by David G. Weaver


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781481750264
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 05/16/2013
Pages: 388
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.86(d)

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By David G. Weaver


Copyright © 2013 David G. Weaver
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4817-5026-4


Dawn came with a paling of the dismal gray clouds that hung into the tops of the pines, hickories and oaks, drenching the foliage and dampening everything. A tiny flame flickered in front of the sapling lean-to, causing grotesque shadows to pirouette and whirl across the sloping roof. Inside the crude shelter, writhing and perspiring, Singing Water suffered through the joyous agony of childbirth. Her expanded belly pulsed and heaved as the contractions grew more severe, and the intervening time increments shortened.

Huddled over the tortured woman, her aunts, Green Willow and Pale Fawn, spoke in muted voices, urging the expectant mother to press and push. As the midwives watched, waited, and anxiously encouraged, Green Willow chewed on a length of deer sinew, softening and moistening the thong.

With a scream and a tremendous tightening of her abdominal muscles, Singing Water brought forth her first born onto a pallet of freshly cut, sweet smelling pine boughs.

The attendants immediately busied themselves with the cleaning of the infant and the mother. Green Willow bit through the umbilical cord, then tied off the tube protruding from the child's belly with the strip of tendon. Pale Fawn meanwhile sponged away the cheesy matter from the new born then slopped warm water over the mother's thighs and lower abdomen. The infant screeched as his great aunt smacked his little red-brown bottom.

Swaddling the baby in a section of soft doeskin, Green Willow handed the wiggling infant to its mother. "What shall you call your new son, my niece?" she asked.

Without hesitation, Singing Water replied, "Gray Cloud, of course." She swung her free right hand in an upward arc toward the misty veil as she spoke.

"It is fitting," Green Willow conceded.

Pale Fawn nodded in agreement. "An omen of his future," she murmured in a serious tone. "This child is destined to become a great warrior."

"When will the father return so that he can see the fine son you have made for him?" Green Willow asked, tilting her head to one side as she pulled a tab of the doeskin wrap away from the baby's mouth.

"Soon. When the grass begins to green and the pink buds appear on the hickory trees," Singing Water replied with a weak smile. But there was only hope in her voice.

Droplets of water dripping from the thick overhead canopy spit and hissed as they fell upon the fire. Wisps of bluish smoke gyrated upward from the flames, partners to the shadows in a meaningless dance. The fragrance of the evergreen boughs blended with the acrid smoke that wafted into the crowded space beneath the lean-to roof.

"Your Doran should be very proud of this son you have borne him, my niece," Pale Fawn said softly as she watched the drawn face of the new mother. "You have given him a fine hunter and warrior."

"I want Gray Cloud to have the best of both worlds, my aunts," Singing Water declared through clenched teeth. "I will teach him the ways of our people. Then, when he is old enough, I'll have his father take him from these mountains to the city of the white people on the shore of the great sea. There Gray Cloud will be educated in the ways and the history of his father's ancestors."

* * *

Sean Doran pushed aside the newly-leafed willows and peered out across the broad meadow. In the distance he could make out the lodges of the Catawba village, smoke curling upward from the flue holes as the women prepared the evening meal.

Sean had been away for more than 11 months. He had hauled his winter pelts down to Charles Town where they had brought a fair price. A growing stack of letters of credit was deposited in the safe of his very good friend Henry Siles, a trader and ship factor.

Earlier, Sean had had the very good fortune to be hired by Colonel John Stuart as scout and guide for a government survey party sent out to map the Indian territories in the foothills of the Blue Ridges. Col. Stuart was the king's Superintendent of Indian Affairs.

Such survey expeditions were highly illegal, violating a treaty with the Indian tribes which barred British settlers from the region. However, farmer settlers were eager to clear new lands and the colony's leadership had agreed to send out a group of surveyors to determine just what the Indians might do.

Stuart had selected Sean to guide the group because he knew that the Irishman knew the Indians well, spoke their language, was familiar with the area to be covered, and had taken a Catawba maiden as his wife. The other officials needed no further qualifications. Sean Doran was hired on the spot. Sean's stipend after the mission was completed satisfactorily would be 800 acres of virgin land along the Coosawhatchie River about 60 miles west of Charles Town. That land, when cleared and cultivated, would be suitable for raising indigo, tobacco, corn and, with a plentiful supply of water from the river, rice.

Scout Doran had carried out his assignment with expedience and skill. The Cherokee Indian tribal leaders had grudgingly agreed to cede more of their holdings along the piedmont to the white men in exchange for a guarantee their claim to their sacred mountains would never be violated. Col. Stuart was so pleased with Sean's expertise and skill in negotiating with the red men; he awarded the hunter guide an additional 200 acres of the king's land as a bonus.

As soon as he had received the parchment land charter from the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Sean hurried to Henry Siles' warehouse complex on East Bay Street and turned the document over to his friend for safe keeping. That treasure, along with the accumulated cash savings now rested securely on the bottom shelf of Henry's massive cast iron safe.

* * *

Sean Doran arose and slid his thumbs under the rawhide thongs that held his backpack nestled against his shoulder blades. The load eased slightly, he stepped out in his customary long, determined strides as he headed for the lodge at the north end of the village, the home of his wife, Singing Water. Without announcing his presence, Sean entered the bark-covered, dome-shaped lodge and dropped his pack to the swept earth floor.

Startled by the thud, Singing Water turned, clutching two-month old Gray Cloud to her breast. "Doran," she shouted happily, "you frightened me. When did you arrive? How long have you been standing there?"

Sean stared at the infant held tightly in its mother's arms. "Just now. I just came in," he replied without taking his eyes off the tiny bundle. "What in hell do you have there?" he demanded.

"Your son, Doran." Singing Water held the child out to him, her face radiant with pride and her eyes sparkling. "This is your son, my husband. Take him. Hold him. He is yours."

"Mine? My child?" he stammered in disbelief. "How can that be?"

"He is indeed your son, Doran," the woman insisted. "He was born just two full moons ago. He is indeed your son since I have known no other man since you last slept here with me. This child is a Doran."

Sean clumsily took the infant in its soft doeskin wrap, and gazed down into the small face for a long moment. As the baby opened its eyes and stared up into his father's face, Sean chucked the tiny chin with the tip of his huge index finger. He was rewarded with a wide, gurgling, toothless smile. "He is truly a Doran," he shouted as he danced about the lodge, swinging the baby about in the crook of his right arm. "That's what we shall name him, Truly! Truly Doran. Truly A. Doran."

"That will be his name when you take him to the white man's city by the great water to be educated, Doran," the wife said in a low, authoritative voice. "Here in the village of my people, however, he shall be known as Gray Cloud, son of Singing Water and the great white hunter, Doran."

Sean put up no argument. He was well aware of the matriarchal society of the Catawba. Fathers were tolerated. Fathers and uncles were expected to teach boys woods lore, hunting, fishing, and fighting. But fathers had no voice in the operation of the home, or the village. Those areas of authority rested solely and un-reconcilably in the powerful yet gentle hands of the tribe's women.

"I will teach him the ways of my people, Singing Water, only when and as much as you deem proper. He is your responsibility until that time. But I will boast to my friends in the village and in the towns and cities of the white man. I am the father of a fine son, one who will make both of us proud. You shall see," Sean said as he handed the babe back to its mother.

"I am proud now, my husband. I am proud of our son, and I am very proud to be the wife of Doran, the great hunter."

"This tyke will grow to be wise and wealthy, Singing Water. I have acquired a plot of land that will be his and yours, a place where he may live, and take care of his mother in her old age."

The woman placed the child on a straw mat and came to her husband. She took his huge right hand in both of hers and stared up into his pale blue eyes. "I am indeed proud to be the mother of your son, Doran. You have made my life complete by giving me this baby. Gray Cloud will always be proud of his father. I shall see to that as he grows older. I shall teach him that his father is a great man, and he shall revere the name and the memory of the man who sired him."

Sean tugged at Singing Water's hands, pulled her to him and crushed her to his thick chest for a long, tender moment. Then, with a finger under her chin, he lifted her face to his. There were tears of happiness in her jet black eyes as she kissed him passionately.

* * *

They ate a hasty meal of boiled venison then retired to the hide covered pallet near the center of the lodge. Their love making was violent yet tender as they made up for the long months of separation.

Afterward they lay naked under a deerskin blanket. He held her close for a long time. Each knew the other's thoughts as they lay there watching the sleeping infant on the straw mat near his mother's side.

"Truly. Truly Doran," Sean murmured as he dropped off to sleep.

Singing Water smiled, looked at her tiny child for a long moment, then nestled her body contentedly against her husband's hairy, white chest as she too fell asleep.

* * *

Over a breakfast of corn mush and herb tea brewed from the leaves of wild strawberry plants, Sean and Singing Water discussed their son's future.

"My brother, Red Hawk, will teach Gray Cloud how to plant and tend crops, and how to hunt for meat, and catch fish in the streams," she said matter-of-factly. "I will teach him the ways of my people and I will instruct him in the proud history of the Catawba nation. While you are away, I will have to depend upon my brother and the other men of the village to teach him the lore of the forest and the mountains, but I will not surrender my son to their vulgarities and rough mannerisms."

"Nor should you," Sean agreed with a sly grin. "For my part, I will spend as much time with him here as I possibly can. Of course, I must continue my hunts and trapping in order to lay aside more wealth for him. When he is old enough, with your consent, I will teach him how to figure accounts, and how to read and write the words my people use in their contracts and treaties. I will also instruct him in the history of my people so that he will be knowledgeable of both worlds. And, when you determine the time is right, I will take him to the city for book learning."

"Will the change be difficult for him, Doran? Will our son experience bias in the society of the whites?"

"Gray Cloud has fair skin," Sean replied slowly as he examined the features of the sleeping child closely. "I suppose he will be accepted as long as his Indian blood does not show. He is what some whites call a Brassankle — half Indian, half white. But I will see to it that he has the opportunity to get a good education in sums and letters. And my very good friend, Henry Siles, will act on my behalf in that matter, I'm sure."

"Our son must learn the ways of both the Catawba and the English, my husband. He must be able to survive in the wilderness while also being prepared to live like a gentleman in the white man's society."

"He will, Singing Water, he will," the man stated emphatically. "Gray Cloud's greatest problem will be to overcome the prejudices of the haughty city folk while he learns the necessary tools to compete in their life style. After that, our son will be able to choose whatever way of life he wishes. My land and the money in Henry Siles' safe will see him through and will help make him acceptable to the whites. I promise you I'll see to it that he at least gets the chance."

* * *

Red Hawk lay on his belly in a clump of willows along the stream. He critically observed the stealthy movements of the slender, sun-tanned youth as the youngster crept toward the white tailed deer browsing on tender shoots of sassafras upwind of the marsh. The middle aged Indian brave was no more than a shadow among shadows as he watched his nephew close in on his prey. He grunted his satisfaction at the twang of the hunter's bowstring and the almost instantaneous drop of the stag as the arrow cleanly pierced the animal's heart.

Gray Cloud raced across the twenty yard space to his quarry. He yanked his steel bladed hunting knife from its buckskin sheath as he ran. He pounced upon the stricken animal and, with one swipe of the blade, slit the deer's jugular vein, allowing the gore to flow freely out of the carcass.

Red Hawk emerged from the brush and approached the younger man. "You have done well, my nephew," he praised. "Your mother and all the village will rejoice as they feast upon this fine buck you have slain. I observed your technique, and am very proud of my student. You have learned your lessons well, Gray Cloud."

The tall, lithe, fifteen-year-old neither smiled nor spoke for a long moment. He simply stared stoically at his maternal uncle for a while then nodded; a single, solemn bob of his head.

"The time draws near when your father, the white hunter Doran, will once more come to our village," the older man said. "This time I will recommend to my sister, Singing Water, that you leave her lodge, and go with your father to the white man's school. You have learned all I am able to teach, and you have absorbed my instructions as well as those of your father. You are now ready for more learning and experience."

"Thank you, my uncle. I do wish to see the great city by the sea my father speaks of, but I am saddened to think of leaving our village and these beautiful mountains."

"Your time has come, Gray Cloud. Now you must go to the city of the Englishmen and prepare yourself for that which the spirits have planned for you."

"Yes, uncle, I know. But how will I be treated by the whites? Here in the village of my own people I am accepted in spite of my light skin. My father is also considered a member of the Catawba society. However, he tells me there are those in Charles Town who will deride me, ridicule me, make fun of me, and call me Brassankle, because my mother's blood flows in my veins."

"Enough of that! Come! Take your bounty and let us go back to the village," Red Hawk ordered. "There will be plenty of time to discuss the white man's faults with your father as you travel away from these hills. I, myself, fought alongside the British when they attacked our enemy, the Cherokee, many summers ago. The white soldiers did not treat me as an equal, but they did me no injustice either. Come now! Bring your trophy and let us get back to the village so the women can prepare the evening meal."

The muscular young man bent and broke off a handful of grass. He wiped the blood from his knife blade and slid the weapon back into its sheath. That hunting knife had been a gift from his father. Each year, when Sean Doran returned from the coast, he brought special presents for his wife and his son. Gray Cloud wondered what surprise his father would bring this year.

The boy stooped, took hold of the deer's legs near the cloven hooves and effortlessly hefted the carcass to his shoulders, draping it around his neck like a huge scarf. Then, holding the four feet with his left hand and his bow in his right, he set out along the brook-side path toward the Catawba lodges, out of sight beyond the trees.

Excerpted from Brassankle by David G. Weaver. Copyright © 2013 David G. Weaver. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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