- Author: Thomas Holladay
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Table of Contents
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Meadowlarks | By | Thomas Holladay | Chapter One
Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two
Chapter Twenty Three
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About the Author
Dedicated to my wife, Wilma, and our daughter, Michelle
This book is a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locals are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity and are used fictitiously. All other characters, and all incidents and dialogue, are drawn from this author's imagination and are not to be construed as real.
FOR MY WIFE, WILMA, and our daughter, Michelle
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I tried to warn them but they would not listen. The white man never listened to an Indian anyway.
Outside my hut, men cried out in the cold night, running for their lives, the glow from their lanterns and torches rushing past, their guns firing from all around. Some of their bullets cracked through the thin walls of my hut.
I sat with my back to the door, afraid to turn and look, crying out to my forefathers for protection, raising my voice against the heavy weight of my fear.
It already knew where I was, the dark spirit of that place, protector of the Valley of Wonder, the sacred valley of our ancestors.
Outside, the cries from the miners broke off one by one, some shrill, others with low grunts. Their gunfire became uneven, tapering off with each taking of a life. When all their gunfire finally stopped, the shrill, triumphant scream of the creature echoed from the valley walls. The shrieking laugh that followed sent chills across my shoulders and down my back.
A heavy silence fell over the gold camp, a time of breathlessness I could not measure.
The waning flames from my small fire suddenly jumped higher. A blast of frozen air told me the deerskin curtain over my door had been pushed aside.
The creature had come into my hut, standing close behind me. Hot, wet breath, stinking of fresh blood, licked at the back of my neck. I closed my eyes and continued the ancient chant of our people, even louder than before.
I did not turn to look.
NOW SOMEWHERE IN HIS nineties, not sure exactly, John Crow was amazed by how clearly he remembered his great-grandfather's stories. He and other children had crowded into his hut on the Washoe County Indian Reservation to listen to stories of the gold rush days of the 1850s. On cold winter nights, they turned their backs to the fire, somehow warmer, watching the reflection of the flames flicker in his great-grandfather's eyes, the way they must have looked that night.
So long ago.
His great-grandfather's shadow from the open fire would sway and skip across slats on the wall behind him, a magical, fearful dance; a sharp, clear memory.
His great-grandfather had told them of how he'd warned the miners not to use explosives to tear up the earth and not to use acids to purify their raw ore. They were fouling the streams and river in this sacred place of the Paiute.
They had refused to listen to a young Indian hired to provide them with fresh meat. The morning after the slaughter, the few survivors from outlying camps had looked at him with unjust suspicions.
Why had this Indian been spared while so many of their friends lay mutilated and headless, frozen into blood-soaked snow and ice?
Everybody, including John's great-grandfather, had packed up and left, leaving those frozen bodies for the wolves and worms.
Maybe they had received a decent burial. The church cemetery had some very old, unmarked graves. Willis had never spoken of it.
Nobody ever spoke of what had happened ten short years ago, that night when fear again entered this valley.
John climbed onto his front porch near the giant Douglas fir, taking in his view. On the far side of the valley, shadows crept up the face of the mountain, still some daylight, a good time of day for memories.
It had been at the annual mustang round-up down in Reno, where he'd first met Jethro and Mary Lou Potter. Jethro had asked John's advice on horses and purchased all three John had recommended. They'd hired John on the spot and brought him here to this sacred valley. He'd not yet grown to manhood, but he'd earned a reputation for knowing horses.
It had taken a few years for John to realize his location, this sacred valley of his people. He could not now recall the exact circumstances of his enlightenment.
Jethro had purchased the whole valley from the land office down in Sacramento in 1935, not knowing about the gold or about those early miners, the ones from his great-grandfather's stories. That had been the beginning of the Potter Ranch.
In those early days, Willis Donner had