Western Short Story
Bill Buxby and the Cheyenne
Tom Sheehan

Western Short Story

Bill Buxby, riding a great black steed, had crossed much of Oklahoma looking for Dirty Dan McGan, wanted for murder of several people, including some Cheyenne tribal men and suspected of many more in his rampant life in the Oklahoma territory, home of one branch of the Southern Cheyenne, a tribe with deep roots in its own beliefs and in its leaders, one of them being of the aforementioned group..

Buxby, for starters, and for your information, was a listener, an historian at heart, a man alert to the sounds and activities taking place all around him, around the people of the Great Plains, white or red, or pink if you’ll have it.

Each person on the Plains, every person for that matter, had his or her own Master or God to pray to or for, whenever needed or called for, like in quick moments of danger, of threats, of near death, of being scalped or burned in a fire pit, their goods taken as prizes, horses given a Cheyenne name like Ma’heo’o or Ma’gne’o, the spiritual creators of all life itself and beliefs curried from the Earth beneath their feet or Heaven itself, high and exalted above all calamities or hindrances, “the upper end of all things,” as he was often quoted bar-side on one of his many stops in such locales, or, “A dry throat always drives me home to these homes away from home.”

All such beings mentioned above came from the life about them, in both plant and animal form or shaped by man, chief or warrior, and all were sustained in a religion by medicine men, priests and shamans who could contact the spiritual world, many times as possible, through plant and animal beings that commanded symbols of hope and prayer, and thus, ultimate survival of the tribe.

Such ceremonies included celebrations through sacred objects like the four sacred arrows hidden for reason because of the source from which they were formed, but ready for instant employ. Only holy men were allowed to even speak of some spirits, so holy their status among the brethren, as one cannot imagine holiness being replaced by anything else on this old earth.

The Cheyenne, deeply religious, as deeply as any Plains tribe of warriors, believed the world was divided into seven major levels. According to them, Ma'heo'o was the creator of all physical and spiritual life, including spirit-beings that came in plant and animal forms. Their most sacred objects were the four sacred arrows, identities hidden, protected, and their ceremonies with subject objects included the Animal Dance, Arrow Renewal and the Sun Dance, performed in secret every time and situation, no white men ever allowed any observation, never min any kind of participation.

Buxby had known all if this most of his adult years when the life around him came to be a study for him, almost a formal study, so deep did he search for data on peoples of interest, people like Indians of any tribe who had survived life on he harshness of the Great Plains, as dry and as indifferent as a place could be to struggling people.

Cheyenne ceremonies were conducted by individuals who managed access to the spiritual world, such as medicine men, priests, and shamans, and which symbolized hope, renewal, and survival, among all other daily aspirations. Likely ceremonies included the Arrow Renewal, Sun Dance and Animal Dance, which were highly protected by sacred or private means in each session.

The Cheyenne, as an indigenous Great Plains tribe, employed a basic Algonquian language, and are composed of two Native American tribes, the Só'taeo'o or Só'taétaneo'o (normally spelled as Suhtai or Sutaio) and the Tsétsêhéstâhese (also spelled Tsitsistas), facts come to him as a seeker or brought to him by those who knew his hunger for knowledge, all freely given to succor his tastes and hungers that stuck to him thick as glue..

When our own Bill Buxby saw a Cheyenne brave, he usually knew him, could bring back his name, remember an incident that locked them for life., and begin a discussion on any matter of life on the Great Plains of America.

It was so when he came across a wounded Cheyenne warrior crawling on that Great Plains and in need of cure, care and comfort; none other than the well-known Curly Horse (Mamâhkevo'ha), a significant battler for his brothers, carrying two slugs fired from an unknown source into his body, and blood too freely loose to last much longer in this very day, the sun sure to shrivel the brave’s body in a matter of hours. Buxby, identifying the situation and the coming possibilities destined for that body, bound him up as best he could and took him, for subsequent care, to a Cheyenne village near at hand, a place he had entered on previous occasions in his circuit of stops on the Great Plains.

He was always welcomed there as a friend, the feelings immediately stronger now with the salvage of Curly Horse before death itself claimed him, not an insignificant deed undertaken by a white man who could have left him alone to shrivel and die out on the dry, arid surroundings, as seen by the village and all the other villages in close contact. All of them soon hearing about the rescue of Curly Horse with a particular white man coming to his rescue, death close on his heels, for the body would soon have been nothing but food for an eagle, wolf or other carnivores living often on dead critters of any type found on the tough grass of the Plains.

Buxby, making urgent noises on his entry into the Cheyenne village, calling for attention to the seemingly lifeless body he slipped down off the back side of his horse, and calling for the village holy man to take care of the wounded warrior,

“Here,” he yelled, “is Mamâhkevo'ha himself, carrying bullet slugs within him from an unknown source, and sure to die here on your hands as he would have died on my horse or would have died out there all alone on the great grass that gathers life to its bosom every day and takes it for its own, claiming ownership of bodies each and every one of these days.”

Buxby pulled Mamâhkevo'ha off his horse before any Cheyenne could move, some of them, he suspected, were afraid to touch the body of a wounded leader, a wounded chieftain. He made a good show of his strength in moving Mamâhkevo'ha to a comfortable position in front of a tepee he knew was occupied by a holy man.

“This is Curly Horse,” he exclaimed, “Mamâhkevo'ha,” he added, “needing your help. I gave done what any friend would do for a friend of his, a white man’s way for a brave he considers a friend among all Cheyenne., my friend, now your patient to help in any way possible. I have done my best to help save him. The rest is up to you.”

Reactions were swift, the form o Mamâhkevo'ha moved immediately, a scurrying taking place among both male and female members of the tribe, some of them Buxby noted looking like they knew what they were doing, what they had done before.

One female took Buxby by his arm and led him to a tepee where she pointed to a blanket on the ground, and making him lie down on it.

He slept peacefully for hours, his body demanding sleep, all else in other hands.

When he woke, Curly Horse, Mamâhkevo'ha himself was said to be surviving his wounds and had responded well.

Bill Buxby, loner, cowboy, was treated as a hero, with many favors coming his way for days on end while Curly Horse improved to a point where he was well enough to thank him personally.

It was a legend among the Cheyenne before a soul realized it, and today it has a song that carries the whole episode in its music, ‘The Lonely Cowboy and the Cheyenne Chief.” Though it’s not on any hit parade, it is sung by young Cheyenne and hummed by older ones.