Authors: D. Sallen
When it became evident that the river was turning south, we set out away from it in a northwesterly direction. Naturals we talked to along the way were certain great rivers lay in that general direction.
After several days we came upon the largest village we’d seen in our travels. It sat on the shore of a ‘Big River.’ Scouts met us at some distance. After determining we weren’t warlike, they escorted us in to the town center. With Chief Canawaha and other important men we smoked and talked. Moyock carried the burden with sign language. I distributed tobacco. The Chief said, “We not see White Man before. Not know White Men in world. Not hear of White Man living along river.”
“If no White Men called Welsh, maybe I’m on a wild goose chase. Are there other big rivers around here?”
“None we know of. Only this Oh-Hi-Oh. I think you not know where to go. You welcome here.”
Deciding to stay for awhile, we arranged for space in one of their wikkiups. To recover from the rigors of three weeks of mountain travel, I thought it best to rest for at least a week.
After getting over the initial shock of us strange critters, the villager’s curiosity overcame any initial fear they had of us. They treated as honored guests and invited to live with them. It was a tempting offer.
What made staying very tempting was a string of nocturnal visitors who slipped into my pallet. The first time I was so surprised I nearly hollered out. However, before doing anything stupid, I felt that the form next to me was very feminine and very naked. I proceeded to bring credit to Cavalrymen every where.
In the dark I couldn’t identify individual women who visited me. I suspect it was a different one each night. Word spread among them, because after I introduced kissing to the first one, they all wanted it. Perhaps they arranged a schedule among them, maybe even drawing lots for the pleasure of my bed. During the day I never saw any sign of recognition from my female guests.
I dare say that Moyock, who was sleeping in the same room, learned much about the ways of women of the world. He certainly kept his ears open around the camp.
“Squire, your white skin and beard, mysterious thunder stick, riding horses; these people think you have powerful spirit. They think you have strong medicine. None of the men tall as you. Those women want your babies. Their men send them to you.”
Lucky for me, those people didn’t share our rigid morality about chastity and marriage vows. Otherwise…those husbands would have been after my scalp…or worse!
Moyock said, “Maybe this tribe traces family through mother. Maybe not important who father is. Husband happy if wife have strong sons. Wife’s children his. Not matter who beds wife.”
Well into our second week with the Pensyca, my evening idylls took an unexpected turn. I busily aroused my bedmate, whispering, kissing her, tonguing her nipples and stroking inside her thighs. My finger came upon an unexpected barrier. She was a maiden!
The attentions of my mouth, finger and thumb had her so excited she could hardly lay still. I wasn’t about to waste her flower on my finger, so I presented my stallion to her mare. Eagerly she accepted it. She squirmed to aid it’s entrance…until it struck the barrier. She froze and exclaimed, “
I stopped pushing, but stayed in place. I whispered to calm her down. When she relaxed some, my stallion continued his foray until he conquered virgin territory. She jerked and sniffled
a bit, but kept her arms around me until the deed was done. Afterwards I held her close and whispered some more. She couldn’t understand my words but must have felt comforted. She left before daylight.
Next morning, a beautiful sunny day,
I was sitting in a circle of men by the beach and enjoying a smoke. I heard a ruckus of angry voices from deep back in the village. I couldn’t understand what was being said. Soon, Moyock ran up to me.
“Squire, Squire, beware. You in big trouble. Angry man is shouting about you.”
Before I could ask what about, a chunky man strode toward us dragging a naked young girl by the arm. From the blood on her thighs I suspected we were acquainted. In his right hand the man was waving one of their flint knives. Standing in front of me he continued shaking the girl and haranguing the crowd. Staying calm, taking my time, I stood up and faced him. Without taking my eyes from him I asked Moyock what he was saying.
“Rapid Raccoon say you de-flower girl. You have no right. He say it his privilege to deflower wife’s daughter. You can not do. He want you punished. He want to cut off your cock and balls!”
Was retribution for a number of irate fathers and jealous husbands catching up with me? Not if I had anything to do with it. “Tell him I didn’t seek out his daughter. She came to me.”
man calmed down until Moyock finished explaining, then got het-up again.
“He say that not matter. You have taken his privilege. You have disgraced him. He want revenge. He want warriors to tie you up so he can cut off your manhood.”
While all this talk was going on, I kept an ear open, and half an eye on reaction of the men around me. If anything they appeared mildly amused. No one stood up to grab me. No one took his side until three young men in the crowd rushed up to grab me.
I drew my steel sheath knife and waved it at them. Now they circled me. I kept fending them off. I lunged at one. He stepped away. Because I missed,
was off balance, the other two jumped me. On the ground I twisted and
stabbed one of them in the shoulder. He groaned and rolled away holding his arm. The second one was still on top. I freed my wrist from his grip and slashed across his face. He hung onto my arm. The first one tried to kick my head. I twisted and he kicked his friend. I threw off the kickee…sprang up to attack the kicker. He backed off.
The older men I’d been smoking with had withdrawn to watch the activities. I faced
Rapid Raccoon again. “Hah. You want to unman me. Three children come to do your work. Hah. I am right here in front of you. Are you man enough to fight your own battle?”
“I will fight you…and I will unman you. You have strange powerful knife with much magic.” He was all talk. He didn’t step towards me. “I have only flint knife. No matter. After I cut you, I kill you!”
He didn’t sound confident. I threw my knife at Moyock’s feet. “Keep this for me. I don’t need a knife to defend myself against a man in women’s kilt.”
Enraged at the insult, Raccoon sprang for me. He was no knife fighter. Holding his flint high instead of low, he sought to slash down at me. I stepped back…His blade whistled past my chest…He drew back…and tried the same technique. Again I stepped back…to fall over one of his friends crouching behind me! With both feet I kicked the tripper…and blocked Raccoon from leaping on me. Springing to my feet in a crouch…I charged Raccoon. He swung down with his knife…Big mistake…I stepped into his rush…trapped his arm…broke it…and threw him down. His knife flew out of his hand. He was writhing in pain. To his credit he didn’t cry out. I poised over him with his own knife.
Chief Canawaha came near me.
“I think he has been punished for his threat to you. You may kill him, but you gain no honor for it. I think he is out of his senses. He was crazy to attack you for his foolish pride.”
I dropped Raccoon’s knife near him, and said to the Chief. “You speak with the wisdom of your years. I honor your words. I have no further anger for Raccoon. Perhaps we can finish our smoke.”
During our week, finally two weeks, Moyock and I studied this tribe’s language and way of life. Chief Canawaha said this village was part of a larger tribe called Pensyca. Their wikkiups were similar to those around Jamestown. In open places along the river, or in the woods, they planted beans, squash, pumpkins and watermelon. Sunflowers were harvested for their oil. Like the Powhatan, they also ate wild berries. They traded for one called ‘cranberry,’ with which I wasn’t familiar. Claimed to be healthy, they tasted sour. The Pensyca crushed and mixed the cranberries with honey.
What really impressed us were the canoes they paddled on the river. Instead of dugout logs like the Powhatan made, these were constructed of birch bark fastened around a frame of saplings. Very light and easily propelled, they were tied together with black spruce root, and caulked with pitch. Once Moyock and I developed the balance needed, we paddled like veterans.
After a river outing Moyock said to me: “Squire, we could never get our horses in one of those canoes.”
“So? What for? What ever gave you that idea?”
“We could travel much faster on the river.”
“Perhaps, but to carry the horses we’d need a large boat, or even a raft. We don’t have the
skill or means to build such a vessel.”
“We could load all of our goods in two of those canoes. Why bother with the horses?”
“Give up the horses? Are yer daft? Whoever heard of a cavalry man giving up his horses to…carry goods…on a river? Perish the thought!”
But the thought didn’t perish. Young Moyock had a good head on him. His suggestion, distasteful as it was, warranted consideration.
Now I was torn with a big decision. It appeared that floating down the rapid river made more sense than following the wooded shore on our two remaining horses. As a cavalry man, the thought of parting with the steeds bothered me. Horses were a way of life with me. Would I regret giving them up later? Probably. I didn’t know.
After a long palaver, the Naturals agreed to swap their two largest canoes for the two horses. Then we spent two days training them to use the horses. Some were afraid of my animals. Two young warriors, following Moyock’s example, soon learned how to leap on the horse’s back without falling off. Using my saddle, one of the Chiefs proved he could ride that way.
With the remainder of our possessions piled into the two canoes, Moyock and I set out on the Big River. Neither of us was proficient in using the muscles required to paddle the canoe. To keep from wearing ourselves out, we took frequent breaks and let the river do the work. Referring to the nightly raids to which I was subjected, Moyock said, “I surprised you have strength to paddle.”
I laughed and splashed water at him.
We made such good time on the water I soon quit worrying about the horses. This was the way to go. I determined we could travel as much as thirty-five to forty miles a day.
On our eighth day in the canoes, the river made a big loop, first turning north, and then flowing south. A large native encampment sat on the north bank of the loop. We pulled in there for the night. These people, called the Cinsy, were not surprised to see us.
I asked Chief Natti, “Where have you seen White Men before?”
“We not see. From old folks we hear tale. They say, long, long time gone by, many White Men live at strong place down river.”
“Where are they now?”
“They say White Men marry Natural girls. Have strange children. Maybe witches. We don’t know. Many people afraid of them…kill many people who are different.”
“So, are any of these different people left?’
“I think they all gone.”
“Can we hire a guide to take us to strong place?”
“Oh no. We don’t go there. We pass by it on river. That place haunted by ghosts of many dead. Maybe home of witches. You go down river, you see that strange place.”
I said to Moyock, “We’ll press on. There is some mystery here. We’ll have to find that ‘strong place.’”
Near the end of the tenth day, while close into the north shore, Moyock’s sharp eyes spotted an unusual
structure high above the embankment. “I not see place like that before. Maybe that is strong place…of witches…and dead.”
We pulled ashore and walked up to it. Under a heavy screen of vines and shrubs was a wall of unmortered flat stones. I said, “This is a man-made structure. I doubt if
it was erected by Naturals.”
Following to our left, the wall curved around in an oval to a point about opposite where we first began our survey. Trees and heavy underbrush kept us from continuing around. The wall at its highest was about seven feet. The interior of this structure contained a high mound which was covered by brush and trees. On walking back to the shore, we could see the wall extended east for another few yards, and then curved towards the north. The reason for this structure escaped me. Except for the huge interior mound it appeared to be a defensive position.
“Well, Moyock, I think we’ve found the strong place. We’ll camp on the shore tonight and explore it in the daylight.”
“If ghosts around, waiting for daylight good.”
Sitting around our campfire, I said, “This ‘fort’ is the first real clue I’ve had that White Men were ever in this area. I want to take a hard look at it.”
After we finished our camping chores, and sat in the dark by our cooking fire, Moyock became jumpy. He listened awhile and then darted his eyes toward the wall.
“What is it, Moyock? What’s bothering you?”
“I have creepy feeling. I think we watched.”