tone so Two Wolves would know how wrong this kind of thinking was.

“White man’s law, huh?” Two Wolves asked.

“Yes, Two Wolves, to the white man’s lawman. There are many white men that are good and want justice. Many would be very unhappy to know what happened to you and your people. If these men are found, then this would be the right thing to do,” Adam reassured him.

Adam walked over to Sport. He took out what little food he had left. He had some beans that would be soft enough for Laughing Eyes to eat, especially if he mashed them up. Adam gave each child some beans and a piece of cold biscuit. Laughing Eyes hungrily ate some mashed beans from Adam’s fingers. Adam gave all the children some water from his canteen.

“Why didn’t they kill us, Mr. Adam?” Kineo asked and looked confused.

“I don’t know, Kineo. But I’m glad they didn’t.” Adam smiled, then he spoke to Two Wolves. “Well, let’s see. There are six of us with only one horse. How about you, Kineo, and me walk? The three little ones can ride.”

“Oh yes, Mr. Adam. We are brave men.” Two Wolves fisted his hand and lightly beat on his chest. When Kineo saw what his brother did, he did the same with his fist. “Let women and babies ride.” Two Wolves tried to sound mature, but it was a little overdone.

“Oh, and just call me Adam.” Adam chuckled a little. He knew Two Wolves was trying to act more mature and show that he could handle the situation in an adult way.

“Yeah! Adam,” Kineo said.

Two Wolves corrected him, “No, Kineo. Mr. Adam is a white man, but we must show respect. He is our elder.”

Kineo looked at his brother in disappointment, but knew he had to do what his brother told him.

Adam’s smile had a little smirk to it. He liked Two Wolves and figured that the boy would be very helpful to him on their journey.

“You say you have brothers? Are your brothers my age?” Two Wolves asked with interest.

“Yes, I have two brothers. Joe’s in his early twenties and Hoss is about six years older,” Adam replied.

“Hoss?” Two Wolves wrinkled his nose with the younger boy doing the same. “What kind of name is that for a white man?”

Adam smiled at Two Wolves’ question. “We just call him that. He was named Eric, but if you saw his size, you’d know why the name Hoss stuck.” Adam wanted to try and keep it simple.

“Hoss. He sounds big. I like the name,” Two Wolves answered.

“Yeah, me too,” Kineo echoed his brother.

“Two Wolves. Watch the children. I’m going to bury the ones that were killed,” Adam told the older boy.

“Bury them? But my people don’t bury the dead like you white people bury your own,” Two Wolves told Adam.

“I know. But in this case, it’s necessary. We have to leave them behind and we don’t want their bodies to be attacked by animals or disrespected by people passing by.” Adam hoped the boy would understand.

“All right, Mr. Adam. I feel we can trust you. I will try to explain to my people,” Two Wolves said and hoped he was right that his people would understand.

Adam found a shovel near the burned wagon and buried the three adults under a tree. He fashioned a cross for each from broken branches. Then Adam took off his hat and stood quietly. He said a prayer that his father taught him when he was young. Anytime Adam had to bury someone along the trail, he would use this prayer. He felt a little sick at the thought that the adults these children loved and trusted were brutally murdered while they watched. The plight of these children flooded Adam with similar memories.

Two Wolves approached Adam. “Mr. Adam. I can see why you buried them, but they should have more than a white man’s prayer. They should be honored by the Spirits of our ancestors.”

“You’re right, Two Wolves. I’ll get the children ready to leave and you honor your people. Can you do that?” Adam said admiring the Indian values Two Wolves seem to know well.

“Yes, I can do that.” Two Wolves began to dance around the graves. He chanted low in Indian dialect. Adam left him alone. Two Wolves was a man in a boy’s body. His father had taught him well.

*****

They traveled for a few hours and finally camped among the trees. Adam fed, watered, and bed Sport down before he helped Two Wolves and Kineo spread blankets out on the ground for the children.

Two Wolves and Adam went into the forest and hunted together. Adam knew how to hunt and kill rabbits for food, but held back to let Two Wolves show his skills. Tomorrow, Adam would be able to go to the mining camp of Coldwater for some supplies. Dinner was scarce with rabbit meat and some wild roots that Kineo found and helped cook. Adam helped Laughing Eyes get some meat into his small stomach.

Adam noticed while they ate that Two Wolves had a good disposition and laughed easy. This seemed to help the other children. Their expressions of fear and sadness were gone and they laughed at Two Wolves who told some short tales in English for Adam and Kineo and then in his native language for the twins.

The children got comfortable on their blankets. They stared into the darkness and waited for sleep to come. The sound of an owl was heard nearby. The distant cry of a coyote occasionally broke the silence. All the signs of sleeping outside were present.

Adam got a book out of his saddlebag to read before he went to sleep. But then Two Wolves had a request. “Mr. Adam, please read the book to us.” Kineo nodded at his brother’s request.

“Well, Two Wolves, I’m not sure this is something you would appreciate. It’s a play by a man named, Shakespeare. Do you know who he is?” Adam didn’t mind reading to anyone, but he didn’t bring anything that children would enjoy.

“No, his name is not familiar to me. But we love to be read to and would listen to you read. It doesn’t matter what the story is about.”

Adam thought for a minute and then got an idea. “How about I don’t read to you, but tell you a story instead?”

The boys both nodded with excitement. They loved stories. The twin girls nodded their heads, although they were just going along with the boys.

“Here’s a story you will enjoy,” Adam started. He sat up with his knees bent and his arms resting on top. “My brother, Hoss, and I went fishing one day. Now, Hoss sometimes likes to fish with a string tied to his toe so he could lay back and nap.

Kineo’s eyes squinted while a confused look was on his face. “Mr. Adam, how can you catch a fish if you’re asleep?”

Adam smiled, “Well, he wouldn’t fall completely asleep. That way when the fish bit and the string pulled on his toe, he would know he caught a fish.”

The boys laughed at the thought. The girls giggled.

Two Wolves says, “Yeah, but would the fish jump up onto the bank and bite his toe?”

Adam’s own laughter was drowned out by the children’s laughter. After what the children had been through, it was good to see them laugh.

“Well, if they did…once they saw the size of my brother, I’m afraid that the fish would jump right back into the water,” Adam continued.

“Do you fish with a string on your toe, Mr. Adam?” Kineo asked. He was interested in Adam’s story.

“No, Kineo, I prefer the traditional fishing pole,” Adam reassured. “Now, I’ve learned that when it comes to fishing and hunting, my brother knows what he is doing. Because the string began to pull on his toe.” Adam hesitated occasionally to create a little mystery to the story. “Hoss sat up and started to bring the fish in. But the fish fought him.” Adam gestured a little struggle.

“How big was the fish?” Kineo asked impatiently, wanting to know the details.

Adam put his hands up and parted them about twenty inches and then looked over at Two Wolves, who didn’t appear to be falling for the size of the fish. Adam winked at Two Wolves and then brought his hands in closer. Two Wolves smiled and winked back. Adam continued, “More like that.”

“Did you cook it?” Kineo asked.

“Not right away, you see, because behind us we heard this big roar from a big bear.” Adam opened his eyes wide to show surprise. The kids did the same thing, except Two Wolves. He was enjoying Adam’s story, but was old enough to know Adam was exaggerating.

Kineo’s eyes were big. He was buying everything Adam said.

Adam continued, “The bear was trying to get the food that my brother, Hoss, tied up in a bag and hung from a branch of a tree.”

“Then what did you do?” Kineo was mesmerized.

“I slowly moved towards the rifle, which was nearby. But Hoss, who’s a real big guy, got up. He eats a lot and loves his food. He didn’t care how big and mean that old bear was. It wasn’t going to get his food.”

“Did he pull out a knife and fight it?” This time it was Two Wolves who asked the question.

“No! Hoss knows that he should look as big to the bear as he could, so he put his arms way up over his head.” Adam put his arms up to show the children what Hoss did. “In a low deep voice, he told the bear to go away. Tried to make the bear think that he was growling.”

The kids began to laugh again. Kineo was back to asking his questions. “Did the bear get scared and run, Mr. Adam?”

“Well, it sure got the bear’s attention, Kineo. He stopped for a moment and looked at Hoss. I would swear that the bear had a confused look on his face and scratched his head trying to figure Hoss out.” Adam waited to see what the reaction would be.

Two Wolves rolled onto his back while he held his sides laughing. He knew Adam was really stretching this story out. But the younger ones looked like they believed every word.

Adam continued, “Then the bear reached up and swiped at the food bag and knocked it down. That made Hoss so mad. When the bear picked the bag up and ran off with it, there was Hoss chasing the bear with the string still tied to his toe and the big fish flopping on the ground behind him.”

“Wow!!!” Kineo reacted.

The girls giggled. They didn’t understand the words, but they could tell by the reaction of the boys it was a funny story and a good one.

“O.K., you night owls.” Adam reached forward and tickled Goldenstar on her tummy. “That’s the end of the story, which means it’s time to sleep.” Adam got up to make sure that they were as comfortable as they could get on this rugged mountain ground. He smiled at the girls and the palm of his hand slid down the side of their heads as he said, “Goodnight!” Laughing Eyes was sound asleep and Adam tucked the blanket better than it was around the small boy. Then he went over to Kineo and Two Wolves.

Kineo looked up and smiled at Adam. “Gee, Mr. Adam, you can tell good stories. Maybe you can tell us another one? About Hoss.”

Adam smiled and helped Kineo get comfortable on the ground. “Yeah, but definitely not tonight, little buddy.”

Two Wolves was already on his blanket and ready for sleep. He yawned, “Thanks, Mr. Adam.”

“For what, Two Wolves?” Adam asked.

“For taking good care of us and helping us. You’re a good white man, Mr. Adam. A real good man.”

“Thanks, Two Wolves, but I’m just a man. A man that has a duty to do and I’m enjoying it. I’m glad we know each other.”

“Yeah, me too.” Two Wolves said and yawned again before closing his eyes.

Adam tipped-toed to his blanket as if he thought the ground would make a noise. His eyes scanned the sleeping children and a warm smile came on his face as he nuzzled down as best he could to get comfortable for the night.

*****

The next morning came with Adam and the boys rising first and then the girls and the baby. Adam watched the others and thought about the day ahead when he saw Morningstar approach him. She tried to tell him something in her Indian language. Adam didn’t understand the little girl. He smiled at her when she pointed to the bushes nearby. He stooped down so he could look her in the face. She spoke again to Adam and he softly rubbed her cheek.

Two wolves approached. He was laughing at Adam’s confused look.

Adam stood up glad to see Two Wolves knowing he could help out. “And what do you find so funny? Is she trying to tell me a joke?” Adam inquired.

“No, she wants to you go with her.” Two Wolves explained without giving too much detail.

“Go where?” Adam asked with a surprised look that made Two Wolves giggle.

“You know, into the woods. She wants you to take her.” Two Wolves thought Adam would understand that.

“Tell her, Two Wolves, that we need to pack and move on. There is no time to play right now or show her the trees.” Adam thought that would settle that.

Two Wolves kept laughing at Adam. “No, Mr. Adam. She doesn’t want to play. She wants you to take her to the woods.”

Adam wasn’t completely thinking. He had been so busy mentally planning the best route down the rugged mountains for the children. “The woods. Why the woods?”

Two Wolves laughed. He enjoyed his friend not knowing what Morningstar wanted. “She wants to go into the woods. Like you and I did early this morning before the others were awake.”

Adam’s eyes got big. Now he knew what she wanted. “Oh! Well, I have to saddle my horse, Two Wolves, so I’ll leave that duty to you. Anyway, you speak her language.”

Adam stood up and took the girl’s hand. He winked at her and gave her hand to Two Wolves. But Morningstar jerked her hand from Two Wolves and put it into Adam’s.

Two Wolves chuckled as if someone had reached over and tickled him. He knew that Morningstar would be persistent. She had already come to like Adam and trusted him to protect her. “She wants you to take her, Mr. Adam.”

Adam looked down at the little girl. Then he bent down to try and bargain with her. “Let Two Wolves take you and I’ll get you some candy when we get to the next town.”

The little girl wrinkled her eyebrows at Adam’s words. She didn’t understand a word he said. She began to cross her little legs.

“I think you better take her now, Mr. Adam, or she won’t wait any longer,” Two Wolves warned.

Adam’s expression was a little perplexed. “I’ll take her while you get everyone else ready to go. Can she…uh…do things herself or will she need help?”

Kineo had joined his brother and the two girls in laughter at Adam. Two Wolves assured Adam. “She knows how to take care of herself. You just need to be her lookout.”

Adam’s face looked relieved and then he looked over at the other children. “Anyone else?” No one responded, so he walked Morningstar towards the bushes.

Once there, he let the little girl walk behind a bush. He turned his back to give her privacy. Adam waited patiently. Then he heard the little girl come out from the bush. He took her hand and walked back to the others.

By the time they returned, Two Wolves had all their gear packed. Adam saddled Sport and put the three on his back. Sport was careful with his lighter passengers. He wasn’t as frisky as he could be when Adam rode him.

The small group moved on with their journey. They traveled slowly. The terrain was rocky. Some holes appeared in the ground where they weren’t expected. Adam had three little people riding on Sport’s back that couldn’t grasp onto the saddle horn like Adam could when riding in such country.

Morningstar and Goldenstar sang a cheerful and charming Indian children’s song. Adam walked along side the horse listening to the girls sing. A couple of times, he hummed the tune.

Two Wolves led the group scouting the horizon like a good brave would do. His brother followed. When the road divided and provided a choice of left or right, the group stopped. Two Wolves looked back at Adam and Adam asked him. “Which way do you think we should go, Two Wolves?”

Two Wolves looked for a moment at each road. He stretched his neck to try and see which would be the best way to travel. Then he looked at Adam while he pointed to the right one. “This way, Mr. Adam. This road heads to the East and is not as rocky. It will take us near the mining town of Coldwater.”

Adam grinned big with his approval. He knew the correct way to go, but wanted to see if Two Wolves could tell the difference between the roads and what might lie ahead. “Good choice, Two Wolves. You have a keen eye for traveling.”

Adam and the kids then continued on. They stopped a couple of times to rest Sport and give the kids some water. The lower elevations of the mountains began to offer more comfortable temperatures. When they were only a couple of miles from Coldwater, Adam left the children in a safe place with Two Wolves in charge and he rode Sport into the camp to get some supplies.

The first thing he did was to get a supply horse to carry the things they needed for the rest of the trip. It wouldn’t be fair to Sport if he had to carry three children, Adam’s gear, the saddle, the rifle, and supplies, too.

Adam headed to the general store. He wanted some supplies that would let them eat good meals. He stepped into the large tent where he saw a burly man that looked more like he should be in the logging business, instead of running a store.

“Howdy, mister!” The man greeted Adam. His small eyes peered out from under bushy eyebrows. His mustache almost covered his mouth. When he smiled, he looked friendly. When he didn’t smile, his size and features made him appear mean and unforgiving.

Adam returned the greeting. Then he pulled out the list of supplies and gave it to the burly storekeeper. “If there’s something there you don’t have, then maybe you have a good substitute for it,” Adam asked courteously.

The burly man leaned back and laughed. “Mister, I know it may not look like it, but we can just about supply you with anything. Have to. We got a lot of people that rely on us.” The burly man then leaned towards Adam and lowered his voice. “We even got some of that sweet smelling salts for a lady’s bath. Want some?”

“Uh…no thanks. Just what’s on the list, please,” Adam said, not impressed. He adjusted his black hat.

When the man finished reading over the list, he hollered to someone in the back of the store. “HARRIET!! Get out here. We gotta a customer, you dumb injun.” The man smiled at Adam as though he hadn’t been rude at all.

Adam just glared at him. He didn’t think any Indian needed to be spoken to like that. Adam waited patiently, but when ‘Harriet’ came out from the back, his head swung into her direction.

A young, beautiful Indian woman appeared. She said nothing, but looked at Adam as she went to stand by the burly man. She looked to be around twenty years old. She wore a tan Indian-style skin dress with beads that hung from different parts of it. Her attire was completed with moccasins and a headband. Her long black hair hung down in long braids.

Adam looked at her closer and he saw faint bruises on her cheekbone and on one side of her mouth. It appeared that someone had hit her and Adam couldn’t help but wonder if it was the burly man. Anytime the man talked to the girl, it was forceful and impatient.

The man gave the list to the woman. She immediately went around the store getting the items. Adam tried to look around for other things, but he kept glancing at the girl. The Indian woman would glance at Adam after looking at the other man to make sure he wasn’t paying any attention.

“Uh…I have some children traveling with me. I wonder if you carry any candy or some type of toys?” Adam asked the man.

“Yep, carry both. We do have children in the camp, you know?” The man told Adam while he pointed to the jars of candy on the side of the tent and the toys piled up on a makeshift table in the corner.

Adam got the candy for the children and placed it on the counter. Then he walked over to the toys. He saw some small rag dolls, a top, a little drum, a wooden horse, and a couple of other toys that would be too big for the kids to carry on a horse.

His heart warmed as he picked up two of the dolls for the girls. All little girls loved dolls no matter what culture they were from. That’s what Adam remembered. He has seen little girls on stagecoaches, standing on the streets of Virginia City, and visiting the Ponderosa cuddling and caring for their dolls as if they were loving mothers.

He pushed the toys around on the table. Then his eye spotted two small pocketknives for the older boys. Both Two Wolves and Kineo were old enough to handle the responsibility of carrying knives. Kineo would have to be supervised, but Adam didn’t see that as a problem. Two Wolves was a good older brother. He watched after Kineo just like Adam did when Joe and Hoss were little.

Then he walked around the table. He looked for a moment to try and see if there was something for Laughing Eyes. He wasn’t sure what would be appropriate for a baby. He finally picked up the little wooden horse and then carried all the toys to the front to pay for them.

Adam approached the counter where the Indian woman stood. Adam tried to greet her, “Ma’am!” He tipped his hat, but all she did was look towards the ground. Like she was ashamed of something.

The burly man shoved her and knocked her a little off her balance. “Don’t stand there like a filthy, stupid Indian. Go get a box for this stuff.” He growled at the woman and then smiled at Adam. “Sorry, about the rudeness, but these injuns just don’t seem to have the sense for thinking on their own.”

Adam didn’t answer back. His anger rose inside and he gnashed his teeth. He didn’t appreciate the man’s rudeness to the woman. But he was there to get supplies and get back to the kids, so he didn’t try to get involved in anything. “Actually, I have a supply horse and could use sacks. A box would be inconvenient,” Adam said.

“You bet, my good man.” The burly man said to Adam with courtesy. “HARRIET!!!! Get out here and get some sacks. The man don’t want boxes.”

The Indian woman appeared at the counter again. Adam looked her directly in the eyes and thanked her. “Thank you for your help. The children will enjoy the toys.”

“You have children?” the woman asked softly. She glanced at the burly man to see what his reaction might be to her talking to Adam. He said nor did anything.

Adam smiled at her. “They’re not mine. I’m just traveling with them and taking them to their people.”

“Their people? They injun kids?” The burly man asked while he picked his teeth with a toothpick. “Injuns! Nothing but trouble, mister. Get rid of ‘em.”

Adam refused to respond to the man’s ignorant comments. If he had been traveling alone, he might have gotten involved a little for the woman’s sake. But it was the children that were his priority. They didn’t need more trouble than what they had already experienced. He paid for the things he bought and left.

When Adam returned, he gave the children some food, water, and their toys. He saved the candy for later. The small horse did turn out to be an appropriate toy for Laughing Eyes. It went immediately into his mouth. The girls hugged their dolls and chatted to each other in their native language. Adam gave the boys their knives, but instructed Two Wolves to help his brother learn to use his properly.

The small group traveled down the mountain until the sun was getting ready to hide behind the top of the mountain for the night. Adam roped off a section and made a lean-to for the children. He spread his blanket on the ground and put his saddle in its position for his head. A piece of rabbit that he and Two Wolves killed for dinner was left on the stake that it had been cooked on. The aroma still smelt good. Adam emptied the coffee that remained in his cup.

Adam didn’t tell them a story this night. They were curious about Adam and his family. So, he told them about his father, brothers, and the Ponderosa. Two Wolves shared some information about their lives in the tribe. The children soon fell asleep. Adam pulled his book out and read until his eyes wouldn’t stay open.

Adam wasn’t sure how long he’d slept when he was startled by something touching him. He looked up and it was Morningstar. She gave him a toothless grin as she pulled on his arm. The only way he was able to tell the twins apart was that Goldenstar had all her teeth and Morningstar was missing her two front uppers. Adam gave her a sleepy smile and he knew she needed to go to the woods again. He didn’t protest. It was a duty he had to do and couldn’t deny the child what was natural.

After she finished, he put her to bed on her blanket. Before she went to sleep, she kissed him on his cheek and said something in her language to him. He didn’t understand her words, but he felt he understood. She cuddled her doll and immediately fell asleep. He went back to his blanket and went right to sleep himself.

It didn’t seem long again when Adam woke up from a sudden noise. His sleepy haze blurred his vision for a moment. When his eyes were focused, he saw someone by the fire. He grabbed his gun from his holster incase it wasn’t one of the children. He was right. The kids were all fast asleep and weren’t awakened by the noise. He stood on his feet, still sleepy, but awake enough to point his gun at the stranger that froze and stared back at him.

Adam looked closer and then he could see that the stranger was a frightened young Indian woman. When Adam got his senses, he recognized her as the Indian girl from the general store in Coldwater.

Adam was shocked, but so was the woman. “You’re the woman from the store?” He questioned and was unaware he still had his gun out.

“Please, I don’t wish trouble. I need your help.” The woman pled to Adam as she stood up straight from her stooped position.

Then Adam realized he had his gun out. He put it away. “We need to keep our voices down. I’m traveling with five children.” Adam offered her to sit by the fire. He let her know that it was fine for her to finish the food she was trying to eat.

“You will take me with you. I not go back to that town.” The woman was adamant.

“Why not? Won’t your husband come looking for you?” Adam inquired wanting to know if trouble would be coming after her. He didn’t need it with the children.

“No, he not come. He not husband. He man I trusted and should not have trusted.” She took another bite of her meat. Adam heated the little bit of coffee he had left and gave it to her.

“What is your name? I’m sorry. I remember he said it, but I don’t remember what it was.” Adam inquired.

“He call me Harriet,” she replied.

“Harriet? Is that what you like to be called? What is your Indian name?”

“No! Hate name. I no choice when I with him. I am Dancing Moon.” She was defiant and showed her pride in her Indian name.

“Dancing Moon. I like that. It fits you.” Adam smiled at her and she gave him a shy smile in return.

“You call me Dancing Moon?” She hoped Adam would honor her Indian name.

“It would be my pleasure, Dancing Moon. He referred to you as his wife. Yet, you say you weren’t.”

“I not wife. I his captive. His slave to do what he want and give him anything he want.”

Adam was very curious about the woman. He wanted to know more about her. “How did you meet him?”

“I belong to Shoshone tribe who live on North shore of the Great Salt Lake. Chief Pocatello led our people. A white man, trapper name John Williams, came to tribe with pelts. Want to trade. He had eye for me and I for him,” Dancing Moon gave a shy smile when she recalled this. “I fell in love, but Chief and my parents not approve Dancing Moon with white man. I was promised to White Eagle. I not love White Eagle and tell my parents. They not want daughter to marry white man. I want to live with white people. John Williams left tribe without me with warning from Chief. I so unhappy. I cry for days. I punished for being difficult and betray tribal ways. I leave family and tribe.” She looked at Adam, but her smile was now gone. She looked at him afraid he would ask her to leave.

“Did you try to find John Williams?” Adam asked.

“No, not look. Before he go, he say better for me to stay with tribe. He not want me go with him. I go different direction. I go here to N’vada. I hungry and cold. Meet Mountain Willie. Man in store. He nice to me, at first. But when we get to mining camp, he tell people I his wife. I work for him. I liked it. It was a home and I liked being with white man. Much better than with poor, ignorant Indians. Mountain Willie could afford good life. Then he became mean. He beat me and…and…” Dancing Moon lowered her eyes. “He take me when I not want to. I cry and ask to stop, but he say he master. He say I do what he say when he say.” Dancing Moon’s voice trailed off into a little sadness.

“How long have you been with him?” Adam asked.

“Two year, now. I always hope someone come along. A good white man. A white man to take Dancing Moon away. You came.” She gave a warm smile to Adam. The light from the fire reflected in her eyes and made them twinkle.

“I will help you find a place where you can live, Dancing Moon. A place that is safe for you and where you will be respected.” Adam smiled before his next statement. “That’s why you followed me?”

“Yes. Dancing Moon saw kindness in face. Dancing Moon also see goodness in heart. You not like way Mountain Willie treat me. I knew you help. You care so much for children. You can care for Dancing Moon.” Dancing Moon now looked Adam directly in the face and gave him a smile.

“Dancing Moon, if you travel with us, then you will have to go to the Carson Valley where the Washoe tribes winter. That’s where the children belong and it’s taking me long enough to try and get them there.” Adam didn’t mind if she tagged along, but he couldn’t take the time to go all over the country trying to find people homes when his own family would begin to worry eventually. She sounded like she would go home with Adam and he knew that later would be a better time to address that issue.

“Washoe good people. Dancing Moon go and help you get children to their people. Dancing Moon will help children. Then we go your home.” Adam saw kindness in Dancing Moon’s eyes and knew she would be a great help to him. He didn’t say anything else on her last statement.

“I can appreciate the help with the children. We have two twin girls and a baby. I’m fine with girls, but in caring for the baby I’m afraid I’m rusty. All I can do is try to remember my brothers when they were that age. Unfortunately, that was a long time ago,” Adam stated.

“It late. You sleep for rest. Dancing Moon will sleep, too.” Dancing Moon walked over to the other side of the campfire. Adam followed her with a blanket and folded his coat to give her a pillow. Then he covered her with the blanket and returned to his bed. Soon, the only noise in the camp was an occasional crack of a piece of wood that burned in the campfire.

*****

Adam must have rolled over on his stomach at one point. He woke to someone roughly massaging his back. Sleepily, he turned over and saw Dancing Moon hovering over him.

“Uh…Dancing Moon. I’m not quite awake. But thank you for the back rub. It’s not necessary, though.” Adam turned completely around and sat facing her.

“Dancing Moon take care of you. You walk long way. You carry wood for fire. Know man like back rubbed. Make feel better. You need Dancing Moon,” She smiled at him.

Adam gave her an uncomfortable smile and stood up. He saw the children lined up looking very curiously at him and Dancing Moon. Except for Laughing Eyes. He was more interested in his wooden horse than he was the strange woman.

“This is Dancing Moon.” Adam said to the children. “She will be traveling with us.”

Dancing Moon looked at the children. “Hello. I am happy to be here.”

Adam started down the line. “Dancing Moon, this is Two Wolves. He’s my right hand man.” Two Wolves smiled real big. Adam continued, “This is Kineo, which means high bluff. He was named after the sacred place where his grandfather went many times. These two little ladies are twins, Morningstar and Goldenstar.” Adam bent down a little and tapped Morningstar once on the tip of her nose with his forefinger, which caused her to give him a toothless grin. “Oh, and Morningstar is the one with the missing teeth.” Adam then walked over to Laughing Eyes, “And this little guy is Laughing Eyes.”

Dancing Moon assured Adam, “I take care of little boys and know them well. I take care of Laughing Eyes. I take care of children. I take care of you. Important that man of family be taken care of.”

“Man of family?” Adam questioned with both eyebrows standing high above his eyes. “Dancing Moon. You help with the children, then I will plan the best way for us to travel down the mountain.”

Dancing Moon added, “Oh, I cook, too. O.K. for me to cook?”

Adam immediately responded. “Absolutely! These kids have been living on my cooking and I’m afraid that’s not my specialty.”

Dancing Moon took some supplies and made breakfast for everyone. Everyone ate like they hadn’t eaten for days, including Adam.

“This was excellent. Thank you.” Adam complimented Dancing Moon on her cooking. He elbowed Two Wolves who was sitting next to him. Two Wolves gave Adam a puzzled look not quite knowing what Adam wanted. Then Adam leaned over to Two Wolves. “Say ‘thank you’ or we might be back to my cooking.”

“Thank you very much, Dancing Moon. This was a great meal. Make Two Wolves strong.” Two Wolves looked at Adam quickly to get his approval. Adam winked and acknowledged him.

Dancing Moon smiled at Two Wolves, but it was Adam she watched. She was beginning to believe that she found the right white man to be with.

Adam then jerked his head and looked up into the rocks and bushes. He heard something that no one else seemed to hear. The look on his face made everyone a little scared. “Everyone stay here,” Adam ordered.

He got up slowly and grabbed his rifle. Cautiously, he moved towards the big rocks with the bushes around them. Adam hesitated to see if he could hear anything else. Then suddenly, a mountain lion jumped from the rocks right onto Adam. He fought and rolled around the dirt with the mountain lion trying to bite him. Twice, the mountain lion succeeded.

The girls began to scream in terror with Laughing Eyes crying because of the fear he could feel from the others. Dancing Moon gathered the young ones in her arms.

Two Wolves stood up and called out. “MR. ADAM! MR. ADAM!” Two Wolves began to approach Adam who was in a full fight with the mountain lion. The rifle had been knocked out of Adam’s hand when the mountain lion hit him full force. Two Wolves grabbed the rifle, took aim, and fired once. The mountain lion screamed in pain and then fell off of Adam…dead.

Everyone stayed where they were until Adam grabbed his bloody left arm and moaned with pain. Two Wolves kept the gun on the mountain lion for a moment before he knelt next to Adam. Dancing Moon left the other children where they were and went to Adam to help him.

Adam’s face wrinkled up with pain as he hung onto his arm. He tried to sit up.

Dancing Moon pulled his hand away and looked at the wound. “Injuries not bad. Dancing Moon take care of them.” Dancing Moon’s face was a few inches from Adam’s. She looked sweetly at him. He looked back at her, but said nothing.

Adam sat partially up and looked over at Two Wolves. “Two Wolves, you are very brave. You saved my life and I am grateful.”

Two Wolves looked proud of what he did, but tried to sound a little humble. “You would do the same for me, Mr. Adam. You are my friend and we must look out for each other.”

“And I now know a great warrior as my friend.” Adam tried to smile, but it didn’t last and pain returned to his face.

Dancing Moon had gone to retrieve some bandages and some herbs that she had found and picked on the trail. She made a simple mash to help keep infection down. Then she applied some of it to the wound and bandaged Adam’s arm. There was a bite mark on the left side of his forehead. She cleaned the wound and applied some herbs to it. Adam was lucky. What could have been devastating injuries would not be a threat to his recovery. After he was bandaged, he got to his feet. “Let’s get started so we can make some distance today.”

“No. You rest after attack.” Dancing Moon said looking at him concerned.

“I’ll be all right, Dancing Moon. If I begin to feel weak or just need to rest, then we will stop. But right now, I just want to move on.”

Dancing Moon and Two Wolves put the kids onto Sport, instead of Adam. The supplies and gear were placed onto the supply horse. They negotiated with Adam. If he sat and rested while they got everything ready, then they would be willing to move on. Adam had no choice and he agreed. His arm did hurt, but he kept the pain to himself or he would, most likely, lose a battle to move on. Right now, Dancing Moon and Two Wolves would be too much for him to take on.

They traveled for four hours and Dancing Moon could see Adam weaken. He needed to rest. On her insistence, they stopped and rested under a grove of trees. The children were hungry and thirsty. Dancing Moon got Adam’s cooperation by telling him the children were the ones who needed the rest. Adam obliged and leaned back into the grassy hill. He fell asleep and they let him rest. He napped for about an hour before he woke.

Dancing Moon was there and had something for him to eat. “This will help feel better. Give strength.”

“We’ve lost a lot of time stopping, Dancing Moon, but considering how I feel right now compared to earlier, I appreciate the rest.” Adam told Dancing Moon who knew some rest and food would make him feel better.

“We camp here tonight?” she said with a little authority.

“I was hoping we might be able to go a little farther.” Adam replied, but as soon as he saw the children playing and the pain in his arm, he changed his mind. “All right. We’ll stop here tonight, but I want us up early to leave out tomorrow.”

Adam leaned back and watched everyone. Two Wolves had a piece of stick that he was whittling with his pocketknife. Kineo also had a piece of wood and copied his brother. The girls were playing together with their dolls. Dancing Moon sat by the fire using her thumbs to rub the outside of Laughing Eyes’ mouth. He had been crying earlier.

“What are you doing?” Adam inquired.

“Dancing Moon massage Laughing Eyes’ mouth. Soothe gums. Has new teeth.” She smiled at the baby while she performed this on him.

“Where did you learn how to do that? Have you had any children?” Adam asked.

“No,” Dancing Moon smiled, “I take care of many children. I learn many things from white people.”

“This is why it’s so important for you to live with Indian people. You have so much to give them and show them in taking care of themselves,” Adam said.

Dancing Moon smiled and put a satisfied Laughing Eyes down on his blanket. She moved over to Adam. She sat close enough that her shoulder touched his uninjured arm. She put the palm of her hand on his cheek when she spoke. “Dancing Moon learn from white people. Teach Dancing Moon many things. I show you.” Dancing now smiled big.

Adam looked at her, but made no response. He glanced quickly at the children playing to see if they had noticed them while he removed her hand from his cheek. “Dancing Moon. It’s your people that need you and the skills that you have. Look at these children. They have made this journey with such bravery and they are so young. They have learned good skills from their people and they will have a lot to return to their tribe.” Adam tried so hard to get her to see the value in what he was saying.

It was like Dancing Moon didn’t hear him and she leaned a little closer to him. “Adam. Dancing Moon can make you very happy. Make good love. Dancing Moon want very little.”

“You didn’t hear a word I said,” Adam looked at her solemnly, “I…”

Dancing Moon put her fingers on his lips to quiet him. “I hear you. I hear your words all time. I like Adam Cartwright. I like very much. Want to show you.”

Adam pushed Dancing Moon away from him gently, “Dancing Moon. I like you very much, but not in that way.” Dancing Moon cocked her head a little surprised at his words. He went on, “What I mean is…I uh…” Adam fought for words. He wanted her to understand his feelings without making her feel rejected.

Dancing Moon smiled, “I know what you try say. Maybe, Adam Cartwright, you feel different later. When we get to Indian camp, you see Dancing Moon different and like her much better.”

Adam said nothing, but just smiled at her.

“Dancing Moon! Come look at what I did.” Kineo was on his feet jumping up and down in delight.

Dancing Moon got up and walked over to the boys. Kineo had carved the foot of the animal he was trying to whittle out of the wood he had with the knife Adam gave him. She laughed and hugged him. “Very good, Kineo. You will be fine brave someday. You learn fast.”

“We are good braves, now, Dancing Moon.” Two Wolves offered. Then he showed her what he had been whittling with his knife.

Adam watched her converse with the boys about their crafts. He stayed quiet while he watched her eventually get up and walk over to the girls, who were still playing with their dolls. The way she touched them and talked to them made him smile. He finally felt tired and laid down to fall asleep.

It was a few hours into the night. Adam felt hot and slowly he began to wake up. When he did, he found Dancing Moon leaning over him. She had a cool, wet cloth in her hand and was wiping his face with it. Adam tried to sit up, but couldn’t. He knew from how he felt and Dancing Moon’s actions that he had some fever.

He looked up at Dancing Moon. “I’m sorry I woke you up. I must have.”

“Dancing Moon not care. You need help. I care for you. You just rest.” Dancing Moon’s voice was soft and sweet.

It was what Adam needed at the time. He just laid there and let her do what she was doing. He didn’t want his fever to delay them in the morning. “I must admit how nice it is to look up at a pretty, caring face. When I’m sick at home, it’s usually my Pa or brothers.” Adam said weakly in his attempt to be humorous. Then he looked serious, “What about the children? Are they asleep? I don’t want to wake them. They will worry.”

“Yes, children sleep. Only Dancing Moon wake.” She bent down and sweetly kissed him on the lips. Adam let her kiss him. Dancing Moon lifted her head and whispered, “Dancing Moon much better to look at. Dancing Moon give you what Pa and brothers cannot.” She took the cloth from his face, “You rest now. You not as hot as you were. Good sign.”

“Thank you, Dancing Moon. I am tired.” Adam barely got that out before he fell asleep. Dancing Moon laid down along Adam’s right side and slept with her head on his shoulder.

*****

Dancing Moon proved to be a real asset to Adam. She traveled well, not seeming to be bothered by the rugged terrain and a couple of hardships they had to overcome when they proceeded down one side of a large ravine and climbed up the other side. She helped all of the children and particularly took good care of Laughing Eyes. She didn’t disappoint them in her cooking. Adam and the children ate very well. She made such a big difference in the quality of their travel.

An afternoon break was welcomed. Adam and Dancing Moon sat under a tree and talked about various topics while the children played nearby. Two Wolves watched over Laughing Eyes while they hunted for interesting rocks. Kineo had a string and decided to try the fishing method Hoss used. He tied the string to his big toe and laid back. He closed his eyes, but made sure he stayed awake. Morningstar walked around the area not really looking at anything in particular, while Goldenstar took a nap.

Dancing Moon sat close to Adam. He didn’t seem to mind. Everyone seemed to be content and the journey was coming to an end.

“Adam?” Dancing Moon had a question.

“H’mm?” Adam answered. He was very content.

“Why you no woman?” Dancing Moon asked.

Adam’s eyebrow went up and he looked over at her without completely turning his head in her direction. “I like women very much. But it just takes time to really get to know someone. To make sure you want to live with them the rest of your life.”

“You sure, you not run all time?” Dancing Moon laughed softly.

Her laughter made him grin. “No. I don’t run from that kind of a commitment. I just want to make sure I am in love and with the right woman.”

“You make good father. Dancing Moon watch you with children.” She moved slowly behind him and began to gently massage his back.

“I like children very much. I don’t care if they are white children, Indian children, or any other culture. They all need an adult’s care.” Adam talked while he enjoyed his back rub.

“You would be good father to all of children. I tell they like you much. They feel safe and trust you.” Dancing Moon continued and then waited for Adam’s response.

“Well, I don’t think Two Wolves’ and Kineo’s father would like that. They need him more than me. Boys need to learn skills and their heritage from their father. Like I learned from mine. It’s good for Indian boys to have good contact with white men. But it’s very important that they carry on the rituals and customs of their tribe.” Adam reflected his thoughts.

“You no think you would have child with Indian woman?” Dancing Moon’s voice trailed off a little with that statement.

He chuckled a little at her question. “Dancing Moon. If I loved a woman, it just wouldn’t matter if she were Indian.” He then softened his voice, as he knew what direction she was heading. “Take your time, Dancing Moon. The right man will come your way. You will know when it happens.”

Adam now turned around and faced her. She leaned forward and kissed him. It wasn’t a passionate kiss. It was just a sweet kiss on his lips. He didn’t reject it.

Then…the quiet of the afternoon was frightfully disturbed by the scream and call for help from Two Wolves. “MR. ADAM!! MR. ADAM!! PLEASE, PLEASE HELP.”

Adam never heard Two Wolves cry. He was always full of laughter.

Adam jumped up and ran towards Two Wolves, who was down by the edge of the small river. Dancing Moon and the other children, including Goldenstar, ran behind him. When they arrived, Two Wolves was standing over a motionless Laughing Eyes.

Laughing Eyes’ body lay still. He was wet. The small child had drowned. Two Wolves cried harder when Adam couldn’t revive the baby. Then he ran into the forest. Adam told Dancing Moon to stay with the other children while he followed Two Wolves.

He found Two Wolves uncontrollably crying. Adam put his hands on the boy’s arms and turned him around. Adam wanted to console him and talk to him like an adult. That’s what Two Wolves would want. But when Two Wolves turned and saw Adam, the boy threw his arms around his shoulders and buried his face into the crook of Adam’s neck.

Adam became a little choked up. He was a smart man, but his emotions overwhelmed him at the moment and he found himself a little lost for words. Adam cared deeply for Two Wolves. Feeling Two Wolves hug him made him think of when he hugged Little Joe when Joe was a small boy. Ben had no choice but to shoot a loved horse and put it out of its misery. It was Adam that Joe ran to and hugged while he cried.

He held Two Wolves close. Finally, Adam managed to find some words. His voice quivered a little, as he tried to console the boy, but as the child that he was. “It’s going to be all right. There is nothing more that can happen to Laughing Eyes. He will journey with his mother now.”

“He wouldn’t be dead if I had watched him better, Mr. Adam. I’m not a good brave. I didn’t take care of him.” Two Wolves now looked into Adam’s eyes. Tears flowed down his cheeks. “I should have watched him and he wouldn’t have fallen into the river.”

“Two Wolves, things can just happen and there’s nothing we can do. Just like the adults of your family. It just happened.” Adam kept trying to find the right words. He didn’t want Two Wolves to go through life feeling guilty about the death of Laughing Eyes. “We have to be happy that Laughing Eyes knew he was loved and cared for.”

Two Wolves’ crying began to let up a little. “I know, Mr. Adam. But when his mother was killed, I promised him I would take care of him.”

Adam pulled him in closer to him again. “Son, it’s not your fault. Maybe his mother needed him with her. There’s got to be a reason when things like this happens to such a small child. I’ve lived it myself. I just don’t know what the answer is.” Adam hoped that would help him deal with his pain and accept the death.

“My father and my Chief will not be happy with me. They will see me as weak and not brave. I didn’t take care of Laughing Eyes when his mother couldn’t. This shouldn’t have happened to Laughing Eyes. He didn’t deserve to die, Mr. Adam. I loved him.” Two Wolves began to stop crying, but the tears still rolled down his cheeks.

“Two Wolves, your father and your Chief will be very proud of you. Just like I am right now.” Adam now looked into the boy’s eyes.

This made Two Wolves stop crying completely. “You are proud of me? Why? I didn’t act like a man to stand by your side when you needed me. I ran like a child and I cried like a baby.”

This made Adam smile at Two Wolves. “You are a man. You have helped me in this difficult journey. I needed a man when I was attacked and you were there. You cry because you miss Laughing Eyes, not because you are a baby. I will see that your father and your Chief know how brave you are and how much of a man you have been.” Adam stood up and took Two Wolves by the hand. “Come on. We must bury Laughing Eyes.”

“Yes, Mr. Adam, we must honor Laughing Eyes. We must make sure the children get back to the tribe.” Two Wolves wiped the tears from his eyes and the two of them walked towards the others.

But then, Adam heard Dancing Moon cry out. “ADAM! ADAM! WHERE ARE YOU?”

Adam dropped Two Wolves’ hand and ran towards Dancing Moon. ‘What now?’ he thought as he ran. He felt a panic inside himself. They didn’t need anything else to happen after the death of Laughing Eyes. Two Wolves ran close behind his friend.

When Adam reached her, Dancing Moon had tears running down her cheeks. Adam stopped abruptly and was shocked when he saw a crying Laughing Eyes in her arms. Dancing Moon smiled with joy. “Adam, Adam, he’s alive. He spit out water and took deep breath. Then he cry.”

Adam took the baby from her arms and began to check him over. Laughing Eyes cried until he began to hiccup. Dancing Moon kept explaining to Adam. “I took blanket to wrap him up before we bury. I not believe ears when I hear cry.”

Adam hugged the baby and patted him gently on his back. He quickly kissed the baby on the side of his head and handed him back to Dancing Moon who cuddled him in her arms. Dancing Moon and the children then walked back to the horses to get ready to leave. Adam and Two Wolves hesitated.

Adam turned to Two Wolves and knelt on one knee to be at the boy’s level. “See, Two Wolves, I said it would be all right. I didn’t know it would end this way. But my heart said it would be all right.”

Two Wolves grinned, “Yes, Mr. Adam. You have a wise heart. My ancestors are smiling because Laughing Eyes lives.” Two Wolves then began to laugh. “I see water in your eyes. You cry just like Two Wolves.”

Adam smiled at his little friend who didn’t seem to miss much. “Yes, I have water in my eyes. But they are tears of joy. We didn’t lose our little friend.”

After giving Laughing Eyes a little time to recover from this ordeal, the group moved forward. The long journey down the mountain was coming closer to the end. Soon, the children would be reunited with their people and Adam will start home to be with his family. He will have so much to share.

The small group traveled as long as they could so they would be in the Valley by nightfall where the tribe would be camped.

*****

By the time they reached the camp, the sun was almost down. It had been a long trip and they were all eager to eat and get some rest. Adam and Two Wolves were invited to eat with Chief Tecumseh and Two Wolves’ father, Black Wolf. The men sat and ate while Two Wolves helped the Chief and his father understand what had happened. Adam felt it was good for Two Wolves to be the one that gave the information and he gladly stayed quiet.

Two Wolves left out the story of the incident where Laughing Eyes almost drowned. He looked at Adam wondering if he should share this. Adam quietly shook his head and winked at Two Wolves. He knew then that there would be a better time to tell what happened.

After Two Wolves and his father left to go to their teepee to sleep, Adam stayed briefly with the Chief. He explained how Dancing Moon came to travel with them. How she took care of the children, cooked for them, and helped when he was injured. The Chief was pleased with the stories he heard and assured Adam that Dancing Moon was welcomed in his tribe.

Adam woke the next morning, dressed, shaved, and went to find the children to say his ‘good-bye.’ He found them all sitting outside eating and he joined them. He spoke with Two Wolves and Kineo to let them know how much their friendship met to him.

“Your Chief knows how brave the two of you were and how helpful you were in getting the children home.” The boys smiled at what Adam just told them. Adam then asked Two Wolves, “Will you let Morningstar and Goldenstar that I liked knowing them?”

“Yes, Mr. Adam. I will tell them. But I think they know.” Two Wolves said with confidence.

Adam said, “I promise I will come see you. When I do, I will bring my father and brothers. I want them to meet you.”

“And will you bring Hoss, too?” Kineo asked.

“Yes, Kineo, I will bring Hoss. I know he’d like to meet you.” Adam grinned as he patted the boy on the shoulder. “My other brother, Little Joe, has a beautiful black and white Pinto horse. I bet he’d let you ride him. Would you like that?”

“Yeah!” Kineo said with excitement.

“I have to go now. I promise that I will come see you.” Adam wanted to make sure that the boys knew he would be back.

Two Wolves nodded, “We would like that very much. Friends never really go away. Do they, Mr. Adam?”

“No, Two Wolves, friends never say good-bye. They only part for awhile.” Adam got up to leave his little friends.

Adam spotted Dancing Moon coming his way and carrying Laughing Eyes. The baby looked at Adam and smiled.

“Dancing Moon. Are you all right?” He wanted to make sure that she was fine.

She had a glow on her face and smiled at him. “Dancing Moon feel very good. Her life has good future.”

“You should say ‘I’ and not always use your name when you describe your feelings. It makes it sound that someone else named Dancing Moon feels very good and not you,” Adam said tenderly.

Dancing Moon smiled bigger than she had. “Dan…I very happy. I think a lot and I know I like living here. Chief welcome me to his tribe and say I be Laughing Eyes’ mother.”

“Good, Dancing Moon. You will make him a very good mother.”

Dancing Moon assured Adam, “You show Dancing Moon…uh…me that important to wait for good man to come in life. Not rush. I like. Let me have say in my future.”

Adam was very pleased with what he heard. He kissed her on her cheek. Then he mounted Sport, turned him towards the Ponderosa, and headed for home.

Adam finally reached the meadow that was very close to home. Then he heard a familiar voice.

“Adam! Hey Adam!!”

Adam turned to see who was calling him and an immediate smile was on his face when he recognized Joe and Cochise riding up to him. “Hey, little brother. You out for a morning ride?” Adam teased.

“No,” Joe smiled back. “Pa sent me to go look for you. When you didn’t get home yesterday, we waited until this morning and we all worried. So, where have you been?”

“It’s quite a story, Joe. How about we all sit down when we get home and I’ll share the whole story?” Adam offered.

“Great! Right now, I’ll race you home,” Joe said.

“You think you can stay up with me?” Adam challenged.

“Yep!” Joe said and then he and Cochise took off with Adam and Sport close behind. Soon the brothers were neck and neck. It was good to be home.

A true friend reaches for your hand and touches your heart…Anonymous

***The End***

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