Give Your Heart to the Hawks: A Tribute to the Mountain Men

Give Your Heart to the Hawks: A Tribute to the Mountain Men

by Win Blevins


$16.68 $17.99 Save 7% Current price is $16.68, Original price is $17.99. You Save 7%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Monday, November 19

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765314352
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 11/29/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 553,974
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.92(d)

About the Author

Win Blevins is the author of a dozen novels, several volumes of informal history, and Dictionary of the American West. Among his awards: In 2003 Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers named him Writer of the Year, Stone Song, won the a Spur Award and a Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award for Best Fiction. Win's his first novel in the Forge "Rendezvous" series, So Wild a Dream, won the Spur award for Best Novel of the West in 2004.

Read an Excerpt

Give Your Heart to the Hawks

A Tribute to the Mountain Men

By Win Blevins

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 1973 Win Blevins
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-0338-1


The First Mountain Man

JOHN COLTER KNEW THAT THEY WERE GOING TO ASK. HE HAD been answering their questions all day — about where beaver were to be found; which Indians were the most peaceable; where mild weather was to be had for wintering; where game jumped out of every gully, and where, in a whole plain, not one living creature might be seen; what parts would likely thirst a man to death and what parts give him easy living. Colter was not a man to spend many words on anything. His years in the woods and mountains had honed his tongue to a tool he used sparingly and exactly. So he had answered their questions about the Rocky Mountains slowly, seriously, learning as much about them as they could from him, volunteering nothing. He might have been explaining the workings of a lathe.

But he thought the things he didn't speak. He turned them around and around in his head — his two years out there in the mountains, and beyond, on the Pacific. He didn't stick words like labels onto his memories; they belonged to his whole body: The roiling of creeks in the spring fret. The little quickening of the blood to be shoved aside immediately when he heard elk hooves clapping along a dense hillside. The bone cold that actually split trees in the winter. The quiet, smooth V widening through the water before a beaver as he swims, his black nose at the surface. The sky of the alpine night, with ten times as many stars as he could see from the flats, big and pointy as thistle balls. The strong, sweet smell of buffalo chips on a fire. The violent, hurting cold of a swallow from a high creek. The strange mingling of fear, servile friendship, and hostility in an Indian camp. The scorch of alkali dust in his nostrils. The crystalline aloneness of day after day of hunting away from the expedition, unbroken and somehow awesome, the solitude so real he might have touched it. The taste of hump ribs, and of beaver tail. The plain hugeness of high country. He knew the words, Bible words mostly, that men in settlements put on that high country, but he didn't use them. The Rocky Mountains were too particular in his memories for those words to carry anything.

He looked at Dixon over the rim of his tin cup when the word came.

"Want to go up and trap with us?"

Colter didn't answer right off, so Dixon and Hancock took turns persuading him. "Beaver's worth ten dollars a plew in St. Louis." "The three of us'll be partners. We've got the equipment." "We can make ourselves rich."

He said he'd talk to Lewis and Clark about it.

Lewis and Clark both thought that John Colter had it coming. They wondered that after two years of pushing through unknown country, over the mountains and all the way to the Pacific, he didn't want to see folks, sleep on a bed, and be with his people in Virginia. But he had served well, had proven to be one of the most dependable hunters and all-around hands they had taken on the expedition. They saw he took to the mountains naturally. So they gave him permission to muster out and go back to the Rockies to trap beaver with the first followers in the wake of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Dixon and Hancock.

John Colter had set out to join the expedition in 1803. Leaving his home in Virginia, he traveled across roadless wilderness, and caught up with Lewis and Clark in Ohio. Since he claimed to be a good hunter, they took him on. They left St. Louis in 1804, executed their mission with astonishing success, and were now in the Dakota country, at the Mandan villages, on the way back to St. Louis to report their findings. If one man wanted to stay in the mountains, why not?

Later, Nicholas Biddle, the chronicler of the expedition, would charge Colter with a lack of human feeling, and suggest that something dangerous lurked in the mind of a man who would shun civilization. Others probably saw something romantically adolescent in a man of such wild and wayward spirit. Colter, in his mid-thirties, didn't give a damn about either conviction. When his employers asked why he wanted to go back, he allowed only that it was a good business proposition. He didn't mention the memories; Lewis and Clark had them too.

Hancock and Dixon had a windfall in Colter. They were the first to penetrate the West in search of fur, and Colter was one of a handful of whites who knew the country. But, somehow, the enterprise petered out. Hancock and Dixon were never heard from again. And, a year later, Colter was headed down the Missouri in a canoe, alone and empty-handed.

At the mouth of the Platte River, he met the second expedition to go up the Missouri for beaver, led by Manuel Lisa. Lisa realized that Colter's knowledge of the area was invaluable, so he made him a proposition. Colter was more realistic now about the fortunes to be made in mountain fur. Still, he turned away from home for the second time within a year, and headed back to the mountains.

Lisa was outfitted on a bigger scale than Hancock and Dixon had been. He had more men, and he had trading goods for the Indians. He didn't plan to get most of his pelts (called plews) by trapping, but through trading, as the law required him to do. He would build a fort among friendly Indians and persuade them to come in and exchange their furs for blankets, cloth, and various doodads they fancied. So Colter led him into the center of Crow country, at the confluence of the Big Horn and Yellowstone, and the men put up four walls of pickets. Colter knew this country — he had trapped it the previous year — and the experience of the Lewis and Clark expedition suggested that the Crows would be more peaceable than the Blackfeet, who inhabited the upper Missouri.

Lisa wanted someone to roam out among the Crows and tell them about the fort and the goods they could get. Colter volunteered to go alone.

He set out with only his possible sack (the trappers' term for a bag crammed with survival equipment like flint, steel, powder, and balls), and spent the better part of a year making a great circle through the Rockies to spread the news. Getting tips about the country from the Crows he met, he traveled south, up the Big Horn almost to the continental divide, and then up the Wind River to the favorite Crow wintering spot, where he sat out the season of the worst cold and snow. Then he crossed the continental divide and moved into the spectacularly beautiful place later named Jackson Hole. From there he turned homeward and walked straight into the area around Yellowstone Lake, which was to become Yellowstone National Park. He gaped at the shore of the lake, where springs of hot clay bubbled and from time to time erupted into geysers, where a man could smell sulphur and suspect that he heard devils under his feet. From Yellowstone he picked his way, with his sharp mountain sense, straight back to Fort Lisa.

The men scoffed at his tale about the back door to hell. But he had done the job for Lisa. He knew that he had also brought off a major exploration of the Stony Mountains. If he ever got back to the settlements, Lewis and Clark would be glad to get his knowledge for their map. He had also traveled the better part of a thousand miles alone through hostile country, surviving by his wits. That was all right with Colter. He liked to be alone.

Lisa had another lone mission for him. They had secured the Crow trade, and now Lisa wanted to open the Blackfoot trade. So Colter headed for the Three Forks of the Missouri, where the Jefferson, the Madison, and the Gallatin forks join to form the big river, traveling this time with a band of Crows and Flatheads. Unfortunately, Crows and Flatheads were ancient enemies of Blackfeet, so, at the Three Forks, the hostile tribes fought a big battle. Colter, fighting with his own side, was shot in the leg and was noticed by the Blackfeet. The next morning, his Indian friends had moved on and left him. No sense in approaching the Blackfeet now that he had fought against them. So he hobbled some three hundred miles, again alone, to Fort Lisa.

Lisa could see that this Colter was a graduate mountain man. He could survive anywhere by his woodsmanship. So he sent him back to the Blackfeet, along with a trapper named Potts. They canoed up the Missouri to the Three Forks. Seeing no Indians at first, they did some trapping while they waited.

While they were gathering their catch one morning in a creek about six miles from Jefferson Fork, Colter felt himself getting edgy. He felt it in his body, in a tension and a sliver of jumpiness. He was in the habit of listening to his body when it knew something he didn't. He paid attention to it while he slipped the canoe toward the deeper water where the next trap was set.

The sun was up. He could see it, where the fog had thinned, catching the tops of the cottonwoods. Soon it would be up far enough to slant between the steep banks of the creek and reveal the canoe. Right now the light morning fog gave them some protection. In twenty minutes, maybe, they would have sunlight on the water surface.

Colter saw the trap stick floating near the big rock by the deep hole. He steered the canoe, with one imperceptible motion, to the stick, reached into the icy water, grabbed the chain, and pulled the trap and the drowned beaver into the canoe. Silently, he slid the beaver beside the others, floated the canoe to a better spot, locked the trap open, set it on the bottom, dipped the thin stick into his stoppered horn of beaver medicine, and drove the thick stick through the trap chain and into the creek bottom.

Potts grinned, and Colter thought he nearly spoke. It was a good morning's take. But Potts knew better, barely, than to talk without need. Blackfeet could flush them at any time. They had set and checked their traps in the twilight of the dawn and at dusk for a week, and lain hidden during the daylight hours. Meeting the Blackfeet would be touchy even at a time and place Colter chose. Being surprised by Blackfeet would be risky — especially since they might remember him from the Crow battle. Now they were dangerously late. They had two more traps to check out, and it was nearly full light.

At first Colter gave no sign that he had heard anything. Only by his particular stillness, and an extra touch of straightness, could Potts tell that Colter was listening intently. Quickly, Colter slid the canoe under an overhanging branch. It sounded like hooves to Potts, lots of them, trampling along the bank. Potts saw Colter looking hard at the top of the high bank opposite, in a way that was too calm.

"Indians," Colter said. "Let's cache."

But he didn't sound quite sure. So Potts said, "Indians, hell. Buffler. Buffler trompin' around."

Colter listened again, but the sound had gone. His mind couldn't be sure, but his body said "Indians." He hesitated.

"We're almost done," Potts added. "Them's buffler." He grinned at Colter. "You sure are queer lately." He paused, half turned away, and said, "Gone skittish, seems like."

Colter knew what Potts was doing. With one stroke he sent the canoe gliding toward the next trap. If he wanted to bother getting square with Potts, he could do that later.

He saw them, sprouting up on both banks, before he heard anything more. Several hundred Indians, Blackfeet, painted. He even saw women and children poking their heads through. One motioned him to bring the canoe to shore. When he headed in, Potts started a little. Colter didn't know whether Potts had just noticed the Indians, or was badly rattled. Colter felt his whole body become a set of nerve endings to get hold of this situation, to feel its medicine, to grasp the mood of the Blackfeet, and to figure out what to say, what to do. Maybe they would just be robbed. This was not a war party. Quietly, with one hand, he slipped his traps over the side and dropped them to the bottom of the creek. The traps cost ten dollars apiece.

He put the canoe in to shore, stepped out, and made the sign that he came in peace. Potts got halfway out of the bow, holding his rifle like he didn't know what to do with it. A husky Indian snatched it from him. Instantly Colter grabbed the rifle and handed it back to Potts, who still had one foot in the canoe. Potts abruptly pushed from shore and sat in the canoe in midstream.

"Put in," Colter said firmly in English, "right now. There's nowhere you can go now. Put in, show them you aren't afraid of them."

"You crazy?" Potts answered with a weird laugh. "Look at 'em. You can see they're gonna kill us. Torture us first. Don't make any difference what we do."

An arrow cut off the last word with a thock. Potts doubled over, and Colter could see the notched end sticking out of Potts's hip. Colter heard the sound before he realized what was happening. From his clutched-over position. Potts came up with his rifle and shot the Indian who had seized it. The man fell. The answering sounds were as soft as Potts's sound had been loud, the nasty whir of arrows and the little slapping sounds when they hit. A couple of rifles sounded late, tagging after. Potts's body was made a riddle of.

Immediately the whooping and wailing started. Some braves charged into the water to get Potts's body and drag it to shore. The others uttered the strange cries that meant vengeance. The squaws sent up their ululations of grief. Colter had heard it often enough to know to shut off most of the sound, which could drive him crazy, and let in only the information: The Blackfeet were fully riled — in a mood to get even for their death of the tribesman with a slow, ritual revenge.

Colter felt the hands on him, and did not flinch or protest. Women and children ripped his own clothing away until he stood naked. Others were hacking at Potts's body with their hatchets and knives. He looked away. Several dozen of them crowded around him to gawk at his white skin. Some of them touched cautiously. Some jabbed him. Colter stood straight and looked directly at them, making no move to stop anything. He could see, out of the corner of his eye, braves and squaws still cutting at Potts, and beating the body with clubs.

A squaw stood in front of Colter looking directly into his eyes. He hadn't noticed her coming. The racket died down a little as the other Blackfeet watched. She held something bloody up in front of Colter's face: Potts's genitals. Then, from less than two feet in front of him, she threw the bloody mess into his face letting out a fierce scream. The whoops soared again. Colter didn't need to look to know what was happening. He forced himself to keep his eyes open as he felt the slaps of organs and chunks of flesh against his chest and face.

When he let his eyes see again, several braves were pushing toward him, tomahawks in hand. But others held them back. They're going to make a ceremony of it, he thought. Maybe Potts was right. Colter stood still as a tree. At least they were going to take some time about it. He didn't have to worry about an arrow in the back at the moment. Whatever chance he had lay in being calm, showing no fear, and thinking.

A dozen braves, important-looking ones, sat down and began to talk. Colter wondered if they would let him speak at the council. He decided to use what little Blackfoot language he knew. He spoke the Crow language better, but he couldn't take the chance of reminding them of their age-old enemies right now. If he did that, they might even remember seeing him with the Crows.

He understood enough to know that some braves were proposing to set him up as a mark to shoot at. Others were arguing for a more lingering death by tomahawk. He waited.

Finally a chief came over to him and asked if he was a fast runner. Colter took his time. It didn't do to hurry formal palaver with the Indians, though this wasn't exactly negotiation. He guessed that they were thinking of letting him run for his life. Some chance, with 500 angry braves on his tail, and him running through the cactus naked and barefoot. But a chance.

He spoke deliberately and ambiguously. "The Long Knife is a poor runner, and not swift," he said. "He is considered by the other Long Knives to be very swift, but he is not." A half challenge. The chief returned to council.

When he came back, he signaled Colter to follow him onto the plain. After they walked twenty or thirty yards, the old chief said, "Walk further, past the large boulder, and then you must run to try to save yourself." Then he went back to the party. Colter could see the young men getting rid of their blankets and leggings, preparing for the race. He walked slowly and calmly, passed the boulder and kept walking. He intended to walk as far as possible, because they would come as soon as he started running. Finally he heard a series of whoops, glanced back to see that the braves were starting, and let his own legs go into motion.

His legs turned toward the Jefferson Fork. From where he was, the creek arched down to the Jefferson, like a bow. He would run as the bowstring would go. It was maybe five, six miles to the Jefferson that way. He knew he had no chance. He didn't know how far along that straight line he would get. But his legs ran toward the Jefferson Fork because that was his only pretense of a chance. He could not get away from the Blackfeet on land. They knew the country and they were expert trackers. Alone and unarmed, he had no hope of standing them off if they caught up. His only hope was to get into the river so that it would destroy his trail, and then hide. Except that he had no hope.


Excerpted from Give Your Heart to the Hawks by Win Blevins. Copyright © 1973 Win Blevins. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

IThe First Mountain Man21
Interlude 1The Great American Desert35
IIMountain Skill, Mountain Luck38
Interlude 2The Trapper and Trapping59
IIIFalstaff's Battalion63
Interlude 3Yarning90
IVQuest for Buenaventura110
Interlude 4Rendezvous135
Interlude 5The Buffalo-Cuisine Premiere160
VIRescue in Californy165
Interlude 6Mountain Craft187
VIIA Choice of Allegiance191
Interlude 7Mountain Mating213
VIIIWar in the Mountains218
Interlude 8Exploration of the West251
Interlude 9Trappers and Indians289
Appendix AChronology of the Fur Trade305
Appendix BGlossary311

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Give Your Heart to the Hawks: A Tribute to the Mountain Men 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
knifemakerj More than 1 year ago
A superb fictionalized account of real life characters in history. I highly recommend all of Win Blevin's books. He has a great writing style that is heavily character based. You learn about the Fur Trade Era through compelling story and narrative. This current format of this title is really a nice size and look.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an amazingly vivid and dramatic recreation of the adventures of the first white Americans to go West, the mountain men. Blevins retells the old stories wonderfully for a contemporary audience. His research is broad and deep, his understanding of the time and place impeccable. History brought to vital life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Exciting and spellbinding account of early Rocky Mountain exploration. Very factual account of the early indians and their way of life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. Blevins does a ¿fair¿ job of portraying the 'mountain man' era. However, it becomes apparent from the bibliographies his 'research' rarely went beyond similar books published before the 1940's. In doing so he inadvertently missed much of what was abundantly written in the 1800¿s by the actual explorers themselves. ¿Lakeside Classics' has an excellent series of mountain men era 'reprints' of rare narratives written by those 'who were there.' As well intentioned as Mr. Blevins' book is, he missed a lot of 'flavor' by not delving further into the history of the mountain men.