The Long Journey Home

The Long Journey Home

by Don Coldsmith

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Set in the early twentieth century, Long Journey Home is the story of one man's life, the American Indian John Buffalo, as told by his biographer, Scott McNaughten.

John Buffalo is pushed to train for track and field events, with an eye toward the Olympics. His training introduces him to Jim Thorpe, 1912 winner of two gold medals in track and field who was later stripped of his medals. He meets Bill Picket, the black cowboy who invented steer wrestling and one of the creators of the world's largest Wild West show. Together, these athletes and showmen travel to Mexico, South America and Europe.

Along the way to an Olympic gold medal, John Buffalo meets and interacts with a variety of early twentieth-century celebrities including Theordore Roosevelt, Tim McCoy, and even Jesse Owens, the Black-American gold medal winner snubbed by Hitler.

Long Journey Home is beautifully woven historical fiction about a star athlete Amercian Indian. Sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes hilarious, vetran Don Coldsmith delivers another breath-taking story.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312700843
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 05/19/2002
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 572,462
File size: 536 KB

About the Author

Don Coldsmith has written over thirty-five novels with the bulk of his fiction writing in a series of historical novels. Coldsmith lives in Emporia, Kansas.

Don Coldsmith (1926-2009) was the Spur Award-winning author of more than thirty-five books, including his renowned Spanish Bit saga. After serving as a combat medic in the Pacific during World War II, Coldsmith served as a physician in Emporia, Kansas, until 1988 when he closed his office to devote himself to writing. Coldsmith was voted one of the greatest western writers of the twentieth century by the Western Writers of America.

Read an Excerpt

The Long Journey Home

By Coldsmith, Don

Forge Books

Copyright © 2002 Coldsmith, Don
All right reserved.

The boy squirmed in his seat. It was a beautiful day, ripe with the sights and scents of autumn. It was a day, he thought, when any boy of his age--nearly ten summers--should be outside, wandering the hills and the streams, maybe hunting squirrels in the timber along the river. Through the open window, he could hear the lazy, clattering buzz of a grasshopper in flight. That would be one of the big ones, with black and yellow wings.
The teacher was talking, in English, telling the class something about new books, as if they were a real treat, like something good to eat. Little Bull wasn't paying much attention. The weather outside made it hard to think about anything else. There were a lot of places he'd rather be than the schoolhouse. Almost anyplace, come to think about it.
He thought back about how he happened to be here. That missionary had come, and talked to the People around a story fire. Some of his stories were pretty good, about a man and woman and a snake who ate something called apples. Or maybe it was the man who ate the apples. He wasn't sure because he did not understand English well. Barely enough to follow the storyline. There had been a white woman with the missionary--probably his wife--who used hand signs to follow the story along. That helped some, but she wasn't very proficient at it. Still, everyone loves a story, and some of these were pretty good.
When anoutsider camped with the People, there would be stories, which everybody could enjoy. Usually the stranger would tell his own Creation story, how his people entered the world. Little Bull found that fascinating. Usually, they had come from inside the earth, though sometimes there were big differences. One man said that his people were at the top of the blue sky-dome, and slid down the side to reach the earth. That one had been interesting. Another said that his people came up out of a lake.
Almost always, the stories included a Creator who helped the people in some way. It was generally assumed that this was really the same being, called by different names in each tribe or nation: Man-Above, Great Father, Grandfather....
It was when the missionary began to mix his concept of God into the story about First Man and First Woman and the snake that things became even more confusing. The Creator became angry at the people over what they ate. Well, many other nations have foods which are forbidden, do they not? It was still a good story.
Then, one of the local storytellers thanked the missionary, as was the custom, and began to respond with their own Creation story.
"No, no!" the visitor exclaimed. "That is false. Blasphemy! Heresy!"
Little Bull did not understand such words, but he did realize that this was very rude behavior on the part of the visitor. It spoiled the entire tone of the evening. The People listened in shocked silence while the visitor ranted on.
"You people worship the wrong god!" he accused.
It became very quiet around the story fire, and then one of their leaders spoke. Standing Bear, one of the most respected of men, a holy man who always seemed to be able to see through to the heart of a problem. There was almost a twinkle in his eye, which may have been lost on most of the crowd. But he was polite, despite the rudeness of the visitor. He rose to his feet.
"We regret this, Uncle," he said calmly. "We did not know that there was more than one God."
There were a few quiet chuckles, but outright laughter would have been impolite. The story fire was over, spoiled by misunderstanding on the part of the visitor.
* * *
Despite the unfortunate beginning, the missionary stayed, and began to have some who followed his way of thinking. Mostly, it seemed to be those who thought they might receive more or better food rations from the Agency. The missionary seemed to have close connections there. So, he poured water on the heads of his converts, and pronounced them "saved." Most were unsure what this meant. However, nearly everybody realized that though the ways of the missionary were unknowing and impolite, his heart was good. He stayed for some time, and during that time he talked long and earnestly to those with small children.
"You owe it to them" he pleaded. "Let them learn the white man's way. They must grow up and live in his world. Place them in the school provided by the White Father."
* * *
That was how it had happened. Little Bull's mother was alone since the death of her husband, Yellow Bull, two winters ago. Pneumonia, it was said. She had two young children to look after....She allowed the missionary to pour the water on her head and on those of her children, and had agreed to let Little Bull attend the government school. He would live there most of the year.
* * *
The first, stunning shock when he arrived at the school had to do with his hair. Little Bull was proud of his braids, lovingly combed and braided by his mother since he was small. They were plaited with strips of the finest otter fur with ceremonial care before he left for the white man's school.
"You would make your father proud." His mother smiled.
But as they were processed through a room where they changed to white man's clothes, each boy was shoved briefly into a chair. There, a white man with a pair of large shears quickly amputated each boy's treasured braids and tossed them aside. It was useless to resist, but a few cried. Little Bull was one of those.
* * *
At times, Little Bull wondered: Had his mother sent him away so that it would be easier to provide for her other children? He wished that his father was still alive. Yellow Bull had been a respected warrior, and there had always been people around their lodge to hear his stories. Especially the one about the fight with the soldiers at a place called Greasy Grass. That had been a few years before Little Bull was born. Yellow Bull had counted many coups that day, and there had been little trouble with soldiers since. But Yellow Bull was gone.
* * *
The teacher was walking down the aisle now, between the desks, and placing a new blue book on each. She was tall and bony, of indeterminate age, with a perpetually sour look on her long face, as if she had just tasted bile. Small, square eyeglasses perched near the upper portion of a long, straight nose. Her hair, a mousy brown, was pulled tightly into a bun at the back of her head.
It had been whispered that she had no man. Little Bull found that understandable. What man would want such a forbidding figure to grace his lodge, much less to warm his bed?
There were about twenty boys in the room, and each was to receive one of these books. No one spoke, except the teacher. Someone should, thought Little Bull. It would be only polite to express thanks, even though such thanks would not be completely sincere. The teacher dropped the last book on the desk in front of Little Bull.
"It is good," the boy murmured in the tongue of the People, by way of thanks.
The teacher whirled angrily. There was a short stick in her hand, one he was later to recognize as a "ruler." Before he knew what was happening, she had struck him across the knuckles with the stick.
"You will not use that heathen tongue here!" she snapped. "We speak only English, understand? You must learn to overcome the handicap of your inferior background. Do you understand me?"
Little Bull nodded, afraid and confused.
"Speak up!" the teacher demanded. "'Yes, ma'am' is the acceptable answer."
"Yes, ma'am."
"That's better...Now, let that be a lesson to you all. You are here to rise above your savage beginnings, and to learn to live and work like civilized people. I will tolerate nothing less."
She went back to the front of the room and turned.
"Now, a part of such civilization is to have a good name." Her glance singled out Little Bull. "You, there. What is your name? In English, please!"
"I am Little Bull. My father was Yellow Bull."
There, that should impress people, that he came from the family of such a great man as Yellow Bull.
"No, no, that will never do," scolded the teacher. "That is a rather indelicate word. Hmm...A buffalo, I suppose?"
"Yes, ma'am."
"Buffalo...And you will need a given name, as well as the family name. Let's see...John...That is it. You are John Buffalo."
A few of the other boys giggled, but subsided quickly under the stern glance of the teacher. One by one, the names were Anglicized. Some were already acceptable in meaning, and were merely translated to English from their own language. Some, such as Bloody Hand, were modified, sanitized and, with the addition of a given name, this boy became Charles Hand.
By the end of the day, the teacher, Miss Whitehurst, seemed pleased with herself. There had been only one more incident which required the whacking of knuckles. John was never certain what precipitated that. The recipient was on the other side of the room. However, the ruler had the desired effect. No one else misbehaved for the rest of the day. The teacher had established her authority. One more rule was initiated before the end of the day: Hand signs were forbidden.
That was completely beyond the understanding of Little Bull, now John Buffalo. He could understand, in a way, the necessity to learn the ways of the white man. His mother had taught him well: The white man is coming...No, he is here! Those who do not learn to live by his customs will have no chance at all....But this thing of the hand signs seemed to defeat its purpose. Most of the communication on the frontier was dependent in some degree on hand signs. Why was their use prohibited?
Years later, John Buffalo finally realized the probable reason. Miss Whitehurst apparently did not know the signs, and found it wise to conceal that fact to maintain her rigid control.
By the end of the week, three boys had left the school. "Escaped," the others joked wryly.
For John Buffalo, this was not an option. What you start, you finish, his mother had impressed on him. There was a responsibility to bring pride and respect to the family of Yellow Bull. To do this, it appeared, he must learn the white man's way. He must learn so well that he could outdo the white man at his own game. It was not only a challenge, but a duty.
Copyright 2001 by Don Coldsmith


Excerpted from The Long Journey Home by Coldsmith, Don Copyright © 2002 by Coldsmith, Don. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Customer Reviews

Long Journey Home 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I recently read Don Coldsmith's The Long Journey Home and enjoyed it very much. As with most of Coldsmith's Westerns, this one too, is not at all typical. Don Coldsmith is an interesting author, a country MD (a gynecologist no less!) who actually delivered Joe Montana. I met Don last summer in Spokane, at the Western Writers Association (WWA) conference...and a nicer, smarter, less pretentious fellow you couldn't hope to meet anywhere.John Buffalo is the hero of this story, a young gifted Lakota Sioux Indian athlete and the book follows his life, one full of ups and downs...all in all a fine piece of period history (the early 1900's) and an entertaining read. In this book I first encountered the deadly flu of the World War One time, a flu that apparently has much in common with the scary bird flu of present times. If you've never read any Coldsmith, give The Long Journey Home a try. I predict you'll like it, very much!