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As they travel across Montana, Wyoming, the Dakota Territories, and toward St. Louis, McCaffrey and friend come ...
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As they travel across Montana, Wyoming, the Dakota Territories, and toward St. Louis, McCaffrey and friend come across Kit Carson, Liver-Eater Johnson, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and others. Along the way they experience buffalo hunts, a frontier bordello, Custer's Last Stand, a Civil War battle, love, and loss.
The fifty-four caliber ball tore through the air on its cushion of hot gases and split the buckskin over the trapper's upper thigh. It went deep into the muscle, just missing his femoral artery, and exited below his left buttock. Seared buckskin and flesh stuck to it as it splashed into the Rosebud River. As it hit the water, Ned O'Grady felt a strange tearing sensation in his left leg and only then heard the report of a fifty-four caliber Hawken rifle. He saw smoke from the alder bushes upstream.
"Jaysus, Mary and Joseph, I've been shot!" The pain made him throw up as he began to sink into a beaver den. Luckily, Brian McCaffrey grabbed him by the arm before he went in. They floundered on the bank as Brian half-dragged him toward his rifle.
"You can't kill a squirrel with that thing, let alone the bastard who's trying to kill us," gasped Ned.
"What do you mean, `us'? He shot you, didn't he?" retorted Brian. "By the way, where is he?"
"Over by that alder bush," groaned Ned. God, his leg hurt, and here he was, being covered by a seventeen-year-old greenhorn from St. Louis. He had to admit that the kid was a good shot with a great sense of humor as well as being eager to learn.
"Do you think it's an Indian?" asked Brian.
"Dunno, could be a Blackfoot or one of them Tory bastards from the British Fur Company. Probably a Brit, since he was using a Hawken." A second ball struck a rock next to Brian's head.
"Looks like he wants a piece of you too, lad. I guess it's us ratherthan me after all."
Brian fired at the alder bush where he had seen smoke from the last shot. To his surprise, he heard a grunt and saw a dark figure scramble up the bank and into the woods across the river. "Damnation," Ned muttered. "He's a Blackfoot, all right." The words sent chills up Brian's spine. Captain Clark had warned him about the Blackfoot Indians. "Well, lad, you hit him. I think you got him good. Too bad you're using that squirrel rifle. All right lad, hunt him down like a dog, and watch your topknot."
"What's a topknot?"
"Jaysus, it's your scalp! Didn't they teach you anything in school in St. Louis?"
"I probably wasn't paying attention—or more likely I skipped school to go hunting."
Brian swallowed hard as he forded the river and headed into the woods. He picked up a blood trail. "Please, God," he prayed silently, "not a Blackfoot. What am I doing here in Montana in the first place?"
Brian heard him before he saw him. He was singing a song between his raspy breathing. He was propped against a tree, his moccasins touching and his hands clenched in a prayer. The Hawken lay at his feet. The Indian watched him warily, resigned to the fact that he was dying. Brian was shocked at the amount of blood pouring out of the Blackfoot's chest, and the sucking sound of the Indian's breathing through his chest wound disgusted him. He had heard that sound not long ago when he had recently killed an elk. But this was a human being. "Why, he's blue! I thought Indians were supposed to be red," thought Brian. The Indian suddenly stopped breathing and his eyes glazed over. Brian shuddered, and grabbed the Indian's rifle, leather bag, powder, and knife. He should be proud, thought Brian, that he had shot the Indian, but the idea of killing another man made him nauseous. He thought about burying him, but remembered Ned's wounds and bolted back to camp.
Luckily the horses had been hobbled before Ned was shot. The last thing Brian needed was to be horseless in Indian country with a one-legged trapper. He found Ned shivering by a fire. There was quite a bit of blood on the ground where he lay and his buckskins were soaked. He added wood to the fire and put his Hudson Bay blanket and a buffalo robe over Ned's upper body.
"All right, let's get those buckskins off."
"What for? Your father's a doctor, not you."
"Well, I've seen him take care of gunshot wounds before."
"Where did he get his training?"
"University of Dublin."
"Fine school. You sure he didn't get his degree from some mail-order mill in London?"
"My Da's a good doctor! Why is it every time I talk to you I sound like I just got off the boat myself?"
"Ahh, I guess you've been blessed to have an Irish father and to meet me, a man of letters, from the auld sod itself."
"Man of letters? The way you cuss? If you're a man of letters, I'm Pope Boniface the Second."
"Ah well, then have it your way. What do you intend to do, lad?"
"Stop the bleeding."
Ned then pulled his buckskins off. The entrance wound was black and blue and bleeding slightly.
"Hmm ... lucky you got a small bean. Missed it by about two inches."
"Yeah, well, me left bollock must be singed."
"I'm afraid you're not that well-hung, Ned. Roll over." The exit wound was ugly and pumping blood.
Brian said, "Got any whiskey?"
"A little. I always save some for me tooth."
"Well, drink it all, you've got plenty. Here, put this stick in your mouth."
"Yeah, that way you won't break your teeth if you bite down too hard."
"Lad, I don't like the sound of this. Are you sure you know what you're doing?"
"You probably won't like the smell of it either. Besides, I'm the only one here with one hole in his ass."
"I thought you didn't approve of cussing."
Poor Ned was shivering uncontrollably now. Brian applied pressure to stanch the flow of blood with one hand and stealthily poured powder from his horn into the wound. "I hope that damned Indian didn't put that ball in moose shit before he plugged me. I'll get the gangrene and you'll have to cut me leg off."
"Don't worry, that won't happen," Brian said soothingly.
"Really now, are you that good?"
"No, I just never got to see my Da amputate."
"Jaysus! Seriously, Brian. If I get the gangrene shoot me and get the hell out of here as fast as you can. The horses, pelts, and guns are all yours. Just promise me two things."
"Bury me deep so the wolves won't eat me."
"Pull me back teeth."
"Are you crazy? I guess the whiskey's working."
"No, Mr. Whiskey isn't speaking for me yet, lad. Those teeth are full of gold."
"Yes. I got it in a poker game with a drunken dentist over in Fort Union. I cleaned him out. Nextday, when he was sober, he filled them for me. I got over five hundred dollars' worth of gold hidden in me choppers for safekeeping. It's for me Ma, if I pass on."
Brian made sure that Ned had the stick in his mouth and reached quietly for a burning stick, "Where's your Ma live?" he asked. The powder was getting wet with bright red blood, a bad sign.
"South Dakota," mumbled Ned.
He pushed the stick in as far as he could. The size of the flames and smoke surprised Brian and he fell over backwards, narrowly missing falling into the fire. "Waugh!" screamed Ned as he passed out. The stick came out easily. Brian got all of it and mercifully Ned stopped bleeding. He dressed the wound and turned Ned over. Ned awoke as he was pouring more powder into the entrance wound.
"Hold it, lad. You just set me arse on fire and you're going to blow up the crown jewels?" he asked incredulously.
"Stop calling me `lad' ... we're equals now."
"Equals? How so?"
"Now each of us has only one hole in our asses."
Ned cackled appreciatively. "Look, you really don't have to do that now, me being such a fine specimen and all."
"Hah, fine specimen indeed. I told you before, your being so small it won't get touched. Heck, you didn't even bite through the stick. It's still in your mouth. Besides, now that I have experimented on your behind, I'm sure I've got just the right amount of powder for this one. I'm making no guarantees about your left bollock, though."
"Fine kettle of fish," groused Ned as his eyes widened with amazement when Brian lit the charge in the entrance wound. There was a small flash and smoke oozed from the wound. The bleeding had stopped. Ned stayed awake for this one. "Ahh, old Lucifer and the jewels are still intact. What a blessing! He might be small now, but when aroused he can be a massive organ indeed."
Brian smirked and expertly finished dressing the wound.
"Say, Brian. Can you get me some of me spirits? Me `tooth', you know."
"I thought that dentist fixed your teeth."
"Ah, me teeth are fine. In Dublin, when a man has the `tooth' it means he likes the taste of whiskey."
He covered Ned, checked the horses' hobbles, fed them, and got Ned his whiskey.
"Thanks, lad ... er, Brian you're right, we're equals. You dress the wounds and I'll teach you how to get out of here still wearing your topknot."
Ned was soon snoring, Brian rolled up next to the fire. He was exhausted and all he could think of was Bridget's beautiful blue eyes. As he drifted off, he heard wolves howling and snarling across the Rosebud. He wondered vacantly if they had found the Indian.
Posted December 8, 1999
Want to be taken back to a time when the USA was more 'America' and less the 'United States'? Well sit back and open up Paddies. But after a couple of chapters, you'll be sitting FORWARD - on the edge of your seat! This is a very clever story of two men whose paths cross a host of American west frontier heroes and celebrities. This is a novel novel that is fun to read and action-packed. You won't be disappointed....I wasn't.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.