Summary: One of the Cartwrights is badly injured. He’s trying to get home. Someone comes to his rescue and helps him until his brother can find him. But who took care of him?
Rating = K (1633 words)
Lo, I Am With You
He was walking through the snow, looking for the large buck. It was within his sights. He raised his rifle and took aim. Suddenly, pain exploded in his left arm. He fell and his chest hit hard on some rocks nearby. He lay in the snow unable to move. His breathing grew ragged; the world was spinning around him. If he could find his rifle he could fire some shots. His brother couldn’t be too far away, or was he alone? He couldn’t be sure of anything through the pain. Managing to turn his head he saw the rifle, he could just barely reach it. He grabbed it. Aiming it into the air, he fired once, twice…the gun fell to the ground, his hand still on the trigger for the third shot that would never take place.
He felt through the ground more than heard the horses coming. He moved back under a dead tree trying to make himself as invisible as possible. Pain shot through his ribs and his left arm as he tried to hide. He shook his head to clear his thoughts. He couldn’t let the riders find him. It could mean certain but unbearable death.
From his hiding place he could barely make out the legs of several horses of different colors moving on the snowy path. He heard voices, someone calling for someone. He lay still, shivering in the cold until they moved on. Finally, he felt it was safe to leave his shelter. He clambered to his feet and leaned heavily on a stick he’d found and made into a makeshift crutch. His left arm was useless so he slipped his hand into his shirt to keep it still while he made his way home. At least he thought that was where he was going. He couldn’t be sure. He knew where he should be but it was getting hard to see and to keep his mind clear. He was shivering so badly and his vision kept changing. Was it getting dark? He couldn’t be sure. He just knew he had to keep moving. Moving down the steep slope was harder than he thought with only one good arm to use for balance. He lost his footing and slid down the rest of the way on his back until a shrub or something rather large stopped his decent. As his feet, then his back hit the object he yelled out in pain then blessedly passed out.
Something smelled good. And he felt warmth in the air. He couldn’t see anything but he could feel something soft on top of him. Someone was humming. He tried to open his eyes and look but there was so much pain. A cry escaped his dry lips. That’s when he noticed he was so thirsty and still so cold, despite the warm covers. A hand gently lifted his head and held a cup to his lips. Despite the bitter taste he drank greedily. His head was lowered and he drifted off to oblivion where there was no cold, no pain.
The light was dim but he found he could see the shadow of someone moving around him. Suddenly a face appeared above his. It was a woman and she was smiling at him. She ran a damp cloth over his face and down his neck. She did it again and again. It felt good, made him feel refreshed and clean. He tried to touch her but could not seem to get his arms to move. She spoke to him with words he couldn’t understand. She left him but soon came back with a cup for him to drink from. He drank it and tried to tell her he wanted more. She nodded and brought more. After four cups, he’d had his fill. He slept and had dreams about her, and about three men who seemed to be very important to him.
They were arguing outside the tent, the woman and a man. A baby cried. He wanted to help but he could only lay there and listen. Only a few words were familiar, they were from the Paiute language. They argued about leaving, whether he should go with them, the time was short, it was now or never.
She came in and went to the infant. He watched as she sat and nursed the child. The man came in and sat down. No one spoke until she laid the child down to sleep. Then the man turned to him and spoke in nearly perfect English.
“We must leave. We stayed until the child came. You cannot come with us. It is too far.”
Fear arose in him. He couldn’t be left alone. He could barely move much less get himself home. The fear must have shown on his face. The woman spoke again but the man silenced her with a look.
“We will leave you where you can be found by your kind. It will be a difficult journey. You must rest. We leave when the sun rises.”
He reached out to touch the man’s arm. “Please, tell me who you are. Are you Paiute? Are you part of Winnemucca’s people?”
“I am Gray Eagle. We will care for you until we part ways. She will bring you food now, and then you will rest.”
He rose and left the tent. The woman brought the food then helped him lay down to sleep. Everything still hurt and his left arm was numb. He didn’t know how he would be able to travel. He felt so tired. He closed his eyes and sleep overtook him once more.
It was the pain that woke him up; so much pain. He gasped, cried out, tried to make it stop. Something held him still. A voice cut through the fog and the pain. He knew the voice. He tried to answer. He was cold again and the pain wouldn’t stop.
Hands gently held his head. Warm breath was brushing his face. Words were spoken, trying to get him to respond.
“Adam, Adam. Open your eyes. God, please. Open your eyes.”
A sound escaped his frozen lips. Barely a breath. “Joe?”
“Oh God, yes, yes. It’s me. You’re going to be okay. I’ll get you home. Just hang on. Please stay with me, Adam. Please.” He could sense pain and sorrow, fear in the voice.
Gentle hands drew him close to a warm body; held him tightly. He relaxed. He would be okay now. His brother was with him.
“I heard the shots and tried to find you. I hunted for you for four days. I finally found you on the ridge about five miles from the old Paiute camp. You had furs wrapped all around you with food and water nearby. You were nearly frozen and barely breathing. How did you get there? That was miles from where we were hunting.”
Adam basked in the warmth of the fire Joe had built. His left arm had been bandaged and feeling was coming back to the fingers at least. Joe had also wrapped Adam’s ribs which made breathing a lot easier. They were waiting for their father and brother to arrive and take them home. Joe had a ranch hand with him and sent the man back to the ranch to get help and transportation for Adam.
“I don’t know what happened Joe. I was near the lake about to shoot a large buck when I felt pain in my left arm. I fell and hurt my ribs somehow. I managed to get to the rifle and fire some shots before I blacked out.”
Joe had already told Adam the injury was from an arrow but he never found the source.
“I remember trying to get home but the pain and a fever confused me. The next thing I remember is being in a tent with two Paiutes, a man and a woman, and their baby. It’s so foggy; I can’t piece anything together Joe. The man said they had to leave and they would leave me where I could be found. He said his name was Gray Eagle. I don’t know why I remember that part. I’ve never heard of him.”
Joe had a stunned look on his face. “Are you sure about any of that? There were no tracks around where I found you. No tent or other structure. The Paiute camp has been abandoned for two months now since they moved north for the winter. You really don’t know who Gray Eagle is, do you?”
“No, why should I? Joe, what is it?”
“Adam, I remember Pa telling me a story one time, a legend, about an Indian named Gray Eagle. He stayed behind with his pregnant wife when the tribe moved to their winter home. They couldn’t travel until the baby was born. They never made it to the new camp but somehow the baby did. The baby was, is, Chief Winnemucca, Adam.” Joe went silent, studying his brother’s face.
Adam had no words. He only knew what he had experienced, or thought he had. The brothers just sat there in silence as the truth sank in. Joe knew someone had cared for his brother, but they would never know what really had happened.
Joe and Adam managed to smile at the same time. Both nodded and looked up, giving thanks for the help that had been given. The fire flickered upon each brother’s face as the sun set over the lake.
“So do not fear; for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Is. 41:10
Other Stories by this Author
- A Brother’s Treasure (by AC1830)
- A Brother’s Heartache (by AC1830)
- The Long Night (by AC1830)
- Hop Sing’s Fortune Cookies (by AC1830)
- Takin’ a Break (by AC1830)