Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Secret of the Lost Tribe, Prologue, Part One


The Lost Adams

Arizona, 1864.


Adams was awakened from sound slumber. What a morning. His camp was swarming with Indians — Apaches stealing his horses. How could that happen?

Well, it had to happen, as his shotgun rider had deserted him back in Tucson to prospect for gold. Adams kicked away his blanket, drawing one of his two .44 Colt Army Model 1860 revolvers from his belt. Some of the Indians packed rifles, but they all were much too busy unhobbling and rounding up his horses to pay much attention to him. Too bad for them.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

One rifle-wielding Apache had just been turning around to Adams. He shot that Indian in the chest, and two others in the back. All three fell from their horses.

Most of the remaining Indians started to ride around his wagons in circles. Taking cover behind the wagon that had protected his sleep, he shot down two more Indians. Adams holstered the empty six-gun, which had only contained five beans in the wheel, and drew its twin. He carried two of them not because he used to shoot them simultaneously, but on account of that pesky reloading process. With the other Colt, he shot the remaining armed Indians from their mounts.

Yet, already two Indians had reined in all his draft horses, making away with them. Another Apache had with difficulty subdued Adams' own mount, and was trying to get away as well. Adams whistled. His trusty stallion Pegasus threw the savage hijacker who had boarded him and kicked the Indian's head, smashing his skull. Holstering his other Colt and grabbing his double-barreled shotgun, Adams jumped into the saddle. Yes, keeping your horse saddled at night is a good idea, particularly in Indian country.

By now, the horse thieves had gotten quite a start. Spurring Pegasus into a gallop, Adams gave chase. The hoofs were thundering across the barren plain. Dodging the saguaro cacti infesting the place, their mad rush had them heading towards a towering red cliff.

When Adams came close enough for the shotgun, the Indians had already reached the mouth of a canyon bisecting the cliff. He pulled alongside the trailing Apache and, at close range, blew his stomach out. The Indian in the van was still too far away to kill instantly with the shotgun, but Adams at least succeeded at blasting him from his horse. When he had repossessed all his horses, and the two Indians' mustangs to boot, he turned back to his camp.


Ought to have thought of that, he rebuked himself. A column of smoke was rising where his camp should have been. Those abominable savages he had failed to kill back there had taken their chances while he had been chasing the horse thieves.

"Gee up!"

When Adams got back to his camp — or rather to what remained of it — his wagon and trailer were blazing out of control. It had just been too good to be true. He had safely delivered his freight from Los Angeles to Tucson, without even seeing so much as a hostile Indian. Now, on his way back to LA, the inevitable had happened. His wagons were being reduced to ashes and his provisions had been stolen.

So when would the government finally finish those savages for good? Fortunately, there were friendly Indians as well. The Pima, for example, were enemies of the Apache. On the nearby Pima reservation he would be able to supply himself with food.

A couple hours later, Adams got to a village on the reservation. He had a notion that this village was Sacaton, but he could not be sure. There were many Pima villages in this neck of the woods, geography was not exactly his strong suit, and there was no "Welcome to Fabulous Sacaton, Arizona" sign or anything. Of course, he could have asked a native, but actually he did not care what the place was called. He would buy supplies and be back on the wagon road to LA in no time. He would never have to come here again.

The Pima called themselves the Akimel O'odham, which means "river people." When white men asked them the name of their tribe, the answer was "Pima," which translates to "I don't know," or "I don't understand." They were not only friendly but also quite civilized. They irrigated their fields, and besides more than a hundred straw huts this village boasted some frame houses. Such a dome-shaped straw hut — which the Pima called a ki — consisted of a frame of bent poles, covered with woven straw, usually plastered with mud. Many occupants sat on their "porches" in front of the low entrances, preparing food. The Pima males wore breechcloths; the squaws, some sorts of skirts.

Presently, the village was bustling with strangers, most of them whites. Judging by the equipment Adams saw on their pack horses, most of them were prospectors. In one of the frame buildings he found what passed for a saloon in these parts; it doubled as the local trading post.

Giant letters on a huge false front proclaimed that this was Cash's Super Mega Hyper Emporium. Below these letters, an advertising slogan was painted: "If Cash ain't stock none of it, no one nowhere ain't liable to stock any of it — if it exists at all." Another sign warned: "No charge, no checks, absolutely no paper currency." That was why everybody called the trader Cash.

Adams tied his horses to the hitching rail. He crossed the porch, thrust his body through the swinging doors, and walked up to the counter that doubled as a bar. Some customers, red and white, were sipping water, milk, or sarsaparilla. Others inspected the supplies for sale. The tall, buckskin-clad fellow polishing the bar had to be Cash.

"Bourbon," ordered Adams.

Cash's weathered face above his grizzled beard frowned. "Sorry, no firewater."

"No firewater — for the Injuns. What's your problem? I'm as white as you are."

"It's the law. No sale of liquor on this reservation."

"That's a stupid law. There will always be some bootleggers selling whiskey to the Injuns. Such a law only boosts their profits. And when the Injuns do get a hold of alcohol, they'll get roaring drunk. How are friendly Injuns to become responsible citizens if they aren't even allowed to learn how to drink responsibly?"

"Maybe they aren't supposed to become responsible citizens. Or citizens at all. Want a sarsaparilla?"


"Anything else?"

"No. I guess I'm done here." Adams wanted to turn and leave; there had to be a more hospitable place to buy supplies.

"Hey, wait." Cash's voice turned into a whisper. "It's my principle to never sell alcohol to Injuns, but I always keep a couple of bottles in the back room for my white customers. But I don't want the Injuns in here to see I got whiskey."

Adams followed Cash into a back room piled high with crates, barrels, and sacks. A deeply tanned man with shiny black hair and a mangled ear sat at a table, drinking bourbon from a bottle.

"Much obliged," Adams nodded as he bought a bottle of the same: He really needed a drink after this morning.

Adams uncorked his bottle, took a swig, and then nodded at the man with the mangled ear. "But you do sell firewater to this here Injun?"

Read on…

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