Western Short Story
Westerly Trails Through Tribal Lands
Tom Sheehan


In the year 1736 they had gone through Powhatan country and Cherokee country on their way west and were still heading south to escape winter trails, well after the "twin births" of sons came about at the beginning of the year and then at the other end of the same year, establishing their birthdays to be celebrated at the mid-point of succeeding years on the long, long trail west.

Parents, it has long been practiced, must heed the celebration of children's birthdays, especially for two boys born in the same year.

Then through Chickasaw country they had gone after varied New England native settlements and Comanche country, and our hero, Walcott Welcomes, once of the North of Scotland and his wife MariaMary or Two Ms or Double M or MaryMaria or plain Mary you, and it well could have been pi, pigh, pie, for all of it, but she knew the differences the names made (the tone of voice, the tip of his head like a directional, the lights almost flashing in his blue eyes right out of the Scottish highlands), for he was her man, her with the two boys at her skirts, two look-a-likes for sure, twins many thought in whatever train they joined in Indian country of one tribe or another, on their way west for a dream home sitting in her mind that only Welcome, her man for all of life, could create.

Heading west in those days, as it was with the Welcomes here we come, meant they had to wagon-up with folksy trains en route, the more the merrier, the safer each passenger was, especially those bearing arms, as did Walcott Welcomes. He carried a homeland Brown Bess Musket Rifle, an 0.75 caliber flintlock, a British land forces standard long gun since the year of 1722 or thereabouts, often changing odds, fortunes, and many of the ruling orders wherever it was employed.

In Chickasaw country came the first questions about the boys, then 5 years old and the image of each other, twins for sure, they had to be, like they were split from the same pod in the very beginning, and who were named by their father as Willard and William, Bill 1 and Bill 2, still locked together whether by deep intent and mere accident. Walcott said, "Let it all be," as if that was the end of the duplicity, But MaryMaria, or Two Ms, with every opportunity, had a few words of explanations when the boys were decided by others to be twins:

"Conception," she said, "in the same year of two sons is the good Lords' doing and my welcomes to Welcome, as we must surely call it what it is. I am all the happier about it, and someday," a faraway look coming into her eyes, "when these boys are men and must walk away from us, we'll stand at the doorway of our home full of sadness and completeness."

She was a dreamer and she was lying, of course, which will be explained down the line, in this story of Welcome Walcott and his family.

Some women listening to MariaMary, not knowing a good second of truth in the matter, nodded their heads and some men shook their shoulders as if she was a simple woman with a dream too big to handle.

Deep in Comanche country, the wagon train beset by the second fierce raid in a week, Welcome Walcott, with his Brown Bess knocked the most decorated and highly-colored Indian right off his horse with a single and pronounced shot, scattering all remaining raiders from sight after they had retrieved the body of their chief, as assumed by Walcott before he had said, "That pretty one out front is mine."

MariaMary had loaded his weapon for him, even as she huddled the two youngsters behind a barrel of sand she insisted they carry from the first day of travel. She had said to Welcome, "This is part of my bidding to you," advice that he understood all the way to the root of its compass.

That night, around the campfire, the wagon master, Big Buck Mulligan, leading his third train west, said, "Welcome, I was surprised that your faithful old Brown Bess was not already loaded and your woman, MM there, had to load it for you. Something to that?

"Sure is, Buck, It's all her doing 'cause she knows if I see a rabbit on the loose, any old time, I'll go ahead an' keen-eye knock it down, an' she don't want none of that."

"She worried about alarmin' sleepin' Indians, Welcome?"

"No sir, Buck, 'cause she's allus sayin' a caught rabbit is easier done on the fire than a shot rabbit, an' I swear that's one holy truth comin' clear out of her mouth."

Buck, being a most pleasant man, roared with laughter, and kept it up for a while, enough for those gathered to reflect on his way of life, which Welcome knew down to the nitty gritty, as he'd say if asked. "In the first place, now on his third train being led west, Buck accepts no money for his completion, but whenever the train arrives at a final place and starts to build or add to a place already with some good roots, the men of the train have to build, inside of a year, a place for him and hold it for him, as all agreed right up at the front end of the connections."

And wouldn't you know, from what we know that Welcome kept up with, "that Big Buck Mulligan would end up having four places of his own west of the two big rivers, all that coming to a man whose folks were routed from their home in Ireland and had to move from their beloved homeland to new expectations. Now he has places for his own children, come what may. That's a man getting ready for the whatever, if you were to ask me," as Welcome would finish his history of Big Buck Mulligan, whenever he had a mind to do so, or was asked by a fellow traveler or townsman when they got to Hallows Hill, closer to the Pacific Ocean than any of them ever dreamed.

But that's getting ahead of the story of MariaMary and Bill I and Bill II and Welcome Walcott himself, as said, right out of the North of Scotland.

The boys were 8 almost 9, the pair of them, the wagons rolling through Navajo and Apache country, and then Pueblo territories and ending up in a splendid valley of dreams just after passing several Chumash tribe villages and as close to the grand Pacific Ocean as they'd ever be.

They had settled down, built a home, shared in the building of Big Buck's new place, and the "twins" beginning to ask questions about themselves, looking at each other, seeing the closeness as skins matched each other's skin. They each admitted the curiosity had started with several visits from a most friendly Indian of the local tribe whose name was Falcon's Edge. The Indian, very attentive to the boys, once said to Bill II, "You're the one I watch with the special eye of the falcon from his high reach. You are more Indian than your brother, Bill I. I have seen it with my own eyes and the eyes of a falcon from that high rest. I am never wrong in these matters. I should ask about these considerations. I should ask your father but some spirit says I should ask your mother."

Falcon's Edge's face, right arm only, and one thigh, carried secret designations of traceability that he would not discuss, simply saying, "I carry the legends of my people. I have seen how your people carry their legends in books that are too heavy to carry eve for men bigger than I am. Tomorrows will be added here," as he pointed to his bared arm and bared thigh, neither yet bearing any lore or legend, room enough for all the stories that were to come in his time, at least.

He finally asked Welcome Walcott if he could speak to his wife, and Walcott agreed on the spot, having built up some esteem for the decorated, historical Indian. "Of course you can speak to her and I suppose it is about the boys. Am I right, Falcon's Edge? Do I see that in your face as I have seen it before, that same quizzical look?"

The first smile crossed the face of Falcon's Edge, as if some interior agreement had also been reached. "We are more alike, Walcott. It is like the boys. Am I right there?"

Walcott enjoyed his own smile in return.

MariaMary looked up from her work in a small yard garden, ripe with green leaves, as Falcon's Edge hailed her. "Walcott has given me permission to talk to you about the boys, as he and I have similar feelings, I believe, as do those boys of yours, your twins."

The appellation of twins came quickly to MariaMary, who set her tools on a rock, brushed herself off, and said, "It has been a long while since I thought of such a reference, Falcon's Edge. I know you come with more than curiosity, for both boys have informed me of your words and feelings about them."

One hand went to her forehead, as she said, "Oh, where do I start?'

"From the heart of the beginning." Deep concern came into his voice with those words. "I do not pry into affairs, only seeing some kind of light that comes back to me when the boys are with me. It is continual and almost holy."

"Well, it's about time. I'll call the boys." Their names sang in the air and they appeared as if they had been waiting for this moment for a long time, each kneeling quietly beside the garden rock.

The woman of the family looked at all three kneeling near her. "Years ago, after Bill I was born, and near the end of that same year, promise of snow in the air, we came to an Indian village burned to the ground, each and every teepee, and the silence was deafening, and the stink of bodies quite horrific. Then, after a hurried look about, we heard the cry of a child, the cries somewhat muffled, perhaps distant or somehow covered or protected. He was hard to find at first, the sound of his cries sort of hollow, and finally we found him stuffed inside a hollow log at the edge of the village, a village of the Iroquois, perhaps a few westerly days ride from Boston. We cleaned him up, fed him, and I comforted him as his mother must have done, hugging him to my breast, treating him to any milk left in me. I loved him at that moment as I loved my own son, and now I had two sons, I thought to myself."

She gathered the two boys into her arms, tears flooding her face, "My boys," she cried, "My boys."

They hugged her back, like two youngsters called home for a surprise, while a wise Sachem of a sort looked on in deepest appreciation, and Welcome Walcott, not very far away from the gathering, managed to say to himself, "Finally Bill I and Bill II have it squared away for each other, and it's off my mind forever."

He threw the Indian, Falcon's Edge, the first salute he had ever thrown to anybody in this life of his, in this world of the wide open West.



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