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Legend of Hell's Half Acre
By Neil A Waring
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Rated "G" by the Author.
Story of a women Arapaho healer and leader
The Legend of Hell’s Half Acre
October 1875, Hell’s Half Acre Wyoming
Today the old women would die, alone in a snowstorm and happy.
The old lady remembered a lot of snows and a lot of winters, but this was her last. It seemed such a short time, but it had been a lifetime. A lifetime ago when she was given the sacred medicine bundle of the Arapaho, given the bundle during a ceremony held in a snowstorm much like this one. The honor had never before been given to a women and she a women of only thirteen winters. But she had the power, and the tribe recognized the power of a healer and a seer. She stood out from the rest of the tribe with her bright green eyes and the white streak in her hair, marks that reminded the elders of stories of Arapaho prophets and healers they had been told as children. These marks helped identify her as different within the tribe, but it was her ability to see the future and to heal that would bring her greatness unsurpassed in the history of the Arapaho. It made little difference to the tribe that she was only thirteen.
A smile pursed her lips as she remembered her life and watched billowing snow clouds roll from darkening midday skies. She sat with her shoulders leaning against the sheer sandstone and shale wall as the huge early fall snow flakes splattered her face, transformed into droplets of water and fell to the red earth at her feet.
The old women had lived her life, a long admired wonderful life, helping her people. She sat now thinking, her face still mostly unmarked by the wrinkles of age, her eyes still a stunning jade green and her hair dark as it was in her youth except for the band of white strands that had marked her as special when she was still an infant. She thought now of the old days when time moved slowly without horses and the vast buffalo herds moved over the sage plains like ants on a hill. Closing her eyes the old women saw clearly the stories of her life the burdensome moves of the old days from summer to winter hunting grounds. The twice a year hunts that meant so much in the old days, the hunts where the entire tribe was involved and then the coming of the horse and hunting on horse back. There was Black-Antelope, the greatest of the hunters and her husband of so many years. Black-Antelope had left for the land of the sky people fifteen years ago but her day dreams could see him now, clearly, riding at the front of the tribe, riding in and out of the buffalo shooting his arrows and taking chances that none of the younger warriors had the courage to try. Black-Antelope had died like he lived, fast, hunting and on horseback.
Today, all alone, the old women, Ghost Of The Fawn, enjoyed the snow and leaned back against the wall feeling its penetrating cold and inhaling the oily odor of the crumbling shale. She had been left behind by the tribe, left behind to die if that was her fate, and that was all right, it didn’t matter because today she would leave to join Black-Antelope and the rest of the Arapaho sky people. Left behind by the people she led because she loved them. Age had robbed Ghost Of The Fawn of strength and stamina, she was slow and her tribe needed to move quickly as it fought to survive in a raging Wyoming snowstorm. They struggled against the storm needing to move as fast as possible to reach the reservation in the blinding snow. They were caught unprepared when returning from a trading trip to Fort Casper still a day away from home. And she had been left behind for the good of the tribe. But she would not die, she knew that she couldn’t die; she was of the medicine, the Arapaho keeper of the medicine bundle that contained the sacred flat pipe. Ghost of the Fawn, woman of some 77 winters, stepped away from the wall raised her arms to the sky and in a voice much too strong for her frailness and years prayed.
“Great man of the sky, help my people reach home safely, I am here because I am old, but my life has been a good life. I have no wants, except those of my people who need much guidance with their fenced in life. Give wisdom to the future medicine people to carry on the good they can do.”
The old woman turned her back to the west wind, lifted her medicine bundle then carefully placed it in small sink hole on a ledge beside the cave she had been left to shelter in. Ghost Of The Fawn, the great medicine women of the Arapaho, the keeper of the sacred pipe and the greatest women in tribal history took a few steps from the mouth of the cave, bowed to the four great directions raised her hands to the eastern sky and disappeared.
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